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Smith, Francis H. (Francis Henney), 1812-1890

 Person

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 16 Collections and/or Records:

Barton family papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS-0020
Scope and Contents The collection consists of the miscellaneous papers of three members of the Barton family who attended VMI 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 notebook (ca. 250 pages)...

Francis H. Smith Circular Letter Soliciting Items to Establish a Museum at VMI

 Item
Identifier: RG-02-Outgoing-18450227
Scope and Contents Virginia Military Institute printed circular, signed in ink by Superintendent Francis H. Smith, petitioning alumni for donations of "Curiousities, both literary and natural" to help establish a Museum at VMI. This examples is dated February 27, 1845, and addressed to William S. Beale, a member of the Class of 1843.

Also mentions addition to Barracks, new Gun House, Society of Cadets Hall, and Library.

Francis H. Smith Official Correspondence. Secession Crisis Letters, 1860-1861. Transcriptions. [Digital]

 Digital Collection
Identifier: RG02.01/Smith/Correspondence/Outgoing/Secession

James W. Breedlove papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS-0168
Scope and Contents Papers, 8 items, of James W. Breedlove. Includes two letters (October 13, 1859; March 11, 1861) from Cadet Breedlove to his grandfather in which he discusses his studies, expenses; two letters from Superintendent Francis H. Smith to Cadet Breedlove's grandfather, acknowledging receipt of money; three VMI quarterly grade reports; one account sheet detailing VMI expenses.

John B. Strange letter

 Collection
Identifier: MS-0153
Scope and Contents Strange's letter to his sister Anne M. Strange 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, including that 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...

John T. L. Preston and Francis H. Smith correspondence

 File
Identifier: RG-01-Correspondence-Preston - Smith
Scope and Contents Correspondence between Francis H. Smith, who became VMI's first Superintendent, and John T. L. Preston relating to the organization and opening of VMI. Includes four letters from Preston to Smith and one letter from Smith to Preston, in which he accepts the job offered by the Board of Visitors to serve as Superintendent (originally called Principal Professor). One related letter is from Francis H. Smith to William Atkinson or Atkison, in which Smith asks for advice about VMI's job offer.

Letter from Francis H. Smith to John T. L. Preston, 1839 July 1

 Digital Image
Identifier: https://digitalcollections.vmi.edu/digital/collection/p15821coll11/id/1442

Letter from Francis H. Smith to William Atkinson (Atkison), 1839 May 6

 Digital Image
Identifier: https://digitalcollections.vmi.edu/digital/collection/p15821coll11/id/1431

Letter, John T. L. Preston to Francis H. Smith, 1889 July 4

 Item
Scope and Contents Poignant letter from Preston to Smith, written on the occasion of VMI's Semicentennial celebration, in which he reminiscences about Smith's role in the founding and growth of the Virginia Military Institute.

Letter to Everitt Saunders and Susan Saunders (Bashaw), 1839 November 30

 Item
Scope and Contents This letter from cadet Valentine C. 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, Virginia, the letter provides a cadet's view of the newly established Institute. Saunders describes the following: Arsenal Relationship with Washington College Method of instruction Course of studies An opinion (favorable) of Superintendent Francis H....