About John Eugene Smith
John Eugene Smith was a Swiss immigrant to the United States, who served as a Union general during the American Civil War.
Smith was born in Berne, Switzerland in 1816. His father had served under Napoleon Bonaparte and emigrated with his family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after the emperor's downfall. In Philadelphia, Smith was educated to be a jeweler and 20 years later settled in Galena, Illinois, where he practiced his jewelry trade. Smith was one of nine residents of Galena who would eventually become generals fighting for the Union during the Civil War. The other eight were: Augustus L. Chetlain, John O. Duer, Ulysses S. Grant, Jasper A. Maltby, Ely S. Parker, John A. Rawlins, William R. Rowley and John Corson Smith.
When the Civil War began in 1861, Smith served as an aide de camp to Illinois Governor Richard Yates. On July 23, 1861 he was appointed colonel of the 45th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He led his regiment at the battles of Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Shiloh. On November 29, 1861 he was promoted to brigadier general of U.S. Volunteers. He briefly commanded a brigade before taking command of he 8th Division, XVI Corps. When Ulysses S. Grant began his final campaign against Vicksburg, Smith was placed in command of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, XVII Corps. He fought at the battles of Port Gibson, Raymond, Champion Hill and in the assaults on Vicksburg. In June, 1863 in the midst of the siege of Vicksburg, Smith was chosen to replace Gen. Isaac F. Quinby in command of the 7th Division, XVII Corps after Quinby became ill and took a leave of absence. In September, 1863 Smith was transferred to command the 2nd Division, XVII Corps and his division was sent with William T. Sherman to aid in the relief of Chattanooga. During the battle of Missionary Ridge, Smith took part in the attacks against the Confederate right flank at Tunnel Hill.
In December, 1863 Smith took command of the 3rd Division, XV Corps which he would command until the end of the war. He saw action during the Atlanta Campaign, March to the Sea and the Carolinas Campaign.
In 1866 General Smith was mustered out of the volunteer service, but chose to stay in the regular army. He was appointed colonel of the 27th U.S. Infantry Regiment. He received a promotion to brigadier general in 1867 and a brevet promotion to major general in 1869 . He retired from the army in 1881.
Smith resided in Chicago, Illinois during his final years of life and died there on January 29, 1897. He is buried in Galena.