- US Major General William F. “Baldy” Smith¹ is born, in St. Albans, Vermont. Smith, an 1845 graduate, of West Point, was assigned to the topographical engineer corps. He would be involved in surveying around the Great Lakes, Texas, Arizona, Florida and in Mexico. Prior to the Civil War, he would teach mathematics at West Point. With the outbreak of sectional hostilities, he would be made captain, and would serve on the staff of US Major General Irvin McDowell. In August 1861, he would be appointed brigadier general, after recruiting the 1st Vermont Brigade. He would serve during the Seven Days, and would be appointed major general on July 4, 1862. Smith would be in charge of a division, during the Maryland Campaign, and bravely commanded at Antietam. With the promotion of US Major General William B. Franklin, to command of a Grand Wing, during the Fredericksburg Campaign, Smith would command the VI Corps. After Fredericksburg, he would be involved in the back channel scandal, to remove US Major General Ambrose Burnside from command. While he would stay in the army, he would not be confirmed major general and would revert to brigadier general volunteers. Smith would be assigned command of a division of Pennsylvania militia and would be serving in that capacity during the Gettysburg Campaign. With his raw militia, Smith was able to repel an attack, by CS Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. After Gettysburg, Smith would lead his division, in the pursuit of CS General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, to the Potomac River. In early October 1863, he would be assigned as chief engineer of the Army of the Cumberland. This would prove fortuitous for Smith, as the Army of the Cumberland would come under the control of US Major General Ulysses S. Grant, when he was assigned as military commander of the Department of the Mississippi. With the armies bottled up at Chattanooga, Smith would use his engineering expertise to open the “Cracker Line,” to supply the armies. This would earn Grant’s respect, and with Grant’s star rising, that would be a good thing. In March 1864, based on Grant’s recommendation, Lincoln would nominate, and the senate would confirm Smith’s promotion to major general of volunteers. After Grant was promoted lieutenant general, and moved east, he brought Smith with him, placing him in command of the XVIII Corps. This corps would be part of the Army of the James, commanded by US Major General Benjamin Butler. The Army of the James, as part of Grant’s overall strategy for 1864, was to push towards Richmond, while US Major General George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac pushed south towards Richmond. Unfortunately, Butler, and Smith, would not enjoy good relations and the efforts would prove disappointing as they would be bottled up in the Bermuda Hundred. Prior to Cold Harbor, Grant would send Butler, to the Tidewater region and would have Smith’s XVIII Corps join the Army of the Potomac, in their attempts to flank Robert E. Lee. Smith’s corps would perform well. After disengaging from Lee, after Cold Harbor, Grant would cross the James River, in an effort to get below Lee – cutting his communications and supplies. Smith’s corps would arrive, outside Petersburg, and would be ordered by Grant to take the city. Smith, always cautious took his time reconnoitering the area, missing an opportunity to sack the small garrison, commanded by CS General P.G.T. Beauregard. Grant, upset with Smith’s “tentative” actions would have him relieved of command of the XVIII Corps. Officially, Smith was sent north on “special duty.” Smith would resign from the Federal service in 1867. After the Civil War he would be president of the International Telegraph Company, president of the Board of Police Commissioners in New York City and perform engineering work in Philadelphia. He would die in 1903 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
- US Major General William T. Sherman ransacks Columbia, South Carolina. After spending a month, in Augusta, Georgia, Sherman sets his armies in motion. Planning to move through the Carolinas, to combine forces with US Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, Sherman sets out through the state that fired on Fort Sumter, and was first to secede. Upon entering Columbia, it was claimed that portions of Sherman’s troops were intoxicated. They would set fires that would destroy approximately 2/3 of the city. Sherman claimed that the secessionist population set the fires as they fled his approaching army. Many Federal soldiers would help fight the raging fires.