James V. Smith was born on September 6, 1819, in Ontario, Canada.
James eventually left Canada and had settled in western Michigan by the time the war broke out.
He stood 5’9,” with blue eyes, light hair and a fair complexion and was 41 years old and possibly living in Kent County when he enlisted in Company A on May 13, 1861. He was reported missing in action on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia, and in fact was taken prisoner and subsequently confined Richmond, Virginia. He was paroled at Chickens Landing, Virginia on September 13, 1862. According to the Richmond Dispatch of September 15, 1862,
Three thousand three hundred of the Yankee prisoners left Richmond on Saturday for Varina to be exchanged. – Such as could not walk were conveyed away in wagons. The officers, of which there were 61, went in carriages, provided for the purpose. As the long line filed past the C. S. Prison, on Cary Street, they greeted their less lucky compeers with a feeble cheer. A small cavalry escort accompanied them down. Another large gang were started for Aiken’s landing, on James River, yesterday morning. During Saturday and Sunday five thousand two hundred and twenty-eight were sent away. This leaves on hand only about seven hundred, a good many of whom are in the hospital under treatment for wounds or disease, who were unable to bear removal. Three Yankee women and eight Yankee deserters, or rather men who came over to us and professed to be such, were sent from Castle Thunder. Though these deserters professed to have left their brethren in great disgust, they were very willing to be sent back to the North. The departure of the prisoners will save the Confederate Government an expense of about $4,000 per day, which was the average that their food as soldiers cost.
He was apparently admitted for treatment of rheumatism on October 19, location unknown. Although he was returned to the Regiment on February 27, 1863, at Camp Pitcher, Virginia, it is by no means certain that James physically rejoined the regiment. From March 5 to the 31st, he was treated for primary syphilis and scofula. He was absent sick in April, probably during the third week while being teated for rheumatism, and was also reported as a nurse in the Regimental hospital in May and was absent sick in the hospital from June through September. He allegedly deserted from the hospital on October 10, 1863 (the charge was removed in 1887).
In fact, James had been discharged to date May 30, 1863, in order to enlist as Corporal in M company, Seventh Michigan cavalry on June 23, 1863, at Alexandria, Virginia for 3 years, crediting Spring Lake, Ottawa County, and was mustered the same day. He was at the dismounted camp in October of 1863 and reported missing in action on March 1, 1864, at Richmond, Virginia. He eventually returned to the Regiment and was reported as sick at Washington, DC from July through December. In fact, James was absent sick undergoing treatment for diarrhea from April 18 through May 16, 1864 and subsequently furloughed from the hospital in early April. He was initially reported as having deserted while on furlough as of July 6.
Apparently James was in Michigan on furlough when he married New York native Emily Bates (1844-1872) in Grand Rapids on July 14, 1864. (She was probably the younger sister of Alfred and Benjamin Bates, who had also served in Company A.) One of the witnesses was Abram Darling, former member of Company A, who was also sick at home. (Abram married Harriet Bates, who may have been related to Emily, Alfred and Benjamin.)
James probably never returned to duty and in fact he probably never left Michigan during the remainder of the war. He was reportedly still a deserter from July 6 through December 31, 1864 and again from January 5 through February 15, 1865. At some point while serving in the Seventh cavalry, James was injured while falling off a horse, resulting in edema of the left leg and he was reported as on furlough from late March through mid-May, and as a convalescent by early June. He was still absent sick in June of 1865 when he was admitted to Harper hospital in Detroit on June 9 (probably while home in Michigan on furlough) and honorably discharged on June 16, 1865, at Detroit.
James eventually returned to western Michigan. He was reportedly living in Grand Rapids in 1870 ( he may have been the same James Smith, b. 1826 in New York, working as a farmer and living with one Loucy Smith, b. 1800 in Vermont, in Courtland, Kent County).
In any case, sometime after Emily died in 1872 he moved to Kansas. He apparently returned to Michigan and married his second wife, a widow by the name of Ermina Cool Miller, on June 2 or 6, 1876, in Courtland Township, Kent County, and may have abandoned her in the spring of 1879. (In 1870, just several farms away from the New York-born James Smith lived a farmer named Charles Miller and his wife, Vermont native Ermina Miller, b. 1832.)
Curiously, Ermina applied for a widow’s pension in 1898, claiming that James had died in Courtland on May 1, 1879. (He was living in Cedar Springs, Kent County around 1900, and was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association.) In fact, according to Ermina’s daughter Emma, a child by a previous marriage, James deserted them sometime before March of 1880.
In any case, he married his third wife, Martha Sloat (possibly also known as Martha Matthews) in November of 1885, in Edmond, Kansas, and subsequently left her. (Martha was a patient of the Topeka State Hospital in Topeka, Kansas, when she died of senile dementia in November of 1907.) He may have married a fourth time but this remains uncertain.
James received pension no. 813,432, drawing $30 per month by 1914.
Around 1890 James moved to Tenino, Thurston County, Washington, where he was living in 1907. At some point he moved to Rainier, Washington state where he married his fourth wife.
James was taken ill in the winter of 1912-13 and never recovered his health. He died of old age, possibly at the home of his step-daughter, Ellen Reedy (she was probably Martha’s daughter by a previous marriage) on February 18, 1914, in Rainer and was buried there.