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Persifor Frazer Smith
File:Persifor F Smith.jpg
United States  Military Governor of California

In office
Preceded by Richard Barnes Mason
Succeeded by Bennett C. Riley
Personal details
Born (1798-11-16)November 16, 1798
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died May 17, 1858(1858-05-17) (aged 59)
Leavenworth, Kansas
Spouse(s) Frances Jeanette Bureau (m. 1822; wid. 1852)

Anne Monica Millard Armstrong (m. 1854wid. 1858)

Children Howard Smith (first marriage)
Profession Soldier

Persifor Frazer Smith (November 16, 1798 – May 17, 1858) was a U.S. Army officer during the Seminole Wars and Mexican-American War, as well as one of the last governors of California before it became a state.


Smith was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jonathan and Mary Ann (Frazer) Smith. His maternal grandfather was Revolutionary War figure Persifor Frazer.[1] General Smith is sometimes confused with his cousin, also named Persifor Frazer Smith, who was a well-known lawyer in Philadelphia. Persifor Frazer Smith the lawyer was the son of Joseph Smith (brother of Jonathan Smith) and Mary Frazer (sister of Mary Ann Frazer). Other notable relatives include his cousin, Joseph Smith Harris.

Smith served as a colonel of volunteers in the Seminole Wars from 1836 to 1838, before taking part in the Mexican–American War. He commanded the 2nd Brigade in Worth's Division at the Battle of Monterrey. He was brevetted brigadier general in September 1846 and joined Winfield Scott's army as commander of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division. He led his brigade at the battles of Veracruz, Cerro Gordo and Contreras. He was brevetted major general for actions at Contreras and fought in the battles for Mexico City. He served on the armistice commission and then as military governor of Mexico City.

After the war, he commanded the Pacific Division of the U.S. Army, predecessor of the Department of the Pacific. In 1849, in his capacity as commander, he sent relief parties across the Sierra Nevada in the fall to meet the last arrivals in the emigration, saving many lives.[2]

He next commanded the Department of Texas, where he selected the site for Fort Davis[3] and issued orders for the establishment of Fort Lancaster. He died at Leavenworth, Kansas, while trying to quiet a disturbance, and is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.[4]

General Smith married his first wife, Frances Jeanette Bureau, in 1822. Their only child, Howard Smith, was a physician and surgeon. Howard Smith served on the staff of General Kirby Smith during the Civil War. After his first wife's death in 1852, General Persifor Frazer Smith married Anne Monica Millard Armstrong, widow of Francis Wells Armstrong.


It has been speculated[by whom?] that, despite his Northern upbringing, Smith would have supported the Confederacy in the Civil War as a result of his long-time residence in the South, and would possibly have been one of its most experienced officers. However, he rendered the issue moot by dying three years before the war began. His stepson, Frank Crawford Armstrong, did serve as brigadier general in the Confederate army.[citation needed]


  1. Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 1914; Pp. 489-496.
  2. Josiah Royce, California, Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2002, p. 192 et seq.
  3. Fort Davis
  4. Persifor Frazer Smith at Find a Grave
  • New International Encyclopedia, Vol XVIII, New York, Dodd, Mead and Company, 1912

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