Military Wiki
Edmund Kirby Smith
Portrait of General Kirby Smith
Nickname Ted, Seminole
Born (1824-05-16)May 16, 1824
Died March 28, 1893(1893-03-28) (aged 68)
Place of birth St. Augustine, Florida
Place of death Sewanee, Tennessee
Place of burial University Cemetery Sewanee, Tennessee
Allegiance United States United States of America
Confederate States of America Confederate States of America
Service/branch U.S. Army
Confederate States Army
Years of service 1845–61 (USA)
1861–65 (CSA)
Rank Union army maj rank insignia.jpg Major (USA)
File:CSAGeneral.png General (CSA)
Commands held Third Corps, Army of Tennessee
Trans-Mississippi Department
Battles/wars Mexican-American War
American Civil War

Edmund Kirby Smith (May 16, 1824 – March 28, 1893) was a career United States Army officer and educator. He served as a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, notable for his command of the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederacy after the fall of Vicksburg.

After the conflict ended Smith worked in both the telegraph and railway business. He then served as a college professor at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee until his death.

Early life and the U.S. Army

Smith was born in St. Augustine, Florida, to Joseph Lee Smith and Frances Kirby Smith. Both his parents were natives of Connecticut who moved to Florida in 1821 shortly before the elder Smith was named a U.S. District Judge.[1] In 1836, his parents sent him to a military boarding school in Virginia, which he attended until his enrollment in the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.[2]

On July 1, 1841, Smith entered West Point and graduated four years later, standing 25th out of 41 cadets. While there he was nicknamed "Seminole" after his native state, and brevetted a second lieutenant in the 5th U.S. Infantry on July 1, 1845. He was promoted to second lieutenant on August 22, 1846, now serving in the 7th U.S. Infantry.[3]

Edmund Kirby Smith as a U.S. Army officer

In the Mexican-American War he served under General Zachary Taylor at the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Resaca de la Palma.[1] He served under General Winfield Scott later, and received brevet promotions to first lieutenant for Cerro Gordo and to captain for Contreras and Churubusco. His older brother, Ephraim Kirby Smith, a captain in the regular army, served with him in the 5th U.S. Infantry in both the campaign with Taylor and Scott, until he died from wounds suffered at the Battle of Molino del Rey in 1847.[2]

After that war, he served as a captain (from 1855) in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, primarily in Texas, but he also taught mathematics at West Point and was wounded in his thigh on May 13, 1859, fighting Indians in the Nescutunga Valley of Texas.[1] When Texas seceded, Smith, now a major, refused to surrender his command at Camp Colorado in what is now Coleman, Texas, to the Texas State forces under Col. Benjamin McCulloch and expressed his willingness to fight to hold it.[2] On January 31, 1861, Smith was promoted to major, but resigned his commission in the U.S. Army on April 6 to join the Confederacy.[3]

Civil War service

On March 16, 1861, Smith entered the Confederate forces as a major in the regular artillery, and was transferred to the regular cavalry that same day with the rank of lieutenant colonel.[3] After serving briefly as Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's assistant adjutant general in the Shenandoah Valley,[4] Smith was promoted to brigadier general on June 17, 1861, and given command of a brigade in the Army of the Shenandoah, which he led at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21.[5] Wounded severely in the neck and shoulder, he recuperated while commanding the Department of Middle and East Florida. He returned to duty on October 11 as a major general and division commander in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.[6]

In February 1862, Smith was sent west to command the Army of East Tennessee. Cooperating with Gen. Braxton Bragg in the invasion of Kentucky, he scored a victory at the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky on August 30, 1862, and was named on October 9 to the newly created grade of lieutenant general, becoming a corps commander in the Army of Tennessee.[6] Smith would also receive the Confederate "Thanks of Congress" on February 17, 1864, for his actions at Richmond.[7]

Trans-Mississippi Department

On January 14, 1863, Smith was transferred to command the Trans-Mississippi Department (primarily Arkansas, Western Louisiana, and Texas) and he remained west of the Mississippi River for the balance of the war, based part of this time in Shreveport, Louisiana. As forces under Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant tightened their grip on the river, Smith attempted to intervene. However, his department never had more than 30,000 men stationed over an immense area and he was not able to concentrate forces adequately to challenge Grant nor the Union Navy on the river.[6]

Shows Trans-Mississippi Department, "Kirby Smithdom", also shows Price's failed invasion of Missouri

Following the Union capture of the remaining strongholds at Vicksburg and Port Hudson and the closing of the Mississippi, he was virtually cut off from the Confederate capital at Richmond and was confronted with the command of a virtually independent area of the Confederacy, with all of its inherent administrative problems. The area became known in the Confederacy as "Kirby Smithdom".[8]

Kirby Smith resided in Shreveport during the Red River Campaign of 1864.

In the spring of 1864, Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor, directly under Smith's command, soundly defeated Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks at the Battle of Mansfield in the Red River Campaign on April 8, 1864.[9] After the Battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9, Smith joined Taylor and dispatched half of Taylor's Army, Walker's Greyhounds, under the command of Maj. Gen. John George Walker northward to defeat Union Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele's incursion into Arkansas. This decision, strongly opposed by Taylor, caused great enmity between the two men.[10]

With the pressure relieved, Smith attempted to send reinforcements east of the Mississippi, but as in the case of his earlier attempts to relieve Vicksburg, it proved impracticable because of Union naval control of the river. Instead he dispatched Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, with all available cavalry, on an unsuccessful invasion of Missouri. Thereafter the war west of the river was principally one of small raids and guerrilla activity.[11] By now a full general (as of February 19, 1864, one of only seven such men in the Confederacy),[6] he negotiated the surrender of his department—the only significant Confederate field army left—on May 26, 1865, and signed the terms of surrender in Galveston, Texas, on June 2,[12][dead link]

whence he fled to Mexico and then to Cuba to escape potential prosecution for treason.[13] He returned to take an oath of amnesty at Lynchburg, Virginia, on November 14, 1865.[3]

Marriage and family life

In August 1861, Kirby Smith met Cassie Selden (1836–1905), the daughter of Samuel S. Selden of Lynchburg, Virginia. Kirby Smith was recovering from being wounded at the First Battle of Manassas, but still found time for wooing – they were married on September 24. Cassie wrote on October 10, 1862, from Lynchburg, Virginia asking what to name their first child. Cassie suggested "something uncommon as I consider her an uncommon baby." The new baby was later named Caroline.[14]

The couple briefly reunited when Cassie followed her husband to Shreveport February 1863. In the spring of 1864 she moved to Hempstead, Texas where she was to remain for the duration of the war. After the war's end, Cassie traveled to Washington to secure permission for her husband's return to the United States.

In Sewanee, Tennessee, the Kirby Smiths lived happily. They had five sons and six daughters, Caroline (1862–1941), Frances (1864–1930), Edmund (1866–1938), Lydia (1868–1962), Nina (1870–1965), Elizabeth (1872–1937), Reynold (1874–1962), William (1876–1967), Josephine (1878–1961), Joseph (1882–1951), and Ephraim (1884–1940).

Postwar career

After the war, Kirby Smith was active in the telegraph business and education. From 1866 to 1868, he was president of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company. When that effort ended in failure, he started a preparatory school in New Castle, Kentucky.[2] In 1870, he combined efforts with former Confederate general officer Bushrod Johnson and became president of the University of Nashville. In 1875, he left that post to become professor of mathematics at the University of the South at Sewanee from 1875 to 1893, when he died of pneumonia. At the time of his death in Sewanee, he was the last surviving man who had been a full general in the war. He is buried in the University Cemetery at Sewanee.[2]

In memoriam

A dormitory building on the campus of $3 in Baton Rouge is named Kirby-Smith Hall. The state of Florida erected a statue honoring General Smith in the National Statuary Hall Collection of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.[15] He is memorialized (as Edmund Kirby-Smith) at Sewanee by the Kirby-Smith Memorial on University Avenue, by Kirby-Smith Point on the edge of the South Cumberland Mountains on the University Domain, and in the naming of the Kirby-Smith Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy at Sewanee, and in the naming of the Kirby-Smith Camp 1209, Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Kirby Smith Middle School, both in Jacksonville, Florida. The Alachua County Public Schools administrative building, which was built in 1903, is named for Kirby-Smith.

He is memorialized with a tablet and in a stained-glass window at the university's All Saints Chapel, and in a painting in the university's Jessie Ball du Pont Library and in a painting in the Chapter Room of the Tennessee Omega Chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity House.[citation needed] During World War II the 422-foot (129 m) Liberty Ship SS E. Kirby Smith was built in Panama City, Florida, in 1943, named in his honor.[16]

Alexander Darnes

Alexander H. Darnes (1840 - February 11, 1894) was an African American born into slavery in the same home as Smith in St. Augustine, Florida. Darnes was the son of Violent Pinkney, a black slave owned by Smith's parents. He served as Smith's personal valet starting from 1855 and continuing throughout the Civil War after which he would go on to medical school and became one of the first black physicians in the state of Florida.[17]

In Popular Culture

In the 2010 film, True Grit, LaBoeuf, played by Matt Damon, states that he served in the Army of Northern Virginia, and was at Shreveport with Kirby Smith.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Chisholm, vol. 25, p. 260.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Nofi, pp. 347-48.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Eicher, pp. 493-94.
  4. Lossing, p. 1306.
  5. Wagner, p. 422.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Cunningham, p. 166.
  7. Eicher, p. 494. "... for the signal victory achieved by him in the battle of Richmond, Kentucky, on the thirtieth of August, and to all officers and soldiers of his command engaged in that battle."
  8. Davis, p. 94.
  9. Maritime Activity Reports, pp. 101-2.
  10. Sheehan-Dean, pp. 145-47.
  11. Mechem, p. 281.
  12. accessed 2 June 2011[dead link]
  13. Townsend, pp. 136-37.
  14. Jones, pp. 177-79.
  15. Architect of the Capitol website
  16. Maritime Activity Reports, p. 135.
  17. Jacksonville History Alexander H. Darnes; Howard University Medical Department, Washington, D.C.: Part 3, by Howard University School of Medicine, p. 162; Kevin M. McCarthy. African American Sites in Florida. p. 242


  • Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911) "Wikisource:1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Smith, Edmund Kirby" Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.) Cambridge University Press 
  • Cunningham, Sumner A. Sons of Confederate Veterans (Organization), Confederated Southern Memorial Association (U.S.), United Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy, Confederate Veteran, S.A. Cunningham, 1922.
  • Davis, William C. The American Frontier: Pioneers, Settlers, & Cowboys, 1800-1899. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-8061-3129-0.
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 978-0-8047-3641-1.
  • Jones, Katharine M. "Heroines of Dixie". New York: Konecky & Konecky, 1955. ISBN 1-56852-060-3.
  • Lossing, Benson John. Harpers' Popular Cyclopaedia of United States History from the Aboriginal Period to 1876. New York: Harper, 1881. OCLC 1446520.
  • Maritime Activity Reports. Marine News Volume 29, 1942.
  • Mechem, Kirke, and James Claude Malin. The Kansas Historical Quarterly, Kansas State Historical Society, 1964.
  • Nofi, Albert A. A Civil War Treasury: Being a Miscellany of Arms and Artillery, Facts and Figures, Legends and Lore, Muses and Minstrels, Personalities and People. New York: Da Capo Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-306-80622-3.
  • Sheehan-Dean, Aaron. Struggle for a Vast Future: The American Civil War. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84603-213-4.
  • Townsend, Stephen A. The Yankee Invasion of Texas. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-58544-487-8.
  • Wagner, Margaret E., Gary W. Gallagher, and Paul Finkelman. The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002. ISBN 978-0-684-86350-4.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959. ISBN 978-0-8071-0823-9.

Further reading

External links

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