Preston Smith was born in Giles County, Tennessee, December 25, 1823. He obtained his early education in the country schools of the neighborhood and attended Jackson College at Columbia. He then studied law, and after admission to the bar, moved first to Waynesboro and ultimately to Memphis. In 1861 he was commissioned colonel of the 154th Tennessee, a militia regiment which was mustered into Confederate service under its old state designation. While leading the 154th he was severely wounded at Shiloh. He was attached to Cleburne's division of General Kirby Smith's command during the invasion of Kentucky, in command of a brigade. After the wounding of Cleburne at Richmond, Kentucky, Smith commanded the division. He was promoted brigadier general on October 27, 1862. The following year he took into the battle of Chickamauga a brigade of four Tennessee regiments and a battalion in General B. F. Cheatham's division of General Leonidas Polk's corps—the corps that was intended to form the right wing of the army. In the course of an attack launched at dark on the night of September 19, 1863, General Smith unwittingly rode into the front of a Federal detachment, which recognizing him as a Confederate officer, fired a volley that mortally wounded him and killed his aide outright. Transported to the rear, he died less than an hour later. His body was first taken to Atlanta and buried; some years later it was re-interred in Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis.
Ref: Generals in Gray, Lives of the Confederate Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Printed by Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London.