Quartermaster Abram P. Smith

Alone among the officers of the 76th New York, A.P. Smith has no biography in the 1867 Regimental History. In fact, the History does not even mention his short tenure with the 76th, ending with his resignation (or discharge) from the unit early in 1862.

This is perhaps odd, in that he was the author of the Regimental History. There's no indication as to why this task fell to him, since he was only with the 76th NY for eight months, and left under a cloud before the regiment ever saw action. Maybe then, as now, the job fell to whoever didn't say "no" loudly enough, or maybe Smith was trying to rehabilitate himself, or his friend Col. Nelson Green. We may never know.

In any event, Smith was a close friend of Colonel Green's (they were in law practice in Cortland together, pre-war). In fact, Major Grover's letter entitled "Reply to A.P. Smith" refers to Smith as Green's "other self", and calls him "his familiar, his partner in business." At the founding of the 76th New York, Smith was appointed a First Lieutenant, and the unit's Quartermaster. He was a supporter of Col. Green during the political infighting which threatened to tear the Regiment apart in its earliest days, which were triggered by Green's bizarre behavior, including the shooting of Capt. McNett (see Col. Green's page).

Photo detail from 1886 Gettysburg reunion
courtesy Jeff Kowalis

Smith left the 76th, resigning in April of 1862. For some information as to the circumstances of his resignation or discharge, see the note "Resignation of the Quartermaster" in the last letter on the page "letters of Major Grover", and especially the letter "A reply to A.P. Smith" in the page "more letters from Major Grover".  His letter of resignation read as follows:

Headquarters 76th Reg. N.Y. Vols.
Fort Massachusetts near Washington
April 12th 1862

To the Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, Sec'y of War:

The undersigned, 1st Lieut. and Quarter Master of the 76th Reg. N.Y. Vols. would respectively represent that his family and especially his wife is in such a feeble state of health as to render his presence absolutely necessary at home; that his wife's disease is such that there is no prospect of her ever enjoying good health again. The undersigned would therefore, and does hereby tender to the Department of War his resignation and pray his honorable discharge from service.

I am, Very Respectfully,
Your obt. serv't.
A. P. Smith

The resignation was accepted:

Headquarters, Military District of Washington
Washington, May 12, 1862

Special Order No. 72 ):

Lieut and Q.M. A. P. Smith, 76th N.Y.V. having tendered his resignation is honorably discharged from the military service of the United States.

By command of Brig. General Wadsworth

(Signed) John T. Sherberne
Assistant Adjutant General

I certify that the above is a true copy, and that I have this day paid Q.M. A.P. Smith $72.78/100 in full from May 1st, 1862 to May 16, 1862, both days inclusive.

Will Canuback
Paymaster U.S. Army.
Washington, May 24, 1862

The above documents are from the collection of the Cortland County Historical Society, courtesy of Richard Palmer.

By February of 1863, (see below) Smith was writing the Homer Republican that he was "again with the army," visiting the 76th NY and "on picket with the 10th Cavalry", another regiment with many Cortland County men. It is not clear what he was doing there, however. Maj. Grover CWRT member and historian Richard Palmer, who has been researching the regiment for many years, writes:

"Smith did not re-enlist. He resumed practicing law and running off at the mouth about how everybody else caused his troubles. He and Green were paranoid - Green more so than Smith. Once he was out that was it, even on General McClellan's recommendation to the New York State Adjutant General, who was the final authority. By April, 1862, he was back in Cortland. Even Grover said in so many words they were glad to be rid of them both. Smith was involved in 1864 with raising some black bounty troops to help fill in the ranks, but I think it was for the 185th Infantry and not the 76th."

Despite his resigning on the grounds of his wife's health, and being well enough to visit the various local units in February, in October of 1863 he procured a certificate of exemption from the draft on the grounds of his own disability:


This is to certify, That Abram P. Smith, of Cortland, Cortland county, State of New York, having been drafted, and claiming exemption on account of disability, has been carefully examined and is found to be unfit for military duty by reason of Inguinal Hernia, and, in consequence thereof, he is exempt from service under the present draft.

W.R. Chamberlin
Deputy Provost Marshal, and President of Board of Enrollment.
Wm. Anderson
Member of Board of Enrollment.
John H., Knapp
Surgeon of Board of Enrollment.
Dated at Syracuse, this 5th day of Oct. 1863.

After the war, A.P. Smith was active in veterans' affairs in Cortland County, and at the time of the dedication of the Soldiers' Monument in Cortland in 1879, he gave the "History of the Monument" as the "President of the Monumental Society."

His obituary in the Cortland Standard of July 6, 1897 states "When the regiment was mustered into service he was made quartermaster with the rank of first lieutenant. He resigned this office on May 17, 1862 and returned to Cortland and the practice of his profession. His wife, the former Mary Bronson, died in 1871. They had two children, Dr. David Eugene Smith of Yipslanti, Mich., and Mrs. A.M. Jewitt of Cortland. He was also survived by his second wife, the former Ellen Prince. His mother, Lucy Smith, 87, also was still alive. He had a brother and two sisters, Nathan Smith of Messengerville, Mrs. Angeline Spencer of East Virgil and Mrs. Nancy Cummings of Preble. A.P. Smith was born in the town of Virgil April 9, 1831 and died July 4, 1897.

The following is Smith's entry in the 1898 Book of Biographies of Cortland County

ABRAM P. SMITH, eminent as a lawyer, a judge, and a citizen, was the possessor of a name that will go down to posterity as that of one of Cortland's most distinguished and at the same time most worthy men. On July 4, 1897, this honored gentleman completed a life of usefulness, which from the day when he first came to the time when he rendered his last account, was rounded out with deeds of uprightness and humanity.

Judge Smith entered upon. this life April 9, 1831, at a point in the eastern part of the town of Virgil, this county. He received all the education that the common schools could give, and then took a course at the Homer Academy. After this he entered the State Normal School at Albany, and was graduated with the class of 1853. He had all along intended to become a teacher, but after a year spent at the head of the Marathon schools he decided to read law, and forthwith entered the office of the Hon. Horatio Ballard, with whom he remained until formally admitted to the bar. He was admitted to practice in the State Courts January 8, 1856, and in the United States Courts, January 4, 1874.

The standing, which the young attorney early acquired, can but be appreciated from the fact that in the November following his admission to practice in 1856, he was elected to the responsible position of district attorney for Cortland County. This post he held for the term of three years, and in 1859 was the Republican candidate for County Judge.

At the breaking out of the late war, Mr. Smith enlisted as a private in the famous "fighting" 76th Reg. N. Y. Vol. Inf., which was raised mainly from this section, and when the regiment was mustered into the United States service, he was commissioned quartermaster, with the rank of 1st Lieut. He resigned from this position in May, 1862, and returned to his home to resume the practice of his profession.

Mr. Smith was elected judge and Surrogate of Cortland County in 1867, and served three full terms, the first being of four years, and the other two of six years each. Up to this time his service of sixteen years was the longest of any man in a similar position in the state.

During the earlier years of his practice, Judge Smith had been alone in business, but after his retirement from the bench, the calls upon his time became so many that he associated with him his son, under the style of A. P. & D. E. Smith. About a year later, the son retired and his place was taken by Dorr C. Smith. The latter remained with the Judge until 1889, when he gave way to Henry A. Dickinson. The firm of Smith & Dickinson existed until the demise of our subject.

Judge Smith was a man who has left a noble mark on the records of the Cortland County Bar. Among the men who received their early legal training under his direction are many who are forging their way on to usefulness and honor. He was in his practice pre-eminently a jury lawyer. Alert, facile, and shrewd, few men could try a case with greater ease. Quick to back Lip an assertion with cited authorities, his words ever carried conviction to the mind of the hearer. As a Judge, he was clean, clear, concise and decided. Few rulings of his ever admitted a questioning doubt. In politics, he was always a factor in the Republican party, and during the days of the late R. Holland Duell, the two made a combination in which was centered a large portion of the political power of Cortland County. As a public speaker, Judge Smith was perhaps at his best. Full of native mother wit, apt in story or simile, and of exceedingly pleasant address, his services were ever in demand, and it is no great wonder that he was so well known and so popular.

As a writer, he, too, was skilled. His history of the 76th Regiment is a work of real excellence, and is highly prized by his old comrades. Judge Smith's social and fraternal relations were of the pleasantest. The G. A. R. claimed him as a member of Grover Post, No. 98, and his best thoughts and kindliest wishes were always with his former comrades.

It has been truthfully said that few men have ever had a wider acquaintance in Cortland County than did Judge Smith. This was due both to his active professional life and to his political standing. He was a man who was interested in all things of moment. To young men he was ever a helping friend. He loved to see the community, the State, and the Nation progress and prosper. Almost up to the time of his death, he was a busy and energetic lawyer and citizen.

Judge Smith was twice wedded. First to Mary Bronson, born in Virgil, this county, who became the mother of two children, and who died about 1871. His second wife was Ellen Prince, who survives him. Of the children from the first marriage, Dr. David Eugene Smith is living at Ypsilanti, Mich., and his sister, who is the wife of A. M. Jewett, now resides in Cortland. The son, Dr. Smith, is now head professor of mathematics at the Ypsilanti, Mich Normal School, and is a gentleman of high standing and marked attainments. Lucy Smith, the Judge's honored mother, is still living, at the advanced age of eighty-seven.

The funeral of Judge Smith was an event of note in Cortland, for the best men of the community gathered to do homage to all that was mortal of their friend and acquaintance, the "little Judge," as he was familiarly termed. The G. A. R. Post and Cortland County Bar Association attended in a body. Some of the remarks then made show how the Judge was held in the community. Said a gentleman of standing: "No attorney in the history of this county ever worked harder or more successfully for clients without expectation of reward than did he." "No lawyer ever helped so many young men to acquire a knowledge of the legal profession as did Judge Smith." "No man ever helped more people through financial difficulties according to his means." Such were the encomiums uttered, and such was the man.

Photos below by Mike Brown, taken at Cortland Rural Cemetery, July 1, 1999



Letters of A.P. Smith

FEBRUARY 27, 1862 Pg 2


FRIEND DIXON:- Last week I sent you a list of officers and men to take the place of the accustomed letter. I wish I had something this week to answer the same purpose. We have finally reached camp, and the monotony of camp life is upon us. The Regiment came to Meridian Hill on Tuesday the 4th inst. The ground was damp. Straw could not be procured for two or three days and then only in limited quantities and yet the boys endured the privations of their new life in truly heroic style. The camp is situated upon the northern slope of the hill, upon which stands, within a few rods of our camp, the former residence of Commodore Porter.

Here too, immediately in our camp stands the monument of his little daughter. It was once a beautiful monument, but not only has the chisel of time sculptured grotesquely the sacred pile, but war has laid its desolating hand upon it as it has upon everything in this fated region. The other day in passing it I saw its base used as a receptacle for mess pans, camp kettles and other camp equipage, while the stranger soldiers made merry around the spot so sacred in other days. War regards none of the social ties considered so sacred in civil life.

Washington on this side of the Potomac is surrounded by a circle of little hills which rise from fifty to one hundred and fifty feet above the level of the surrounding country. The bases of these hills are from two to three miles from the centre of the city. On their summits are fine residences which before the war were crowded with evergreens and shrubbery, and fine walks and trellised vines; but now the heavy army wagons and continued tramp of army teams have rendered the walks almost impassible on account of the mud; the trees are girdled by the horses and in many instances have been cut down by the soldiery for wood; the shrubbery is eaten off, and ruin is written upon everything. I have found but one spot since I came here which had not evidently felt the blight of war, and that is a cemetery. There the cone shaped cedars rear their heads as loftier and the sod upon the graves remains as unbroken as in the days of peace.

Everywhere besides are plainly seen the baneful influences of war.- There are thousands of acres hereabouts whereon you cannot see a fence; the orchards even have been cut down for wood. What a severe punishment this war would prove to the rebels, were they to realize all the final success that the most ardent among them could wish. It will take years to place their country in the same state that it was when this rebellion broke out.

Well, the light seems to be dawning at last. Our recent brilliant victories have inspired and every day inspiring our army with new life and new zeal. The impression no longer prevails that this is to be made and endless war for the benefit of contractors; but that is to be brought to a speedy though it may be a bloody termination; and we who have left our families and business to serve our country will be permitted honorably to return to that home around which cluster our hearts fondest affections. If the reverses overtake us, the war can last but a little longer. Such seems to be the impression in Washington.

The only danger is to be found in the fact that the war may be terminated before the upas tree that has poisoned the public mind and brought about this rebellion, shall be thoroughly rooted out.- I want to return to my home as much as any one, but never do I want to see Cortland again until Slavery is wiped out now, and forever from the whole of this country. You may as well whitewash or cover with a plaster the ugly cancer and cry "it is well," because you can't see its festering death, as to say this war is settled or the rebellion crushed while the festering matter of Slavery is left to eat out the vitals of the Government.- God defend us from that sort of statesmanship, if I may thus belie and abuse the term!

Talking about slavery reminds me that I have a "contraband." Yesterday a fine looking negro boy about 19 years old came to my tent to hire out. After learning his history I struck a bargain with him. He escaped about five months since from his master who is a captain in the rebel service. He says his "massa" is the owner of over 140 slaves and lives near Bull Run. He is anxious to meet "massa" on even terms on the battlefield, and I have promised him that if He is faithful, I will retain for him the best Enfield rife in the 947, for that special purpose.

I intend to be around when that contest of races takes place; and yet I am not sure I speak correctly when I say contest of races for Alfred is about half white and undoubtedly not a very distant relative of "massa". But with your permission I will retain the expression "contest of races;" for if the Southerners fight upon the principle lately acted upon it will be a contest of races in which "massa" will take the lead and Alfred will follow close after with his Enfield. Alfred says there are black companies in the South which are compelled to fight for the South; but their sympathies are all with the North as they have heard that this war is to set them free. How the bondman's heart must throb at that thought!

The other day I met Mr. John S. Poler in the city and he called my attention to the existence of a society which has for its object the aiding of soldiers in receiving packages from their funds. I send you a circular which I hope you will publish in your paper for the benefit of those who intend to send such packages. Packages sent by the ordinary process, are likely to be delayed in the mass of matter of that kind at the depot, and then I understood Mr. Poler that the boxes sent in care of the committee, come at reduced rates of fare. When they arrive here addressed properly they are taken to the Patent office and the party notified. It is a great convenience to the soldiers situated as we are, where we cannot enquire daily for packages at the Depot.

We have been favored with several calls from old acquaintances; among whom are Hon. R.H. Duell; E. Clark Carley of Marathon and Messrs. J.B. Horton, Geo. Hohnab, J.A. Graham and J.C. Carmichael of Cortland. Come on friends we will give you the best of camp life.

I am very grateful for the announcement made in your paper the other day of my success in the cases of Pope vs. Hart and People vs Wilcox at the General term. It was the first intimation I had of it. Though I have for the time being thrown aside the law book and red tape, I cannot but rejoice at the success of my clients who have entrusted business in my hands.

Yours truly,

A. P. Smith

MARCH 12, 1863
WHOLE NO. 1975



Again with the army, I re-open my correspondence with you, supposing that the friends of those who have gone forth to save their country, will be pleased to hear from them. I have heretofore given you the preliminaries of soldiers experience. I propose now in a few letters to give you a brief description of the sights, sounds and experiences of camp life, as seen here in the face of the enemy.

D.L. Bronson and Charles B. Gleason of Virgil, and "your own" started from Washington on Thursday, Feb. 5th, around with papers from the Secretary of War, procured on the recommendation of Hon. R. H. Duell. Our Representative is still too sick to see his friends. Complaint, jaundice and fever.- We started at 8 A.M., down the Potomac on the steamer Zypher. A violent snow storm soon set in covering the deck to the depth of three or four inches, hiding the shores from our views and driving us into the cabin for shelter. Arrived at Acquia Creek about two P.M. Here we were surprised at finding no village - not a solitary building except temporary ones thrown up by the government.- But everything was activity showing it to be a very important point at present. The bay was full of ships, sloops, steamers, barges, and in fact all sorts and descriptions of water craft that could be made serviceable by the government in the transportation of men, provisions or munitions of war. This is the base of supplies and from here the provisions &c., are distributed to the vast army now on the Rappahannock.

About three P.M. we took the freight train from Falmouth, a distance of about fifteen miles, where we arrived about five o'clock, in the midst of a terrible rain storm. And here for the benefit of those who propose to visit friends in the Army, let me suggest that before leaving Washington they ascertain the grand division, corps, division, brigade and regiment, to which their friends are attached, as well as its locality. We had not taken this precaution, and hence we had much difficulty in finding our friends.

In the morning took the cars for Acquia and the boat at Belle Plaine, six or eight miles below Acquia. We found Capt. M. C. Clark, of the 23d. To these who know the Captain we need not say we were hospitably entertained till morning and sent on our way with a guide to the 10th N.Y. Cavalry. The 23d Regiment, - one company of which it will be recollected was raised in Cortland early in 1861, is doing provost duty under Gen. Patrick Provost Marshal of the army of the Potomac. Capt. Clark's headquarters are at Belle Plains. His company occupy houses built by the rebels when they occupied the place in the winter of 1861-2. Here is also a fort built by the rebels at the same time. The houses are built of logs and covered with split staves, 2 or 3 layers of which constitute either half of the roof - This is the covering of nearly all the negro houses and some of the other residences of this vicinity.

The 10th Cavalry are encamped about two miles from Belle Plaine, nearly south.- Here we found many familiar faces from Cortland County, whom we shall be pleased to mention hereafter, for the benefit of their friends. Here "your own" look the horse of his brother-in-law, C. H. Homer, and accompanied by F. A. Gee, Orderly sergeant, made a flying visit to the 76th, two or three miles distant. What a mingling of pleasure and disappointment!

Never was an hour spent more agreeably than in going from tent to tent and shaking hands again with the officers and men I had l learned by an association of eight months to respect and love; but when this was over and we thought of Crandall, Stamp, Owen and Banker, and the scores of other noble men who have fallen since that time on the battle field or slowly wasted away with disease, a cloud came over the scene.

Of the 800 I left eight months ago, but about 200 are now found in camp fit for duty. I could wish for space to narrate the individual cases of heroism which have placed the regiment in the enviable position which it at present occupies. But lest I trespass upon your patience I shall give but one, out of the many told me. At the battle of Fredericksburg it became necessary to support a battery in a very dangerous and important position. Gen. Doubleday to whom the 76th is well known, inquired of acting Brigadier Gavin commanding the brigade to which the 76th was attached, how many men he had in each of his regiments. The Brigadier gave the number of each showing the 76th to be much fewer in number than any other in the brigade. "Send me the 76th New York to support the battery," said Gen. Doubleday. "but General, that is the smallest regiment in the brigade," replied the Brigadier. "No matter," said Gen Doubleday, "send me the 76th New York. If they can't hold the battery no regiment in the service can." Words could not more clearly convey the appreciation in which one of the best Generals in the service, held one of the best regiments.

The regiment is located about two miles from Belle Plaine in a south easterly direction. It has about 200 men present for duty and about 450 on the rolls. The Col. (Wainwright) is a man of education and wealth and "the boys" tell all sorts of stories about his bravery. If they are to be believed, (and I never distrusted them,) the Colonel would eat a hearty meal of hard tack in his saddle in front of all the batteries in Jeff Davis' dominion. If I don't find too much matter pressing upon me I may give some of their examples of his courage.

I am now on picket on the Rappahannock eight or ten miles below Fredericksburg with the 10th Cavalry.

More anon,
A.P. Smith

Transcribed by B. Conrad Bush from the Cortland County Republican, Homer, NY found on microfilm at Cortland Public Library, Cortland, NY.

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