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Ozzy

Did Grant kill Smith?

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As we know, U.S. Grant was involved in a number of shadowy operations during the early months of the War of the Rebellion: a supposed pursuit of Missouri Rebels in order to relieve an endangered 16th Illinois Infantry Regiment; the occupation of Paducah Kentucky (asserted by General Grant to have occurred without authorization from Major General Fremont); and the unauthorized visit to Nashville following General Grant’s success at Fort Donelson.

Seldom considered is U.S. Grant’s role in facilitating the death of General Charles Ferguson Smith. Don’t think so? Consider this: Until mid-March 1862, Smith was Expedition Leader tasked with breaking Confederate railroads within reach of Savannah Tennessee. But Brigadier General Smith was superseded on 17 March 1862 when Major General Grant arrived at Savannah and took charge of the five divisions then present in the immediate vicinity. And U.S. Grant came face to face with an ailing, bed-ridden Charles Smith, whose leg had suffered serious injury through misadventure in boarding a small boat.

It is accepted that General Grant was not a trained physician, and likely had no appreciation for the dire nature of Smith’s condition, for the first day or two after he arrived. However, trained medical officers were on the Staff of both Grant and Smith. And with all reports indicating that “General Smith remained upstairs in his bedroom at the Cherry Mansion” during the entire time General Grant operated from Savannah and Pittsburg Landing, it would be impossible NOT to notice that Charles Smith was failing to improve. General Grant's own Headquarters were at the Cherry Mansion, permitting daily interaction with C.F. Smith.

One month after Grant arrived at Savannah, Major General Henry Halleck completed his own journey from St. Louis; and he immediately took notice of Smith’s shocking condition. So obvious was the poor state of General Smith’s health, that Halleck arranged for transport north on a steamer, soon as General Smith was well enough to travel. And health professionals were placed on standby to accompany Smith to Philadelphia, soon as possible. But this arrangement for medical evacuation occurred four weeks too late: C.F. Smith never made the trip.

[By reason of comparison: On 22 March 1862 Colonel Michael K. Lawler of 18th Illinois Infantry was granted leave by Major General Grant to return home and recuperate from wounds incurred at Fort Donelson. It could be argued that a similar leave could have –SHOULD have -- been arranged by Grant for General Charles F. Smith.]

 

References: Papers of US Grant vol.4 pages 381, 491 IRT Colonel Michael Lawler.

Autobiography of Lew Wallace vol.1 page 445 describes the manner in which Brigadier General C.F. Smith injured his leg one March evening in 1862 (believed to be 12 March 1862.) See Emerging Civil War “General Grant loses a Resourceful Subordinate” of 19 FEB 2018.

Personal Memoirs of Surgeon John H. Brinton (1914) page 152, 159, 160 in which Surgeon Brinton admits to being called to Savannah Tennessee by General Grant in late April “to see to General Smith, who had been very sick.” Brinton reached the Cherry Mansion early on 25 April, “found General Smith sinking, moribund, unconscious. That afternoon of 25 April 1862, at 4 p.m. he died.”

Medical Histories of Union Generals by Dr. Jack Welsh (1996) page 308, indicates C.F. Smith’s injured leg became infected. General Smith “was a cripple, upstairs in the Cherry Mansion” when the Battle of Shiloh took place. He continued to sink, and died 25 April 1862. His body was removed to Philadelphia for burial at Laurel Hill Cemetery.

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I'm getting real tired of the Grant bashing on this site. This post is ridicules and the last straw for me. I will no longer read certain peoples post.

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Jim

Last I looked, this was a discussion group. Everyone is free to take a position, and argue their case in agreement or disagreement with a claim. And if a claim is "ridiculous," it should be easy to disprove.

Ozzy

 

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I think the burden of proof, in this case, would be on the one making the supposition. Not the one disagreeing. Otherwise, it is character assassination by conspiracy theory. 

 

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Before revealing the facts in the matter, allow me to list the concerns that resulted in opening this line of enquiry; elements of the story that caused me to question the “care” delivered to General C.F. Smith, ultimately leading to his death:

·         U.S. Grant maintained his headquarters at the Cherry Mansion during the entire time he was forward deployed. Why?

·         Although making daily visits to Crump’s Landing and Pittsburg Landing to observe proceedings (and enforce the prime directive, “Do nothing to bring on a general engagement”) Major General Grant was not seriously tasked with anything except assembling a force to march on Corinth. Meanwhile, subordinates carried out attempts to cut the Memphis & Charleston R.R. and the Mobile & Ohio R.R., which allowed Grant to return to the Cherry Mansion every evening.

·         U.S. Grant appeared to have an abundance of Time on his hands, which he filled by engaging in a purge of loose cannon officers, who were too lacking in discipline for their own good. In addition, Grant initiated an operation against soon-to-be Major General John McClernand designed to deny that officer exercise of his rightful seniority.

·         The players thought to be necessary to carry out the McClernand ruse were Brigadier General W. T. Sherman; Captain William McMichael; and soon-to-be Major General Charles F. Smith. [The Shell Game, or McClernand ruse, involved General Smith being assigned to command of Pittsburg Landing campground, with assertion that Smith was “temporarily away, sick.” In his absence, W. T. Sherman was designated as acting-Commander of the Pittsburg Landing campground. From 21 March 1862 John McClernand, promoted to Major General, was senior officer present at Pittsburg Landing, and by rights should have exercised acting-Command.]

·         It has frequently been claimed that, “It was good that U.S. Grant survived the bad experience at Shiloh, because there was no one competent enough to replace him.” And yet, there was one man; and that man had already replaced General Grant on two occasions. If that competent commander had recovered from a leg injury, he might have been available to act as Grant’s replacement again. Of course, that man was Charles F. Smith.

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Grant’s too-close involvement with Smith, part one

Of the above items, “Why General Grant persisted in maintaining his HQ at Savannah” is primarily concerning because of the obvious impact on the conduct of the Battle of Shiloh, and the Commanding General’s hours-long absence from the field, morning of 6 April 1862. But, Grant’s use of the Cherry Mansion as HQ had other peculiar implications.

This is the dilemma: C.F. Smith was already aboard a steamer, the Hiawatha, when General Grant re-joined his Army in vicinity of Savannah. And Smith informed Grant that, “he was barely able to limp through the cabin from one chair to another.”  If Grant had left General Smith aboard the Hiawatha and medevac’d him away to a Hospital – ANY Hospital – north of Savannah, no one could fault U.S. Grant for exercising due care. And whatever happened to Smith, during the voyage or afterwards, was beyond control of General Grant.

However… this medical evacuation did not occur. And the state of affairs changed with the removal of Smith from the Hiawatha by General Grant; and the installation of Smith in an ad hoc Hospital-for-one, upstairs in the Cherry Mansion, the same building which also happened to be Grant’s HQ …by General Grant. And Grant’s downstairs “offices of HQ” acted as gate-keeper for access to General Smith. (Many did not realize Smith was there, but assumed he was in the field at Pittsburg Landing campground.) Again, if Smith had been deposited in “the best ad hoc Hospital available in Savannah or Pittsburg Landing” the arm’s length nature of Grant’s involvement with Smith’s care could by verified as such. But by taking a controlling role in the provision of Smith’s care, Grant assumed more than a modicum of interest in the outcome (same as if you or I brought a sick friend, or work colleague into our Home, and arranged for personal care of that person: our input, our decisions, have consequences, for which we can be held liable.)

And as for General Smith’s condition: as far as can be determined, it progressively deteriorated. There is no indication that he could manage the stairs at the Cherry Mansion, and so it must be assumed that he remained upstairs and had his meals brought to him. As well, he likely made use of a bedpan instead of attempting visits to the outside privy. Soon, Charles F. Smith could no longer walk; became bedridden. This condition never improved. And Major General Grant returned to the Cherry Mansion every night, and was witness to Smith’s declining health (which became so obvious that Henry Halleck ordered Smith’s medical evacuation on or about April 14th.)

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Grant’s too-close involvement with Smith, part two

Major General U.S. Grant first became aware of General Smith’s boat mishap via steamer-delivered message from Smith, dated 13 MAR 1862. Subsequently, General Grant assessed Smith’s condition on March 17th (and moved General Smith into the upstairs bedroom at the Cherry Mansion); and commented on Smith’s bedridden condition in his Memoirs (page 274) as the reason Brigadier General WHL Wallace was assigned to acting command of Smith’s Second Division. But U.S. Grant made these observations as a layman, not as a trained physician.

Brigadier General C.F. Smith’s personal physician at Savannah was Surgeon Henry Hewitt (who also acted as Medical Director for the Army of West Tennessee.) It was Hewitt who converted every empty house and unused building in Savannah into Hospitals, the whole network capable of tending over 1000 men. And as far as is known, Smith enjoyed ready access to Surgeon Hewitt.

Major General Grant also had a personal physician with him when he arrived at Savannah: Surgeon John H. Brinton. So, a “second opinion” should have been available, especially when it was realized after a few days that General Smith was not getting better. But, study of Surgeon Brinton’s Memoirs seems to indicate NO contact with Charles F. Smith; and then, Surgeon Brinton was sent away by General Grant on March 22nd to conduct business in St. Louis and Cairo (he did not return to Pittsburg Landing until April, after Shiloh.) In Surgeon Brinton’s Memoirs, the only recorded meeting he had with C.F. Smith was at Savannah on April 25th at the request of General Grant. Surgeon Brinton travelled by steamer from Pittsburg Landing and found Smith upstairs in the Cherry Mansion (his Hospital-for-one had long since become a Hospice); General Smith was in bed, unconscious, and obviously in the final stages of dying (which occurred that afternoon at 4 o’clock.)

The implication: no second opinion was accorded General Smith, despite his declining health, until there was no chance of his recovery.

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Russell

Thanks for your interest in this topic, which merely asks, "Did Grant kill Smith?"

Not an assertion; not a conspiracy theory. Just a valid line of enquiry, with no pre-determined outcome. Because, in the end, Smith died. The point of this exercise is to determine whether more could have been done, possibly leading to a better outcome for Major General Charles F. Smith.

 

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Grant’s too-close involvement with Smith, part three

With Brigadier General C.F. Smith esconsed in his upstairs bedroom at the Cherry Mansion, Major General Grant received an intriguing communication from Brigadier General W. T. Sherman on 18 MAR 1862 (in the form of an endorsement attached to a request from acting-Brigadier General Lauman regarding “possibilities for creation of temporary Hospitals” and found on page 489 of Papers of US Grant vol.4) : “I understand that General Smith has arrived, and it is his duty to determine this question.”

[Where has General Smith arrived? His Second Division has been ordered to Pittsburg Landing by General Grant, and is in process of disembarking, but C.F. Smith is not with them. And with Major General Grant now in theatre, why would not Grant, as senior officer, be the one to “determine this question?” ] My own feeling is that this communication from Sherman initiated the ruse to make use of “the absent General Smith” as Commander of the Pittsburg Landing campground (and thus deny rightful seniority to General John McClernand, come his promotion to Major General.) The “unfit for duty” Smith was comfortable, and assumed to be on the mend, upstairs in the Cherry Mansion. Why not make use of the opportunity provided by Smith’s temporary absence to “settle a grievance?” [U.S. Grant and John McClernand had experienced an irreparable fracture in their friendship, following on the ineffective pursuit of fleeing Rebels during the Fort Henry operation, and disagreed on just who was to blame for that tardy pursuit.]

On 20 MAR 1862, with General McClernand and his First Division still in vicinity of Savannah, Major General Grant sent a communication to “Major General” Smith, directing him to, “Instruct General Sherman to fortify himself partially and to make no stand against a superior force should he be attacked.” [General Smith was just upstairs in the Cherry Mansion, unfit for duty; yet Grant was pretending that Smith was well enough to be in command at Pittsburg Landing, and overseeing the activities of Brigadier General Sherman (Papers of US Grant, vol.4 page 397).]

Where did the idea for this “ruse” against McClernand come from? From General W. T. Sherman, who had witnessed, and been party to, a similar “Shell Game” at Benton Barracks, operated by his friend,  Major General Henry Halleck, and also involving Generals Stephen Hurlbut and W. K. Strong. [In Halleck’s version of the ruse, each of the three generals at Benton Barracks was referred to as “Commander” or “Commandant of the Camp of Instruction,” deflecting attention from the fact Sherman was there to “steady his nerves,” and the drunkard Hurlbut (a friend of Sherman’s) was there to “dry out.” But, it was all for a good cause: two damaged Generals were fixed and returned to active service; and no one died in consequence of Halleck’s Shell Game.]

Grant sent another communication to “Major General C.F. Smith, commanding forces at Pittsburg Tennessee” on March 20th advising him in regard to operation of forage wagons. And another communication to Major General Smith at Pittsburg that same day directed Smith to, “Assign the 16th Wisconsin, Colonel B. Allen, for duty.” Also on March 20th, Grant sent a communication to Brigadier General McClernand at Savannah, directing him, “Make immediate preparations for shipping two brigades of your command to Pittsburg, Tennessee.”

[From the above, found on pages 398 – 399 it is obvious that Grant knows of the impending official promotion of C.F. Smith, John McClernand (and Lew Wallace) due to occur next day, March 21st. Grant assumed Smith would be senior to McClernand; and it is safe to assume that Captain McMichael, Smith’s AAG, has been “brought into the conspiracy” to occupy the Second Division HQ on the bluffs above Pittsburg Landing, take receipt of official communications, and forward them as required, including to General Smith’s actual location at the Cherry Mansion.]

On March 23rd Grant directed Smith, commanding forces at Pittsburg Tennessee to “Carry out your idea of occupying and partially fortifying Pea Ridge.” Major General Smith replied (to AAG John Rawlins) that same day, “Please say to the General that I have directed Brigadier General Sherman to make a reconnaissance in strong force about Pea Ridge.”

This exchange of letters between Grant at Savannah, and Smith “in charge of U.S. Forces at Pittsburg Tennessee” continued until the end of March. On March 26th IAW Special Orders No.36 Line Item No.6 Major General Grant appointed MGen Charles F. Smith “to Command of the Post at Pittsburg Tennessee.” [And although Grant claimed in Special Orders No.36 that “Smith was the senior officer at the Post of Pittsburg,” this claim was untrue. Hence, Orders No.36 were unlawful.] The need for these late-enacted orders appears to be to allow for Smith, as recognized commander at Post of Pittsburg, to designate an acting-Commander in his absence; and Brigadier General Sherman began acting as Smith’s appointed acting-Commander about March 26th. And this arrangement only worked 1) as long as McClernand believed he was junior to Smith, and 2) as long as Smith remained within the Military District of West Tennessee. If an unfit for duty Smith departed that district for, say, his home in Philadelphia, a proper replacement for Smith had to be identified, and installed as Commander, U.S. Forces at Pittsburg Tennessee. [Same again, if John McClernand realized he was in fact the senior officer, and could prove it… ]

And as much as U.S. Grant would likely have preferred to “avoid the ruse,” and install fellow West Pointer William T. Sherman as “Commander, U.S. Forces at Pittsburg Tennessee” the fact that after March 21st Sherman remained Brigadier General, while John McClernand was promoted Major General, meant that that appointment could not legally happen.

How does the above tie in with General Smith’s death? If  U.S. Grant had been asked, “Why did you not send Smith away for comprehensive care?” Grant could not very well respond, “I needed him to remain within the District in order to continue my Seniority Deception Operation against MGen McClernand.”

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