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 5 Collections and/or Records:
Barton Family Papers
Scope and Contents The collection consists of the miscellaneous papers of three members of the Barton family who attended the Virginia Military Institute during the mid-19th century. Papers relating to Cadet Charles M. Barton (VMI Class of 1856) include a letter dated September 28, 1855 from Charles to his cousin Joseph M. Barton, in which he complains about VMI life and about his instructor Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (Jackson is described as a "hell of a fool"). Other Charles Barton material is found in a...
Edward C. Shepherd collection
Scope and Contents The collection contains three notebooks, two miscellaneous documents, and an annotated analytical geometry text that belonged to Virginia Military Institute Cadet Edward C. Shepherd during his years as a VMI student, 1851-1855. The first notebook contains approximately 50 pen and ink, hand-tinted drawings by Shepherd; these were completed as assignments for VMI courses and some bear the signature of Superintendent Francis H. Smith (" Examined correct, F.H. Smith"). This book also includes a...
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...
Thomas F. Barksdale papers
Scope and Contents The collection consists of two items. 1. Letter dated January 25, 1855 from a Prussian official, denying Barksdale and his roommates permission to enter the Prussian Army. 2. Notebook contains class notes, including notes taken in Stonewall Jackson's class section in Natural Philsophy (a course that would today be most similar to Physics) and notes taken in Analytical Geometry class taught by Francis H. Smith; resolution issued by cadets following murder of Cadet Thomas Blackburn, Class of...
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...