Smith, Francis H. (Francis Henney), 1812-1890
Major General Francis Henney Smith (b. 1812 d. 1890) was appointed VMI's first Superintendent in 1839. An 1833 graduate of West Point, he had previously served briefly in the U. S. Army and was a Professor of Mathematics at Hampden-Sydney College (VA) when he accepted the position as head of the newly established Virginia Military Institute. He served for fifty years, from the Institute's infancy, through the Civil War, and through the difficult post-war period. He is known as the "builder and rebuilder of VMI." Smith retired on January 1, 1890 and died only a few months later, on March 21, 1890.
Found in 4 Collections and/or Records:
John B. Strange letter
Scope and Contents Strange's letter to his sister Anne was written just a few months after the Institute's opening day, and is one of the oldest personal cadet letters still in existence. Strange mentions several aspects of cadet life that were common during the pre-Civil War era: Final examinations were given orally rather than as written tests, presided over by faculty and the VMI Board of Visitors and open to the public; summer furlough was not automatic, and many cadets stayed at the Institute throughout the...
John F. Early Papers
Scope and Contents The collection consists of the letters and diary of Cadet John F. Early (b. 1830 in Lynchburg, Va.; d. 1894), who attended VMI 1848-1850. The one volume diary-notebook contains short and sporadic entries; daily routines and special events are noted; one of the earliest references to Superintendent Francis H. Smith as "Spex" (April 30, 1850); lists of cadets; room occupants; poetry of Sara Henderson Smith ("The Old Gray Coat) and others. The five letters were written to...
John P. Bowyer letter of recommendation
Scope and Contents One letter (September 18, 1847) from VMI Superintendent Francis H. Smith to Gen. E. C. Carrington, recommending an army commission for John P. Bowyer. Bowyer had volunteered for service in the Mexican War, in which he subsequently served.
Letter of appointment to VMI for Richard Pollard, 1846-06-27
Scope and Contents Letter appointing Richard Pollard a cadet in the Virginia Military Institute. Signed by Board of Visitors member Charles P. Dorman. Note to Pollard's father written by Superintendent Francis H. Smith at bottom.