Martin Luther Smith
Martin Luther Smith

Civil War - Martin Luther Smith

While Capt. Joseph Gregg and the 137th N. Y. Volunteers were fighting and dying at Gettysburg, another local man was engaged in another important struggle in Mississippi; however, he was fighting for the Confederacy. Martin Luther Smith, born in Danby, fought for the Confederacy at Vicksburg and played an important role in that historic event. The day after the Battle of Gettysburg ended, Vicksburg surrendered to Union forces led by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

137th infantry Newfield at Gettysburg Civil War Veterans
Martin Smith Capt. Joseph Gregg The Draft

Martin Luther Smith was born September 9th, 1819, in Danby, New York. Ranked 16th in his class, he graduated from the class of 1842 at West Point and he was commissioned a brevet 2nd Lieutenant of engineers. From there, he was sent to Florida on surveying duty, where he surveyed the coasts and rivers of Florida and Georgia. In 1848 he fought in the Mexican War, and he won a brevet to 1st Lieutenant for making a reconnaissance in the enemy’s country and mapping the area around Mexico City.

After his accomplishment, he returned to his original duty in Texas and Georgia. He relocated to Florida, where he took a civilian job and worked as an engineer for the Fernandina & Cedar Key Railroad until he decided to resign from the US Army on April 1, 1861. Prior to his resignation, he accepted a Confederate Commission as major of engineers on March 16, 1861.

Though Smith’s family originated from the North, he had lived in the South after the age of 22 primarily for occupations due to war, and he married a woman from Athens, Georgia in 1846. As he continued to live in the South, he held business ties there within the Confederacy. After being serving under the command of Major General David E. Twigg, Smith found himself in New Orleans, working on the city’s defenses in the summer of 1861. Here, he assumed the colonelcy of the 21st Louisiana Infantry in February of 1862. It was also here, in New Orleans, that Smith was promoted to brigadier general on April 11, 1862. As brigadier general, he was assigned to command the Third District of the Department of Southern Mississippi and East Louisiana. Still maneuvering through the ranks, he was later assigned to the command of Vicksburg where he was appointed major general on November 4th, 1863. As supervisor of construction of the city’s defensive works, he would maintain this job until the city’s defenses were captured in July of 1863.

After the capture of the city’s defenses in Vicksburg, Smith was taken prisoner and later paroled, but he was not exchanged until March of 1864. Then, he became General Robert E. Lee’s chief engineer, as he also held the same post with the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. While located in Mobile, Alabama, he constructed their defenses and remained there until the city fell; Later, he would surrender at Athens, Georgia in May of 1865. In Savannah, Georgia, he set up a civil-engineering service, but he died on July 29, 1866.

(Source: "Martin Luther Smith," Tri-Village Pennysaver, February 23-29, 2000, p. 19.)


This bust of Martin L. Smith can be found near Vicksburg, Mississippi to honor his defense of the city against Union forces in 1863. (Source: http://www.nps.gov/vick/cs_cmnd/smith_ml.htm)

This marker indicates the spot where Gen. Martin L. Smith had his headquarters in Vicksburg. (Source: http://www.civilwaralbum.com/vicksburg/halls_ferry2.htm)

The CivilWarHome.com website has some of Gen. Martin L. Smith's letters about the defenses of Vicksburg.

The US-Civilwar.com site contains an account of the surrender of Vicksburg.

 

Content provided by Gary Emerson