Israel Canton Smith was born on March 12, 1839, in Grand Rapids, son of Canton (b. 1822) and Ann (Angell).
Rhode Island native Canton settled his family in Grand Rapids in 1837, just four years after the first permanent settlement was established along the banks of the Grand River.
Israel attended the schools in Grand Rapids and then studied for two years at Albion College, completing his education about 1856 when he returned to Grand Rapids and clerked for James Blair during that winter. He began his business career lumbering on the Muskegon River where his father owned a mill. Israel spent a short time in the mill business in Chicago and after a year in the South he returned to Grand Rapids and began reading law under James Miller.
After about a year of studying law “he was seized with an attack of the then raging gold fever, and in 1859 he joined a party starting for Pike’s Peak” in Colorado, but apparently the men changed their plans and went to California from Fort Kearney. Interestingly enough, a decade before his father Canton and another son, James A., joined a party for California to make the California Gold Rush. Canton eventually returned home broke.
After 114 days from the time they left the Missouri River the party arrived in California. Smith became disenchanted by the many hardships and little gold and, following what Albert Baxter described as a “brief but comprehensive California experience,” he returned to Michigan “by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and soon afterward went to St. Louis, Missouri, where he engaged as clerk on a steamboat running on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. He returned to Grand Rapids in 1860, and again entered the office of James Miller, to complete his law studies.” By 1860 he was also employed as a steam boatman working with his older brother James and living with his family in Grand Rapids, Third Ward, probably on the southside of Cherry between Jefferson and Lafayette Streets.
Israel was 22 years old when he enlisted as Second Lieutenant in Company E on May 23, 1861. Rebecca Richmond, teenage daughter of William Richmond, one of the city’s leading citizens, wrote in her diary on Sunday, May 26, that “This afternoon at half past two, Dr. [Francis] Cuming administered baptism to seven persons, two infants and five adults. Among the latter were Charles Lyon and Israel Smith, officers in the Third Regiment. We were all happy to see these two promising young men of our city come forward and enroll themselves under Christ's banner and prepare for the Christian warfare before going for to fight their country's battle. May they never desert either flag.”
Smith quickly developed the reputation (and respect) as a “strict disciplinarian.” “When he issued a command,” wrote the Democrat in 1876, “it was understood and obeyed as such, and in those few cases where disobedience occurred, punishment was sure and instant, yet invariably just and according to the army standard. He was cordially hated by every scoundrel and as cordially loved and esteemed by every gentleman and good soldier.” “Bub” Smith, as he was reportedly called “with affection” by men in his company and in the Regiment, was described by one contemporary as kind-hearted and considerate of others “wherever proper to be exercised.”
“Some [folks] talks about Bub Smith being strict,” remarked the honest old granger, slowly revolving his tobacco quid in his mouth. “Well, so he was strict, and he ought to be, or there wouldn’t have been anything left of himself or the company either. But I tell you what is, mister, that same Bub Smith was the best hearted man with his men that ever wore gilt straps on his shoulders, after all said and done. Most of ‘em were smart and cute like, you know, and thought the men was dogs, and when one of us made some leetle technical mistake h--l was to pay, sure, and . . . we went into the guard house. Smith wasn’t that way a bit. . . . I remember I stood guard myself, just after I entered service. I was pretty green, of course, and when Smith came round I forgot to make the salute. He stopped still a moment, and I thought I was in for it sure. I felt better when he just quietly told me what was right to do in such cases, advised me pleasantly to look out for the other officer and passed on. This is just a sample of his ways with the men when they happened to make a mistake without intending it.”
The Regiment departed Grand Rapids on Thursday June 13, 1861, and arrived in Washington on Sunday afternoon, June 16. They marched through to Chain Bridge, just above Georgetown on the Potomac River where they went into their first camp since leaving Michigan. The Regiment fought its first action at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18, and the following day Israel was promoted to Adjutant, commissioned the same day, replacing Lieutenant Edward Earle. Smith was promoted to Captain of Company F on January 1, 1862, commissioned the same day, replacing Captain Fred Worden.
According to Eli Hamblin of Company F, writing on January 25, 1862: “We have got a new captain now; he is a good one. Our old captain [Fred Worden] has gone to Kalamazoo to join the Thirteenth Michigan Regiment; he is Lieutenant Colonel of that regiment. He was a good captain. His name is Frederick Worden. The captain’s name we have now is Israel Smith. Our old captain left New Year’s [day].”
Israel was shot in the right shoulder on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run. According to Grand Rapids historian Albert Baxter at Second Bull Run Smith was “in the thickest of the fight. At an important crisis of the battle, while advancing under a heavy fire from both flanks, the right of the Regiment broke. Captain Smith, whose company was near the left of the line, taking in the critical situation, sprang to the front, ordered and led a charge that drove the rebel line from its position, and when forced by numbers to fall back, his men kept up a bold resistance, firing in retreat. While leading the charge Captain Smith was wounded twice, back of the shoulder, and still carries one of the balls as a memento of the occasion.”
Stephen D. Thompson of Company F saw Smith get hit in the back of his right shoulder. He remembered this, he claimed later, because he was standing by Smith’s side and was himself “wounded at almost the same instant, and these words passed between us: On receiving my wound ‘I said Captain I am shot’. [Smith] turned practically around towards me, and exclaimed ‘My God I am shot too.’ I did not see him again until the close of the war. . . .”
Some years after the war Dan Crotty of Company F wrote that although “Our gallant Captain, I. C. Smith, has a severe wound in the shoulder,” he “still keeps in command of his company.” Israel soon returned to Michigan on sick furlough, and was reported as staying at the Michigan Exchange Hotel in Detroit on September 12. From Detroit he went on to Grand Rapids to recover from his wounds, and he remained at home through September. Smith was on his way back to the Regiment by the first week of October when he was in Detroit staying at the Michigan Exchange Hotel.
By the end of 1862 Smith was back in the field but detached from the Regiment, and on the staff of Third Brigade commander General Hiram Berry. Rebecca wrote in her diary on November 1 that Smith had left “the Third and has a good position on Gen. Berry’s staff.” Israel was on Berry’s staff during the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia on December 13, 1862, and was Acting Assistant Inspector General for the Third Brigade, First Division, Third Corps, from March 23 through June. Smith was present at the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, on May 3, 1863, and serving on the staff of General Hayman who commanded the Third Brigade.
“He was assigned,” historian Albert Baxter wrote, “to the right of the line in the famous ‘Night Charge’ when Stonewall Jackson was killed. During the battle on the second day the right of the line broke. Captain Smith gave his horse the spurs and dashed away at full speed to rally the Regiment, when a cannon ball tore off the top of the horse's neck just in front of the saddle. It was a close call, but, instantly dismounting, he rallied the Regiment back to its line. The army fell back to Chancellorsville House, where the rebels, after killing the horses of one of the Union batteries, drove the cannoneers from the guns and advanced to take the battery. Captain Smith called for volunteers, charged down the plank road and dragged the guns within the Union lines.”
On July 2, 1863, the second day of the battle of Gettysburg, General Regis De Trobriand commanded the Brigade. According to Baxter, “After the troops were placed in position it was found that the line was not connected on the left. Captain Smith found some troops and got them into position to fill the gap just as Longstreet's column charged. The rebels were repulsed, but advanced again, and a Regiment stationed at a point on the line at the right of the wheat field broke badly. Captain Smith rode in among them and rallied the men back to their original position. But here his horse was shot and he received a wound in his right leg, fracturing the bone just below the knee. The ball still remains in the leg. Captain Smith was mentioned in the reports for gallantry at this battle.”
Baxter then quoted “from General De Trobriand’s book, Four Years in the Army of the Potomac: ‘His horse turned on his hind legs as if ready to fall. A ball had passed through the shoulder of the animal and the leg of the rider. The latter turning toward me, showed me on the front of his boot a round hole, from which the blood was flowing freely. “Go to the ambulance as quickly as possible,” I told him, “your horse is still able to take you there.” Captain Smith saluted me with perfect coolness, expressed to me the regret he felt in not being able to be of further service to me, and went off without hurrying.’” According to former Third Michigan member Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Pierce’s testimony after the war, Smith was shot in the right “leg just below his knee fracturing or injuring the bone seriously. . . .”
Israel again returned home to Grand Rapids to recuperate, and on July 31 the Eagle reported that he was “doing finely, we understand, and will be able to rejoin his command much sooner than was at first expected.” Rebecca Richmond wrote in her diary on August 11, 1863, that she and her sister Mary “spent the remainder of the afternoon with Mrs. Morton [Smith’s sister] and our poor wounded soldier Captain I. C. Smith. He is unable to leave his room and is dependent upon the kind attention of his friends and acquaintances for relief from the tedium of such confinement and the ennui attendant upon the entire contrast of his present life to that of two years passed in camp and on the field. He seemed rejoiced to see us and we did what we could for his entertainment. Captain [George] Remington and Lieutenant [Calvin] McTaggert of the ‘glorious Third’ called during our stay.”
While at home recovering from his wound Israel was promoted to Major in August of 1863, and transferred to the Tenth Michigan cavalry then forming at Grand Rapids. On August 22, the Eagle reported that Smith “has been promoted to the senior Majority of the 10th cavalry, to rendezvous in this city, and will assume command at Camp Kellogg, on Monday. We congratulate the new Major on his well-earned honors, and the Regiment that they have secured a tried officer, worthy to lead them on the path of glory.” (The regiment was organized in Grand Rapids between September 18 and November 18, 1863, when it was mustered into service. It left Michigan for Lexington, Kentucky on December 1, 1863, and participated in numerous operations, mostly in Kentucky and Tennessee throughout the winter of 1863-64. Most of its primary area of operations would eventually be in the vicinity of Strawberry Plains, Tennessee.)
Israel left Grand Rapids with his Regiment in December of 1863, when, according to Baxter, “it was ordered to Kentucky and joined the Army of the Ohio; thence into East Tennessee, where Major Smith was kept busy for a time leading the advances made by the infantry corps in making reconnaissances toward the Virginia line.” During a reconnaissance to Russellville, Tennessee, on Wednesday, March 23, Smith commanded the First Battalion. On March 27 Lieutenant Wallace W. Dickinson of A company, who had formerly been in K company, Third Michigan, wrote to Michigan that Major Smith was “universally liked by officers and men. The boys say, ‘He's got the fight in him’.”
Mid-April found the regiment camped near Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. Sometime around the 17th or 18th, Major Smith took two companies out to Mossy Creek, where he was joined by the remainder of the regiment under Colonel Trowbridge on April 21.
The object of the expedition, of course remained a secret; but it was intimated that we should be out ten or fifteen days, and, at Bull's Gap would be supplied with pack mules and saddles.
Leaving Mossy Creek, and passing through Newmarket and Morristown, we went on to Russellville, Jefferson County, and encamped. It was gratifying to see, along the route, farmers engaged in repairing their fences and cultivating their farms. The Government is doing all within its power to encourage and protect the farmers through this section of country; and it is to be hoped that their efforts may prove a success.
The season is unusually backward, and but little planting has been done. There are many fine fields of wheat and oats in the vicinity of Newmarket, and at the other points along the route.
Russellville is quite a village and about equally divided on the issues between the Government and insurgent States. We reached the Gap today, about noon, went beyond about three miles, and encamped. -- Our forces here consist of the 3d Indiana cavalry and a brigade of infantry. Trains are running daily from Knoxville to this point. The roads are in tolerable condition.
On April 25, 1864, wrote Albert Baxter, “the Regiment attacked the fort at Watauga Bridge. Major Smith led the charge and was the first man inside of the works, and as he went over the parapet the rebels rushed out on the opposite side. He charged the rebel General John Morgan at Morristown. In this fight Morgan was discovered with his cavalry drawn up in line in front of the town. The Union column halted. The commanding officer rode back to the rear, where Major Smith was marching with his battalion, and explained to him the situation. Smith asked why he did not order a charge. The reply was: “Do you want to charge him?” Smith said, “Yes,” and instantly moved out, galloped past the other two battalions, came into line on the jump, charged and drove Morgan from the field.” According to Dickinson,
The object of our mission seems to have been, first, the destruction of the railroad and bridges from this point to Centre Station, 57 miles from here, and the destruction of the railroad bridge at that point across the Watauga River; second, the capture of any rebel forces that might be at the last-mentioned place. To accomplish this, it was necessary to send forward the Cavalry, as rapidly as possible, to Watauga Bridge, while a brigade of infantry was advanced as far as Jonesboro, to finish the work of destruction in the rear.
The result of this strategy will be developed in General Sherman's operations in Georgia, within the next 15 days. The 10th Michigan Cavalry and the 3d Indiana Cavalry were placed under the command of Lieut. Col. Trowbridge -- Maj. Smith commanding the 10th Michigan, and Capt. Herriott the 3d Indiana.-- The infantry moved out several hours before day-light, Sunday morning, the cavalry following at an early hour, and passing the infantry before 7 o'clock a.m. It was expected that rebel cavalry would be found at Jonesboro. Passing through Greenville and Rheatown, we encamped, Sunday night, within 12 miles of Jonesboro.
Monday morning, about 9 a.m., we reached Jonesboro, and charged through the village, with the hope of taking a few prisoners; but having been informed of our advance, they took the precaution to leave 15 minutes before our arrival. While resting our horses for a short time, the rebels made a sudden dash for our pickets, and took one of the boys in Co. F prisoner.
Col. Trowbridge, having learned that there was a force of 3 three or four hundred infantry at Watauga Bridge, or Centre Station, besides a brigadier general, with two squadrons of cavalry, between him and the latter place, dispatched Major Smith, with the 1st battalion, under Capt. Stevenson, and three companies of the 3d Indiana, to the left, by a road that struck the river two miles below Centre Station, at Massengill's Ford, with the design of crossing the river, and attacking the enemy in the rear, while he, with companies B, C, G, H and M, under Capt. Weatherwax, with the balance of the command, moved down the railroad and attacked him in front.
This plan, properly executed, would have resulted, without a reasonable doubt, in the capture of the whole rebel force. Major Smith reached the ford without opposition, but, owing to the swollen condition of the [river], found it impossible to effect a crossing, he then moved up the river to the railroad for the purpose of forming a junction with Col. Trowbridge. The enemy's pickets were driven in, and two captured. The Maj. reached the railroad just above the station, about 15 minutes before Col. Trowbridge came up, charged the enemy and drove him into his rifle-pits and forts this side of the river. It was evident that the enemy outnumbered us, and were snugly posted in rifle-pits and forts, behind rocks and fit buildings on both sides. It seemed a rather hazardous attempt to dislodge him with a cavalry force; but Col. Trowbridge and Major Smith are not the men to retire without a vigorous effort to accomplish the object of their mission. The nature of the ground rendered a charge on horseback impracticable. In order to reach the rifle-pits and for this side of the river, it was necessary to pass over the open field for about 500 yards, then up a steep hill. Companies A and D were held in reserve, while companies B, C, F, G, H and M, dismounted and advanced as skirmishers. Coming within range, the encountered a terrible fire, and lay down to escape annihilation, having advanced within 60 yards of the fort, the command to "charge" was given, when the whole line sprang forward, dashed up the hill and drove the enemy pell-mell out of the fort and down the hill, some taking refuge in a stone mill and other buildings, and some crossing the river.
Having taken the fort, Capt. Weatherwax prepared to charge on the bridge. Captain Weatherwax moved forward, but it was too desperate for any but Maj. Smith and 8 others to attempt. They received a murderous fire, and the gallant captain fell with a bullet through his heart. Maj. Smith was the first to reach the fort, next Capt. Weatherwax's Quartermaster Sergeant, Co. H, and Capt. Bryant the next. A more gallant charge was never made. Before it was Lieutenant Brooks got his mountain howitzer in position, and made some fine shots.
The works were abandoned for some reason, but were soon reoccupied by companies A, D and B. Both sides kept up a brisk fire until darkness put an end to the conflict. Both parties rested on their arms, to resume the fighting in the morning. Morning came, and the firing was resumed and continued until we were ready to move back, which was accomplished without loss, and in the most perfect order, company A acting as rear guard.
On May 11 Dickinson wrote to the Eagle that “Maj. Smith has been ordered to Knoxville, to serve as Assistant Inspector General in General Tilson's staff. His fine social qualities, splendid military qualifications and gallant conduct on the battle-field, had made the favorite of the regiment, and it was with sincere regret that we parted with him, even for a brief period, for we are hopeful that he may return.”
Indeed, Smith was detached from May 7, 1864, and by June he was Acting Assistant Inspector General, according to Baxter, “for the District of East [Tennessee], serving in that position in the Departments of the Ohio, Cumberland, 23rd Army Corps and Cavalry Corps; and on the staffs of the following named officers: General Davis Tillson, General Alvin C. Gillem, General Jacob Ammon, and General George Stoneman.” On May 23, Dickinson wrote home that Smith was at Knoxville, although he did not say what he was doing there.
By the first of August Smith was back with the Tenth cavalry. According to Dickinson, on Monday, August 1,
Col. Trowbridge, with a detachment of 265 men, and one gun of the howitzer battery, left camp, with the design of proceeding to Carter Station and destroying the railroad bridge at that point. Maj. Smith, who is always sure to be with us if there is a prospect of a fight ahead, commanded the 1st battalion, composed of Cos. A, I, L and D; Capt. Roberts the 2d, consisting of Cos. F, G, B and C. Tuesday morning, we encountered Maj. Arnold, with 100 men at Morristown. Showing fight, the boys ‘went for them’. A brisk skirmish ensued, in which six were wounded, among them a Lieut. mortally.
Maj. Arnold adopted his usual tactics, by falling back. Reaching Russellville, we attempted to get in his front by a flank movement to the right of Bull Gap, by a road that struck the main Greenville road three miles above the Gap. Maj. Smith, with his battalion, was there in time, but the enemy avoided the trap, by taking Babb Mill road just after getting through the Gap.
Next morning, when within a few miles of Greenville information reached us that Maj. Brazelton, with 100 men, was in town. Arriving near the village, the command charged through the place by different roads, but the cautious Major had left half an hour before our arrival.
The enemy thus having notice of our presence in the country, it was thought imprudent to make an attempt to destroy the bridge in the face of a superior force, strongly entrenched.
We remained at Greenville to rest the horses, and while here, two rebs came up to one of our videttes. When at a distance of only a few yards, they were halted, and, in attempting to make their escape, were wounded, one of them mortally. The vidette who handled them so severely was a private, Albert Platt, Co. A.
Leaving Greenville, Wednesday afternoon, we reached the Plains on Friday, the 5th inst., without any further adventures.
By the end of August Israel was serving on the staff of General Gillem. On August 21 General Tillson sent word to General Gillem that “The enemy are apparently between Loudon and this place [Strawberry Plains, Tennessee?]. Please relieve Major Smith and order him to rept here immediately.” (In fact, Major Newell would soon .replace Major Smith as Major of the Tenth cavalry.) And on August 26, General Ammen in Knoxville, sent word to Smith in Strawberry Plains that “We have certain information that the whole force of the enemy has crossed the Clinch River at Lee’s ferry. The last brigade crossed this a.m. Send this information to Gillem with all dispatch possible. It is supposed the enemy are making for middle Tennessee.” According to Baxter, it was while Smith was
a member of General Gillem's staff, and the cavalry division were driving Morgan's cavalry back to the Virginia line, General Tillson, learning of the approach of General Wheeler's rebel cavalry division, who were trying to find a ford to cross the Holston River, dispatched a locomotive to Bull's Gap for Major Smith, with orders for him to come to Knoxville. Taking command of what cavalry could be mustered, about 100 men, he moved out with instructions to observe the movements of the rebels and ascertain if possible their numbers and objective point. Nine miles from Knoxville his command received a terrific volley from a rebel Regiment in ambush. He instantly charged and broke through the rebel line, and in a chase of 3 miles captured about 60 of their number. In the midst of the exciting pursuit Major Smith noticed some rebel artillerymen running up a couple of guns directly in his front, not over 100 yards distant; a cavalry Regiment coming up through the woods on his right, and still another on his left, and at once discovered that he had charged right into the heart of General Wheeler's camp, and was nearly surrounded by some 5,000 rebels, who had crossed the river during the night. Making the best of a very dangerous situation, he ordered his command to fall back. The rebels rushed him for 5 miles, repeatedly defeating his attempts to check them. Major Smith came out of the fight with 18 men of the original 100, and the rebels recaptured the prisoners; but he had accomplished his mission and obtained the information wanted by the commanding general.
Describing the engagement at Strawberry Plains, Wallace Dickinson wrote home on September 15 that
The attack was made on the 24th of August, while most of our available force was up the country. Gen. Wheeler, having destroyed several miles of railroad between Loudon and Chattanooga, and finding himself cut off from Atlanta, concluded to make his way into Middle Tennessee. The river being too high to effect a crossing below, it became necessary to cross at some ford above Knoxville. Being thoroughly informed of our situation at the Plains, through citizen spies, Gen. Wheeler thought it an easy matter to cross at a ford near that point, surprise and capture the post, and replenish his stock of ammunition, an article of which he seems to have been in much need. That he should have failed in the accomplishment of his object, must have been as humiliating to the enemy as it was glorious to the handful of brave men who had resolved to defend the place to the last extremity.
To give a correct idea of the situation, it will be necessary to give the location of the camp at Strawberry Plains. The post is located on the right bank, and in a bend of the river. The fort commanding the railroad bridge is built on an eminence two hundred yards above the bridge, and 100 yards from the river, which here runs nearly south. When 400 yards below the bridge, it gradually makes a turn to the west, which is its general course until some distance below the camp, the railroad from Knoxville running parallel to it. On the left of the railroad, going east, are our tents, on the slope of the hills; on the right, extending to the river, are low grounds. On the west and north are substantial rifle pits, covering the roads from Knoxville and down the Richland valley. There is also a rifle pit on the east, facing the river, connecting the fort and the bridge. On the opposite side of the river, the ground rises gradually, and, half a mile back, is wooded. The woods northeast of our camp, afford a good shelter for an enemy. One and a half mile below is McMillan's ford, where the enemy finally effected a crossing. A regiment also crossed 3 miles below, at Bailey's ford.
That creek bridge, where Maj. Smith made his splendid charge, and which was destroyed by the enemy, is on the Knoxville road, 4 miles from this post. rumors of Wheeler's approach began to thicken. -- Capt. Standish had reliable information of his having crossed the French Broad, at Seven Island Ford, on the 23d. 60 men of the 10th Mich., mostly convalescents, with a few men from the Tenn. and Fisk's regiments, and one howitzer in the fort, were all the force he had at command.
A telegraph dispatch to Gen. Tibou, apprising him of the situation, brought down from Knoxville two pieces of Colins' Illinois battery, and a company of Ohio heavy artillery, under Lts. Wilson and Miller. -- The Fort now mounted two 16-pounders, Rodman's rifled guns, and one small mountain howitzer, commanded by Capt. Colin. The small arms consisted of 52 Spencer rifles, 60 revolvers and 75 muskets. Capt. Standish made the following disposition of his meagre force: The right, resting on the river above the fort, was in charge of Lt. Wilson, Co. D, 1st Ohio heavy artillery. Capt. Samuel Bryan, Co. B, 10th Mich. cavalry, took charge of the rifle-pits on the left, and Lt. Botsford, Co. I, 10th Mich. cavalry, of the centre. The rifle pits for the protection of the railroad bridge, was in charge of Lt. D. A. dodge, Commissary 10th Mich. cavalry.
Early on the morning of the 24th, scouts reported a large force of the enemy within four miles of the Plains, on the Knoxville and Danbridge road. Ten men were immediately sent to McMillens' Ford, with instructions to hold it until further orders. At 9 a.m., the advance of the enemy had reached the ford, and, attempting to cross, were driven back by a severe fire from the guard on the opposite side. The enemy, being reinforced, made another effort, but were again driven back. Gen. wheeler, judging from the resistance offered, ordered up his artillery.
Capt. Standish, hearing the rapid firing, dispatched Lt. Botsford, with six men, to the assistance of the ten heroic men who had now held the ford for three hours! But before he reached them, they were surrounded by a large force, that had crossed at Bailey's Ford, and eight of them were captured.
Having captured the guard at the ford, the enemy crossed a part of his forces, at 2 p.m., the post was completely environed, the enemy's lines extending from College Buildings, above the bridge, on the opposite side of the river, to the ford below, and from the ford to the river above, on the north side. He had been informed that the "Yanks" had no artillery. Two of his guns opened on the camp, which soon elicited a reply from Capt. Colvin, from the fort. Throwing a few shells at random, some of which exploded within his own lines, on the north side of the river, the enemy now directed his attention to the fort. Capt. Colvin's second shot in reply dismounted one of his guns!
About this time, Maj. Smith, with a detachment of 70 men, from companies D, I and F, had come up, from Knoxville, and attacked the enemy at Flat Creek bridge. In his first charge he captured a Col. and 40 men. In a second desperate charge, he broke an entire rebel brigade, sending it back in confusion on the reserves. The enemy, recovering from the shock, closed in around him in overwhelming numbers, and he was forced to cut his way out, losing his prisoners and 35 of his own men, and two commissioned officers, Lts. Weatherwax and Barr, who were made prisoners. It was, perhaps, one of the most gallant charges of the war, and had much to do in saving the Plains, by consuming the enemy's time and causing a diversion.
The officers accompanying Major Smith in the charge, were Capt. Stevenson, Co. D, Lieut. Cummings, Co. F, Lieut. Manahan, Co. B, Lieut. Barr, Co. E, and Lieut. Weatherwax, Co. I, all of whom distinguished themselves.
Lieut. Weatherwax, charging at the head of his company, first sent a Colonel to the rear. Meeting a Major who refused to surrender, he gave him a blow with his saber that sent him reeling from his horse into the mud. Another rebel who had come to the assistance of the dismounted Major, was served in the same manner.
Lieut. Cummins, in cutting his way thro' their lines, was thrown from his horse and severely injured. Capt. Stevenson made his escape on foot.
Soon afterwards Smith was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Tenth Michigan cavalry, and in November was ordered to take a detachment of men to assist General Gillem at Bull’s Gap.
In November, 1864, [wrote Baxter] General Gillem was hard pressed by the rebel General John C. Breckinridge at Bull's Gap, and had asked by courier for reinforcements and ammunition. Colonel Smith, with about 400 men and one pierce of artillery on a flat car, was ordered to take ammunition through from Knoxville to Bull's Gap, and render General Gillem what assistance he could. He left Knoxville about dark, his train backing up, which brought the flat car with the piece of artillery in front. On reaching Morristown, where he made a halt, he saw a number of stragglers coming from the direction of Bull's Gap. This was about midnight. The moon shone bright and clear, making it quite light. General Gillem's forces were discovered making for the rear in a demoralized condition, singly and in squads, having been broken to pieces by Breckinridge's command of rebel cavalry. Colonel Smith put his troops upon the train and fell back one mile west of Morristown, where he place them in position; one flank resting on a swamp, the other protected by Gillem's cavalry, the troops forming in echelon behind rail fences, the car with the gun in the center of the line. The railroad and wagon road ran side by side, as they do most of the way from Knoxville to the Virginia line. Colonel Smith's plan was to check the rebels and give Gillem's artillery and train time to get tot he rear. About 12:30 o'clock the rebels were heard coming through the town, noisy and jubilant over their success, and advancing rapidly. When the head of the column came to within a few paces of Colonel Smith's position, he halted the advance and asked, ‘Who comes there?’ The answer was, ‘Rebs’. Colonel Smith gave the order to fire. The artillery poured in its canister and the troops opened a fire which was most destructive. Riderless horses were flying in every direction, and the rebel column broke and fled back through town. At the same time the engineer on the train became frightened and started for the rear, carrying off the piece of artillery, and leaving Colonel Smith with his command dismounted, 40 miles outside the Union outposts, without any support, and his left flank unprotected (General Gillem's troops breaking and making for the rear at the first fire), and with Breckinridge in his front with 3,500 men. It was not a desirable situation; but to give Gillem's battery and train still further time, he held to his position. The rebels came through the town, where Colonel Smith could dimly see the lines forming, and heard General Breckinridge give the order to move ‘forward’. he waited until they came within close range, when he opened fire and checked them, but only for a moment. When he saw that he could hold the position no longer, he sent for Colonel Kirk, whom he had posted on the left of the road, to join him with his forces, and they began to fall back, but before that officer had time to form a junction with his (Smith's) troops, the rebel cavalry charged down the road and cut him off. Colonel Smith here whirled and gave them a volley, and then moved into the dark woods. The rebels were attracted by General Gillem's artillery and train, thinking that they had Colonel Smith and his command sure, moved down the road with the main column; he was thus enabled to keep out of their reach, and traveled through the woods and fields until daylight, keeping his direction by the noise the rebels made in the road. At daylight he moved farther back and traveled until 7 o'clock that evening, when he arrived at Strawberry Plains, 40 miles by rail from Morristown, having halted but twice, once for 3 minutes, and at another time for 5 minutes, in 18 hours' march. As he came up to Strawberry Plains, he was obliged to strike the river below the bridge and move up under its banks, as the rebels were placing pickets along in front of the bridge to cover all the approaches.
Colonel Smith was appointed Assistant Inspector General on the staff of General George Stoneman who was assigned to the Department of the Cumberland during the winter of 1864 and 1865.
In the great raid in the spring of 1865, [wrote Baxter] General Stoneman, in command of 5,000 cavalry and a light battery, moved over the mountains in North Carolina, thence over the mountains back again into Virginia, constantly skirmishing with the enemy and destroying many miles of railroad. Moving back again into North Carolina General Stoneman came in front of Salisbury, North Carolina, where a rebel prison was located. Here he was met by a strong body of the enemy posted behind a deep and muddy stream. The rebels drove back our advance, having taken up the planks of the bridge and posted several batteries on the other side of the stream. General Stoneman ordered Colonel Smith to take 2 squadrons, go down through the woods, dismount, cross the stream and charge the batteries. After much difficulty, he succeeded in getting his men across on logs, and formed them in open order in the woods, ordering them, when they saw him jump the fence, all to do likewise, fire their carbines, and yell as loudly as possible, at the same time making a rush for the batteries. As the troops charged through the fields, the rebels, thinking that the whole of Stoneman's force had crossed the stream and were on their flank, limbered up their guns and rushed to the rear. By the time Colonel Smith reached the road, the Union troops had replaced the planks on the bridge and commenced moving across with the cavalry. Mounting a soldier's horse, he took command of what troops had crossed and charged down the road. The rebels had again formed in a piece of woods, and allowed him to come up within short range of the guns, when they opened fire from 12 pieces of artillery. Colonel Smith's horse was shot from under him, he himself receiving a scratch on the hand from the sharp point of an exploding shell, and his forces were driven back; but he soon had a fresh command, charged the rebels again, driving them through the town, in the face of a raking fire delivered from cross streets, alleys and houses. Colonel Smith led the troops, charging through the town, and on reaching the far side captured the first piece of artillery and the battery flag, which was afterward presented to him by General Stoneman. Subsequently all the artillery was captured (16 pieces) and nearly 2,000 prisoners.
The next day he was given command of 2 Regiments, with orders to drive back a body of cavalry that was advancing from the east, and destroy a railroad bridge. Returning the same night, he was ordered to take the advance of Stoneman's column and clear the road between Salisbury and Statesville, which was infested by rebel cavalry. The column moved just after dark. Colonel Smith started with 4 squadrons at a gallop, and in the 15 miles to Statesville his command was fired upon 5 different times by strong forces posted in the road; but his own men never fired a shot, only yelled and charged the enemy; thus clearing the road each time without giving the rebels time to destroy the bridges. Arriving at Statesville, he found there a rebel column at the far side of the town, occupying about two-thirds of it, but he held the balance with his small force until the arrival of General Stoneman's column, about 2 o'clock in the morning. The column recrossed the mountains into East Tennessee near Asheville North Carolina, where Colonel Smith led a charge and captured a rebel battery, which was the last of his engagements during the war.
Sometime in early March of 1865 Smith was assigned back to General Gillem’s staff, and stationed at Chattanooga. He was made Colonel of his Regiment, and was commissioned a brevet Brigadier-General to date from March 13, 1865. “Besides his other duties in East Tennessee,” wrote Baxter, “General Smith while on staff duty inspected each month from 1 to 3 cavalry Regiments, 3 infantry Regiments, 2 heavy artillery Regiments, 9 light batteries, the forts and fortifications of Knoxville, and occasionally the troops and works at Cumberland Gap and other points occupied by Union troops.”
As Acting Assistant Inspector General at Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, he wrote on May 13, 1865, to the assistant Adjutant General, Major G. M. Bascom, that Confederate general “Wheeler turned in 34 carbines and 30 revolvers. He says that his officers have no clothing except their uniform. I stated to him that General Order No. 31 would be enforced [probably referring to officers turning in their uniforms]. They murmured a little last night about turning in their guns. I presume as many were thrown into the river as turned in.”
In late April of 1865, Brigadier General David Tillson wrote to the Adjutant General in Washington, DC, recommending that Smith “be appointed Colonel of the First U.S.C. Artillery, Heavy. Lieutenant Colonel Smith has served under my command, or immediate observation for the past 18 months. His conspicuous courage, capacity and gallantry have made him the object of admiration of the entire command. He has upon his person several scars from wounds received in battle, in which he has repeatedly exhibited the most distinguished bravery and fortitude. I know of no officer of his rank possessing a more brilliant and deserving record in the entire army. The undersigned raised and organized the First U.S.C. Artillery, Heavy, and feels warmly interested in its reputation and success, and feels quite sure that in neither of these respects will the Regiment be inferior to any in the service, should Colonel Smith be made its Commander.”
Tillson’s recommendation was heartily approved by Major General George Stoneman who wrote that it was “Respectfully forwarded with the remark, that the recommendation and statements of General Tillson are fully endorsed. It gives the undersigned pleasure to have the opportunity of testifying to the merits of Colonel Smith, which are unsurpassed by any officer of my acquaintance. I hope this application will be granted.” And “Parson Brownlow, Provisional Governor of Tennessee, in recognition of General Smith's gallantry as a soldier and hard rider, presented him with a bronze statuette of a thoroughbred horse, and the General was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the 8th United States Cavalry, but decided to return to the walks of civil life.”
Wallace Dickinson wrote from Tennessee on June 11 that Colonel Smith, who “was on Gen. Stoneman's staff in the late raid [of late March and early April]; and, as usual distinguished himself by his gallantry, has been promoted to Lt. Colonel,” was also , “home on a short ‘leave’.” Indeed, Smith had arrived in Grand Rapids on the evening of June 8, and the following day the Eagle reported “The Colonel is looking and feeling well comes home on a short leave of absence, to pay his relatives and friends a flying visit. His regiment is now stationed at Knoxville, Tenn., to which place he will return in a few days.” On June 19, 1865, the Eagle noted that he was “in this city enjoying a well-earned visit among his friends and relatives. Young Smith left this city, the first year of the war, as a Sergeant in the old Third Infantry. His career during the war has been a most honorable one and he has earned his present rank, winning successive promotions by bravery and good conduct in battle.”
He returned to the Regiment and at his own request, Baxter wrote, Smith was relieved from staff duty and moved his command to Memphis in the fall of 1865. According to Wallace Dickinson, by early September, “Col. Trowbridge having been mustered out, the command of the regiment now devolved upon that well-known and most gallant officer, I. C. Smith. It would be superfluous to express his peculiar fitness to command a cavalry regiment, as his dash and gallantry are too well known to need comment.”
In October Israel was reported as Colonel of the Tenth Michigan cavalry, commissioned September 6, 1865, replacing Colonel Trowbridge, on detached service from October 1 at Memphis, Tennessee, and was mustered out along with his Regiment on November 11, 1865, at Memphis. “Having enlisted as a private,” Baxter wrote, “he passed successively through every grade from 2nd Lieutenant to Colonel of cavalry and Brevet Brigadier General, and participated in nearly all the battles of the Army of the Potomac, from First Bull Run to Gettysburg, and the cavalry engagement in East Tennessee in 1864 and 1865.”
Upon his return to Grand Rapids after the war, Israel took over as general manager of the National Hotel, and under his administration the hotel “is rapidly winning the favorable opinions of the traveling public. The house has lately undergone important repairs, and considerable addition has been made to its furniture and properties, designed for the better accommodation of guests. It is now pronounced, by those who have tried it, a first class house. The gallant Colonel proves himself as well fitted for management of a public house as he did for the command of one of the best fighting Regiments in the late war. He is ever wide-awake in attention to the comfort of his guests; and no one leaves this house, without resolving to call again.”
Israel was still living in Grand Rapids when he married New York native Ada Elizabeth Meeker on October 8, 1867, and they had at least one son, Morton Fitz Smith (b. 1873).
In September of 1868, Smith left Grand Rapids and the National Hotel for Kansas City, “where,” wrote the Grand Rapids Eagle “he will take charge of the new and splendid ‘Pacific Hotel’, which he has leased for a series of years. The gallant General leaves a host of warm friends in this section, who will regret his removal, but whose good wishes will follow him to his new location. In war he was a faithful and intrepid soldier; in peace he is a genial companion, a whole-souled friends and a wide-awake citizen. When warlike qualities were required he was a hero; and we are quite sure that when ‘Pacific’ duties are to be discharged, General S. will always be found at the ‘front’.”
Israel returned to Grand Rapids the following summer visiting family and friends. The Eagle of July 26, 1869, wrote that Smith had recently arrived in Grand Rapids from Kansas City, on a short visit.”The general,” noted the Eagle, “who knows how to ‘keep a hotel’ is now the proprietor of the Pacific House in Kansas City.”
It is uncertain how long he remained in Kansas City, but by 1870 Smith was “engaged in cattle raising and mining, making his headquarters at Denver, with one cattle ranch in Colorado and one in New Mexico. During his residence in Denver, he commanded a ‘crack’ military company, the Governor's Guards. His only child, Morton Fitz Smith, was born in” Denver. Israel returned on another visit to his family in Grand Rapids in early October of 1862, and soon moved back to Grand Rapids where he was living by 1873 when he accepted the Captaincy of the Grand Rapids Guards, a local militia organization. In late January of 1874, for reasons unknown, Smith submitted his resignation as Captain but was persuaded by the men of the company to withdraw it, which he did.
That same summer the State Military Board reorganized the state militia into two Regiments, and the Grand Rapids Guards, under Captain Smith, was listed as Company C in the Second Regiment. “It will be seen,” wrote the Eagle in late June, “that the Guard is a part of what is certain to be a ‘crack Regiment’ of the State, that it is in good company, and that, from its letter [‘C’] it will occupy the center, and will carry the Regimental colors. The questions which now agitate the boys are: When will the election or appointment of Regimental officers take place?” The answer came on July 9, when the Eagle reported that Smith “will probably accept the Colonecy of the 2nd Regiment State Militia,” to be headquartered in Grand Rapids. Within a month he had chosen and announced his staff, and he would continue to head the Second Regiment until 1884 when he was appointed Brigadier General of the Michigan State Troops, a command which he would hold until January 1, 1889.
In 1899 Congressman Smith of Grand Rapids recalled
an incident which will be well remembered by the older military men of the city, and which illustrates the bravery, nerve and decisive character of the general.
“It was at the time of the Regimental encampment at Reed's Lake, away back in the 70s,” said the congressman, “but I remember it very distinctly. I was not participating in the encampment because I was a member of the Lansing Company, which belonged to another Regiment, but I was out there at the lake much of the time. Over on the bank of the lake there was a saloon and one night a lot of soldiers got in there and trouble followed. There were some very rough characters hanging around the lake in those days, and especially during the week of the encampment, and they picked onto the soldier boys. There was a riot in no time, and when the news reached the camp that some of the soldiers were in trouble, there was a great outpouring of their comrades. Officers tried to control their men, but they rushed on pell-mell. The toughs rallied their forces and it looked as though there was going to be the biggest kind of a fight.
“Suddenly down over the little hill came that little black horse of Colonel Smith with the colonel on his back and riding like the wind. Down into the crowd they came and men scattered right and left to let them through. Smith never stopped at the door of the saloon, but rode right in scattering soldiers and citizens on each side. Swinging his sword in his hand, he cleared the glasses and bottles off the bar, and then rode around behind, wiping everything off the back bar. Everybody in the place was hurried out of doors, and before any one had time to think about what had happened, the saloon was locked and the door nailed up tightly. The soldiers were ordered back to their quarters, and there was no more trouble that week.”
“There was another incident similar in one respect, which happened at Island Lake when Smith was commander of the Brigade,” said an old military man, who heard the story. “One morning when camp was being broken preparatory to starting for home, a farmer came onto the grounds. He had been drinking and started to amuse himself. A number of the soldiers followed him and pestered him until he drew a revolver and threatened to shoot. He retreated to the depot, but keep the crowd covered with is revolver. This pistol made the boys mad, and some one brought a rope. The farmer backed up against the depot and pointed the gun at the crowd. Just as a rush was being planned, a little man without any coat or hat jumped between the lines, and landed on the farmer before he knew what struck him. That pistol was sent flying and the farmer held until a company of soldiers arrived and escorted him off the grounds. The little man was General Smith.’”
Furthermore, in November of 1882 he was appointed to a two-year term as one of the Board of Visitors to the Michigan Military Academy by the State superintendent of Public Instruction. In May of 1889 Smith was elected Senior Vice commander of the Loyal Legion at a banquet in Detroit, and elected Commander the following year.
In the summer of 1875 General Smith was appointed Fire Marshal for the city of Grand Rapids. “While the many friends of Mr. Shields [the previous fire marshal] are sorry to see that gentleman retire,” wrote the Democrat on July 9, “and firmly believe that to the best of his ability he did his duty as Chief, even these are delighted, as long as a change was determined upon, that the choice should fall where it did. General Smith's nerve, energy, and executive abilities, as well as his rigid ideas of discipline and strict attention to all the details of any office with which he is entrusted, are characteristics all too well known to require enlarging upon. That he is the right man in the right place is the general sentiment and we believe is the correct one.” Smith immediately set about reorganizing the department, and in October he announced a new public alarm system. Furthermore, as head of the city Fire Department was always seeking to improve the department’s efficiency, and it seemed in the minds of some city residents to be paying off. The Eagle noted on Wednesday, May 31, 1876, that “Chief Engineer Smith and his fire laddies made splendid time and within a dozen minutes after the ‘lightning’ had told them of danger were playing on the flames through nearly 4,000 feet of hose from 7 or 8 nozzles.”
Israel was also sought after for a variety of social functions. On September 18, 1875, the Eagle reported that Smith and an attorney by the name of C. H. Perkins, “have charge of the adorning or trimming of Art Hall for the Union County Fair, which will begin in a little over a week. They have obtained the evergreens, and the work is to be begun on Monday next. Of course the ladies will have to help them, and are politely invited to be on hand next Monday afternoon at the Fair Grounds. They will be carried free of charge on the street cars. They are expected to turn out in force, and will, of course, as they have heretofore.”
In 1876 he was appointed agent for the Grand Rapids & Indiana railroad and Star Union line, and he was still serving in that capacity in August of 1882. Smith was an active participant in the local Democratic club, and in 1876 he was considered as a serious Democratic candidate for Sheriff of Kent County.
“The General is popular,” wrote the Democrat on October 29, “and enjoys the confidence and esteem of all our citizens, irrespective of party. He is a man of rare intelligence, energetic, as brave as a lion, careful and trustworthy in all business matters, and in all qualifications necessary for the discharge of the duties of Sheriff, much the superior of either of his competitors. He will get a majority of 1,000 in the city, and 1,500 in the County.” He was not elected.
After he had reorganized the fire department and heightened its efficiency and level of effectiveness, Smith resigned in the fall of 1879 amidst controversy regarding his power to appoint foremen, although he was reelected by the City Council as Chief Engineer of the Fire Department in November of 1879. On January 3, 1880, the Democrat reported that
under no circumstances will he withdraw his resignation as chief engineer of the fire department; that he did not tender it until after mature deliberation, and having made his decision he proposes to abide by it. Gen. Smith says that the aldermen and citizens generally have had very incorrect ideas in supposing that he himself selected the members of the different companies. The foremen have been held responsible for the companies by the chief, and have invariably selected their own men, after trial -- the chief simply recommending them for appointment after the foremen have presented their names. Gen. Smith claims that under this system only can perfect discipline and harmony be secured in the companies; and, as the chief is responsible to the council and the public for the whole department, it seems absolutely essential that he should have the power to appoint and remove the foremen.
However, a large number of influential citizens wanted Smith to remain as head of the Fire Department, and on January 4, a large group of the businessmen wrote a letter to the Grand Rapids Democrat in which they asked Smith to reconsider his decision. “We, the undersigned, business men of the city of Grand Rapids, believing that you are eminently qualified to take charge of and command the fire department for the best interests of the property owners of said city, respectfully and urgently request you to withdraw your resignation as chief of said department, believing that the common council will, upon due consideration, sustain you in every effort to maintain the efficiency and discipline of the department. . . .” The Democrat added its own editorial on this matter when it wrote in the same issue that the
one thing we feel fully assured, the chief must have absolute control of the men in order to enforce that deception which is necessary to make the department effective at all times. Our idea is that a strict code of rules should be adopted for the government of the chief, and that under these rules he should be held responsible for the entire force. He should have the authority to hire and discharge the men at will. This we regard as absolutely necessary; no department can be effective, and discipline properly maintained, if the men are at all times allowed to go to the council with their complaints. The department, as we understand it, is maintained for the benefit of the city and the protection of property, and not to furnish a place for any man or any set of men. If this be so, the most efficient men and the best officers should be employed.
Nevertheless, Smith remained determined to resign. On January 12, the council received “a communication from Chief Engineer Smith insisting upon the council accepting his resignation.” Smith pointed out rather bluntly that in his opinion he could not “enforce discipline in the force when nearly half the council were opposed to him.” As a result, the council by a vote of 9 to 7 at last accepted his resignation which was to take effect immediately. His assistant, Charles Belknap was to take temporary command of the department. By the end of summer Smith had been asked to return as head of the city fire department, and on August 23 he was elected as chief engineer by a vote in the council of 9 to 4.
In late 1879 or early 1880 he entered into partnership with his brother-in-law George Morton (who had married Israel’s sister Laura in November of 1857), and together they bought the old National Hotel property and erected the Morton House. In January of 1880 Smith was elected Inspector General for the Department of Michigan of the GAR. By 1880 Israel was working as a railroad passenger agent and along with his wife and son were residing at Lorenzo Colby’s boarding house on Fulton Street in Grand Rapids’ Third Ward. (His father, reported as being “at leisure,” was residing on lafayette Street in the Third Ward in 1880.)
Israel was appointed Police Commissioner in 1881, but resigned the following year in order to engage in the lumber business which took him as far away as Duluth, Minnesota and even to the deep south. For example, in late April of 1882 Smith was in Mississippi negotiating for some 2,000 acres of pine land,” and by the Fall he had formed a lumber partnership with several other men in Grand Rapids.
“Known as the Barnhart Lumber company,” wrote the Eagle on November 22, “with a paid-up capital of $275,000. The following gentlemen are the corporators and directors: Willard Barnhart, Enos Putnam, D. D. Cody, C. E. Olney, George Holbrook, O. A. Ball, Wm. Scott, I. C. Smith [as general manager], and Franklin Barnhart. The company has a large tract of timber on the Iron and Brule Rivers, Wisconsin, and will build a mill to cut it at Superior City, as soon as possible. Yesterday's Eagle stated that the tract was estimated to cut 75 million feet; it is stated that the tract is considerably larger than that. The company will get out 10 or 15 million feet of logs this winter, and Gen. Smith and Mr. Putnam will go to Duluth to make arrangements for the camps, men, teams, etc.” In November of 1884, they shut the mill down for the season, having cut, according to the Eagle of November 18, more than 23 million feet of lumber.
In January of 1885 Israel bought the former home of H. H. Dennis on 187 Jefferson Avenue. Some people had gained the idea,” wrote the Eagle on January 13, “that because the General’s business as general manager of the Barnhart Lumber Co. called him to the Lake Superior region a good deal of the time, he no longer considered this city his home. He has never had a thought of acquiring a home elsewhere, his family has been here constantly, and he has made it a point to be here as much of the time as the business interests of his company would permit. His many friends will be glad to know that no other locality has so many attractions for Gen. Smith as the Valley City.”
In addition to his lumber interests and public offices, Smith also worked on real estate development in the city. By the end of October of 1882, he was “making preparations to remodel the basement of the Morton Block, improve the entrances and light so that the rooms shall be suitable and desirable for offices. The sidewalk will probably be lowered in front of the building, as a part of the improvements.”
In 1885 Smith again turned his attention to land development, and in December purchased “the S. O. Kingsbury homestead on East Fulton Street, next [to] Park Place, yesterday. He paid $11,000 for it. A reporter, hearing of the purchase, asked the general what he purposed doing with the lot. He said that it was 60 x 60 feet in size, with an alley on the west, between it and Park Place, thus insuring light, etc. on three fronts. He proposes to build on it the coming year, a structure worthy of the value of the realty, and will build to suit tenants, as to size of structure, arrangements of interior, etc. This building with the new Sweet-Bulkley block just west of it, and the new Cody block on the corner of the street, opposite the Sweet-Bulkley, will give a positive impetus to business in that portion of the city, and so the new Smith block will be in the very best sort of a business neighborhood.”
Indeed, that was his intention. By the Spring of 1886 Smith had apparently “decided to erect this summer a substantial business block upon the land lying immediately east of Park Place. The block will be 60x160 feet in ground surface and 3 stories high. On the ground floor there will be 2 stores, each 20/160 feet in size, and, since alleys are located west and south of the building and a court will be reserved upon the east, an abundance of light will flood them from all sides. The 2 floors above will be used for offices or suites of rooms, 15 suites being located on the 2nd floor of the block. The interior will be finished off in butternut. The kind of heating apparatus to be used is as yet undecided. Gas will be used as an illuminator. Lavatories, closets and like conveniences will be located at suitable points. The 2 stores are so arranged that they can be used separately or as one double store. The front will be built of red brick. W. G. Robinson is the architect.” And in February of 1888 Smith leased a building called the “Vendome” to one Mrs. A. W. Keeney, “present proprietoress of the ‘Park Place’. Steam heating apparatus and other improvements will be put in and the walls and ceilings will be decorated. Mrs. Keeney will take possession May 15 at which time Mrs. White, the present proprietoress, will take possession of the Livingston.”
Smith’s straightforward manner had often brought him into conflict with some of the local politicians, for example, when he was head of the Fire Department, and controversies continued to surround him in private life. “Gen. I.C. Smith,” wrote the Eagle on October 23, 1886,
who is charged, by some who are disposed to remonstrate hastily, with exceeding his authority in the matter of causing that row of trees to be removed from the north street side of the park where stands the Soldier’ [sic] Monument, said to an Eagle reporter today:
“When the petition was presented to the Council last winter to have the trees about the triangular park on Monroe Street removed, Hon. T. D. Gilbert, a member of the Board at the time opposed it, but stated at a meeting of the committee that he set out the trees and in the spring if desirable he would have the outside row removed. I left the committee rooms with the impression that as far as the outside row was concerned it was left to Mr. Gilbert to act in the spring if he thought best, and understanding it as I did I called upon Mr. Gilbert a short time ago and asked if that outside row of trees couldn’t be removed. He replied that the outside trees were being killed by the shade from the row on the opposite side of the walk and that they ought to come out. If I could find some one to take them out without expense, to do so. I went up onto Fulton Street and left word with Isaac Seigler, City Inspector, and Mr. Campbell of the Street Railway Co., that if they saw the Highway Commissioner to be kind enough to tell him that I wanted him to do it, as I did not know the man myself or where to find him. After waiting three days and not finding the Street Commissioner, I employed contractor Snyder to take out the trees. The trees could not be taken out during the day on account of the traffic on the street, and consequently they were taken down at night.”
Yet he still carried great weight among the city’s most influential and powerful men, and on May 13 the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners had elected unanimously General Smith to the position of Superintendent of Police. The appointment was to take effect on June 1. The following month the Eagle noted that Smith, “the new superintendent of Police, has not yet donned the blue cloth and brass regalia of his office, but instead this morning he blossomed out in a light spring suit with wide trousers and hat to match his suit. The General is rapidly becoming acquainted with the details of his office and promises to appear in brass buttons on the 4th of July.”
Smith had no sooner taken over as head of the city police department than he was embroiled in controversy. In early July of 1887 Lloyd Brezee, editor of the Herald, charged that Smith’s department was keeping track of the movements of certain citizens in the city. On July 15, Smith responded publicly to the allegations.
“I have heard several times lately,”[he told a reporter for the Democrat] “reports that the police department was exercising an unwarranted espionage over respectable and responsible citizens by recording their movements and the places they visit. One story was to the effect that two carriage loads of well-known gentlemen started from the Morton one evening and drove to the Boulevard, and that they were all reported to me and registered in a book kept for such purpose. Other stories have been to the effect that given persons were registered as visiting certain resorts of a more or less questionable nature. I have taken no pains to trace these reports but without exception they have come from Lloyd Brezee. Through the columns of his paper he has been persistent in his efforts to break the effect of the work of the department. The Telegram-Herald has systematically sought to misrepresent and reflect discredit upon the administration of police affairs since my incumbency.
“Brezee stated that it only needed the word for him to have a large uprising of the businessmen to protest against the action of the police department in making this a Sunday town. What nonsense! All concede that ours is a live city, and its citizens have perfect faith in its future prosperity. But that it is necessary for continued success to turn it over to gamblers and prostitutes is too absurd. Brezee is a sort of moral tumblebug, as it were, and any man that pursues the course he has is a moral and physical coward.”
Smith was then asked specifically about the record book.
“You refer to reports circulated by Brezee. No, we do not keep a record at this station for the purpose of recording the names of people who visit disreputable houses. A gentleman of the Telegram-Herald staff called in regard to the matter, saying that Brezee made the statement that he was told that some of his intimates and possibly himself were on the list. I informed the gentleman that there was no such record kept, and Brezee was at perfect liberty to examine the books. But even after this positive denial, the man has been persistent in circulating the story. In fact I should never have known of the party being out in a hack but for Brezee’s blowing around town with a brass band.
“There is absolutely no truth in any single one of the reports to which I have referred. The movements of crooks and suspicious characters, and the conduct of disreputable places, so far as they are observed by the police, are reported to headquarters, as in every well-regulated department. So are all suspicious circumstances observed upon the streets of the city. But that there has been any intent, purpose or desire to exercise any surveillance over reputable and responsible citizens is utterly untrue. The purpose of this department is to have an orderly city but there is no intention of establishing a protectorate over citizens nor of introducing into the social system of the Valley City a censorship over private morals.”
In November of 1888 he was again involved in controversy, this time in a struggle over who should supervise the Emerson Home for Girls.
At the center of the controversy was the present matron and a former member of the home, Georgie Young, who, it was said in some quarters, because of her early “wanton” life was the least qualified person to influence the minds of young girls. There had been testimony presented at a meeting of the responsible parties on November 9, during which time Jennie Percy, one of the girls in the home, testified that she had indeed allowed a man into her room and he did not leave until morning, but that Miss Young knew nothing whatsoever about the incident, “and she should not have dared to inform her.”
Several other girls who had once been inmates of the home stated emphatically that Miss Young continually advised them to be good, “to either go home to their friends of go to work in some good family, and lead better lives. Two of them left the Emerson because Mrs. [sic] Young would not allow them to receive gentlemen company there.” The women of Grand Rapids who had established and maintained the home argued that Young was the perfect choice. “We have,” wrote Mrs. Emma Wheeler,”the utmost confidence in her loyalty to the work of reforming herself and others.”
Others, like Superintendent Smith, felt that Young “was not the proper person to be matron of such an institution. . . .” In his testimony before the advisory board of the Emerson, he “admitted that his object was not to prove the impurity of Miss Young, but to show that a Christian woman, in whom the public would have confidence, should be placed at the head of the institution as matron.” Moreover, Smith interpreted the testimony given the advisory board somewhat differently than the ladies. Smith wrote the editor of the Democrat that
When the Emerson home was started the police department were called upon by some of the ladies interested and they had assurance that the department would render them every assistance possible, as they appreciated the great good that would be derived from such an institution properly conducted, and at the request of the ladies we suppressed a house of ill fame that was running near the home. At different times we have sent girls to the home. A very lawless girl by the name of Percy escaped from the home, and was arrested in a beastly state of intoxication about midnight and locked up at the station. The next forenoon, on examination caused by some of her remarks, she made a damaging statement against the matron of the home.
I called on one of the ladies of the home and stated what the girl had said; also some other rumors were floating around, and stated I thought they would do well to investigate and satisfy themselves. But instead of an investigation the matter was reported to the matron of the home, and she pounced upon the girl at once and she was frightened into retracting what she had said, and to go further and state that a dozen police officers went into her cell at midnight and made some improper proposals to her, which was all very ridiculous and false, as the girl was locked up beastly intoxicated and the key of the cell kept in the office. It is too absurd to mention. But I do so, as some of the ladies connected with the home have circulated the report.
On Thursday last the girl repeated her former statement and said that her statement about the officers was a lie. Yesterday I was invited to the home to meet the managers. There were three of the former inmates called in who stated that the matron used profane language and smoked in the home. One stated that the matron, while an inmate of the home, had gone out riding with a man who had been on intimate terms with her in former times, and that they did not return until after midnight. One of the officers stated that he saw the same man go into the home near midnight on October 31, but the matron claimed it was a relative who came to town for the purpose, and had been out with the political procession. On an examination of the papers of November 1, I fail to find any mention of a procession the night before. Another officer stated that since the Emerson started and while the present matron was an inmate, he saw the same man go into the home about midnight on several occasions. Another officer repeated profane language the matron had used.
Smith said that after his department’s investigation into certain allegations there appeared to be enough circumstantial evidence impugning Miss Young’s sense of propriety to warrant a more serious examination by the home’s advisory board and that her questionable moral behavior demanded such a thorough review.
I am sure [he said] such a home as the Emerson is intended to be is greatly needed here. It gives the poor unfortunates an opportunity to emerge from the slums to a respectable life, and with that belief I thought it my duty to notify the lady managers of the reports and statements that came to me. But I am satisfied that it was an error of judgment for me to meddle. I was under the impression that it required for a matron of some good, pure woman of executive ability who would have the respect of the inmates and the public, who are expected to contribute to its support to make the home a success. But at the meeting yesterday I learned that it was known that the matron smoked, sometimes used shocking language and that she had permission to have the man who had been seen visiting the home at night visit the home to see to see her. Therefore I beg the ladies’ pardon and will assure them against further interference by I. C. Smith.
Tired of all the constant wrangling and political maneuvering, or perhaps inspired by a desire to seek out other opportunities, in late January or early February of 1889 Smith resigned from his position as superintendent of Police.”Readers,” wrote the Democrat on February 5, “will be surprised to learn that Gen. I. C. Smith has resigned the position of superintendent of the police department.”
After thoroughly reorganizing that department Smith had resigned, it was said, because he “has been offered what he considers a more desirable position.” Smith had decided to accept the position of general manager for Newaygo Manufacturing Company G in Newaygo, which had recently been purchased by the James Converse Manufacturing Company G, of Boston, Massachusetts. He would also be general manager of a clothes pin and wood-ware factory on Shawmut Avenue as well as various pine-land and lumber interests owned by Mr. Converse. Smith denied it had anything whatsoever to do with his frequent disagreements with certain members of the board or the city council.
Still, Israel Smith continued to be a highly visible and public figure in the community. On February 28, 1890, he was appointed to the Michigan Soldiers’ Home board by Governor Luce, replacing Colonel Wells. By summer he was once again embroiled in controversy, this time over the report of shortages at the Soldier’s Home. On June 9, the Democrat reported that
Smith, the only member of the board residing in this city, was asked yesterday to explain the shortages. Gen. Smith was indisposed to talk about the matter, saying he was a new member of the board and the troubles were something which ad taken place before his appointment and in which he was not concerned: “You can appreciate the delicacy I feel about being interviewed,” he said.
After a few questions and a few moments’ thought the general said: “I do not feel that I can maintain connection with a public institution, about which I am afraid to talk, so I will tell you what I know of the matter. It is simply this: The old board exceeded the state's appropriation by $10,000 in building the hospital and dormitory last fall,the building of which was supervised by Col. Wells. There being no fund from which to draw for this over-expenditure, the members of the board staved the matter off by giving their note for the amount. This note was carried in this way until the next quarterly maintenance appropriation was received from the government, which pays one-half for the keeping of the veterans, figuring on a certain sum per capita. With these maintenance funds the balance on the building account was paid, and the note was given for the shortage which resulted in the maintenance account. At the first meeting of the new board, the old board desired the new board to assume their note. This and [sic] the other new members declined to do insisting that it was none of our affair. After a warm discussion the old members of the new board decided to assume the responsibility alone. In balancing the accounts we also found an additional $7,000 shortage in the maintenance account and the note was made for $17,000 to cover the entire shortage.”
He was then asked who will pay that $17,000 note?
“It will be held over until the next legislature can make an appropriation to cover it I suppose. Meanwhile,’ explained Gen. Smith resuming, ‘we propose to practice the strictest economy in our administration, and if we can't save anything out of our appropriation we hope at least to prevent any further over-expenditure.”
As for reforms at the Home, Smith said that “In the first place we have decided to reduce the amount of our pay roll as we find that we have been paying out more money for the service we have been getting in various departments than any house in the country. We have a large number of employees about the home, including, also, a good many of the veterans who are able to perform work for which they are paid. We think we can save a great deal on the money we have been paying out for labor. We have also been figuring down in the matter of provisions and find that we can feed a man and feed him well on 16 cents per diem. In the purchase of supplies we expect to save hereafter by advertising for bids and buying on contracts instead of from wholesalers. Another economical measure which will tend to reduce the number of inmates and thereby reduce expense correspondingly is our new system of physical examinations decided upon at the last meeting of the new board. We propose to have every inmate carefully examined and any whom we judge are able to earn their own living will be discharged at once. Our new rule in regard to intoxication, expelling offenders who use intoxicants to excess for the third offense is also a new measure of reform and a good one.”
He was then asked “in what way did the old board run behind in their maintenance account?” He replied that he did not know the answer since he was not a member of the board at that time. The next day, Smith wrote the editor and charged that the paper had incorrectly quoted him about certain matters at the Home.
Your reporter, in an interview regarding the Soldiers’ Home management, misquoted me in some instances, especially in regard to the amount of expenditures and construction over and above the amount appropriated; also in regard to cost of maintenance, which I did state was less than 16 cents per capita per day for the past year, which I consider low. You were correct in saying that the present board were endeavoring to run the home on business principles, and you can also say, that their acts are open to, and we trust will bear, the closest scrutiny.
He closed by sating that for an accurate statement of the accounts etc., one should contact the secretary of the board.
In 1897 Smith built a new home at 393 Cherry Street, opposite the end of Morris Avenue, and he lived there the rest of his life.
Israel was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, the Tenth Michigan Cavalry Association, of Grand Army of the Republic Custer post no. 5 in Grand Rapids, a member of the board of the Michigan Soldiers’ Home, and of St. Mark’s church (having been baptized on May 26, 1861), and, according to the Grand Rapids Democrat of January 6, 1877, was a member of the Mexican War Veterans’ association of the State of Michigan. He received pension no. 120,087, drawing $15.00 per month in 1883, and his widow also received a pension. He was also a charter member of the Peninsular Club in Grand Rapids.
While hunting on the low land just north of the toll gate on the gravel road north of Reed's Lake, Israel accidentally shot and killed himself at about 4:00 p.m. on November 2, 1899.
The news was received [wrote the Democrat] in the city by phone a few minutes later and was the principal subject of conversation by all who heard it. The information was so shocking that few could believe it, but when it was soon confirmed by the fact that Coroner Luton was called to take charge of the remains, then all knew that death had come.
“General Smith had been out hunting with John Brennan further out on the gravel road. They returned to the toll gate about 4 o'clock, hitched their horses there, and went north across the fields onto the low land surrounding the little lake. They had not gone far into the brush when Brennan heard the report of the gun and called out: “What did you get?” supposing Smith had shot at something, but received no reply, He called a second time and no answer came. Then he walked toward his companion, who was not more than 5 or 6 rods away . He was horror stricken to find him lying face downward, and on closer examination found he was dead. He summoned help from the toll gate and from there Coroner Luton and Sheriff Woodworth were notified by phone. The body was removed to his home on Cherry Street.
The charge from the gun took effect on the back of the head. The muzzle of the gun was so close that the charge acted as a single ball, although it was loaded with No. 6 birdshot. It was discharged directly upward, the wound commencing at the base of the brain and continuing upward, tearing out a portion of the skull from the back of his head as large as a man's hand. Death must have been instantaneous. The willow brush above his head where stood were cut off by the charge from the gun, indicating that it went directly up. Just how the gun could have been discharged so as to take effect in this way is a mystery. He carried a double barreled, hammerless shotgun and only one barrel was discharged. The gun had fallen from his hands and lay on the ground near the body. In speaking of the matter last night, Mr. Brennan said:
“He came to my place of business on Louis Street about 11 o'clock yesterday, and asked me to go hunting during the afternoon and to tome up to his house about 1 o'clock. I went a little earlier, about 20 minutes to one, and he got ready at once. When we came back to the toll gate and left the horse there with the keeper of the toll gate, whom we both knew. Then we started out with the dog and guns. We scoured all the woods east of the toll gate for two miles and were returning home when the toll-gate man told us he had seen a covey of quail in the thick underbrush that lies to the north of the toll gate and we started out again. It was then about 3:30 and we could not have left the toll gate more than 20 minutes when we came to thick brush or shrubbery which was fenced with barbed wire. The general remarked then that the dog acted as if he smelled game and he climbed over the fence in a hurry, going to the left of the dog, and when I got over I went to his right. The dog showing more eagerness at this point, I believe I saw the general push the safety lever from the trigger, leaving it ready to shoot with the slightest pressure on the trigger, as in all hammerless guns, which are hammerless only in name, as the hammer is only not to be raised as in the so-called hammer guns. When one of that kind of guns [sic] is cocked there is only a sort of safety trigger on them, which if shoved loose leaves the trigger so that almost the weight of a straw would discharge it. This was the condition of the general's gun as he left my sight the last time I saw him alive. He had not disappeared more than a minute from my view when I heard his gun discharged. ‘What did you get?’ I asked and receiving no answer I repeated my words again: this time much louder. As I knew he could not have gone over 200 feet since leaving me I thought something must be wrong or he would have answered, not being so far away but that he could hear my questions plainly.
“I then started through the heavy brush, where he had gone, so thick both hands were necessary to keep the brush from scratching my face and make a passageway. I had no trouble in following in his steps as his footprints were plainly to be seen in the soft earth. I had not walked over 50 feet when, looking ahead through the brush, I could see the general's back, his body lying on a slightly raised piece of ground. I hurried to him then and found him lying with arms outspread and face and front of body flat on the ground. I started to raise him up and a gurgle of blood out of his mouth was the only response and looking at the wound I knew he was gone beyond help.
“His gun was lying behind him about 3 feet with one barrel discharged. Above where the gun lay it was plainly seen where it had been discharged, several small limbs being shot away about the height of a man's head from the ground. The charge had struck him square in the back of the head, tearing away part of the scalp.
“The toe of his right foot was caught in a little root of shrubbery, which it was plain to see he had slipped on. The only way I can figure it out is that in falling he threw his arms back of him and the scrhubbery [sic], catching his hand on the trigger, or the trigger itself, discharged the gun. His gun was loaded with No. 6 shot with a good charge of powder, enough to make a wound, in the same place, deadly 30 yards away. There is no doubt he was killed instantly. As soon as I saw he was beyond help I did not move his body of gun from where they lay and went for help and neither were removed until the arrival of Coroner Luton.”
When the coroner [added the Herald] , the deputy sheriff and a newspaperman arrived, the general was still lying exactly as he fell, except that he had been turned over on his back. After a careful examination of the surroundings the coroner ordered the body carried back to the road where it was placed to await the arrival of the undertaker's ambulance, an order for which had been sent by Coroner Luton.
General Smith had taken with him his favorite hunting dog, a large handsome English setter, and when the general fell, the dog crouched down by his side and could be coaxed away. When the body was carried out of the woods, the brute followed close at his master's side, watching plaintively.
About 6 o'clock the undertaker's ambulance arrived and the body was placed in a casket and removed to the home of the deceased, no. 393 Cherry Street. An examination, conducted by the coroner, after the body had arrived at home, developed the fact that a piece of the skull as large as a man's palm had been completely blown away. A coroner's jury will be summoned today and an inquest held.
Smith’s funeral was one of the most spectacular of any ever held up to that time in Grand Rapids. The the entire city mourned, reported the Herald,
over the death of Gen. I. C. Smith. Never within a decade has the decease of a citizen come with such a shock as did the sudden announcement of the accident Monday afternoon, and all day it served as the topic of conversation wherever men met. General Smith was so well known and so universally respected that his death had all the sense of a personal loss to almost every man in public or private life, who has been a resident of the city for any length of time.
Arrangements for the funeral, which will take place today at 2 o'clock, were begun early yesterday. Major C. W. Watkins and Col. J. C. Herkner, both old friends of the general undertook to care for the details and they were kept busy listening to requests coming from all kinds of organizations whose members wished to pay a last tribute to the dead.
The ceremonies attending the last rites over the body of General Smith will begin at 11:30 this morning, when a short service will be conducted at the home for the family and a few of the closest friends, by Rev. J. M. McCormick. At the close of this service, the body, attended by a guard of honor from the police force, numbering 24 men, commanded by Lt. Hurley, and borne by eight patrolmen as active pallbearers, will be taken to St. Mark's church where it will lie in state from 12 o'clock noon, until 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Upon its arrival at the church it will pass into the care of the militia.
A military guard will be posted at the church under the immediate command of Captain Covell. During the 2 hours the church will be open to the general public and all will be given an opportunity to see the remains.
At 2 o'clock Rev. McCormick will conduct the formal services according to the Episcopal rites. The arrangements at the church will be in charge of the following ushers: Col. C. W. Calkins, W. J. Stuart, Capt. Eugene Jones, Alfred H. Hunt, A. B. Porter, Edward Lowe.
The active pall bearers who will officiate from the church to the cemetery will be selected by Colonel McGurrin from among the members of his command. The procession from the church to the cemetery will be under the charge of Col. J. C. Herkner, and all organizations who will take part in the line of march are requested to report to him at the church.
The Grand Army of the Republic posts of the city will all attend in a body and will march in the procession. The Loyal Legion will be in line under the command of Col. George E. Briggs.
The four companies of the Grand Rapids battalion under command of Colonel McGurrin will participate, as will details from the fire department and police force.
Mayor Perry and the common council will attend the ceremonies and drive to the cemetery. They will be accompanied by the city officials. The Old Settlers' association will also attend in a body.
A number of friends from without the city will arrive on the morning trains, among them Gen. R. A. Alger of Detroit, and Gen. J. H. Kidd of Ionia.
The honorary pall bearers will be Willard Barnhart, L. H. Withey, J. H. P. Hughart, J. W. Champlin, J. D. Utley, J. Boyd Pantlind, S. M. Lemon, and Colonel E. Crofton Fox.
The services at the grave will be short and simple, and will be in charge of the Grand Rapids battalion. It will consist of a military burial and will be closed with the bugle blowing “Taps.” The internment will be made at the Valley City cemetery.
The Press observed that
Among the thousands who are mourning today the death of Gen. Israel C. Smith, none are more sincere than Gen. Russell A. Alger, former Secretary of War. He arrived this morning from Detroit and after breakfast at the Morton went in company with Maj. C. W. Watkins and Gen. B. R. Pierce to the Smith home on Cherry Street, where he tendered such consolation as could be expressed in words to the widow of his old friend.
“I was greatly shocked when the news came to me of the death of General Smith,’ said General Alger to the Press. ‘The announcement of his death, under any circumstances, would have been a shock, but that he should be called as he was, without an instant's warning, made the blow especially severe. He was a personal friend for whom I always had the highest regard and I feel his loss keenly. He was a man in every sense of the word, a good soldier when the country needed good men, a patriot of the highest type, and a citizen whose true worth could never be overestimated. His death is a loss to this city, to the state, and to the country.
“No, General Smith was not in my command during the war,’ continued General Alger. ‘I had no connection whatever with him at that time, but you know this city was my early home, and I knew him from the time I last came here to live. I knew him as a young man, and our warm friendship continued ever since. During my term as governor of the state, he was Brigade commander of the state troops and I had occasion to personally note his soldierly qualities and ability. At the outbreak of the war with Spain he was one of the first to offer his services and he was so anxious to respond to the call of his country that he did not stand off and insist upon a rank according to his recognized merit. He wanted to go, not for personal glory, or for any reward, but because he was a patriot.”
At the grief-stricken residence, the scene was especially sad. quietly, the general tendered his sympathy to the widow and others of the family and immediate friends. The body of the dead soldier was lying in the front parlor in a rich black broadcloth casket with oxidized silver handles, the plate bearing the simple inscription: ‘Israel C. Smith, 1838-1899’. As General Alger looked into the face of his old friend, the tears came to his eyes. He looked steadily and sorrowfully for several minutes, and turned away without attempting to express his feelings.
The high esteem and the love in which the dead general was held, was evidenced by the almost numberless floral tributes which were sent to his bier from personal friends, business associates, Grand Army posts, lodges, public officials, the Grand Rapids Battalion, and others in such profusion that word was finally sent to the florist to send everything thereafter to the church. As they were arranged before the chancel and in the old church, they completely filled all the space, and their fragrance hung heavily upon the air.
It was a singular coincidence that the last soldier's funeral from St. Mark's church was under the direction of the man buried today. It was that of Private Harry Adams, the first Grand Rapids soldier to die in the South. When the news of the death of young Adams was received in this city, General Smith promptly tendered his assistance to the relatives and friends, and with Colonel Rose, Colonel Herkner and others, looked after all the details at the church and grave. Upon that occasion Rector McCormick referred feelingly to the similar scenes which were witnessed in the old St. Mark's church during and after the Civil war. In these early days General Smith was ever ready to render all honor to the soldier dead, as he was to Private Harry Adams. Upon that occasion, a year ago, business was practically suspended during the funeral hour. Today business is again superseded, flags are at half mast, and the whole city mourns the man who was master of ceremonies at the young soldier's burial a year ago.
The first of the ceremonies over General Smith, the beginning of the end, was the private service held at 11:30 this morning at his late residence, Rev. J. W. McCormack officiating. The relatives and a few of the more intimate friends of the family were present. Immediately after these services, the casket was lifted upon the soldiers of six old members of the police force, over whom General Smith presided so efficiently during his term as chief, and escorted by a squad of 20 policemen and a company of the Grand Rapids Battalion, taken to the church, where a military guard was posted, and the remains rested in state.
During the next two hours hundreds of friends called at the church to pay their respects to the dead soldier and citizen, and as the hour set for the services grew near the church filled rapidly, until when the members of the family arrived, there was not even standing room to be had in the interior of the edifice. Gov. R. A. Alger was seated directly behind the immediate mourners, and with him were General Pierce, Major Watkins and others of General Smith's nearest friends. In the body of the church were the federal and city officials, with the mayor and common council, members of the police fore commission, and delegations from each department, a very large representation from the local G.A.R. posts and Loyal Legion, active and veteran members of the Grand Rapids battalion of the state troops, Old Settlers and others.
The regular Episcopal service was used, with Rev. J. N. McCormick and Rev. C. R. Hodge officiating, being impressive in the extreme. A brief sermon was delivered by Mr. McCormick by request, dwelling upon the career and excellent attainments of the man so generally mourned. The music was rendered by a quartet consisting of Rev. C. R. Hodge, Andrew Fyfe, J. Francis Campbell and John Duffy, four numbers being given: “Domus Regius,” “Nearer My God to Thee,” “Asleep in Jesus” and “Abide in Me.” Ferdinand Warner officiating at the piano.
At the conclusion of the services, the active pall-bearers selected from the Grand Rapids battalion carried the body to the hearse, the honorary members being William Barnhart, Col. E. Crofton Fox, L. H. Withey, J. H. P. Hughart, J. W. Champlin, Samuel M. Lemon, J. Boyd Pantlind and J. D. Utley. Col. J. C. Herkner officiated in forming the cortege, the four companies of the National Guard having the right of the line, the Grand Army next, police and firemen next and the others following.
The interment was in the Valley City cemetery, and the services at the grave were brief but impressive. After the prayers, a detail of soldiers fired a volley over the open, a bugler sounded taps and all was over.
The Herald reported that on November 19
The entire city . . . was cast in the shadow of a great and common grief. The funeral services of the late Gen. I. C. Smith were the occasion of general sorrow. The entire city of which he was such an esteemed and honored citizen, made every possible effort and demonstration to express its the respect and pay fitting tribute to the memory of the man who occupied so high and respected a place among his fellows.
Preceding the public ceremony at St. Mark's church, which took place at 2 o'clock, especial services were held for the family, at the late residence of General Smith, on Cherry st. The services were conducted by the Rev. J. N. McCormick, and only the members of the immediate family and a very few intimate friends, who were especially requested to be present, attended. At the close of the ceremonies the remains, attended by a guard of honor composed of 24 men from the police force under Lieutenant Hurley, was borne by 8 patrolmen as active pall bearers to St. Mark's church, where it lay in state, attended by a military guard, and a color bearer with a furled flag, from noon until 2 o'clock. During that time many hundreds of citizens and old friends of the deceased, among whom were Gen. R. A. Alger of Detroit and Gen. J. H. Kidd of Ionia, took a last look at the deceased. The casket, as it rested in the vestibule, was almost concealed beneath the masses of flowers.
The services in the church, which were held at 2 o'clock, were very solemn and impressive. The floral offerings were surpassingly beautiful. Either side of the chancel was banked with palms and white and tinted chrysanthemums and roses. On one side of the chancel steps was a magnificent floral piece representing the emblem of the Loyal Legion, behind the emblem being two crossed sabres in flowers. The whole rested upon an easel, the folds of the silken flag which covered it making a beautiful background. The beautiful floral tribute was sent by the local members of the Loyal Legion. Accompanying it was a card illuminated with a representation of the emblem of the order, and on the card was inscribed this sentiment, written by one of the members.
In youth he drew his trusty blade
And gallant was the fight he made
For country and Old Glory
Companion dear, while time endures,
Those brave, heroic deeds of yours
Shall be our song and story.
Then followed the names of the Grand Rapids members of the Loyal Legion.
The body of the church was occupied by members of various military, municipal and official organizations assembled to do honor to the memory of the deceased. In the first rows nearest the chancel were members of the Loyal Legion, under the command of Col. George E. Briggs, among whom was Gen. Russell A. Alger. Following the Loyal Legion were the Grand Army of the Republic posts of the city; members of the Old Settlers Association, a detachment from the police force, a detachment from the fire department; Grand Rapids battalion, Fox battery; the mayor and city officials. There were also a few veteran members of the Michigan National guard, of which General smith was a member years ago.
The funeral arrangements were in charge of Maj. C. W. Watkins and Col. J. C. Herkner. The ushers at the church were: Col. C. W. Watkins, ex-Mayor W. J. Stuart, Edward Lowe, Alfred H. Hunt, Capt. a. B. Porter and Capt. Eugene Jones.
At 2 o'clock the Rev. John N. McCormick and the Rev. C. R. Hodge passed to the rear of the church while the strains of solemn music sounded from the organ, and escorted the remains to their resting place upon the chancel. The active pall bearers were a detachment from the Grand Rapids battalion, the honorary pall bearers being: Willard Barnhart, L. H. Withey, J. H. P. Hughart, J. W. Champlin, J. D. Utley, J. Boyd Pantlind, B. M. lemon and Col. E. Crofton Fox, Following came Mrs. smith, widow of the late General Smith, accompanied by Gen. J. H. Kidd of Ionia, also Mrs. Kidd and Mrs. Meeker,mother of Mrs. Smith. They were followed by members of the family.
When the casket was placed upon the chancel it rested between banks of flowers, among which were the folds of the silken flag. The Rev. J. N. McCormick read the solemn and impressive service of the episcopal church. A male quartet, composed of John Duffy, the Rev. C. H. Hodge, J. Francis Campbell and Andrew Fyfe, rendered the music. During the service they sang the beautiful hymns: “Nearer my God to thee” and “Asleep in Jesus.”
At the close of the reading of the church service the Rev. Mr. McCormick stepped before the casket and made a brief address, which was fraught with eloquence of deep feeling. He said in substance:
“Although it is not in accordance with the practice of this church, nor in observance of the wishes of our recently departed friend, to indulge in any eulogies whatever, nevertheless I feel that at this time that it is but right and fitting that the occasion should not pass without a few remarks being made which, by the peculiar force of circumstances, seem imperative. Only a little over a year ago we were assembled in this old and historic church upon a similar solemn occasion. At that time were here to perform the last solemn rites over the first hero in the 32nd Mich. regt. who gave his life for his country during the recent war [Spanish-American]. At the funeral services of Private Harry Adams, Gen. I. C. Smith took a very prominent part, as it was fitting that he should. At that time his heart was very heavy, and his mind filled with great anxiety for the welfare of his only son who was then fighting at the front, and that son is now fighting his country's battles in distant lands and unable to be here at these services today.
“Here at the close of the 19th century, the present generation and the generation which is passing away, is, and has been living in the troublesome time of wars. It is something great and noble to be a soldier and a gentleman. Such one commands the admiration and respect of all who come within the power of his presence. But it is not every soldier who enters the ranks of the army, who comes out of it as good and pure as when he went in. Many who entered the great rebellion came out of it physical and moral wrecks, unable to pursue the even tenor of their way in the civil and common pursuits of life. Gen. I. C. Smith was none of these. He came from the army a valiant and grand man. Returning to his native city, he gave his energies and talents into the development of the civil and official interests of this city. He filled positions of responsibility and trust with honor and integrity. He commanded the love and respect of his friends, and citizens in general. We will not life the veil nor look into the sanctity and beauty of his pure and happy home circle. He was above all a home man, and the happiness of his domestic life was well known by the hosts of the family friends. The life of General Smith was another evidence that:
“‘The bravest are the tenderest,
The loving are the daring.’”
“It is not only a soldier, a gentleman, a civilian and official, but more than all, a Christian, whom this great assembly of soldiers and citizens is here to honor. It is also a circumstance of great significance that these last services, for General Smith should be held in the church in which he was baptized, confirmed, and married, and that his remains should repose where they are, within view of the pew which he and his family have occupied for so many years. He was a Christian, who served well, in the church which he loved. It might be best that I say no more for our friend disliked all approaches to ostentation, but it must be added that as we are now on the eve of the national Thanksgiving holiday, that tomorrow may seem almost a mockery upon this great bereavement. But even though the dark shadow of this tragedy has fallen over the city, we know that it is shot full of arrows of light, for we can say from our hearts, ‘Thanks be to God, who giveth the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ’.”
The choir then sang the beautiful hymn, “Abide with me.” At the close of the benediction the color bearer, carrying the Regimental flag of the Grand Rapids battalion, led the procession from the church.
Eloquent and impressive as were the services within the church, the esteem in which General Smith has been held by the citizens of Grand Rapids was even more evident in the demonstration attendant on the burial and the progress of the cortege through the streets.
It was nearly 3 o'clock when the voice of Col. McGurrin calling the battalion to attention announced the end of the indoor services. The Fox battery was the first to leave the church, closely followed by the other military organizations with which General Smith had been identified. In the formation of the parade the post of honor at the head was occupied by the four companies of the battalion. Led by the military figures of the col., Lt. Col. Vos and Major Kalmbach, the companies in order were Co. K, Capt. Covell; Co. B, Lt. Campbell; Co. H, Capt. Blicklie, and Co. M, Capt. Schmidt.
Closely following these came a platoon of police under Lt. Hurley, another of firemen in charge of Marshall Lemon, and Custer post GAR, nearly 60 strong. The military formation, marching to the slow beat of the muffled drums, seemed to be a signal for the appearance of hundreds who had been unable to attend the formal services at the church, but who were glad to bare their heads in the chill autumn air as a sign of regard as the hearse passed by. The entire procession measured over five blocks in length, laid along Jefferson Avenue and Hall Street, made up of the carriages of the rector, pallbearers, mourners and hundreds of relatives and friends.
The internment was in Valley City cemetery, the lot being at the southern side, near the Morris, White, and Bissell lots; and immediately adjoining the Blodgett lot. The services at the grave were conducted under an awning, the grave itself being covered with cedar boughs on which flowers were plentifully strewn.
The active pallbearers, detailed from the local companies, were Sergeants Kelly of the 32nd and Rath of the 34th, assisted by Privates Jacobs of company G, Weeks of company H, Lawson of Company B, Ball of company M and Leishman of company H.
After a brief burial service of the Episcopal church had been read company K of the battalion fired the last three volleys in sharp detonation over the grave and taps were blown as a climax of that epitome of sadness, a military funeral, by Bugler Charles Boone.
Israel was buried in Oak Hill cemetery: section O lot 26.