Gustavus Adolphus Smith


Gustavus Adolphus Smith was born December 26, 1820, in Philadelphia. He lived in both Maryland and Ohio, finally settling in 1837 in Decatur, Illinois, where for years he manufactured carriages, "enjoying a lucrative trade that extended far into the south." When the news of the fall of Fort Sumter reached Decatur, Smith was among the first to volunteer and for several months was engaged in drilling recruits both in Illinois and in Missouri. On September 1, 1861, he became colonel of the 35th Illinois Infantry, which was known as "Gus Smith's Independent Regiment."

At the battle of Elkhorn Tavern (Pea Ridge), Smith was directing the fire of the 1st Iowa Battery when "[his] horse was shot from under him. While awaiting another horse ... a bullet struck his sword in his hand; his belt was shot from his waist; he received a shot in the right shoulder and was struck on the right side of the head with a piece of shell which fractured his skull ... he was then taken from the field [supposedly] mortally wounded." His wounds did not fully heal until 1868. In July, 1862, he was authorized to recruit a brigade and as a result was made a brigadier general of volunteers to rank from September 19, 1862, but because he was unable to stand field duty the Senate failed to act on his nomination which expired by law March 4, 1863. He then reverted to colonel of the 35th Illinois. F. B. Heitman states in his Register that he was "dismissed" on September 22, 1863. However, he was remustered as colonel of the 155th Illinois on February 28, 1865, and with this regiment performed guard duty on the Nashville 8c Chattanooga Railroad until the end of the war when he was brevetted brigadier general of volunteers. He was honorably mustered out of service on December 14, 1865. After residing temporarily in Alabama, Smith was appointed collector of internal revenue for the District of New Mexico in 1870 by his friend President Grant. He lived in Santa Fe from the time of his appointment until his death. For more than thirty-five years he took a great interest in the Odd Fellows lodge, serving in a number of executive and honorary capacities. General Smith died in Santa Fe on December 11, 1885, and was buried in Fairview Cemetery; his remains were later removed to the U. S. National Cemetery in Santa Fe.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.