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Great Floridians 2000

Francis Kirby Smith

(1785 - 1875)

Arguably St. Augustine’s most successful Confederate spy was Frances Kirby Smith, mother of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith. Though born in Connecticut, she and her husband Judge Joseph Lee Smith had moved to St. Augustine shortly after their marriage about 1820. For months before and during the Union occupation of Fort Marion (Castillo de San Marcos), Mrs. Judge Smith orchestrated transport of mail to the Confederate troops. In addition, she entertained the Union officers and learned of planned maneuvers, passing along the knowledge to the Southern army, "Mrs. Smith was outwitting them and putting the enemy in possession of facts concerning their every movement."

In the spring of 1863 the Federal government ordered removal of Southern sympathizers from their homes. Mrs. Smith avoided the order for a time through her Union friends and military contacts in St. Augustine, "it was evident to Col. Putnam that he would not be able to prevent Mrs. Smith’s expulsion for more than a short time. . . both Mrs. Smith and her niece Fanny Russell had been ordered out of town because of their open sympathy with the Confederacy and their continued secret correspondence with rebels in the interior of Florida. Her ‘injudicious’ speech was suspected of causing difficulties ‘among the more ignorant and turbulent of the population."’ At the time of these actions, Mrs. Smith was approaching 80 years old!

Mrs. Smith returned to St. Augustine and lived for another decade, a Confederate supporter until the end. She decried the behavior in the town during Reconstruction and the loss of true Southern gentility. Various local documents record her as brilliant and spirited, full of fire and ambition throughout her long life.

Marker location
Segui-Kirby Smith House, 12 Aviles Street, site of the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library

Web site for the St. Augustine Historical Society, steward of the Webb Building
http://www.oldcity.com/oldhouse

 

 

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