William Hanley Smith (1838-1907)

William Hanley Smith was born in the Harmar section of Marietta, Washington County, Ohio to Elijah Gates Smith and his wife Eliza Hanley. Although four children were born to the family, only William and a younger brother, John Wesley Smith, lived to adulthood. They grew up near the banks of the Ohio River—a prominent feature of everyday life for the boys.

They were both educated in the local school at Harmar and attended the Methodist Church, in which the family was very active. When the Civil War broke out, the anti-slavery Smith family was heavily involved. William’s father, Elijah Gates Smith, and his brother, John, as well as William, all served in the Union forces. The Smith family was one of those split by the Civil War as well. One of Elijah Gates Smith's brothers, William Smith, had severed all ties with the family and moved to Geogia. His sons-- William Hanley Smith's first cousins--fought for the Confederacy. William's maternal uncle, John C. Hanley, also fought for the Confedracy in the Mississippi forces.

William Hanley Smith was the Mate for the tinclad steamer, the Cricket, which participated in the Red River campaign. The most notable action for the boat occurred when more than 2500 Confederates attacked them from the high bluffs that lined the river while they were retreating upstream. Because of damage to the fleet, the tiny Cricket was serving as the flagship with Admiral Porter on board. The initial fire and apparent disabling of the boat led the Confederates to believe the Cricket was more damaged than she actually was. The Confederates then turned their fire on another tinclad, the Juliet

“In the four minutes the Cricket sustained the enemy’s fire, she had twelve killed and nineteen wounded, most of the latter severely. She was struck thirty-eight times with shell…” (The Naval History of the Civil War, p. 522). As an officer, William Hanley Smith would have been among those who replaced the dead and incapacitated sailors with other crew members, including escaped blacks whom they had picked up along the Mississippi. These African-Americans manned two of the six guns. This new group was able to direct their fire on the enemy until they were driven from their guns.

“The whole ship’s company of this little vessel amounted to but fifty persons, of whom one third were negroes picked up along the Mississippi; but there was no flinching, although the 'Cricket' had but four officers, all of whom were wounded. One gentleman, a guest on board, said he came in this expedition expecting to see fighting and had now seen of it all he wanted.” (Ibid.)

After this battle, the Cricket went in for repairs and Williams was transferred to the tinclad Sibyl for the duration of his service. After the war, William worked as a clerk in Marietta, Ohio. He married at Harmar, Ohio, Esther Daniels, daughter of Reverend Abraham and Sarah (Bartlett) Daniels. William wrote a letter in the 1870s to his maternal uncle Michael Finley Hanley in Oregon, indicating that tough economic times had taken their toll on William’s fortunes. William must have decided a move west would improve his prospects and the family moved to Kansas City in between 1875 (when his son Ralph was born in Harmar) and 1880. We find William in city directories of the period, again working as a clerk for a tobacco company. The Smith family resided at 2632 Elm Street in Kansas City.

 

The Naval History of the Civil War is on Google Books: http://www.books.google.com For more on the Cricket: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/sh-usn/usnsh-c/cricket.htm http://www.navyandmarine.org/ondeck/1862usscricket.htm  William's tombstone:  http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Smith&GSfn=William&GSbyrel=in&GSdyrel=in&GSst=26&GScnty=1444&GScntry=4&GSob=n&GRid=22142&df=all&