Portrait of William Sooy Smith

In January 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant selected William Sooy Smith to command the 1st Division of Major General Stephen A. Hurlbut’s newly-created 16th Army Corps, garrisoned at Memphis, Tennessee. [Wikimedia Commons]

William Sooy Smith - Facts

July 22, 1830 - March 4, 1916

Key facts about Brigadier General William Sooy Smith who served in many of the Western Theater's important campaigns during the Civil War.

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Birth Date:

  • July 22, 1830

Birth Location:

  • Tarlton, Ohio

Parents:

  • Sooy and Ann (Hedge) Smith

Education:

  • Ohio University (1849)
  • United States Military Academy (1853)

Occupation:

  • Engineer, military officer

Career Summary:

  • Lieutenant (USA)
  • Brigadier General (USVA)

Spouses:

  • Elizabeth Haven (m. 1854)
  • Anna Durham (m. 1862),
  • Josephine Hartwell (m. 1886)

Place of Death:

  • Medford, Oregon

Date of Death:

  • March 4, 1916

Place of Burial:

  • Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois

Significance:

  • William Sooy Smith was the fifth of six children born to Sooy Smith and Ann Hedges.
  • William Sooy Smith’s father captained a volunteer unit during the War of 1812.
  • William Sooy Smith’s paternal grandfather served with colonial forces during the American Revolution.
  • Working as a janitor and at various odd jobs, William Sooy Smith earned enough money to support himself plus pay his tuition at Ohio University, where he graduated with a degree in engineering in 1849.
  • In 1849, William Sooy Smith received an appointment from Ohio Congressman Samuel F. Vinton to the United States Military Academy.
  • William Sooy Smith attended the United States Military Academy from July 1, 1849, to July 1, 1853, and graduated ranked sixth in his class.
  • William Sooy Smith’s classmates at the United States Military Academy included future Union major generals James B. McPherson, John M. Schofield, Philip H. Sheridan, and Confederate General John Bell Hood.
  • Following William Sooy Smith’s graduation from the USMA, he was brevetted to second lieutenant of artillery.
  • On July 9, 1853, the army promoted William Sooy Smith to the full grade of second lieutenant and assigned him to recruiting duty with the Second Artillery at Fort Columbus Depot in New York.
  • William Sooy Smith resigned his army commission on June 19, 1854, to accept an engineering position with the Illinois Central Railroad in Chicago.
  • In 1854, poor health prompted William Sooy Smith to travel east, where he married Elizabeth “Lizzie” Haven in 1854 and took up residence in her hometown of Buffalo, New York.
  • In 1857, William Sooy Smith formed a business partnership named Parkinson and Smith that developed plans for the first international bridge to cross the Niagara River.
  • In response to President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to quell the Southern rebellion, William Sooy Smith returned to Ohio in 1861, where he temporarily served as an assistant adjutant general processing recruits at Camp Dennison.
  • On June 26, 1861, William Sooy Smith received a commission as colonel of the 13th Ohio Infantry, a freshly organized unit enlisted for three years of service with the U.S. Volunteer Army.
  • On June 30, William Sooy Smith and his men departed for western Virginia where they served under Major General George B. McClellan, and later Major General William S. Rosecrans, during the Western Virginia Campaign.
  • William Sooy Smith took part in the pivotal Battle of Carnifex Ferry (September 10, 1861), which established Federal control of western Virginia.
  • In December 1861, the War Department ordered William Sooy Smith and his regiment to join Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of the Ohio in Kentucky.
  • In February 1862, William Sooy Smith took part in the occupation of Nashville, Tennessee, the first Confederate state capital to fall into Union hands during the Civil War.
  • On April 7, 1862, William Sooy Smith took part in the Battle of Shiloh.
  • The U.S. War Department promoted William Sooy Smith to brigadier general on April 15, 1862.
  • William Sooy Smith commanded the 13th Ohio throughout Major General Henry W. Halleck’s Siege of Corinth, Mississippi (April 29 to May 30, 1862).
  • William Sooy Smith commanded the Army of the Ohio’s 2nd Division in July 1862.
  • William Sooy Smith commanded the Army of the Ohio’s 4th Division during the Union victory at the Battle of Perryville (October 8, 1862).
  • In January 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant selected William Sooy Smith to command the 1st Division of Major General Stephen A. Hurlbut’s newly-created 16th Army Corps, garrisoned at Memphis, Tennessee.
  • William Sooy Smith served as the chief of cavalry for the Department of Tennessee from July 20, 1863, until October 16, 1863.
  • William Sooy Smith served as the chief of cavalry for the Division of the Mississippi from October 16, 1863, until July 15, 1864.
  • Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest defeated William Sooy Smith’s cavalry at the Battle of Okolona on February 22, 1864, during the Meridian Campaign.
  • On July 15, 1864, William Sooy Smith resigned his commission in the U.S. Volunteer Army, citing his recurrent battles with debilitating rheumatism.
  • Following his resignation from the army, William Sooy Smith resumed his engineering career, becoming an internationally known expert on bridge construction and large building foundations.
  • At the 1876 American Centennial Exposition, judges awarded William Sooy Smith a prize for his innovative bridge designs.
  • In addition to designing the world’s first all-steel bridge over the Missouri River at Glasgow, Missouri, William Sooy Smith took part in the construction of nearly every lofty building in Chicago between 1890 and 1910.
  • In 1910, William Sooy Smith retired from his engineering business and moved from Riverside, Illinois, to Medford, Oregon.
  • William Sooy Smith died in Medford, Oregon, at age eighty-five, on March 4, 1916, during a bout with pneumonia.

 

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title William Sooy Smith - Facts
  • Coverage July 22, 1830 - March 4, 1916
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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