Monday, December 22, 2014

Charles F. Smith bio

I am not aware of any existing full length of biographies of Charles Ferguson Smith. Dying from an infected non-combat wound in April 1862, the well regarded general's career trajectory is an interesting Civil War might-have-been. Next summer, McFarland is publishing Allan Mesch's Teacher of Civil War Generals: Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, Soldier and West Point Commandant. Mesch is a new name to me and biography is one of the publisher's more uneven Civil War categories so who knows what to expect with this one. I suppose the book's most intriguing line of inquiry will be its examination of Smith's relationship with Grant, one most often characterized in the literature as generous mentoring of a rising star. With so many examples of rank jealousy and backstabbing in Civil War high commands, Smith apparently cheerfully served under an admiring Grant, who was greatly inferior in age and pre-war army position and reputation.  How closely aligned the major Grant biographies are on this narrative I don't know, but I plan on giving Mesch's study a go.

8 comments:

  1. John FoskettDecember 22, 2014

    Drew: "Uneven" is a good (if diplomatic) way of describing McFarland biographies. Smith should be an interesting character, although I have no idea what, if any, primary source material he left and although he died early in the War. For what it's worth, the author has a blog site. In fact, here's an entry into which Smith's name crept regarding Gwynne's Rebel Yell bio of Jackson.

    http://salient-points.blogspot.com/2014/12/rebel-yell-violence-passion-and.html

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    1. Thanks. I wasn't aware of that blog. Though posts are few and far between, it's been going for quite a while.

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  2. Hi Drew: The second volume of a projected three volume biography on George Crook by Paul Magid,The Gray Fox: George Crook and the Indian Wars (Univ. Oklah. Press), will be out in coming April. Also the first published life of German-born Major General Godfrey Weitzel by one G. William Quatman, The Young General and the Fall of Richmond: The Life and Career of Godfrey Weitzel (Ohio Univ. Press), scheduled for publication in February 2015.

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    1. Hi Stefan,
      The Weitzel bio is definitely on my radar. I am hoping the focus isn't so overwhelmingly on the Richmond front as the title seems to indicate.

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    2. John FoskettDecember 26, 2014

      I am very interested in the Weitzel book, although for an unusual reason. My ancestor Isaac Foskett served with the Army of the Potomac in Co. C and then Co. D of the U.S. Engineer battalion from 1861-64. While he was in Co. C, his company commander for a time was Lieutenant Godrey Weitzel.

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  3. Hope so too, Drew. Am much more interested in Weitzel's service in the West under Butler and Banks. Wonder if Mr. Quatman (a distant relative of the general) made use of the recently auctioned Weitzel Papers... AFAIK, Art Bergeron had a Weitzel bio in the works when he became gravely ill...

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  4. I just wonder how much 'there' is 'there' for Charles Smith in the Civil War. If he can write wonderfully and detailed like Ecelbarger did on Frederick Lander (who also died early in the Civil War) it might be worthwhile.

    But McFarland and its absurd prices on Paperback keeps me away from them anyway.

    Chris

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  5. Thanks for the interest in my biography on Major General Charles F. Smith. The book is due to be published in Spring/Summer 2015. It covers his life from his time as a West Point plebe to his death in April 1862 in Savannah, TN. I became interested in Smith because of his influence on Grant and other generals. He was very well repected and my research failed to uncover any criticisms. The book uses unpublished letters from Smith to friends and family. It also covers the incident at the Tilghman House in Paducah, the charge at Fort Donelson, and the injury that ultimately cost him his life. I hope to write more biographies of little known Civil War officers.

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