Henry I Smith, Medal of Valor, Civil War
Posted By: Karen (email)
Date: 4/19/2021 at 17:02:52
Henry I. Smith
Black River, SC
GALLANT RESCUE OF A DROWNING COMRADE
AFTER the defeat of Hardee at Averysboro, and just before Johnston made his futile attack at Bentonville, the Fifteenth Corps, General John A. Logan commander, found its advance contested by the Confederates at Black River, some fifteen or eighteen miles south of Bentonville. The enemy having possession of the opposite side of the river, General Rice ordered one regiment to proceed about three-quarters of a mile above and effect a crossing, and three companies from another regiment a half mile down the river to make a demonstration. At that time Lieutenant Henry I. Smith, of Company B, Seventh Iowa Infantry, was aide-de-camp on the staff of Brigadier-General Elliott W. Rice, in command of the First Brigade of the Fourth Division of Logan's Corps. Lieutenant Smith gives the details of service he rendered on this occasion as follows:
" Our progress being retarded by the presence of the enemy at Black River, N. C., on the 15th of March, 1865, I was directed to proceed with a regiment and pontoons, while our corps was engaging the Confederates at the bridge, which had been partly destroyed, farther up the stream and effect a crossing. Normally the river is only a narrow stream, but because of the spring freshets it was at this time swollen to a torrent, very rapid, and away beyond its banks until it was at least a quarter of a mile wide. Proceeding up stream a considerable distance, we began laying our pontoon bridge, when a detachment of the enemy with one piece of artillery located in the woods on the opposite shore opened on us. However, the men of the regiment put down the bridge under a hot fire of musketry across the stream proper-about one hundred feet wide at this point-and by wading waist deep in the ice-cold water and stumbling and crawling over entanglements of underbrush and cypress trees for about a quarter of a mile, they at last effected a crossing and drove the enemy back. During the progress of this crossing one of my command in stepping from the pontoon bridge into the water was caught by the torrent and swept down stream. Seeing the mishap, I threw off my sword and coat and jumped after the man. Presently I reached him, and getting a good grip upon his almost lifeless form I at last succeeded in swimming with him near enough to shore for others to come to our assistance and drag us both out of the flood more dead than alive. Of course, the entire incident occurred under fire, but luckily neither one of us was hit and we recovered sufficiently to take part in the holding of the position gained by the regiment, wearing our wet, icy clothes throughout, until morning, when the entire army began to make the crossing."
Source: Deeds of Valor, p. 490
Henry enlisted at age 21 as a Corporal on 8 Jul 1861. Service record: Promoted to Full Sergeant on 19 Sep 1861.Enlisted in Company B, Iowa 7th Infantry Regiment on 24 Jul 1861.Promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant on 15 Mar 1864.Promoted to Full 1st Lieutenant on 16 Sep 1864.Promoted to Full Captain on 06 Jul 1865.Mustered out on 12 Jul 1865 at Louisville, KY.
Henry was wounded, held as POW and survived the war. He was born 4 May 1840 and died 15 Nov 1910 in Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
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