Date Awarded


Document Type

Dissertation -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Major General William Farrar Smith (1824-1903) played several key roles that contributed to Federal success in the Civil War. as a division commander and chief of engineers, Smith twice saved the Union Army from disastrous defeats. He also served as an important military critic of the tactical incompetence of fellow Union generals.;Smith's first major Civil War contribution came as a division commander during the Peninsula campaign of 1862. at White Oak Swamp, his strong stand held back the pursuit of the Confederates and enabled the Army of the Potomac to reach its new supply base.;Smith commanded the Sixth Corps at Fredericksburg. Shocked by General Burnside's wasteful attempts to take Marye's Heights, Smith wrote to President Lincoln condemning Burnside's plans. Burnside's humiliating mud march in January 1863 validated Smith's criticisms. But because of his indiscretion, and his friendship with General McClellan, who was under fire from Congressional Republicans, Smith was relieved of command and denied promotion to major general.;In October, as the chief engineer of the Army of the Cumberland, Smith made one of his greatest contributions to the war effort. The Confederates had nearly invested the Union Army at Chattanooga. But Smith devised and implemented a plan which restored Chattanooga's communications and enabled the important city to be held.;General Grant was impressed with Smith and made him Eighteenth Corps commander. Smith's success at the battle of Petersburg and his skills as a tactician led Grant to place the troops of the Army of the James under his command. Shortly afterwards, however, Grant became convinced that Smith's censure of General Meade's attack at Cold Harbor was directed at him. to end this criticism, Grant relieved Smith of command in July 1864. Nevertheless, on March 13, 1865, Congress recognized Smith's distinguished service by brevetting him a major general. A thorough examination of his life and writings gives a revealing account of the war and offers a partial explanation of why the North took four years to defeat the South.



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