1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Smith, William Farrar

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SMITH, WILLIAM FARRAR (1824-1903), American general, was born at St Albans, Vermont, on the 17th of February 1824, and graduated from West Point in 1845, being assigned to the engineer branch of the army. He was twice assistant professor of mathematics at West Point (1846-1848 and 1855-1856). During the first campaign of the Civil War he was employed on the staff, in August 1861 became brigadier-general of volunteers, and was breveted lieutenant-colonel U.S.A. for his gallantry at the action of White Oak Swamp. In July 1862 he received promotion to the rank of major-general U.S.V. Smith led his division with conspicuous valour at Antietam, and was again breveted in the regular army. On the assignment of General Franklin to a superior command Smith was placed at the head of the VI. corps of the Army of the Potomac, which he led at the disastrous battle of Fredericksburg (q.v.). The recriminations which followed led to the famous general order in which several of the senior officers of the army were dismissed and suspended by General Burnside. Smith was one of these, but it is to his credit that he did not leave the army, and as a brigadier-general he commanded troops in Pennsylvania during the critical days of the Gettysburg campaign. Later in 1863 he was assigned to duty as chief engineer of the Army of the Cumberland. As such he conducted the engineer operations which reopened the " cracker-line " from Chattanooga (q.v.) to the base of supplies. Of this action the House Committee on military affairs reported in 1865 that " as a subordinate, General W. F. Smith had saved the Army of the Cumberland from capture, and afterwards directed it to victory." Smith was now again nominated for the rank of major-general U.S.V., and Grant, who was much impressed with Smith's work, insisted strongly that the nomination should be confirmed, which was accordingly done by the Senate in March 1864. Grant, according to his own statement, "was not long in rinding out that the objections to Smith's promotion were well grounded," but he never stated the grounds of his complaint, and Smith, in the "Battles and Leaders" series, maintained that they were purely of a personal character. For the Virginian campaign of 1864 Smith was specially assigned by Grant to command the XVIII. corps, Army of the James, and he took part in the battle of Cold Harbor and the first operations against Petersburg, after which, while absent on leave, he was suddenly deprived of his command by Grant. He resigned from the volunteers in 1865, and from the U.S. army in 1867. From 1864 to 1873 he was president of the International Telegraph Company, and in 1875-1881 served on the board of police commissioners of New York, becoming president of this in 1877. After 1881 he was engaged in civil engineering work. He died at Philadelphia on the 28th of February 1903.