Thomas A. Smith

Because it is believed that Gen. Thomas A. Smith never visited Fort Smith, he never played a decisive role in its history but the city is named for him nevertheless. Thomas Adams Smith was born Aug. 12, 1781 in Essex County, Va. He joined the Army in 1803 as a second lieutenant.

Notable in his biography is that he was the courier in 1807 who secretly conveyed to Washington, D.C., news of Aaron Burr's supposed conspiracy. He served in the so-called Patirot War, which was an attempt to annex East Florida from Spain. At the start of the War of 1812, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.

In September 1815, he was appointed to command of the Ninth Military District. He supervised surveys of the Arkansas River valley in coordination with explorer Major Stephen Long. On Nov. 10, 1818, he resigned his commission and returned to civilian life. Fort Smith. The following year Fort Smith, Arkansas Territory was named in his honor.

According to American National Biography, Smith "joined the military in a period of Jeffersonian cutbacks, rose to command an elite regiment and campaigned with distinction from Florida to Canada. In an age of military incompetence, Smith was an active an enterprising soldier."

After his military career, he settled permanently in Saline County, Mo. Thomas A. Smith died June 25, 1844.

Source: American National Biography, Vol. 14, pages 295-296.