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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 Vicksburgmarker.

After the conflict ended Smith worked in both the telegraph and railway business, and also served as a college professor until his death.

Early life and the U.S. Army

Smith was born in St. Augustinemarker, Floridamarker, to Joseph Lee Smith and Frances Kirby Smith. Both his parents were natives of Connecticutmarker, and moved to Floridamarker in 1821 shortly before the elder Smith was named a U.S. District Judge there. In 1836, his parents sent him to a military boarding school in Virginiamarker, which he attended until his enrollment in the United States Military Academymarker at West Pointmarker, New Yorkmarker.

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.Eicher, pp. 493-4.

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. He served under General Winfield Scott later, and received brevet promotions to first lieutenant for Cerro Gordo and to captain for Contreras and Churubuscomarker. 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 Reymarker in 1847.

After that war, he served as a captain in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, primarily in Texasmarker, 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. When Texas seceded, Smith, now a major, refused to surrender his command at Camp Colorado in what is now Coleman, Texasmarker, to the Texas State forces under Col. Benjamin McCulloch and expressed his willingness to fight to hold it. 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.

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. After serving briefly as Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's assistant adjutant general in the Shenandoah Valleymarker, 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 Runmarker on July 21. 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, operating in northern Virginia.

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 Richmondmarker 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. Smith would also receive the "Thanks of Congress" on February 17, 1864, for his actions at Richmond.

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 Shreveportmarker, 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.

Following the Union capture of the remaining strongholds at Vicksburgmarker and Port Hudsonmarker and the closing of the Mississippi, he was virtually cut off from the Confederate capital at Richmondmarker 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".

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. 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 Arkansasmarker. This decision, strongly opposed by Taylor, caused great enmity between the two men.

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. By now a full general (as of February 19, 1864, one of only seven such men in the Confederacy), he surrendered his department — the only significant Confederate field army left — on May 26, 1865, and arrived in Galveston, Texasmarker, on June 2, whence he fled to Mexico and then to Cubamarker to escape potential prosecution for treason. He returned to take an oath of amnesty at Lynchburg, Virginiamarker, on November 14, 1865.

Postwar career

After the war, 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 Newcastle, Kentuckymarker. 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 Sewaneemarker from 1875 to 1893. 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.

In memoriam

A men's dormitory building on the campus of LSUmarker in Baton Rougemarker is named Kirby-Smith Hall. At 13 floors, it is the tallest building on campus. The state of Florida erected a statue honoring General Smith in the National Statuary Hall Collection of the United States Capitolmarker in Washington, D.Cmarker. Kirby Smith Middle School, located in Jacksonville, Floridamarker, is named for him. 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. 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. During World War II the Liberty Ship SS E. Kirby Smith was built in Panama City, Floridamarker, in 1943, named in his honor.

See also


  1. Chisholm, p. 260.
  2. Nofi, pp. 347-8.
  3. Lossing, p. 1306.
  4. Waggner, p. 422.
  5. Cunningham, p. 166.
  6. 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."
  7. Davis, p. 94.
  8. Maritime Activity Reports, pp. 101-2.
  9. Sheehan-Dean, pp. 145-7.
  10. Mechem, p. 281.
  11. Townsend, pp. 136-7.
  12. New York State Library, p. 70.
  13. Foundation for American Education, p. 6.
  14. Maritime Activity Reports, p. 135.


  • Chisholm, Hugh, The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, University Press, 1911.
  • 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., Buffalo Bill Historical Center, The American frontier: pioneers, settlers, & cowboys, 1800-1899, University of Oklahoma Press, 1999, ISBN 0-8061-3129-2.
  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Foundation for American Education; The Southern Partisan, Southern Partisan Corp., 1995.
  • Lossing, Benson John, Harpers' popular cyclopaedia of United States history from the aboriginal period to 1876: containing brief sketches of important events and conspicuous actors, Harper, 1881.
  • Maritime Activity Reports, Marine News Volume 29, 1942.
  • Mechem, Kirke, and Malin, James Claude, The Kansas Historical Quarterly, Kansas State Historical Society, 1964.
  • New York State Library, Legislation Bulletin ..., Queensland Parliament Library, 1908.
  • 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, Da Capo Press, 1995, ISBN 0-3068-0622-3.
  • Sheehan-Dean, Aaron, Struggle for a Vast Future: The American Civil War, Osprey Publishing, 2007, ISBN 1-8460-3213-X.
  • Townsend, Stephen A., The Yankee Invasion of Texas, Texas A&M University Press, 2006, ISBN 1-5854-4487-1.
  • Wagner, Margaret E., Gallagher, Gary W., Finkelman, Paul, The Library of Congress Civil War desk reference, Simon & Schuster, 2002, ISBN 0-6848-6350-2.
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1959, ISBN 0-8071-0823-5.

Further reading

  • Forsyth, Michael J., The Camden Expedition of 1864 and the opportunity lost by the Confederacy to change the Civil War, McFarland, 2003, ISBN 0-7864-1554-1.
  • Parks, Joseph Howard, General Edmund Kirby Smith, CSA, Louisiana State University Press, 1954, ISBN 0-8071-1800-1.
  • Prushankin, Jeffery S., A Crisis in Confederate Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor and the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, Louisiana State University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-8071-3088-5.
  • Sifakis, Stewart, Who Was Who In The Civil War, Facts on File, 1989, ISBN 0-8160-2202-X.

External links

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