Teacher of Civil War Generals

Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, Soldier and West Point Commandant

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About the Book

From West Point to Fort Donelson, General Charles Ferguson Smith was a soldier’s soldier. He served at the U.S. Military Academy from 1829 to 1842 as Instructor of Tactics, Adjutant to the Superintendent and Commandant of Cadets. During his 42-year career he was a teacher, mentor and role model for many cadets who became prominent Civil War generals, and he was admired by such former students as Grant, Halleck, Longstreet and Sherman.
Smith set an example for junior officers in the Mexican War, leading his light battalion to victories and earning three field promotions. He served with Albert Sidney Johnston and other future Confederate officers in the Mormon War. He mentored Grant while serving with him during the Civil War, and helped turn the tide at Fort Donelson, which led to Grant’s rise to fame. He attained the rank of major general, while refusing political favors and ignoring the press. Drawing on never before published letters and journals, this long overdue biography reveals Smith as a faithful officer, excellent disciplinarian, able commander and modest gentleman.

About the Author(s)

Allen H. Mesch is a Civil War author, educator, and historian from Plano, Texas. He shares his 4,000-plus photographs taken at over one hundred locations on his web site (http://www.civil-war-journeys.org), writes the blog Salient Points (http://salient-points.blogspot.com), teaches classes in Collin College’s SAIL program, and reviews books for the Civil War Courier.

Bibliographic Details

Allen H. Mesch
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 344
Bibliographic Info: 35 photos, 13 maps, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9834-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2038-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments vi

Preface: “Regular Army to the ­shoe-soles” 1

Part One: West Point to Texas: 1820–1845 5

1. “Grant him a warrant as a cadet” 6

2. “Thirteen years of service” 16

3. Commandant of Cadets 22

4. “At West Point always” 34

5. “Riot raging in Kensington” 40

Part Two: Corpus Christi to Mexico City: 1845–1848 45

6. “A tussle with the Mexicans” 46

7. “War at last sure enough!” 54

8. “The brilliant coup de main” 63

9. “A political war” 71

10. “Off for the far famed City of Mexico” 77

11. “This glorious army hoisted the colors” 86

Part Three: Between Wars: 1848–1861 93

12. “The most perfect soldier in the Army” 94

13. “Courage and Fidelity” 102

14. “A war must be waged” 111

Part Four: Disunion and Reunion: 1861–1862 131

15. “The storm will blow over” 132

16. “The war in Kentucky has commenced” 144

17. “Make demonstrations with your troops” 165

18. The Incident at the Tilghman House 170

19. “They are false in every particular” 177

Part Five: Fort Henry and Fort Donelson: February 1862 189

20. “Take and hold Fort Henry” 190

21. “I Shall take and destroy Fort Donelson” 201

22. “You must take Fort Donelson” 211

23. “Unconditional and immediate surrender” 224

Part Six: Triumph and Turmoil: March–July 1862 233

24. “Take command of the expedition” 234

25. “Hold his position” 243

26. “Does not set easy on me yet” 250

27. “The devils own day” 255

28. “His great worth as a soldier and friend” 264

Appendices 273

A.  Biographical Sketch from the Cullum Register 274

B.  Notable Cadets During Smith’s Term as Commandant 277

C.  Fort Donelson Union Order of Battle 279

D.  Chronology 281

Chapter Notes 285

Bibliography 317

Index 323

Book Reviews & Awards

“a welcome addition to the literature of the prewar Army and the Civil War volunteer army. Recommend[ed]”—Civil War News; “WOW!”—Lone Star Book Review; “a solid well-written book…well researched”—Civil War Monitor; “Mesch does an excellent job of telling Smith’s story…this is an interesting book about an important and influential officer”—The NYMAS Review.