|Alexander Smith||House of Alexander Smith|
SMITH, (Captain) ALEXANDER, retired, Jacksonville, Ill., enjoys the distinction of having been the first man to enlist in the first company of the first regiment to go into camp for active service in the Civil War. Captain Smith was born in Eaton, Ohio, June 27, 1844, a son of Alexander and Ellen Elizabeth (Ritchie) Smith. His father, who was born in Petersburg, Va., removed to Pennsylvania, where he married, and thence migrated to Ohio. He died in Iowa in 1857. His wife was born in Montpelier, Vt.
Early in life Captain Smith started to learn the saddler's trade, and was thus engaged at Atlanta, Ill., at the outbreak of the Civil War. Upon receipt of the news from Washington and President Lincoln's first call for volunteers, he immediately abandoned his work upon a set of harness he was making, and hastened to enlist. This was upon the 15th day of April, 1861; but as the organization of his company was not completed until the day following, the date of enlistment has been officially recorded as on April 16th. A summary of his record in the service of the Union during the Civil War is as follows:
Enlisted as a private in Company E, Seventh Illinois Volunteer Infantry, April 16, 1861, at Atlanta, Ill., at the age of sixteen years and ten months; promoted to Corporal April 29, 1861; re-enlisted and promoted to First Lieutenant July 25, 1861, at the age of seventeen years and one month; promoted to Captain at Corinth, Miss., November 12, 1862, at the age of eighteen years and four months; reenlisted in the veteran service, with the rank of Captain, December 22, 1863, at the age of nineteen years and six months; mustered out at Louisville, Ky., July 9, 1865, having just passed his twenty-first birthday; final discharge at Springfield, Ill., July 13, 1865. The principal battles and campaigns in which he participated were as follows: Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Siege of Corinth, battle of Corinth, Town Creek, Ala., Florence, Ala., George campaign, Allatoona Pass, March to the Sea, Savannah, Carolina campaign, battle of Bentonville, Columbia, Neuse River Bridge, surrender of General Johnston's Army, and the Grand Review at Washington.
One of the most noteworthy incidents in the many engagements in which Captain Smith and his command participated occurred at the memorable battle of Allatoona Pass ("Hold the Fort.") His regiment there engaged, was armed with the Henry rifle, a sixteen shooter, now known as the Winchester rifle. In this fight, in which twelve hundred men of the Union forces were pitted against the comparatively over-whelming force of six thousand Confederates, Captain Smith's company suffered a greater loss, compared with the numbers engaged, than any other during the entire Civil War. He took into battle a company of fifty-one men, of whom forty-one were lost. During the engagement, one of the fiercest of the whole war, the flag carried by the regiment was perforated by two hundred and seventeen bullets. It is also a fact worthy of note, that though Captain Smith was a participant in many of the most sanguinary battles of the war, he was never captured by the enemy, was never disabled by sickness, and was never wounded. Through an error, common in the work of enrollment, his name appeared on the muster rolls as John Alexander Smith, and this name has been retained in the records at Washington to this day.
Upon the close of the war Captain Smith located at Mattoon, Ill., where from 1866 to 1869 he was employed as clerk in the "Essex House." In the latter year he removed to Jacksonville, becoming clerk, and afterward manager, of the "Dunlap House." This property ultimately fell into the possession of the Northwestern Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wis., from whom he secured the title by purchase in 1880. This hotel, and the "Park Hotel," of Jacksonville, which he purchase din 1883, have since remained in his possession. For the first few years of his proprietorship he managed both hotels at different times, until, after he had remodeled the "Dunlap House," he devoted his time exclusively to the latter until January 1, 1904, when he leased it to others. Though still owning both properties, he is now living in retirement at his attractive home, No. 1153 West State Street.
Though a stanch adherent of Republican principles, Captain Smith has never sought nor filed public office. He has taken an interest in but one of the secret or fraternal societies, aside from those organized by veterans of the Civil War - the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He is a member of the Matt Starr Post, No. 378, G. A. R., of Jacksonville, of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the Untied States, and the Society of the army of the Tennessee - the oldest of the Civil War societies, which was organized April 9, 1865, the day on which Lee surrendered.
Captain Smith was married April 7, 1875, to Josephine Marie Litzelman, who was born in Terre Haute, Ind., of Alsatian descent. Her father, Mathis Litzelman, located in Jasper County, Ill., where he resided for many years. Captain and Mrs. Smith have an adopted son, Alexander Smith, Jr., who enlisted for service in the Spanish-American War at Kansas City, Mo., with the Third Missouri Infantry. During the summer of 1904 he acted as manager of the "American Hotel," at St. Louis, Mo., erected for the accommodation of visitors to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.
Personally, Captain Smith has taken a lively interest in those movements organized to advance the general welfare of Jacksonville. He is honored by his fellow-citizens as a man of public spirit and exemplary character, and as one of the most devoted patriots of the great state of Illinois. His splendid war record alone entitles his name to a position of honor among the citizens of the Commonwealth.