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William Sooy Smith (July 22, 1830 – March 4, 1916) was a West Pointmarker graduate and career United States Army officer who rose through the ranks to become a Brigadier General in the Union Army during the American Civil War. In civilian life, he was a renowned engineer involved in bridge construction.

Early life and career

Smith was born in Tarlton, Ohiomarker, and graduated from Ohio Universitymarker in 1849 with an engineering degree. He furthered this degree at West Point as soon as he left the university, graduating from the U.S.marker Military Academymarker in 1853.

Smith established the engineering company Parkinson & Smith in 1857, and was involved in the first surveys for a bridge between the United States and Canadamarker across the Niagara Rivermarker near Niagara Fallsmarker.

Civil War

In 1861 at the outbreak of the Civil War, Smith joined the 13th Ohio Infantry, and by June he was commissioned as its colonel. After serving in western Virginia, he was promoted to brigadier general in April 1862 during the Battle of Shilohmarker.

Smith participated in the Vicksburg campaignmarker, commanding the XVI Corps' first division. Afterwards, he served as chief of cavalry in both the Department of Tennessee and the Military Division of Mississippi, under Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. Under Sherman, during Union attacks on Meridian, Mississippimarker, Smith was given the command of a force of 7,000 Union cavalry. Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, however, defeated these forces on February 22, 1864 in the Battle of Okolona. Smith, having disobeyed orders from Sherman, was forced to fight this eleven-mile running battle before retreating across the state line into Tennessee on February 26, where he was criticized for putting Sherman's Meridian Expedition in danger.
Smith in later life

Postbellum career

Smith later left the military and returned to civil engineering. In 1867, he sank the first pneumatic caisson of the Waugoshanee lighthouse in the Straits of Mackinaw. At Glasgow, Missourimarker, from 1878 to 1879, Smith worked on the Glasgow Railroad Bridgemarker. This was the first all-steel bridge, which crossed the Missouri Rivermarker.

In 1876 Smith was awarded the American Centennial Exposition prize, and continued to work in engineering until retirement to Medford, Oregonmarker towards the end of his life. After his death in 1916, he was buried in Forest Home Cemeterymarker in Forest Park, Illinoismarker.

See also


  1. Ohio State History Major General William Sooy Smith retrieved July 8, 2007
  2. Civil War Home Vicksburg Order of Battle retrieved August 14, 2007
  3. The American Battlefield Protection Program Okolona retrieved July 7, 2007
  4. Grave location: William Sooy Smith retrieved July 8, 2007

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