Riley Smith was born on May 8, 1833, in Jefferson County, New York, the son of Orlow (b. 1811) and Harriet (Little, b. 1816).
Both New York natives, Riley’s parents were probably married in New York in 1832. By 1850 Orlow had settled his family on a farm in Clayton, Jefferson County, New York where Riley worked as a laborer and attended school with three of his younger siblings. By 1854 Riley had left New York and settled in Nelson, Kent County, Michigan, where he took up farming on 120 acres on section 20 and also engaged in practical surveying. He also taught school off and on for nine years.
Riley stood 5’11” with black eyes and hair and a dark complexion and was a 28-year-old teacher probably living in Kent County when he enlisted as Fifth Sergeant in K company on May 13, 1861. He was reported in Company D in May of 1863, missing in action on May 3, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Virginia and on detached service at Third Corps headquarters from October 10 through November. He reenlisted on December 24, 1863, crediting Walker, Kent County, was presumably absent on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864 and probably returned to the Regiment on or about the first of February. Riley was shot in the left collarbone on May 6, 1864, at the Wilderness, Virginia, and admitted on May 11 to Finley general hospital in Washington, DC, with a slight gunshot flesh wound of the left clavicle.
Riley was still absent wounded in the hospital when he was transferred to Company F, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and remained absent through July. He eventually returned to duty, and on October 27, 1864 was taken prisoner at Boydton Plank road, near Petersburg, Virginia, and confined at Libby prison in Richmond on October 30. He was paroled at Aiken’s Landing, Virginia on February 17, 1865, arrived at Annapolis, Maryland on February 19, and sent to Camp Chase, Ohio on February 20, where he reported on February 24. He was discharged on June 19, 1865, at Camp Chase.
Riley returned to Nelson Township after the war and was living in Cedar Springs when he married Kent County native Caroline Gilman (1842-1911) on July 9, 1865, in Cannon, Kent County, and they had at least one child, Edward M. (b. 1869). Riley was elected Surveyor of Kent County in 1866 but refused to qualify.
In 1870 he was working as a farmer (he owned $3000 worth of real estate) and living with his wife and son in Nelson (so was his father), and was still farming and living with his family in Nelson in 1880, and probably lived most of the remainder of his life in the vicinity of Cedar Springs where he worked for many years as a farmer: He was living in Cedar Springs in 1879, in December of 1881, in 1882, 1885, in 1890 when he employed as a clerk for E. M. Smith in Cedar Springs, in 1894 and 1895.
In December of 1881 he became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association and for some years served as the Regimental Association chaplain. He was also a charter member of Grand Army of the Republic Jewell post no. 62 in Cedar Springs, a Methodist, a staunch Republican and he received pension no. 836000.
He died at his home in Cedar Springs on August 21, 1897, and was buried in Elmwood cemetery in Cedar Springs.
In October of 1897 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 460204).