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Volume 31, No. 3 – March 2018


President’s Message:

The Round Table will have as our speaker Jack Davis, noted historian and award-winning author.  All members are invited to bring any guests to the March meeting.  Mr. Davis is an outstanding speaker who will appeal to anyone who has an interest in history. Bring your family, friends, and neighbors.  We look forward to a wonderful evening.  We’ll see you at the Scottish Rite Hall in Lake Worth on Wednesday, March 14th at 7:00PM.

Gerridine LaRovere

March 14, 2018 Program:

We are fortunate to have as our March speaker, Jack Davis.  Mr. Davis was a professor of history at Virginia Tech and director of programs for Civil War Studies.  He has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for “Breckenridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol” and “Battle at Bull Run.”  As an expert on Confederate and Southern History, he consults for numerous television productions and the History Channel.  We are so pleased to have Mr. Davis give a presentation to the Round Table.  Thank you to Robert Franke for arranging this speaking engagement.  The topic will be: The General in Love, The story of General Gabriel C. Wharton's CSA courtship and marriage.

February 14, 2018 Program:


MeiskyOur February speaker was Dave Meisky.  He is a living historian from Virginia who has studier the life and times of William "Extra Billy" Smith.

One of the interest characters of the civil war era is William Smith of Virginia, usually referred to as "Extra Billy".  Born in 1797 he was a lawyer and business man, operating a stagecoach line, before entering politics.  Before the war he served twice in the Virginia State Senate, five terms in the US House of Representatives, as Governor from 1846 through 1848 after which he went to California where he remained for three and a half years during the gold rush.  With the outbreak of the war he was commissioned Colonel, commanding the 48th Virginia Infantry Regiment during the campaigns of 1861 and 62.  He was seriously wounded three times in the battle of Sharpsburg and was recuperating for six months before returning to active duty in the spring of 1863 with a promotion to Brigade General and command of a brigade.  In May he was elected governor but since the term didn't begin until January 1, 1864, heExtra Bill Smith was commanding his brigade during the Gettysburg campaign.  He resigned his military commission on December 31st and was inaugurated as governor on New Years Day, 1864.   

On April 2, 1865, word was received in Richmond that Confederate lines in front of Petersburg were breaking and General Lee was withdrawing his army which necessitated the evacuation on Richmond.  While at church at St. Paul’s in Richmond, Extra Billy reported: “On Sunday the 2nd of April, 1865, during divine service, I saw a messenger hurriedly advance to Mr. Davis' pew and hand him a paper.”  The treasury was emptied with twenty-one thousand dollars in specie load on to transport.  At 11 PM the Confederate government left by train to re-establish the capitol in Danville, VA.  Two hours later Governor William Smith and the state government left for Lynchburg via the James River Canal.  The party consisted of Smith, his son and aide Peter Bell Smith, his servant George Hunter, two canal barges carrying government records, members of the legislature and various government departments, a detachment of cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, and a number of others.  Thus, on April 3rd began an odyssey that was to last until Smith’s surrender on  June  9, 1865.

St. PaulsWhile Jefferson Davis was saying on April 4th: “Relieved from the necessity of guarding  particular points .. with an army free to move .. and strike in detail  .. nothing is now needed to render our triumph certain but the exhibition of our own unquenchable resolve. ,” Extra Billy was proceeding via canal and road from Richmond to Columbia.  After crossing the James River the party was at Buckingham Court House on April 5th where the state archives were deposited in the local jail and a number of individuals dispersed on their separate routes. 

Governor Smith and a small party passed through Appomattox Court House on April 6th, several days before the armies arrived in the vicinity, and on the 7th they were in Lynchburg.  At the same time Lincoln was meeting with John Campbell and offering very generous terms: “.. gentlemen who have acted as the legislature of Virginia in support of the rebellion may now desire to assemble at Richmond ..   give them permission and protection..”  Next he turned south and arriving in Danville on the 10th, as the Confederate government was preparing to leave for the Carolinas.  It was there that he learned of Lee’s surrender.    Declining President Davis' invitation to join the Confederate government Smith decided to remain in Danville and carry on the state government

For two weeks he remained in Danville exercising what civil and military authority he still retained. JA Campbell He wrote to General Grant inquiring as to the Federal government's attitude to his state government.  “Will the State government .. be superseded by a military or civil organization? Will the State officials of the Virginia government be subject to military arrest?”  He received a very non-committal reply.  About all he got was this reply from Meade:  “Lieutenant-General Grant has, at present, no reply to make to your letter, and should he hereafter have one, it will be presented to you by special messenger.”  Billy made provisions for providing supplies to paroled Confederate soldiers making their way home from Appomattox and issued a proclamation authorizing county sheriffs and judges to organize citizen patrols to help maintain order on areas where Confederate control had vanished and Federal forces had not yet arrived.

GrantAs the 6th Corps of the Army of the Potomac approached Danville, Billy moved north to Lynchburg.  From there he sent a letter to President Andrew Johnson on May 3rd but the letter was intercepted by General Henry Halleck in Richmond and his messenger was arrested.  During this period the U.S. authorities had been making efforts to capture Billy and they upper the stakes on May 8 with a $25,000. reward on his head.  The following day President Johnson issued a proclamation declaring that anyone who assisted Smith was "in rebellion against the United States and would be dealt with accordingly."  He also declared the Francis Pierpont would exercise authority as governor.

Leaving Lynchburg the Governor crossed the mountains into the Shenandoah Valley where he visited Lexington and Staunton before re-crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains to the area of Lynchburg.  During this period Billy wrote letters to John Tucker, former Virginia Attorney General,Reward General Henry Halleck, commander of all Federal forces in Virginia , and Robert E, Lee.  In all these he expressed his conviction that there was no sentiment in Virginia toward continuing the fight.  Smith did face a dilemma as to what his actions should be.  Many former Confederate leaders at both the national and state levels had surrendered or been captured and most high tanking officials were being imprisoned. 

Traveling east Billy established himself about 20 miles from Richmond where his son, Bell Smith, carried out negotiations with the Federal authorities for Smith's surrender: 

· “Ex-Governor William Smith will deliver himself this afternoon. Where shall I send him?”    Halleck to Stanton - June 8th

· “If Mr. Smith surrenders himself you may take such measures... you deem proper... either in respect to his close imprisonment, giving bail or parole..."  Staunton to Halleck - June 8th

As a result on June 8th the former governor surrendered himself in Richmond and five days later signed a parole and returned home to Warrenton, VA.  In June a Federal grand jury in Norfolk, Va. handed down an indictment for treason against Smith and about 50 other former Confederate leaders, both civilian and military.  After General Lee, who was listed in the indictment, wrote to General U. S. Grant who, in turn, sent a strong protest to President Andrew Johnson and threatened to resign if the indictment was allowed to go forward. 

Smith would live for a number of years before dying in 1887.  He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.



Last changed:  03/04/18

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