02 June 2011

Civil War Profile: Richard T Smith

     The following is a profile of one of my Civil War ancestors. What was their life like before, during and after the war? Where did their sympathies lie? How did they feel about the war?
    Richard T Smith was my Great-Great-Great Grandfather. He was born in Georgia on 2 Jan 1829, in the area that is present day Cobb, Cherokee, Fulton or Forsyth County, Georgia. According to his death certificate, his parents were George and Mary Smith, though I've yet to find further evidence of them. Some records indicate they were born in Georgia, while others indicate Virginia.

     The earliest record I have for Richard is the 1860 census of Shady Grove Post Office, Milton County, GA [recorded as R L Smith]. He appeared there with his wife, Eliza, and four children. Richard was a farmer, with a personal estate valued at $125 and no property listed. The family did not own any slaves at this time and I don't believe they ever owned any.

     The only real evidence that I have of Richard's Civil War service comes from the 1910 census. Question #30 asks about civil war service. Richard answered "CA" for Confederate Army.

     I thought that I had found Richard's Pension record, but when I compared them to city directory records (which list his wife) I started to doubt it. Some facts match, but others weren't quite right. With such a common name, it's been very difficult to confirm any muster roll records as well. Richard might be listed in the 1864 Census for Re-Organizing the Georgia Militia. This Richard is a shoemaker, an occupation my Richard is attributed with in a city directory.

     Without records it's difficult to determine Richard's position on the events unfolding around him. He did not own slaves, but he seems to have come from a southern background. Many men signed up with a sense of patriotism toward their new country. But did he enlist or was he conscripted? With four small children at home in 1861, I doubt Richard was running out to enlist. Also, his fifth child, Richard Jr, was born in 1863, which indicates that Richard likely didn't sign up until at least around this time (although I have found that men who were "away; sick at home" at some point in the war tended to find a larger family when they next came home).

     In the 1870 census, Richard is still living in Milton County and is still farming. One major change has occurred however: his wife, Eliza, is not listed. It seems that Richard is now a widower, raising six children between the ages of 16 and 2. He's not doing it alone though - Rachel Garman is there as well. She's listed last, after the children, so she's probably some sort of servant, nurse or distant relative. Only weeks after this census was taken, Rachel and Richard were married. My Great-Great Grandmother Louise was a child of this union.

     In 1870, Richard's land is valued at $200 while his personal assets are valued at $900. Richard didn't appear to own land in 1860 and his personal assets were much lower. It looks like Richard might have achieved some success after the war. Perhaps he took advantage of the economic upheaval of the time period? I know that during the war nearby Atlanta was evacuated of all citizens, many who chose not to return. Perhaps he was able to purchase land at a good price using money he made from the service. 

     Hopefully I'll be able to uncover more about Richard T Smith's time during the war soon and discover details on what his Civil War service was like.

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