Category Archives: family

John Henry Smith: Oldest Brother Goes to War

John Henry Smith 1823-1864

The Young Boy

The oldest brother of my great-grandmother Ann Marie Smith (Butts) had reached twelve years old when my great-grandmother Ann was born.  Being the oldest child of Isaac and Mary Maria Krigbaum Smith, John Henry Smith came to Knox County, Ohio from Maryland with the family when at nine or ten years old.

By the time they moved to Ohio, the Smith family had grown to include five children.  The community they moved to had been settled by fellow Maryland Catholics and in the 1830s, you had to be adventurous to move to Ohio.  While most of the immigrants from the East coast into the Northwest Territory got busy felling trees and clearing thick growth so they could turn the fertile land into farms, father Isaac Smith set up his cobbler’s bench. He served an immediate every day need of the community.  I do not doubt that young John Henry Smith, practically considered a   grown up at ten, would have been helping his father. He might deliver shoes, help to soften leather, and stoke fires.

As the years passed, the family grew. Four more children arrived by 1845, although two died before they were one year old. The youngest boy, George Washington Smith, who had made the trip from Maryland as a baby, died at seven years old. In the years between his eleventh and fifteenth birthday, John saw three siblings die. (See a summary of the Isaac Smith family here).

John Henry Smith Starts a Family

John Henry Smith wedding

Marriage license from the Justice of the Peace in Mt. Vernon, Knox County.

Soon after he came of age, Henry, as he was probably called, married Rebecca Jane Draper in  Mt. Vernon, the county seat. They chose a wedding before a Justice of the Peace rather than a Catholic ceremony. Rebecca and Henry married in March and in November of the same year, Henry’s oldest sister, Mary Jane, married Cyrus Stephens. 

John Henry Smith started a very small farm in Knox County, and his first son, Jeremiah Warden Smith was born in 1847.  Late the year before, Henry’s mother had given birth to a girl who died five months later. That meant that Jeremiah, the family’s first grandson, must have been particularly welcomed.

The good luck/bad luck persisted, as Henry’s wife Rebecca gave birth in March 1848 to a daughter, Lillis Jane, but in January of the following year, Henry’s brother Jeremiah died at twenty-two.

The 1850 farm schedule shows that Henry is farming a very small farm in Union Township, Knox County, Ohio. The farm –35 improved acres and 50 unimproved– looks poor compared to others in the area. He owns only one horse and one cow and 15 pigs and his largest crop, which is not very large, is corn.

I wonder if his father Isaac gave him the land he had purchased in 1835 from the Ohio River Survey.  That land was listed as in Morrow County, but Morrow was created in the 1840s  from part of other counties, including Knox. Most of the men I track from this period build up a farm and add acreage so that they can give land to their sons. However, Isaac may have let his land lie fallow, since he made his living by shoemaking.

The census report of 1850 when he lives on a farm in Union Township (the township where his father lives in Danville) makes me think that Henry and his wife might have been struggling to care for their family.

Henry and his wife named their third daughter, Victoria for the popular English Queen, who had by then (1856), ruled nearly thirty years.

The Union Army Calls

In 1860, the family lives in the township just north of Danville, Jefferson Township. Now he is listed as a farm laborer rather than an owner.  Another sign that things are not going well as the country goes to war with itself.

Henry, now forty-years old, fills out the registration form required of men by the Civil War.  All around him the pressure is building for men to join the army with parades and rallies and exhortations in newspapers  Perhaps he figures that despite his advanced age, he can’t be worse off than he is struggling at farm work, and on the 26th of February, 1864, John Henry Smith enlists in the Union Army.

The Battles of the 121st

The army assigns him to Company K in the Ohio 121st Infantry Regiment as a Private.  His Regiment find themselves pressed into service soon after their training as reinforcements for the battle in the South, with the objective of winning Atlanta. After training and travel south, he fought at Kenesaw Mountain Georgia. It was quite an initiation. He probably spent most of the time on Kenesaw digging ditches and building fortifications. Of the battle itself,  Major General William T. Sherman later called it “the hardest fight of the campaign up to that date.”

June 28 through July 19th they join the battle at Peach Tree Georgia.

August 6 and again August 20 and August 28, the Ohio soldiers will be fighting in the battles of Atlanta.

September 1 finds them at Jonesboro for the final battle of the Atlanta campaign. After four months, the Union forces finally defeated the South.  That long siege, the most critical in Sherman’s mind, had continued until Sheridan torched Atlanta and the South surrendered Atlanta on September 2.

John Henry Smith had survived one of the most critical battles of the war.  From here on out, it was mop up operations.  The Union soldiers were reduced to foraging and living off the land, since at the beginning Sherman’s March to the Sea, they were cut off from supply lines.

Annie’s Husband Also Goes to War

On October 24, John Henry Smith’s brother-in-law, enlisted for a 2nd tour of duty in the Union Army and joined Sherman’s troops. That was my great-grandfather, Henry Allen Butts.

November 3 the Ohio 121st had moved on to fight at Louisville Georgia. By November 21 they fought at Milledgeville, Georgia. Sherman now split his troops and turned one half toward the Atlantic on the march across Georgia (with Henry Allen Butts). He sent the other half to Nashville (with John Henry Smith), to chase down Confederate General Hood. Hood had surrendered Atlanta and wanted revenge.

On December 18, Henry Allen Butts wrote a letter home to John Henry Smith’s sister, Annie in which he said, “ you stated in your letter that henry had been home. I was glad to hear he got home to see his littel ones.” Earlier in the same letter, he explained that the reason he had not written earlier is that they had been on the march since mid November. Given the slow pace of mail, I’m guessing that Henry Smith’s visited home came after his training and before he marched to Kennesaw.

Henry’s Last Battle

On December 15 the south attacked Union forces at Nashville, Tennessee. I have not discovered the details, but John Henry Smith probably suffered a wound in that battle. He died on December 17 and fellow soldiers buried him at what became the Nashville National Cemetery.

The government needed the cemetery because of the 6000 Confederate and 3600 Union casualties suffered in the area.

John Henry Smith gravestone

John Henry Smith gravestone at the Nashville National Monument. Photo by KBlums from Find a Grave.

Henry Smith left behind a wife and three children, Victoria, 8, Lillis, 16 and Jeremiah, 17 years old. His wife, unlike many widows of the day, did not immediately remarry.  When his two daughters reached marrying age, they married brothers from the Blubaugh family who lived just 4 houses down the road.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser (Badertscher)  is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, the son of
  • Mary Isadore (Mame) Butts (Kaser), the daughter of
  • Ann Marie Smith (Butts), the sister of
  • John Henry Butts.

Notes on Research

United States Federal Census, 1860,  Jefferson, Knox, Ohio

United States Federal Census Non-Population Schedule, Agriculture, 1850, Union, Knox, Ohio;1860,  Jefferson, Knox, Ohio

Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993, Knox, Ohio, USA, 30 Mar 1845, Film #002243649,

U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865, United States Park Service, John H. Smith, Ohio Reg 121, film record M552, roll 101

U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006, National Cemetery Administration, Nashville National Cemetery, J. Henry Smith

U.S., American Civil War Regiments, 1861-1866, Historical Data Systems,121st Infantry Regiment, Ohio,

U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865, Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio Roll of Honor of Ohio Soldiers, J Henry Smith, Historical Data Systems.

U. S. Find a Grave, John Henry Smith

Smith Family Bible, transcriptions from Mary Martha VonVille

The Isaac and Mary Smith Family, A Guide

When families like the Isaac Smith family come up for discussion it sometimes is “hard to tell the players without a program.”  Here is a guide to the family (sisters and brothers of my great-grandmother Ann Marie Smith Butts) with birthdates and (mostly) places of birth. Twelve children, of whom seven lived to adulthood, plus one who died when he was twenty-two (Probably). Six left “issue” as the old biography books say.

Much of the information here comes from the transcription of an old Smith family Bible, which is not always correct.  Therefore I have put question marks beside most information that I am not sure of from more than one source. (Always remember that genealogical research is a work in progress.)

Father Isaac Smith. Born circa 1800 either in Pennsylvania or Maryland.  Died 1 November 1886, Ohio.

Mother Mary Maria Krigbaum Smith. Born 26 July, 1804, Maryland. Died 28 November 1892, Ohio.

Smith Children:

*Lived to Adulthood

*John Henry Smith. 26 January, 1823, Maryland. Died 17 December 1864, Nashville Tennessee. (Civil War)  [Referred to as Ivan Henry in Family Bible] (Married Rebecca Jane Draper.)

*Mary Jane Smith (STEVENS). Born Circa 1825 in Maryland. Died September 1913 (?) in Knox County, Ohio.

Jeremiah Smith. Born 19 February 1827 in Maryland. Died 9 January 1849 (?) in Knox County, Ohio. (22 years old, not married)

*William Jackson Smith. Born 1 December 1828 in Maryland. Died 20 February, 1911, Howard, Knox, Ohio. (never married)

George Washington Smith. Born 1 January 1831(?). Died October 1838 (?), Knox County, Ohio. (7 years old)

Susan Elizabeth Smith. Born 16 June 1833 (?) Knox County, Ohio. Died October 1838. (?) Knox County, Ohio. (Infant Death)

*Ann Marie Smith (BUTTS), Born 12 April 1835, Knox County, Ohio. Died 24 April 1917, Danville Ohio.

Priscilla Belle Smith, Born 20 February 1838 (?), Knox County, Ohio. Died October 1838(?), Knox County, Ohio. (7 months old)

*Isadore Orilla Smith (CRITCHFIELD).  Born 13 June 1840, Knox County, Ohio. Died 28 January, 1879 (?), Knox County, Ohio. (no children, although her husband remarried and had two daughters.)

*James Francis Smith. Born 27 September 1843 Danville, Knox, Ohio. Died 13 September 1930, Millwood, Knox, Ohio. (Married Rebecca Hawn)

*Joseph Dallas Smith, MD. Born 24 January, 1845, Knox County, Ohio. Died 26 April 1933. (Married twice: Martha Fitzpatrick and Elizabeth Fitzgerald.)

Rebecca Francis Smith. Born 12 September 1847 (?), Knox County, Ohio. Died February 1848(?), Knox County, Ohio. (5 months old)

Ann Marie Smith, Church and Family

If you are a family history researcher or blogger, you will understand why I have been reluctant to tackle this particular family line. SMITH. But the Smiths are not going to get any easier to figure out if I keep ignoring them.  So here is my great-grandmother, my father’s grandmother, Ann Marie Smith (Butts).

Ann Marie Smith 1835-1917

parents of Mame Kaser

Henry Allen and Ann Marie Butts, about 1880

Ann Marie Smith, my father’s grandmother, joined five other children when she was born in Knox County,Ohio on the 12th of April, 1835. The children ranged from three years old to ten. Isaac, their father, the shoemaker, must have mended a lot of shoes to be able to feed his large family.

Her parents, devoted Catholics originally from Maryland, took her to the mission that would become St. Luke Catholic church in Danville Ohio to be christened the following July.

Jean Baptiste Lamy

Jean Baptiste Lamy, taken in 1860. From the French Wikipedia site.


HISTORICAL NOTE:  Four years after Ann Marie Smith’s  baptism, a traveling priest began serving the Danville area.  Jean-Baptiste Lamy would be Annie’s priest when she was a young child. He built the first wooden church to serve St. Luke Church in 1840, before he departed for New Mexico in 1850. This means Father Lamy would have presided over the baptism, christening and infant deaths of the Smith children that came after Annie. I also found a marriage license of Annie’s older sister, Mary Jane, SIGNED BY Rev. Lamy!!

Father Lamy signature

Father J. Lamy signature on the marriage certificate of Mary Jane Smith and Cyrus Stevens, 1845.

Willa Cather’s book Death Comes to the Archbishop covers the New Mexico life of Father/Archbishop Lamy.

For the rest of her life, Annie would know only Knox County, Ohio as her home, and St. Luke as her church.  The beautiful brick church, with its soaring interior, still serves the area.

While every child certainly was welcomed with love, little Ann Marie must have been a special delight because Mary (Krigbaum) and Isaac Smith had suffered the loss of an infant girl in 1833.

I wrote a bit about Ann Marie’s married life when we read her husband, Henry Allen Butts’ letters home from the Civil War, but I recently realized that I had not looked at Ann Marie’s earlier life at that time.

Ann Marie’s Early Life

During the early years of her life, the Smith family kept growing. But before she gained more siblings, three-year-old Ann lost a 7-year-old brother (George). In the same year, her mother Mary Smith gave birth to another girl who died in infancy, Priscilla Bell Smith.

Then the curse–if they believed in such things–was lifted and five-year-old Annie gained a close playmate when Isadore Orilla  joined the family in 1840. I believe Mary felt particularly close to Isadore, because Annie honored her sister by using her name for my grandmother. Mary Isadore Butts (Kaser) received the names of her grandmother Mary and her aunt Isadore.

Three years after Isadore joined the family, Mary presented another boy, James, and in 1845, the youngest, Joseph Dalice, joined the family.

With a new baby , and a total of eight offspring in the house, Mary Smith no doubt had mixed feelings about her oldest daughter, Mary Jane’s marriage and departure. The oldest son, John Henry also married in 1845. Mary Jane had reached 20 and John (also called Ivan) would now be 22.

Adding Children and Losing Children

In 1847, when Ann Marie reached twelve her mother gave birth to another girl baby who died in infancy.  Poor Mary. She had lost three children in infancy and one at only seven years old. Another shock hit the family when Ann Marie reached fourteen years old.  Ann Marie’s older brother Jeremiah died in a farm accident when he was only twenty-two. Of twelve children Mary Smith had given birth to, only seven survived to 1850.

[In 1849 William Smith, 21, may also have married and lived in another county with an uncle named George, but I need further research on this since there are dozens of  William Smiths to sort out.]

When the census taker wrote down the facts in 1850, he showed 15-year-old Ann Marie as the oldest of the children still at home. The others were sister Isadore (10) and brothers James (8) and Joseph (6). Although their mother Mary apparently could not read and write (at least in English), the Smith children all attended school and became literate. In 1860, Ann Marie still lived at home at 25 years of age–probably already considered a spinster. (The census shows her as 24.)

The Spinster Meets Her Man

In 1860, Henry Allen Butts showed up in the Pennsylvania census living in a boarding house.  How he met his wife Ann Marie Smith remains a mystery to me. Political division stalked the land, and most expected war to break out. Henry, who presumably had not yet met Annie, joined a Pennsylvania Regiment of the Union Army for a year.  When he mustered out, he apparently moved to Ohio. His father had died in 1846, and I am not sure where his mother was by 1860.

Records show that Ann Marie Smith and Henry Allen Butts married August 23, 1864.  They obviously had met nearly a year before that, as their first son, Giles Allen (called Alan or Allen), came “prematurely” a month after the marriage.

The Civil War Intrudes

The war continued to rage in 1864. Henry did not own land, and did not have a skill to rely on, so he joined the Union Army in Ohio. Since Henry had already served a one-year stint with the Union Army from Pennsylvania,  I can think of no reason other than financial that he would leave his “Dear Wif” and the baby he obviously doted on. His love for both of them shines through his letters, regardless of grammatical and spelling challenges.

If Ann Marie felt frightened and alone when her husband left for the front, things only got more troublesome when her brother John also joined the war.

The oldest boy in the Smith family John Henry Smith, enlisted at the beginning of 1864, even though he was already forty years old and married with children.  Henry Allen Butts mentions John Henry in a letter to his wife “Annie”. Annie had told Henry in a letter from home that her brother had gotten a leave and visited with his children.  The visit, in retrospect, suggests a bittersweet memory.  John Henry fought through several severe battles with his unit and died of wounds he received near Nashville Tennessee before 1864 ended.

It is easy to see Mary’s problems during 1864 with her husband gone and money in short supply. She is offered a job helping out as a housemaid, but Henry doesn’t approve of that, so she struggles along, without borrowing and without working outside the house.

Although Henry fought under Sherman in the famous March to the Sea, he survived to return to Ohio and invest in a small farm. More fortunate with babies than her mother, Ann Maria Smith gave birth six times and all six lived to adulthood, although one daughter died at 26.  Ann’s father died in 1886 and her mother died in 1892.

After the War

I encourage you to read the story of the rest of Ann’s life which I covered in this post about Henry’s first letter home.  Rooted in Knox County, near the small town of Danville, Ann Marie lived until April 1917 when she was 82 years old.  My father would have been eleven years old when she died, and remembered both Ann Marie and Henry Butts.

A memoir written by Homer Blubaugh tells more about Ann Marie, so devoted to her church that she would walk a few miles to church carrying her youngest baby, known for her enormous vegetable and flower garden.

Ann Marie Smith lies buried in the Catholic churchyard in Danville, Ohio. (I believe her grave is unmarked. Her husband’s grave was unmarked until a veterans’ organization erected a Civil War Veteran monument.) St. Luke church shepherded her into the world with a christening, brought her solace throughout her life and saw her departure. Henry survived her and died in 1920.

How I Am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser (Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Paul Kaser, who is the son of
  • Mary Isadore Butts (Kaser), who is the daughter of
  • Ann Marie Smith (Butts)

Notes on Research

  • History of St. Luke Church and Father Lamy, the St. Luke website.
  • Death Comes to the Archbishop , Willa Cather.
  • United States Census, 1850, Millwood, Knox, Ohio; 1860, Union, Knox, Ohio;1870, 1880, 1900, Harrison, Knox Ohio; 1910, Union, Knox, Ohio.
  • Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993, Record for Henry A. Butts,
  • Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-2007, Annie M Butts, Knox County, pg 1158,  Ohio Department of Health and
  • Smith Family Bible,  Isaac M. Smith and family. Family Bible in possession of family of Joseph Dallas Smith; Elizabeth Ferretti Smith Rotterman, near Cleveland Ohio, 2016. Hand written Bible page transcribed by Mary Martha VonVille on Family
  • “A History of the Henry Allen Butts Family” by Rev. Homer Blubaugh, Saint Mary Church, Lancaster, Ohio.  This is a combination of documented and anecdotal information about the Butts family from Ohio. Some was gathered at family reunions. Some is downright wrong, but some is quite interesting. My copy was sent by Butts descendent Helen Findon in 2003. The document says Revised May 11, ’92 – Rev. Homer Blubaugh. Copies in the authors’ possession.