Thomas Kilby Smith


Thomas Kilby Smith was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on September 23, 1820. When he was about eight years old, his parents moved to Hamilton County, Ohio, where they settled on a farm. Young Smith pursued a law career and was graduated from Cincinnati College in 1837; he then studied under Salmon P. Chase, who would later become Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court. Smith's antebellum career ranged from a clerkship in the Post Office Department in Washington to the post of United States marshal for Ohio's southern district. On September 9, 1861, he was mustered into service as lieutenant colonel of the 54th Ohio, a regiment of which he was made colonel the month following. Although Smith (one of many by that name who followed U. S. Grant and W. T. Sherman in the western theater of war) achieved no sensational successes, he performed most capably in a long series of campaigns which began with Shiloh and ended with command of a large segment of the Gulf Coast. He was promoted brigadier general on August 11, 1863; in the meantime he had served on Grant's staff during the Vicksburg campaign and also had commanded a brigade of the XV Corps. The following year he was sent up the Red River, with N. P. Banks, in command of a mixed force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery which was designed to protect the navy vessels accompanying the expedition—an assignment which he discharged with fidelity and good judgment. The campaign, however, was adjudged a failure and the officers involved were shunted off either to oblivion or to other posts. Smith, arriving from Red River with only eight hundred effectives in his command of eighteen hundred men, was assigned by his superior C. C. Washburn to a chase of Nathan B. Forrest—an expedition fraught with interest if not with military results. Shortly thereafter, Smith was compelled to relinquish field service because of his health, but he was brevetted major general of volunteers March 13, 1865, in the omnibus promotions which closed the war. General Smith was made consul at Panama in 1866 but soon returned to his home in Torresdale, Pennsylvania, then a Philadelphia suburb. In 1887 he took up residence in New York, where he died on December 14, 1887. His remains were returned to Torresdale for burial.

Previous Page

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