Facebook Twitter

Donate to BlackPast Blog
  • African American History
  • African American History in the West
  • Global African History
  • Perspectives

NOTE: will not disclose, use, give or sell any of the requested information to third parties.

1 + 2 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Rock the Vote

NAAAS & Affiliates 27th Joint National Conference

Shop Amazon and help in the Classroom

Smith, Andrew Jackson (1843-1932)

Image Ownership: Public domain

Andrew Jackson Smith was the last black Civil War soldier to receive a Medal of Honor. Smith was born on September 3, 1843, into slavery to Susan, an enslaved African American woman, and her white owner, Elijah Smith, in Lyon County, Kentucky. When his father enlisted in the Confederate army, intending to bring Smith along as a servant, Andrew and another slave ran away. After walking 25 miles through the rain, they arrived at a Union army encampment in Smithland, Kentucky. They were admitted to the camp, and Smith, in order to remain under the military’s protection, became a servant to Major John Warner of the 41st Illinois Volunteer Regiment.

During his time with the 41st, Smith witnessed the battle of Shiloh and sustained a minor injury from a spent bullet. In 1862, while on a furlough in Illinois with Major Warner, he learned of President Lincoln’s decision allowing black men to fight for the Union once the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863. Subsequently, he left the relative safety of Illinois, a free state, and enlisted with the 55th Massachusetts Colored Volunteers who would soon be sent south to the fighting.

On November 30, 1864, as part of the Savannah Campaign led by General William T. Sherman, the 55th and other Union regiments engaged Confederate forces at Honey Hill in South Carolina. When an exploding shell killed his unit’s color bearer, Smith picked up the battle flags and carried them for the rest of the battle. Despite a high casualty rate in the battle, which ended in a defeat for Union troops, he willingly exposed himself to enemy fire by carrying the flags. Later, he was promoted to color sergeant.

After the war, Andrew Smith moved to Eddyville, Kentucky, where he purchased land. Dr. Burt G. Wilder, the 55th Massachusetts’s surgeon, undertook efforts in the following years to get Smith recognition for his bravery at Honey Hill. In 1916, Smith, then 73, was nominated for the Medal of Honor; however, the nomination was denied due to a lack of official reports about his actions. Likely due to suffering an injury early in the battle, the regimental commander had not mentioned Smith’s heroism in the battle report. On March 4, 1932, Andrew Jackson Smith passed away in Eddyville, Kentucky.

In 2001, 137 years after the Battle of Honey Hill, President Bill Clinton presented a posthumous Medal of Honor to Andrew Jackson Smith’s descendants in an official ceremony at the White House.


University of Washington, Seattle

Entry Categories:

Copyright 2007-2017 - v3.0 NDCHost - California | | Your donations help us to grow. | We welcome your suggestions. | Mission Statement is an independent non-profit corporation 501(c)(3). It has no affiliation with the University of Washington. is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Washington, a state-wide non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the state of Washington, and contributions from individuals and foundations.