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 3 Collections and/or Records:
Charles P. Deyerle Papers
Scope and Contents
The papers contain 12 items from the career of Charles P. Deyerle. Included are documents dating from his medical studies and his service in the United States Army. Also included are miscellaneous clippings.
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...
Valentine C. Saunders Collection
Scope and Contents Letter from Cadet Saunders to his parents is the oldest extant letter written by a VMI cadet. Dated November 30, 1839, shortly after the first cadets arrived in Lexington, the letter provides a cadet's view of the newly established Institute. Saunders describes the arsenal; relationship with Washington College; the method of instruction; course of studies; gives his opinion (favorable) of Superintendent Francis H. Smith. Collection also contains Saunders' copy of a published address by Francis...