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Collection Title: Smith (William G.) Civil War Military Commissions

Collection Number: M299

Dates: May 2, 1862 - September 12, 1863

Volume: 3 Items

Provenance: Donated by Miss Maude C. Smith, date of receipt unknown.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

William G. Smith, a native of West Virginia, served in the Ninth Infantry Regiment of West Virginia Volunteers of the United States Army, during the American Civil War.

Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17, 1861, although not all Virginians agreed with the decision. Many votes against ratifying the secession ordinance came from the trans-Allegheny region, mainly the western and north-western counties of Virginia. As the rest of Virginia pledged to support the Confederacy, the western region began to call for secession from the main state. The federal government granted the West Virginians an opportunity to break away from the rest of Virginia, and in early 1862, under the guidance of Francis H. Pierpoint, a Unionist legislature met in Wheeling, Virginia, on the Ohio River. Voters subsequently passed a measure authorizing the creation of a new state, and on June 20, 1863, West Virginia was formally admitted to the Union.

As authorities in Virginia called up volunteers to serve in the Confederacy, officials in West Virginia created their own military organizations, some to serve the Confederacy, most to serve the Union. Approximately 28,000 West Virginians served in the Union Army between 1861 and 1865, while only approximately 7000 served in the Confederacy. Of the West Virginia regiments serving in the Union, sixteen were infantry, four cavalry, and two light artillery. To encourage enlistment, West Virginia authorities paid bounties to many of the troops, and by 1865 had paid approximately $1.5 million to the volunteers.

The Ninth Infantry Regiment of West Virginia Volunteers was formed on February 28, 1862, at Guyandotte, in Cabell County, Virginia. The regiment was comprised of companies representing Cabell, Wood, Jackson, Roane, and Mason counties. Men enlisted for a total service of three years with the opportunity to re-enlist at the end of that time. The regiment operated throughout the war in the western and northwestern region of Virginia. As part of the Fourth

Brigade commanded by Colonel J.A.C. Lightburn, the 566 men of the Ninth Infantry of West Virginia Volunteers served in the District of the Kanawha, under the leadership of Brigadier General J.D. Cox. Engagements included skirmishes at Sumerville, Gauley, and Flat Top Mountain, as well as participation in the Peninsula Campaign. No information is available regarding the service record of William G. Smith other than the records of promotion to Second Lieutenant (April 1862), First Lieutenant (October 1862), and Captain (September 1863).

At the end of three years' service, 357 men from the Ninth Infantry Regiment re-enlisted in the service of the United States. Together with the remaining members of the Fifth Infantry Regiment the two groups joined forces, and by order of the Secretary of War, created the new First Veteran Infantry Regiment of West Virginia Volunteers on November 9, 1864. The First Veteran Infantry regiment continued to serve in the United States Army throughout the rest of the Civil War, and was finally mustered out of service in Cumberland, Maryland, on July 21, 1865.

Scope and Content:

This collection contains three original American Civil War military commissions for William G. Smith. The first, dated May 2, 1862, promotes Smith to Second Lieutenant in the Ninth Infantry Regiment of Virginia Volunteers, in the service of the United States. The promotion is effective from April 14, 1862. Interestingly, even though the certificate carries the seal and imprint of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the commission promotes Smith in the Ninth West Virginia Infantry, a regiment serving the United States rather than the Confederacy. The certificate is signed by the Adjutant General of West Virginia, Henry J. Samuels, and by Governor Francis H. Pierpoint. The seal in the bottom left-hand corner of the certificate has been partially removed. The second commission is dated December 19, 1862. Promoting Smith to First Lieutenant in the Ninth Infantry Regiment of Virginia Volunteers, the commission is effective from October 17, 1862. Once again, the document is a promotion in the service of the United States, and is signed by both Samuels and Pierpoint. The official seal has been totally removed.

The final commission, dated September 12, 1863, was awarded by the state of West Virginia and officially promotes Smith to the rank of Captain in the Ninth Infantry Regiment of West Virginia Volunteers, in the service of the United States. The promotion is effective from the date of signature, September 12, 1863. The document has no official seal, but is signed by Governor Arthur I. Boreman and Adjutant General Francis Perry Pierpoint.

This collection is of great note to those interested in the history and division of Virginia and West Virginia during the time of the American Civil War, and to those researching military or regimental histories of West Virginia.


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Revised: December 16, 2004