Francis H. Smith Papers
Trip to Europe, 1858
Full-Text Letters & Report
Full-Text Letters with Annotations - The European Trip
Full-Text Related Document
Special Report to the Board of Visitors, 1859. Scientific Education in Europe
About the Letters and Report
In 1858, after nearly twenty years as Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, Francis H. Smith needed some time off. Consequently, he was granted a leave of absence by the VMI Board of Visitors to travel to Europe to visit military, scientific, and agricultural institutions and to write a report on his findings upon his return.
Smith and several young alumni departed on the 9th of June and returned at the end of December 1858 having visited Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy. Each night, he wrote a letter home to his wife Sarah describing what he had seen and experienced that day. These letters, possibly Smith's only personal correspondence that has survived, were transcribed into three small letter books on his return.
Over the years, the three volumes passed down through the Smith family, but sadly one was lost. Col. Edwin Dooley, a historian who has done extensive research on Smith, transcribed and annotated the two surviving letter books covering Smith’s travels through the United Kingdom and France. The original letter books were donated to the VMI Archives in 2013 through the estate of Alexander Morrison, VMI Class of 1939, a descendant of Gen. Smith.
The official records of Superintendent Smith are complete and housed in the VMI Archives. They span his 50 years of service to VMI, 1839-1889.