A Civil War Biography

Green Clay Smith

Smith was born 4 July 1826 in Richmond, Madison County, Kentucky. He was the nephew of Kentucky abolitionist and Mexican war general Cassius M. Clay. Cassius was a cousin of Henry Clay. Smith also fought in the war with Mexico having been commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the 1st Kentucky Volunteer Infantry on 9 June 1846.

Upon returning from the service he entered Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky from which he graduated in 1849. He then attended Lexington Law School obtaining a law degree in 1852. He was admitted to the bar that same year and entered into practice with his father, John Speed Smith., a prominent Kentucky politician and member of the US Congress. Green Smith served in Covington as the school commissioner from 1853 until 1857. He was elected to the state legislature in 1860 as a staunch supporter of the Union.

He was commissioned colonel of the 4th Kentucky (Union) Volunteer Cavalry on 15 March 1862. On 5 May 1862 the 4th Kentucky along with two other regiments, all under the command of Ebenezer Dumont, routed Confederate forces commanded by John Hunt Morgan at Lebanon, Tennessee. This would prove to be the pinnacle of Smith's military career. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on 2 July 1862 and was given command of the 2nd Division / Army of Kentucky on 25 August 1862 until 14 October of that same year on which date he was put in command of the 1st Brigade / 2nd Division / Army of Kentucky.

He was elected to the US House of Representatives as an Unconditional Unionist from Kentucky's 6th district in the election of 1862 and took his seat in Congress on 4 March 1863. He resigned his commission on 4 December 1863. He was brevetted major general of volunteers on 13 March 1865 for his service during the war. Smith remained in Congress until he was appointed Governor of the Montana Territory on 13 July 1866 by President Andrew Johnson. Smith resigned from that post on 9 April 1869 and moved to Washington DC.

He was ordained a Baptist minister that same year and became pastor of the Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky. He spent much of his time as an evangelist, preaching at many special services. An ardent temperance advocate Smith was the candidate of the National Prohibition Party in 1876. He received a total of 9,522 votes. In 1890 he became pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Church of Washington, DC and still held that position when he died on 29 June 1895.

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