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Gustavus Woodson Smith (November 30, 1821 ‚Äď June 24, 1896), more commonly known as G.W. Smith, was a career United States Army officer who fought in the Mexican-American War, a civil engineer, and a major general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.

Early life and Mexico

Smith was born in Georgetown, Kentuckymarker, and was a brother-in-law of Horace Randal and a distant relative of John Bell Hood. He graduated from the United States Military Academymarker at West Pointmarker as a brevet second lieutenant in 1842. Smith finished eighth out of 56 cadets while at West Point. He entered the Army Corps of Engineers afterward, and was promoted to second lieutenant on January 1, 1845.

Smith fought in the Mexican-American War, winning two brevet promotions for his actions there. On April 18, 1847, he was appointed brevet first lieutenant for the Battle of Cerro Gordo, and on August 20, 1847, brevet captain for the Battle of Contreras. On March 3, 1853, Smith was promoted to first lieutenant. After serving in the Mexican War, he resigned his commission on December 18, 1854, to become a civilian engineer in New York Citymarker, and was Streets Commissioner there from 1858 to 1861.

Civil War service

Smith's home state of Kentucky became a border state when the Civil War broke out in 1861. Some months afterward, he presented himself at Richmondmarker to serve the Confederate States of America. Commissioned as a major general on September 19, he served in Northern Virginia as a divisional and "wing" commander, and fought in the Battle of Seven Pinesmarker near Richmond during the Peninsula Campaign.

On May 31, 1862, Smith briefly took command of what would become the Army of Northern Virginia after Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was wounded, due to his being the senior major general in Johnston's army. However, he suffered what was likely a nervous breakdown upon taking command and Jefferson Davis replaced him with Robert E. Lee the following day, June 1.

Smith commanded the defenses around Richmond beginning on July 2 until August 30, then he headed the Department of Richmond until December 12. The Department of North Carolina & Southern Virginia was added to this department on September 19, and Smith retained its command through January 14, 1863. During this period he served briefly as the interim Confederate States Secretary of War from November 17 through November 21, 1862. He resigned his commission as a major general on February 17, 1863, and became a volunteer aide to General P.G.T. Beauregard throughout the rest of that year. Smith was also the superintendent of the Etowah Iron Works in 1863 until June 1, 1864, when he was commissioned a major general in the Georgiamarker state militia and commanded its first division to the end of the war.

Postbellum life

Smith was paroled in Macon, Georgiamarker, on April 20, 1865, and moved Tennesseemarker to become an iron manufacturer from 1866 to 1870. He moved back to his native Kentucky to become Insurance Commissioner until 1876, and then moved to New York Citymarker and began his writings. Smith authored Noted on Insurance in 1870, Confederate War Papers in 1884, The Battle of Seven Pines in 1891, and Generals J. E. Johnston and G. T. Beauregard at the Battle of Manassas, July 1862 in 1892. His final work, Company "A," Corps of Engineers, U.S.A., 1846-48, in the Mexican War, was published in 1896 after his death. Smith died in New York City and is buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in New London, Connecticutmarker.

See also


  1. Eicher, p. 495.


  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.

External links

  • Retrieved on 2008-02-13

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