Who was Captain Henry Irving Smith and why should you care?
The finishing touches have been put on the Cerro Gordo County Freedom Rock® at the corner of Main and 8th Streets in Clear Lake and a date has been set for its official dedication. Artist Ray Michael Sorensen II, better known as ‘Bubba,’ will be on hand for the 1 p.m. ceremony Sunday, Oct. 7.
The rock features not only Sorensen’s trademark American flag and eagle, representing not only all veterans, but all Americans, as well as a scene specific to a local war hero. The artist asks each group commissioning a Freedom Rock to provide not only ideas for its design, but include a notable soldier from the county. That way, Sorensen says the rocks provide an interesting “Easter egg hunt” of history lessons throughout the state.
For Cerro Gordo, that hero is Captain Henry Irving Smith.
Smith was born May 4, 1840 in Nottingham, England. After his father’s death in 1847, Henry and his mother came to North America. In 1854 the family moved to Cerro Gordo County, traveling in a prairie schooner drawn by an ox team.
At the age of 21, Smith enlisted in Company B, 7th Iowa Volunteers July 8, 1861. He was the first man to enlist from Cerro Gordo County. He took six men from his neighborhood with him and they were mustered into service at Burlington, Iowa. They served under General Ulysses Grant at Shiloh and later in the 15th and 16th Army Corps.
Smith participated in many important engagements, including being present at Grant’s first battle of Belmont, Mo., which was Grant’s first battle in the Civil War. He was wounded in that battle and in another in the fall of 1862. While recuperating at Belmont, he did recruiting for a time at Fort Madison, Iowa, but after that was always with his regiment on the fighting line.
Besides many skirmishes, he took part in 26 important engagements. One of the most notable, and the one which is depicted in Sorensen’s work, occurred on March 15, 1865.
First Lt. Smith’s company attempted to construct a pontoon bridge over a portion of the flooded Black River in North Carolina. The river was held by Confederate troops. In the midst of the struggle with the rebel defenders, one of his soldiers was swept away by the current. Smith threw off his coat and sword and swam to the soldier’s rescue, bringing him ashore and continuing his mission. For valor in the face of the enemy, Smith was promoted to the rank of Captain and was consequently awarded the Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor.
During the famous “March to the Sea” Smith commanded his company. After two and one-half years of service, Captain Smith accented a veteran furlough, visited home with his company, then returned to the field and served to the end of the war, being mustered out July 14, 1865 in Louisville, Kent.
Upon his return home, Captain Smith spent a year in farming, but was not in a physical condition that wouldTo read more of this article, please login or sign up for our E-Edition