Lest We Forget: Captain Lot Smith

Dr. Seymour B. Young of the First Council of Seventy

Captain Lot Smith

Elder Seymour B. Young (1882-1924)

Captain Smith enlisted in the volunteer to help win the war against Mexico in 1846-8. As is well known, this Battalion consisted of 500 volunteers from the ranks of the emigrating companies of the “Mormon” people. Lot Smith was then only sixteen years of age, the limit for enlisting being from 18 to 45. It is said that when he stepped under the line to measure his height, he raised partly on his tip toes to make the proper measurement. However, he was admitted and registered, and marched to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, with the Battalion. The hardships of the journey from Leavenworth to California have never been fully told, but its main points are a matter of . The sufferings of the men from thirst and fatigue were intense.

Lot Smith, though the youngest soldier in the camp, continued the march with those at the front. On one occasion when the company were almost famished for want of water, they dug a well, and found water. Lot was selected to go back with canteens of water to help the men who had fallen on the trail. He had strict orders not to distribute any water until the hindmost of the thirsty and exhausted men was reached. The story is told of how the young soldier could not resist the pleadings of his comrades and listening to their appeals he relieved each with a few swallows of water until the last one was met and received his portion, when every drop was exhausted; with the now partly refreshed soldiers he reached camp where plenty of water was found in the newly-dug wells, now known as the Maricopa wells of Arizona. These supplied them with an abundance of water. Their location is to this day pointed out to travelers.

The officer, learning of Lot’s return from his journey with water to save his comrades, took Private Smith to task for disobeying orders. Lot’s hands were ordered to be bound by the wrists and a cord fastened from them to the rod at the hind end of the wagon, so that when the wagon should start, Lot would be compelled to walk behind it under the burning rays of the sun in the hot desert sand until the forenoon march was ended. That was the sentence, but Colonel P. St. George Cooke, being advised of the situation, countermanded the order of Lieutenant D., and Lot Smith was not subjected to this cruel and unjust punishment.

Having been mustered out of the service in the winter of . 1848. at San Diego, California, Lot Smith returned and identified himself with the “Mormon” colony in Salt Lake City. Not long thereafter he located in Farmington, and engaged in the cultivation of a small farm from 1859 to 1862, when he was placed in command of the Utah volunteers who enlisted in the war to save the Union.

Early in the year 1864, President Young was impressed with the thought of colonizing the region south near where St. George is located, and also to place colonies into southern and eastern Arizona. One of these companies of colonizers for Arizona was committed to Captain Lot Smith.

June, 1892, one day, Lot Smith was shot by an Indian while out on his horse. He maintained his seat in the saddle, however, until he reached home, where he fell helpless from his horse and was carried into the house and laid upon his bed, where he soon after expired. Captain Smith was buried in the colony burial ground at Sunset, or Tuba. His body remained there for more than ten years, when it was exhumed by friends and comrades, and by consent of the Church authorities, returned to Farmington, Utah, his home town. There he was given the honor of a military burial. A brief account of his burial follows:

Under date of April, 1902, the Deseret News contained an account of Captain Smith’s funeral, from which the facts herein are largely gathered:

“Ten years have elapsed since the death of Lot Smit, the famous and soldier, (he died June 21, 1892) yet at the memorial service yesterday (April 7, 1902) it seemed as if that heroic spirit was hovering near to stir in the breasts of his old comrades that love and devotion with which he inspired them a half century ago. The occurrence of yesterday was a memorable event, touching not only the life of the departed man and the members of his family but also a score of those old veterans who struggled and fought with him, and to this day cherish the memory as one of the dearest tenants of their hearts. Many of them had the opportunity yesterday to testify of the character of their captain, and their words of love touched the hearts of all present, and tears flowed freely from many eyes.

“If the spirit of Captain Smith had been permitted to reenter his body he would have been surrounded by more of his men than had been with him since the Indian campaign on the Snake River in 1862, and they would all have been prepared to follow him wherever he led. The spirit of the entire party of veterans was manifest in the expression of one of their number who exclaimed, that he never wished for a better leader; and if, on the other side of the veil, it became necessary to fight for the protection of friends his only wish would be to be led by Captain Lot Smith.

“In all the eulogies pronounced yesterday over the remains of him who was one of Utah’s bravest of the brave, the conclusion would be forced upon one, that for care and forethought exercised in behalf of his men, Lot Smith never had a superior. The master impulse of his nature was fidelity to duty, self sacrifice and all unremitting thought for the comfort and safety of those who followed him. If to display these qualities in the highest degree is to be a great leader, then Lot Smith has a clear title to the name.

“Although his body has been mouldering in the grave for a decade, it was as if his spirit had just taken its flight, and the services bore all the aspects of a funeral following immediately after death, as the speakers related one after the other the acts of their captain, tears would suffuse the eyes of the members of his household, and not only they but many others wept, including many of the grey-haired veterans who had not wiped tears from their eyes for years.

“These circumstances together with the crowded meetinghouse, the presence of some of the leading men in the community, including President Joseph F. Smith, together with the fact that the remains had been brought from Arizona, after lying there for so long, called up the reflection of how great must have been the love that effected this change in the hero’s last resting place. It all tended to add to the pathos of the scene.

“There was not that deep and almost insufferable sorrow that follows the passing of a young spirit, but rather the pathos that lies in the tribute that brave men pay to a brave man.”

The funeral party left Salt Lake, at 12:50 p. m. and numbered about one hundred. Among them were President Joseph F. Smith, President John R. Winder, John Henry Smith, Heber J. Grant. Fourteen of the company present served under Captain Smith in the Civil War campaign of 1862. Their names are as follows: Seymour B. Young, Joseph H. Felt, Charles Crismon, Jr., J. I. Atkinson, T. H. Harris, A. S. Rose, William Longstrough, James Sharp, James Larkins, Solomon Hale, Lachoneous Barnard, W. C. Allen, Ira N. Hinckley, and Samuel H. Hill.

Of those who were with Lot Smith in the campaign of 1857, during the Johnston Army invasion, were James P. Terry, Joseph Parry, Orson P. Arnold, and John Bagley. These men served personally under the famous captain, but there were many others who fought in Indian campaigns of later years, for it is doubtful if there has been a more notable gathering of the representatives of the old Utah Militia for years, and it was fitting that such a gathering should be about the remains of the master martial spirit of that period.

At the Farmington depot the escort were met by carriages and driven to the tabernacle where the services ‘were held. The stores were all closed in honor of the deceased, and it looked as if the entire populace had turned out to pay their last respects to one whose home was once among them.

The casket was draped in the American flag, and was borne to and from the wagon by Samuel Bateman, James Sharp, Charles H. Wilcken, Orson P. Arnold, Joseph H. Felt and Samuel Hill. These were all members of Captain Smith’s company and performed these last sad offices with more than passing love. The services began at 2 o’clock and were presided over by Bishop J. M. Secrist, of Farmington. The was furnished by the Farmington choir under the direction of Joseph Robinson, and the opening hymn was, “Gates Ajar.” Prayer was offered by President Seymour B. Young, followed by the rendition of the hymn, “God is Just.”

The first speaker was President John R. Winder, who began by reading a letter of regret from Bishop R. T. Burton, who explained that he was unable to be present, but wished to reassure the family of the departed leader of his never failing love and esteem for his memory.

President Winder then stated that he had looked forward with interest for some time to the bringing home of the remains of Lot Smith. “I always admired Lot Smith,” said he, “for his bravery; he always stood ready to do his part, and his men loved and obeyed him, for he was kind to them and always in the lead.”

The next speaker was Samuel Bateman, of West Jordan, whose tribute was very impressive. He said that this was one of the most joyful days he had ever experienced, as it was the consummation of the efforts of months. A kinder or more fearless man than Lot Smith never lived. “I have seen him under the most trying circumstances, but I have never known him to lose his self possession; and if conditions were such that any of the men must go hungry.

He was always one that went without. I have been working for months to have these dear remains brought from their lonesome resting place in Arizona, and now that this is accomplished, I am unable to express my joy.” Lot Smith never slept, said the speaker, at least it seemed so to me. He was always ready, and knew when to strike, and his blows always counted.

Solomon Hale, the next speaker, was a member of Captain Smith’s company, in 1862, and was with him under many trying circumstances.

“Lot Smith was a man who never knew fear—he never faltered, he was not a driver. Drivers go behind, but he was a leader, always in the front, except when the danger was in the rear, then he was behind.” Elder Hale stated that he slept with Captain Smith for three months. One night Smith walked the camp all night, broken-hearted, because of the death of one of his men who had been drowned in the Snake River. Captain Smith was a brave, true, and good man and was always ready to lay down his life for his friends, he will always live and will never die in the hearts of his men who were with him and knew him as he was.”

Corporal Seymour B. Young, pronounced a striking eulogy upon his dead captain. Before doing so, however, he read a letter from Comrade S.H.W. Riter in which he expressed his keen regret at being unable to attend the memorial services.

Corporal Young then proceeded to relate many interesting anecdotes connected with the Civil War service of 1862, in which the cool bravery of Captain Smith stood out so conspicuously.

On one occasion the speaker and the captain rode out in advance of the company in quest of something to eat, as the men had been without rations for several days. They finally met up with a company of emigrants who insisted that Captain Smith and his comrade were members of a band of robbers, and informed them that they were to be hanged to the end of a wagon tongue; not much impression was made apparently upon the two soldiers, and Captain Smith stated that if they would furnish some provisions that would be the thing for them to do. He declared that Captain Smith went without day after day that others might have to satisfy their hunger. Captain Smith seemed full of the spirit of self denial, he was a natural born leader, though he was humble as a child, and filled that beautiful poetic expression, the bravest are the tenderest.

“I have this to say of my comrade, our commander,’’ said comrade James Sharp: “There lies a man who never knew fear. He was gentle as a woman and as brave as a lion. I knew him as a citizen, as a soldier, and also as a of the Church, when he was a humble preacher of the gospel in a foreign land, and he was always the same brave, true, genial.kind-hearted man. His soul was full of good cheer and of love.” 

Other eulogies breathing the same testimony as those already given of the bravery, unselfishness, devotion, and tenderness of Captain Lot Smith were spoken by Orson P. Arnold, Joseph H. Felt, Samuel Hill, Ira N. Hinckley, James P. Terry, Thomas Abbott, Joseph Parry, also President Hess of Davis stake whose tribute was a glowing one. President A. W. Ivins of Mexico, who was associated with Lot Smith in Arizona in 1875, testified of the kindness of Captain Smith, being ever ready to help those who stood in need, whether he be Jew or Gentile.

The last address was made by President Joseph F. Smith who was thankful that the remains of Captain Lot Smith had been brought home. “He was a generous, noble-hearted man. History will record the fact that Lot Smith was one of the notable figures of the past. In every instance he discharged his duty to the very best of his ability.”

G. W. Palmer, a son-in-law of the deceased, expressed in behalf of the family their deep appreciation of the words and acts of love for their husband and father, manifested by his former comrades.

The services closed with the rendition of the hymn, “Nearer, my God to Thee,” and the benediction was pronounced by President Jesse N. Smith. The remains, followed to the cemetery by a large cortege of carriages, were interred for the final rest in the family plot. The grave was dedicated by President Joseph E. Taylor, and the closing prayer was offered by Joseph H. Felt.

“Thus a most notable incident in the history of one of the picturesque figures of the pioneer days was closed.”

Lot Smith was a teetotaler, was not given to profanity, abstained from the use of tea, coffee and tobacco. Besides his service to his country in the Mexican War, he went out on nine expeditions against the Indians. It was said of him that were it not for his unpopular religion he would have become one of the greatest generals of the Civil War.

Encountering bands and bands of hostile Indians Lot Smith always overcame their enmity and made them his friends.

It is said on good authority that the Indian who killed Lot Smith afterward died of a broken heart in contemplation of his deed. The fatal shot was fired on the spur of the moment, without contemplation—the result of false reports. The Indians had always regarded Lot Smtih as one of their most valued friends.

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