Thursday, April 14, 2016

Your Affectionate Father, Charles F. Smith

During the publication of Teacher of Civil War Generals - Major General Charles Ferguson Smith, Soldier and West Point Commandant, limitations in the size of the manuscript forced me to reduce or eliminate the amount of personal information. Most of this material was in letters from General Smith to his daughter, Miss Fanny M. Smith. This correspondence occurred from December 1855 to March 1860 when General Smith served with the Tenth Infantry Regiment in the Minnesota Territory and led an expedition to the Red River of the North and in the Utah Territory as an officer in Mormon Expedition. The communication includes unblemished observations about Charles's experiences and fatherly advice to Fanny, which provide an intimate view of antebellum life in a military family. The letters are annotated with footnotes to explain terms, describe locations, and provide brief biographies of people referred to in Charles' correspondence. This work continues after General Smith's death with information on Smith's children and grandchildren.


Sample Letter

Fort Snelling, Min. [Minnesota]
Feb. [February] 10, 1857
My dear daughter,
Altho' I mailed a note to your Aunt Annie yesterday yet I am so pleased at seeing your little letters of the 18th and 26th. Jany. [January] (on the same sheet) this morning − just now indeed − that I at once acknowledge its receipt. It had been more than two months since I had heard from you before, so you may judge how glad I was.
I am glad to find you are getting on so well in French and Music. Do you talk French at all yet? You must do so all you can. And could not you write me a little letter in French? Try it.
You say you don't like to write. Few young persons   do, because they think they have nothing to say, but if they would only just rattle on with a pen in their fingers as they can generally with their tongue that is all that is necessary. Write as you would talk.
You ask me how I passed my X-mas? Just as I pass all other days, very quietly, it was no gala day with us. But I am glad you all enjoyed yourselves.
Soon after writing your last letter you must have recd [received] the package with the moccasins; Mr. Bryan was to send it by express from N. Y., where I know he arrived on the 16th or 17th of Jany. [January].
And so you had something of a snow storm [sic] & cold weather. But you ought to be here to know what cold is. My breath froze on my mustache this morning the moment I put my face out of the door − the thermometer being -37°. You don't know exactly how cold that is but the mercurial thermometer can only mark two more degrees when the mercury freezes. We have a good many cases of frost bitten fingers &c. among the soldiers who will not take care of themselves. And there is one case among others in the hospital where the Doctor with difficulty saved the man's legs; the poor wretch being drunk took no care of himself after he was bitten by the frost. As it is he will lose all the toes of both feet & one heel & several fingers from each hand. So much for whiskey.
I am in usual good health. Love to dear grandmother & to all.
Yr. [Your] affec. [affectionate] father.
Charles F. Smith
Miss Fanny M. Smith
Annapolis, Md

 Places in Your Affectionate Father, Charles F. Smith

Camp Floyd
Fort Bridger
Fort Leavenworth


Fort Laramie























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