Vermont Flag Site Logo

Smith, Rodney


Age: 32, credited to Orwell, VT
Unit(s): USA
Service: From date of graduation from UVM in 54, until late in the fall of 61, was a resident of Kentucky, joined the Home Guards of that State as a PVT on their first organizing, several months before the outbreak of the war; was present with his company in the campaign of South-eastern Kentucky, which ended in the battle of Mill Springs; early in 62 was clerk in the Pay Department, being employed with Paymaster paying troops in the Armies of the Potomac, Cumberland and Ohio until 2/23/64, when he was Apptd Paymaster, USA, with rank of MAJ, with headquarters at Hilton Head and Charleston, SC, in the Department of the South; Apptd LTC and Deputy Paymaster-Genl, 1/24/81, and COL and Assistant Paymaster-Gen, 12/8/86; 1892, Chief Paymaster, Division of the Atlantic, with headquarters at New York City. [College: UVM 54]

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations


Birth: 01/13/1829, Orwell, VT
Death: 11/12/1915

Burial: Mountain View Cemetery, Orwell, VT
Marker/Plot: Not recorded
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Alan Lathrop
Findagrave Memorial #: 46615600


Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Unknown
Portrait?: Unknown
College?: UVM 54
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: None


(Are you a descendant, but not listed? Register today)


Copyright notice


Mountain View Cemetery, Orwell, VT

Check the cemetery for location/directions and other veterans who may be buried there.


Very few people are blessed with adoration, recognition and honor in their lifetime. All of us wish to be remembered when we are gone, but few of us every achieve a level of success in life that insures we will be. Rodney Smith, born with one of the most common names in the United States, earned for himself a guaranteed prominent place in the memory book of the Who's Who In America.

Rodney was born January 3, 1829 in Orwell, Vermont.[1] He was the son of Israel Smith (1790-1865) and Delia Ferguson (1795-1882. ]2] His mother and father were married circa 1818.[3] The couples first born child, Rodney's oldest sibling, was probably born sometime around 1819 - 1820. That estimate was arrived at based on the general pattern of marriages to births of a first child seen in the general population of the mid-1800's. Exactly how many siblings Rodney had was impossible to determine with one hundred percent accuracy. Reliable sources were lacking and, in those that existed, there was conflicting accounts of the number of brothers and sisters he had.

In 1840, the U.S. Federal Census listed a total of sixteen white persons, male and female, living in Israel's household. One female, white and forty to forty-nine lived in the house. This was probably Delia who would have been about forty-five. There was one male, white and forty to forty-nine who was probably Israel who was around fifty in 1840. There were ten free, white persons under twenty in the household and six more free, white persons twenty to forty-nine. If you take away Israel and Delia, that left four white persons between the ages of twenty to forty-nine. That totals fourteen white people under the age of forty-nine.[4] How many of the thirteen who were left, after deducting Rodney himself, were actually his siblings and how many were hired help was impossible to ascertain because none of the Federal Census' prior to 1850 included specific names of household members other than the head of household. The household members' information was limited to whether you were free, white or not, male or female, and what age bracket you fell in. No names of members of the household were given nor their relationship to the head of household. Other sources, like Family Trees and post-1840 Federal Census records, listed fewer than fourteen minors and dependents living with Israel and Delia. Usually, the number hovered between eight and ten. The most frequently disclosed names were: Cynthia, 1819-1895; Orson, 1821-1890; Walter, 1824-1892; Sidney, 1826-1911; William, 1831-1912; Pliny, 1833-1866; Anna, 1836-1921; Jane, 1836-1928; Allan, 1838-1914; and Delia, 1842-1931.[5]

Regardless of how many siblings Rodney had, his early years were pleasantly spent living on a farm in rural Orwell in the thirty years before the Civil War. His father, Israel, who had served as a lieutenant and paymaster in the War of 1812, adequately provided for the care of his increasingly larger family in the antebellum years.[6] By 1850, Israel had built up a thriving agricultural business valued at $12, 200. Two of his sons, Pliny, nineteen, and Sidney, twenty-three, assisted their father in running the family farm.[7] Rodney, twenty-one in 1850, was enrolled at either Castleton Seminary or the University of Vermont where he was pursuing a higher education.[8] His younger siblings, Jane, fourteen; Anna, fourteen; Allen, twelve; and Delia, eight were also of school age. Even Pliny attended school when he was not working on the farm.[9] Obviously, Israel and Delia put great value on their children getting an education. While Rodney was attending college (probably at the University of Vermont) he lived with another family in Orwell other than his own. The surrogate family was the Peppers, Isaiah, and his wife, Sylvina. This couple housed two scholars - Rodney and a younger student named William Smith. The Peppers had four children of their own in their home. Three of them were in the early to mid-thirties: Isaiah, Isaac, and Martha. The youngest Pepper was seven-year-old Hannah.[10] In 1854, Rodney graduated from the University of Vermont.[11]

After his graduation, Rodney moved south to Kentucky. There he spent several years tutoring before the outbreak of the Civil War. The leaders of the State of Kentucky desperately tried to keep an umbrella of neutrality over Kentucky. But being a border state made that position untenable. Even before the firing on Fort Sumter occurred, Kentucky was being torn apart from within by opposing factions for secession and unionism. Rodney's loyalties lay with the Union. The citizenry of the border state eventually split into two armed and organized camps - one pro-Southern and one pro-Union. Rodney joined the pro-Union Home Guards which subsequently became the First Kentucky Volunteer Infantry. It was organized at Pendleton in Cincinnati, Ohio March to April 1861 as a three months regiment. Because of Kentucky's attempts to remain neutral, it was not recognized formally by the Federal Government until June 4, 1861, several months after Charleston Harbor.[12] When Rodney became a soldier for the Union, it probably never entered his mind that thirty-two years later, he would still be wearing a blue suit of clothes with gold braid on it to work. Beginning his military career as a lowly private in the ranks, he rose to the position of Brigadier General in the United States Army.

Rodney served with the Kentucky Volunteers for the duration of the Civil War. The Regiment was organized June 4, 1861 and mustered into the Federal service for three years under the command of Colonel James V. Guthrie. It was ordered to the Kanawha Valley in Virginia on July 10, 1861. It remained in western Virginia through the end of that year. In January, 1862, the First was ordered to Kentucky where it was deployed until ordered to march to Nashville, Tennessee. The Kentucky Volunteers took part in the Battle of Shiloh April 6-7, 1862. It participated in the siege of Corinth April 29 - March 30, 1862. The First became part of Buell's Campaign in northern Alabama and middle Tennessee during June and August of 1862. They were engaged in the pursuit of Confederate General Braxton Bragg from August 21 to October 22, 1862. The Regiment fought in the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky on October 8. Then they marched back to Nashville, Tennessee in late October of 1862. They were on duty there until December 26, 1862. It was then that they were part of the advance on Murfreesboro. The unit was involved in the Battle of Stones River December 30-31, 1862 and January 1-3, 1863. The First had a six month rest until they were engaged with the enemy at Cripple Creek June, 1863 and then again during the Tullahoma Campaign from June 24-July 7. The First Kentucky Volunteers were heavily occupied in the fighting that took place at Gordon's and Lee's Mills September 11-13, the Battle of Chickamauga September 19-20 and the Siege of Chattanooga on September 24-October 27, 1863. Following all that action, the Regiment was given duty at Bridgeport, Alabama until January 26, 1864. They were then ordered back to Kentucky May 29, 1864. There the First was employed against Confederate Morgan's invasion of Kentucky May 31-June 18, 1864. At that time, members of the First Kentucky Volunteer Infantry were discharged from the service.[13]

In June of 1864, Rodney was appointed by the President as paymaster in the regular army with the rank of major. He served in that capacity in the Army of the Potomac in the Department of the South until the end of the war.[14] After the War of the Rebellion ended, Major Smith continued to serve in the regular army. He was transferred to the Western Department as paymaster. There, in 1867, the Major was ducking bullets from a different kind of enemy. He wrote a letter to the Chief Paymaster of the District of Leavenworth, Kansas:

							Ranche at Cimarron Crossing
								Sept. 22nd, 1867
Lieutenant Col. F. E. Hunt
Chief Paymaster Dist. Leavenworth
		Leavenworth, Ks.

I have the honor to report that I was attacked today at 12 o'clock ...near the "Bluff" twenty-one miles west of Fort Dodge, Ks, by a party of three or four hundred Indians. My escort consisted of two corporals and twenty men, Infantry, and a train of five wagons and one ambulance... The Indians made repeated charges but were repulsed with the loss of two warriors and one horse killed and several wounded ... although my wagons were considerably riddled, the escort sustained no serious damage...."[15]

He went on to state that he had let it be known before that he deemed the escorts he was allowed were "entirely inadequate" to guard the amount of money he was expected to transport between military posts, especially since the Indians were being incited to attack his trains by parties unknown in order to steal the public funds of the Western District.

The next day, Major Smith added a postscript to his September 22 letter informing the Chief Paymaster of the District that Indians had attacked another train, this time a Mexican train, just nine miles from his current position. He refused to venture from where he was at the time on any more expeditions until he had more reinforcements from Fort Dodge..[16] All this Indian trouble was eventually resolved as the history books on America's Westward Expansion has documented. Major Smith survived this war just as he had the Civil War unscathed. He ultimately was transferred from the west to the Eastern Department which had its headquarters in New York City.[17]

In 1875, the Major married an Illinois woman named Julia Ellen Coates in Kane, Illinois. The marriage took place on September 22, 1875. Julia was born in Peru, Illinois on December 2, 1855. She was the daughter of John L. Coates (1820-)and Julia A. Bull (1825-1857). Julia was nineteen. Rodney was forty-six.[18] The marriage soon produced a child. Eleanor Rodney was born in San Francisco, California on April 16, 1879.[19] Obviously, Rodney was not working out of New York City anymore. As a military man, Rodney had to be willing to move from place to place frequently because that was part of life in the service then as it is now. Perhaps that is how he and Julia met. The records consulted did not explain that.

What was clear was that by 1880, Rodney and his wife and one-year-old child were living on 1614 California Street in San Francisco, California. Boarding with his family was another military career man and his wife. His name was Captain G.M. Brayton and he was forty-one. He had a wife named Elizabeth who was thirty-five. In addition to this couple, two servants of the family lived in the household. One was a male servant from China called Ah Soom. The other person was a domestic thirty-two-year-old female from Ireland named Bridget Dugan.[20] In the next twelve years, Major Smith was rapidly promoted in the ranks. In January of 1881, he was promoted to Deputy Paymaster-General with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. That was soon followed in 1886 by another promotion to Assistant Paymaster-General with the rank of Colonel. That was the active rank he held up to his mandatory retirement at sixty-four in 1893.[21] Colonel Smith returned to civilian life after a thirty-two-year career in the United States Army.

When 1900 rolled around, Rodney and his family, consisting of Julia and Eleanor now twenty, lived in St. Paul, Minnesota at 345 Summit Avenue. They appeared to be living in a boarding house with nine other people in it. Rodney was seventy by this time (Julia was only forty-two). They had been married for twenty-four years. Eleanor was their only child and was a student at a musical school.[22] Rodney received his last promotion in the military in 1904. Although he had been retired since 1893 from active duty, he was awarded a brevetted promotion to Brigadier-General by Congress on April 23, 1904. He was described by some as "'''wise, efficient, exacting and conscientious'''." Others said, "He never shirked a duty nor sought a reward for its performance." He was credited with doing much to improve the Paymaster Department of the army, a service to which he had given the best years of his life.[23] As of June 6, 1905, Brigadier-General Smith continued to reside in St. Paul, although he moved to a different address - 76 Western Avenue.[24]

At the age of eighty, Rodney and his family lived at 132 Lourel Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota. Eleanor, their daughter, at thirty-one, still lived with her parents. She was single. Her occupation was given as musician and it appeared on the Federal Census form that she was self-employed. Rodney was, of course, a retired military officer. Julia, now in her fifties, had no occupation other than wife. If the census taker can be believed (he had difficulty keeping families separate and individuals correctly identified) there were six others living with the Smiths. One was a family called Ware consisting of E.M. Ware (Edwin Morton), G.B. (George Betram) mislabeled as a Smith, GB's wife, Ethel, and their two daughters named Dorothy F. and Margaret B. Except for E.M. Ware, all the others were labeled (incorrectly) as Smith. They really were Wares not Smiths. G.B. was E.M.'s son. The sixth individual was a servant girl named Bertha J. Dietzman aged twenty-one.[25]

After his forced retirement in 1893, citizen Smith had plenty of time to indulge his pension for travel. His army retirement pay allowed him the financial security to pay for extended trips outside the United States. His first passport application was filed in 1901 when he lived in St. Paul when he was seventy-two. He wanted the document valid for a temporary trip abroad that would not last for more than a year. He also wanted his wife, Julia, and his daughter, Eleanor, to be added to his passport so that they could travel with him. He claimed to have no permanent address in the United States, but swore to return within a year and resume his duties as a citizen. Apparently he got what he wanted and the trip went off fine.

The next time Rodney applied for a passport was on September 12, 1913. He was now eighty-four and a little "bowed". He stated again that he would faithfully return to the U.S. and take up his duties as a citizen this time within two years of being issued his traveling papers. And, again, he requested that both his wife, Julia, and his daughter, Eleanor, be placed on his documentation. He also asked that his approved passport be sent to Chester, Vermont when completed.[26] This trip abroad did indeed take nearly two years to complete. Rodney and his troops left Genoa, Italy the beginning of August, 1915. They arrived at the port of Boston on August 31, 1915 aboard the liner "Cretic".[27]

From Boston, it seemed the Smith's returned to Vermont where they had a home in Brandon. Three months after returning from his last European tour, Rodney died of acute bronchitis brought on by asthma. He was eighty-seven. He died on November 12, 1915 at his home in Brandon, according to one obituary notice and his death certificate.[28] He had at least two obit notices published. One was in the New York Times issue for November 12, 1915. The other was from the Middlebury Register dated November 19, 1915: "...Gen. Rodney Smith, who came to town from Italy recently and rented the Pearce hose on Park Street died Tuesday morning. The body was taken to Springfield, Mass. for cremation Saturday."[29] Maybe Brigadier-General Rodney Smith was about to make one more move when he died.

Except for an application for a widow's pension filed one month after Rodney's death, there was not another word heard from or about either Julia E. Coates Smith or her daughter, Eleanor Rodney Smith.[30] It was as though the two of them just vanished into thin air. Only one source, an Family Tree, made mention of any kind concerning Julia, the wife. The Possible Family Tree stated that Julia lived in Brandon, Vermont in 1938. The same source said she died in East Cleveland, Ohio May 30, 1938. It further declared that she was cremated there and buried in Brandon. That information could not be verified by this researcher. It seems that Julia and Eleanor, after being constant companions to Rodney from 1875 until 1915, completely evaporated into oblivion without a trace after his death.

1., Vermont, Death Records, 1909-2008 for Rodney Smith.
2. Ibid., Death Records; www.findagrave, Memorial #46615600 for Rodney Smith.
3. Ibid., North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 for Israel Smith.
4. Ibid., 1840 U.S. Federal Census for Israel Smith.
5. Ibid., Gleason and Edgerton Family Trees for Rodney Smith.
6., The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 17, p. 105 for Rodney Smith.
7., 1850 U.S. Federal Census for Israel Smith.
8., National Cyclopaedia, Vol. 17, p. 105 for Rodney Smith.
9., 1850 U.S. Federal Census for Israel Smith.
10. Ibid.

11., National Cyclopaedia, Vol. 17, p. 105 for Rodney Smith.
13. Ibid.
14., National Cyclopaedia, Vol. 17, p. 105 for Rodney Smith.
15., Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General, Main Series, 1861-1870 for Rodney Smith, p. 3, image 301783797.
16., National Cyclopaedia, Vol. 17, p.105 for Rodney Smith.
17. Ibid.
18., Illinois, Marriage Index, 1860-1920 for Rodney Smith; Ibid., Possible Family Tree for Rodney Smith Brig. General and for Julia Ellen Coates.
19., Possible Family Tree for Julia Coates and Rodney Smith Brig. General; Ibid., 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Rodney Smith.
20. Ibid., 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Rodney Smith.
21., Compiled Service Records of Union Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Vermont, p. 439, image 312903985. Hereinafter referred to as Compiled Service Records.

22., 1900 U.S. Federal Census for Rodney Smith.
23., Compiled Service Records, p. 439, image 312903985;, National Cyclopaedia, Vol. 17, p.105 for Rodney Smith.
24., Minnesota, Territorial and State Censuses, 1849-1905 for Rodney Smith.
25. Ibid., 1910 U.S. Federal Census for Rodney Smith.
26. Ibid., U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925, 1901 and 1913 for Rodney Smith.
27. Ibid., Massachusetts, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1963 for General Rodney Smith.
28. Ibid., Vermont, Death Records, 1909-2008 for Rodney Smith.
29. Ibid., Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 for Rodney Smith.
30. Ibid., U.S., Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 for Rodney Smith.

Courtesy of Bernie Noble.

Previous Page