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Thomas Adams Smith
Gen. Thomas A. Smith
Born (1781-08-12)12 August 1781
Died 25 June 1844 (1844-06-26) (aged 62)
Place of birth Piscataway, Essex County, Virginia
Place of death Experiment Farm, Saline County, Missouri
Resting Place Memorial Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Napton, Saline County, Missouri (39°02′51″N 93°06′09″W / 39.04747°N 93.10258°W / 39.04747; -93.10258Coordinates: 39°02′51″N 93°06′09″W / 39.04747°N 93.10258°W / 39.04747; -93.10258)
Allegiance United States
Service/branch Flag of the United States Army (1775).gif United States Army
Years of service 1803 — 1818
Rank Brigadier General
Commands held
Spouse(s) Cynthia Berry White Smith
  • Dr. Crawford E. Smith, son
  • Cynthia White Smith Berkeley, daughter
  • Six other children
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Thomas Adams Smith was an American military officer and later government official in the first half of the 19th century. He commanded troops in the "Patriot War" in Spanish East Florida. He commanded the Regiment of Riflemen and later the Ninth Military Department. He was a slave owner. The city of Fort Smith, Arkansas is named for Smith.

Early lifeEdit

Thomas Adams Smith was born on 12 August 1781 in Piscataway, Essex County, Virginia. He was the fifth of seven children of Francis and Lucy Wilkinson Smith.[1] At some point prior to entering the U.S. Army, Smith moved to Georgia.

Military careerEdit

Smith was commissioned as a second lieutenant of artillery on 15 December 1803 and promoted to first lieutenant on 31 Dec 1805. In October 1806, General James Wilkinson used Smith, then serving as Wilkinson's aide, as a courier to transport letters relating to the Burr conspiracy to President Thomas Jefferson.[2]

Smith enjoyed the support of Senator William H. Crawford and Congressman George M. Troup, both of Georgia. It is unclear whether patronage was involved but Smith, now an experienced officer, was promoted to captain in the Regiment of Riflemen on 3 May 1808. When the leadership skill of Lieutenant Colonel William Duane, proved unequal to the task of being second in command of the Regiment of Riflemen, Smith was promoted to lieutenant colonel on 31 July 1810 and replaced Duane; he was promoted over John Fuller, the major in the regiment, who left the Army.[3]

A group of Georgians, calling themselves "Patriots," crossed into Spanish East Florida and, on 17 March 1812, captured Amelia Island from the Spanish garrison. The Patriots then "ceded" Amelia Island and the surrounding area to the United States. On 12 April 1812, Smith led two companies of riflemen who occupied Fort Mose, Spanish East Florida as part of the Patriot War of East Florida. The riflemen received little support from the US Government or the Patriots. Smith attempted a siege of St. Augustine, Florida, but his supply lines were not secure and the Spanish garrison of Castillo de San Marcos threatened his command. The Spanish counterattacked Fort Mose and Smith retreated to an encampment further from St. Augustine, Florida. On 16 May 1812, the Spanish set fire to Fort Mose to prevent its reoccupation. All US troops were withdrawn from East Florida by May 1813.[4][5] Troops retreated to Point Petre, Georgia under the leadership of Captain Abraham A. Massias.[6]

On 6 July 1812, Colonel Alexander Smyth left the regiment to become Inspector General of the Army and Smith was promoted to colonel and assumed command of the regiment.[3][5]

During the War of 1812, elements of the Regiment of Riflemen were allocated to different commands and rarely fought together. On 24 January 1814, Smith was promoted to brigadier general. He relinquished command to the riflemen to George W. Sevier and assumed command of a light infantry brigade near Plattsburg, New York. In September 1814, Smith's brigade, including elements of the Regiment of Riflemen, proceeded to join forces operating near Niagara, New York. They failed to arrive before the campaign season ended in December. Smith was allowed to take leave in Knoxville, Tennessee. While he was on leave, the war ended.[7][8]

Following the end of the War of 1812, the Army was reduced in size. Smith was retained but reverted, on 17 May 1815, to his earlier rank of colonel; however, he was concurrently brevetted as a brigadier general postdated to 24 January 1814, the date of his wartime promotion.[9]

In July 1815, Smith was ordered to report to St. Louis, Missouri and arrived on 1 September 1815. He resumed command of the Regiment of Riflemen.[8][10]

During Smith's tenure, the Regiment of Riflemen founded Fort Armstrong, Rock Island, Illinois; Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin; Fort Howard, Green Bay, Wisconsin and Fort Smith, Arkansas. The last was named after Thomas Smith and a community grew up around the fort. Long after the installation was abandoned by the Army, the city of Fort Smith remains.[10]

Smith resigned from the Army on 10 November 1818.[9]

Later lifeEdit

During the time Smith was assigned to Fort Bellefontaine, Missouri, legislation opened up new areas of Missouri for settlement and for the opening of a land officer in Franklin, Missouri. Smith wanted to be appointed as the receiver of the office because he wanted to establish a permanent resident for his wife and children as well as their inherited slaves. John O'Fallon, formerly a captain in the Regiment of Riflemen and now a prominent businessman in St. Louis successfully pled his case and Smith was appointed to the position. Later, he was able to acquire six or seven thousand acres of land, on which he established a farm he named "Experiment." In 1829, Smith resigned his position as receiver and moved with his family to the house he had built on the farm, becoming a full-time farmer. He never sought another public office.[11]

Smith died on 25 June 1844 at Experiment Farm.[1][12] (Heitman shows his date of death as December 1818.[9])


  1. 1.0 1.1 Parker
  2. Napton p. 319
  3. 3.0 3.1 Fredriksen pp. 13—23
  4. Brenner p. 2
  5. 5.0 5.1 Davis
  6. Fredriksen pp. 27—28
  7. Fredriksen p. 47
  8. 8.0 8.1 Napton p. 320
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Heitman p. 903
  10. 10.0 10.1 Fredriksen p. 69
  11. Napton pp. 321—324
  12. Napton p. 324


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