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Francis H. Smith & the Secession Crisis
Letters, 1860-1861

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Read the Full Text Secession Crisis Letters Gazette1860smith 

 Transcription, annotation, and commentary by Col. Edwin L. Dooley, Jr. 

Francis H. Smith was educated at the United States Military Academy, served in the Seminole Wars, was one of the founders of a forward-looking military and scientific school – the Virginia Military Institute – traveled throughout Europe looking for new educational ideas, and was a proponent of internal improvements and progress. On the question of slavery, states rights, and in the secession crisis of 1860-61, however, he remained a determined and unshakable Southerner. Like so many other Southerners, Smith saw the work of Northern abolitionists as a frontal attack on the culture and society of the South, on its economy, and – perhaps most of all – on its honor.

The compilation of letters included herein chronicles the rapid evolution of Smith’s stand in the secession crisis from a proponent of compromise to the position of outright support for Virginia secession. His stance is tempered by his own experience of warfare and his dread that the inevitable conflict between North and South would be “one of the most bitter struggles that history has ever recorded.”

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