John Eugene Smith

John Eugene Smith, the son of a Napoleonic officer who had fought at Waterloo, was born in Berne, Switzerland, on August 3, 1816. His parents came to America while he was a small child and established their residence in Philadelphia, where young Smith was educated and learned the trade of jeweler and goldsmith. He moved to St. Louis and then to Galena, Illinois, in 1836. In 1860 he was elected county treasurer and the following year may have been instrumental in rescuing U. S. Grant from obscurity by recommending to Governor Richard Yates that Grant ought to know how to organize a regiment. After serving on the governor's staff for a time, Smith recruited and organized the 45th Illinois and was commissioned its colonel on July 23, 1861. He was successively engaged at the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson and the battle of Shiloh, part of the time in command of a brigade. At Shiloh, McClernand's division, to which he was attached, sustained 1,740 casualties. Smith was made a brigadier general on November 29, 1862, and during the Vicksburg campaign directed a brigade of Logan's division of McPherson's XVII Corps, and in the final stages of the siege the so-called 7th Division of the corps itself. At Chattanooga in November his was the only XVII Corps's division present to take part in the defeat of Braxton Bragg's army. In the advance on Atlanta his division was stationed at Cartersville and other points in rear of W. T. Sherman's advancing forces. He then led his command throughout the "March to the Sea" and the campaign of the Carolinas and especially distinguished himself at the capture of the city of Savannah. Before the close of hostilities he was brevetted major general and in the closing months of 1865 commanded the District of Western Tennessee. Smith was mustered out of the volunteer service in April, 1866, but upon the reorganization and enlargement of the Regular Army in July he was appointed colonel of the 27th Infantry. The following year he was brevetted brigadier and major general, U. S. Army. He served at various points on the Indian frontier until his retirement on May 19, 1881. General Smith then made his residence in Chicago, where he died on January 29, 1897. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Galena.

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