Gerrit Smith during the Civil War

GERRIT SMITH DURING THE CIVIL WAR (this list is by no means complete)

 Compiled by  Donna Burdick- Smithfield Town Historian


Apr. 27, 1861 – In a “War Meeting” in Peterboro [prob. at Presbyterian Church], Gerrit Smith announces that the people are on the side of the Union, and that the government must be upheld.  He had long been an advocate of peace, but “I have never spoken against putting down traitors.”  Then although he charged the South with responsibility for beginning hostilities, he urged lenient treatment of her leaders if and when captured, because the North had been equally guilty with the South in upholding slavery.  [p. 428 Harlow; footnote says “April 27, 1861” – perhaps a printed broadside from the event, or Harlow may have been quoting from Smith’s speech, which appears on p. 270 of Frothingham]

 May 15, 1861 – Gerrit Smith, among others, gave a short [?], patriotic speech to the “Peterboro Volunteer Company” at a meeting held at the Presbyterian Church.  [Oneida Sachem, May 16, 1861]  This company was later incorporated into the 35th NY Vol. Infantry.

  Utica Morning Herald & Daily Gazette, Thurs., Sept. [16], 1862, 0956.PDF, No. 442200

                                                                                                            Smithfield, Sept. 15

Hon. Gerrit Smith has donated twenty-five dollars to each volunteer from this town who has enlisted under the last call of the President.  The town has raised more than the whole quota of men required by the last two calls of the President. . . .


Sept. 25, 1862 – At a farewell reception [held on Peterboro village green] for the 157th NY Vol. Infantry, raised in Madison and Cortland Cos.,  Smith is on horseback when addressing the troops.  He  “authorizes the colonel to put a New Testament into the knapsack of each soldier and draw on him for the amount.”  [Utica Morning Herald, Sept. 29, 1862]  Smith also gave $500 to the regiment to be expended for stationery  [A Regiment Remembered:  The 157th New York Volunteers, from the Diary of William Saxton.  Cortland, NY:  Cortland County Historical Society, 1996, p. 16]


1861, 62, 63 – In a series of speeches, printed for general distribution, Smith emphasized the necessity of upholding the Union and defeating the Confederacy, i.e., “No Terms with Traitors,” Aug. 13, 1861; speech delivered at Washington, DC, Mar. 6, 1862; “Stand by the Government,” Feb. 17, 1863.  [p. 431-32 Harlow]


Mar. 1863 – Smith offered to contribute $3,000 to a fund of $20,000, which George L. Stearns was raising, to equip Negro troops.  [p. 436-37 Harlow; the author says that Smith became disillusioned with the actual experience of black recruits but continued to advocate their use.]

 May 1863 – Smith became involved with the Loyal League movement.  [p. 432-33 Harlow]


 July 22, 1863 – Smith contributed $1,000 for the relief of both white and black victims of the draft riots in New York City.  [p. 437 Harlow]


Aug.-Nov. 1863 – When the town of Smithfield undertook to pay $300 to every drafted citizen of the town or to his substitute, Smith agreed to make the payment out of his own pocket.  This promise cost him $3,600 inside of a month.  By Nov. 1863, Smithfield, with a population of 1,509, had furnished 129 men for the army.  [p. 437 Harlow; signed statement of Smith, Aug. 23, 1863; report from Provost Marshal’s office, 22nd Dist., NYS, Sept. 19, 1863; Madison Observer, Nov. 11, 1863]


Madison Observer, Nov. 11, 1863, p. 2, c. 2    complete article as referenced by Harlow above

SMITHFIELD’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE WAR.—From statements made to the Bureau of Military Statistics at Albany, it appears that the town of Smithfield, in this county, containing a population of 1,509 inhabitants, furnished from the outbreak of the war to July 2d, 1862…………………………………………………       25 men

Between July 2, 1862 and Oct. 29, ’63……………………………… 72

Whole No. volunteers raised………………………………… 97 “

Add to this by draft, in person……………………………………….    3 “

No. furnished by substitute…………………………………………..    9 “

No. commuting by payment of $300………………………………… 13 “

            The men raised in this town were mainly for the 35th Reg’t., Co. H, and 157th Reg’t., Co. F.  The sum of $3,880.76 was raised by subscription to promote enlistments and to aid the families of volunteers.  Since July 1st, 1863, the further sum of $3,600 was raised by subscription to alleviate the draft, and the greater portion of both these subscriptions was the magnificent donation of Hon. Gerrit Smith.

            Through the efforts of the Ladies’ Aid Society, and by individual contributions, the town has sent to the various hospitals, to the Sanitary Commission and to soldiers in the field, for their use and comfort, over $1,000.

            Action has already been taken to raise the necessary funds to furnish the town’s quota under the last call for troops.


Madison Observer, Nov. 25, 1863, p. 2, c. 2

SMITHFIELD.—The people of the town of Smithfield are making a vigorous and successful effort to save the town from the approaching Draft.  The quota of the town is about 25, and it is proposed to give a town bounty of $100 to that number of volunteers, in addition to the present liberal State and National bounties.  Sufficient funds have already been raised to ensure the success of the movement.


Madison Observer, Dec. 9, 1863, p. 2, c. 2

A COUNTY BOUNTY.—A special meeting of the Board of Supervisors of this county is to be held in this village to-day.  The call is made for the purpose of taking action relative to a county bounty to be offered to volunteers, in order to escape the coming draft.  In many of the counties of the State provision has been made for offering liberal bounties for volunteers; and unless the Board shall adopt a similar course, no effort will be made to avoid the draft in any of the towns, with the exception of Smithfield, where the liberal town bounty of $400 has been pledged to volunteers up to its quota, by Hon. Gerrit Smith.


Madison Observer, Dec. 16, 1863, p. 2, c. 6

A COUNTY BOUNTY.—It will be seen by the published proceedings of the Board of Supervisors, that they offer a bounty of $300 to all volunteers from this county who shall be mustered in on the last call for troops.  In case the whole quota of the county is raised by volunteers, the bounty fund is to be made a county charge; otherwise, each town is to pay for the volunteers obtained and credited on its quota of men. . . .

Smithfield       - enrolled 94   - quota 19


Mar. 12, 1864 – Gerrit Smith presents the original draft of the first Emancipation Proclamation, dated Sept. 22, 1862, to the U. S. Sanitary Commission.  He had won the draft in a lottery on March 9.  (It is believed that he purchased a large number of tickets.)  [“Freedom Document Up for Grabs in $1 Lottery,” by Mason Tolman, Associate Librarian, New York State Library, in Centennial Commission’s publication on the role of NYS in the Civil War, date?]  This draft is now in the NYS Library.


July 2d, 1864



To the people of the Town of Smithfield.

Broadside calling for a Madison County Regiment and suggesting that Smithfield provide between thirty and forty men.  Meeting to be held on 13th instant to decide how large a Bounty they will be paid, and in what way they will raise it.  By this action, Smithfield would exempt itself from the approaching Draft and afford more reasonable help to our beloved and imperiled country.  Signed by:

                                                                        JAMES BARNETT,

                                                                        CALEB CALKINS,

                                                                        CHA’S. D. MILLER,

                                                                        E. D. BACON,

                                                                        GERRIT SMITH.


[Gerrit Smith Papers, Syracuse University, Box No. 540-599 ) Smith Pamphlets, Smith Nos. 1-102 (loose leaf volume of Gerrit Smith Speeches)]          See next item of July 20, 1864.


Madison Observer, July 20, 1864, p. 2, c. 2

TOWN BOUNTIES.--. . . The meeting of the citizens of Smithfield, held at Peterboro last week, did not result in any definite action.  Part of the meeting were in favor of raising a town bounty by tax, as most equitable; while Gerrit Smith favored voluntary contributions, offering to give one-half of the amount (estimated at $20,000) necessary to be raised.  The meeting adjourned, without adopting any plan for bounties, until a call is issued for more troops.  See the related article, “Stand by the Government,” in The Daily Journal, Ogdensburgh, NY, July 18, 1864.


The Civil War:  A Concise History, by Louis P. Masur.  New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 69

            Republicans such as Gerrit Smith, a founder of the Liberty Party, a social activist and philanthropist, and one of the secret six who had supported John Brown, denounced McClellan’s nomination [for President on the Democratic ticket].  Calling the Democratic Party “neither more nor less than the Northern wing of the rebellion,” he ridiculed McClellan’s “pathetic appeal for the votes of soldiers and sailors.  What an impudent affectation in him to profess regard for these brave and devoted men, whilst he worms his way up to the platform in which the cause they are battling, bleeding and dying for is condemned and its abandonment called for.”14

            That appeal worried Lincoln and the Republicans, who knew how loyal the men were to the chivalrous McClellan. . . .

14Gerrit Smith on McClellan’s Nomination and Acceptance (New York:  Loyal Publication Society, 1864), 10.