Category Archives: Military

William Nalle – Guard of Honor at the Funeral of Gen. Robert E. Lee


As a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute, William Nalle 1848-1911 was one of the Guard of Honor to stand over the body of Gen. Robert E. Lee during his funeral. In the following letter, Nalle writes home to his mother Columbiana Major 1824-1898, wife of Thomas Botts Nalle 1816-1893, informing her of the event.

Adj. Gen. William Nalle is a first cousin, 3 times removed of Clarissa “Clara” Nalle the spouse of John M. James. Their descendants, too, are relatives of the Adjutant General.

Letter of William Nalle to His Mother

Va Military Institute
Lexington Oct 16th 1870

Dear Mother

I expect you have been looking for a letter from me for some time and in fact I would have written but about the time I thought of writing the rains & the flood came on, destroying bridges canals, & cutting off communication generally.

I suppose of course that you have all read full accounts of Gen. Lee’s death in the papers. He died on the morning of the 12th at about half past nine. All business was suspended at once all over the country and town, and all duties, military and academic suspended at the Institute, and all the black crape and all similar black material in Lexington, was used up at once, and they had to send on to Lynchburg for more. Every cadet had black crape issued to him, and an order was published at once requiring us to wear it as a badge of mourning for six months. The battalion flag has heavily draped in black, and is to stay so for the next six months. The Institute has been hung all around with black. The College buildings were also almost covered with black. All the churches and in fact the town looked as if they had been trying to cover everything with festoons of black cambric, and every sort of black that could be procured.

Gen. Robert E. Lee funeral procession

The morning after his death we marched up and escorted the remains from the house to Washington College Chapel, where they lay in “state” until the burial yesterday morning.

After the remains were placed in the Chapel on the morning of the 13th the entire procession was marched through the Chapel, past the corpse, which they were allowed to look at. The lid of the coffin having been taken off for that purpose. I saw the General after his death, and never saw a greater change than must have taken place in him a short time before he died. Some days before he was taken I met him in the path leading into town, coming in direction of the barracks. He was walking, and seemed to be the picture of health, and when I saw him in his coffin, he looked to be reduced to half his original size, and desperately thin. When first taken with the paralytic stroke or whatever it was, he fell on his dining room floor, a bed was placed under him and he died where he fell. The doctors forbid anyone to move him. Myself and four other cadets with Gen Smith’s permission sat up all night with the corpse on Friday night, perfect silence was kept the whole night, no one speaking except in a low whisper. It was considered a great honor to be allowed to sit up with the remains, and a great many applied for the privilege but one of the college professors on arrival took only five of us, whom he requested to stay.

William Nalle giuards Robert E. Lee
” Myself and four other cadets with Gen Smith’s permission sat up all night with the corpse on Friday night, perfect silence was kept the whole night, no one speaking except in a low whisper. “

The day following the funeral procession after marching all around town and through the Institute grounds, formed around the college chapel and he was buried in the chapel under the floor of the basement. The procession was a very large one, a great many persons from a distance being here. Our brass band with muffled drums, went ahead of the hearse playing the dead march. Cannon of our stationary battery were fired & &. The hearse however was perfectly empty the corpse being all the time in the Chapel where it was placed at first.

NEW YORK TRIBUNE, October 15, 1870

The flood of which I spoke, did a great deal of damage in this part of the country, carrying off some ten or fifteen houses, some dwelling houses some ware houses situated at the canal boat landing near here all the bridges in the river were carried off and the canal running to this place entirely ruined, all the locks being torn up and carried off. It was a rare sight to see large houses, bridges, mills & every sort of lumber go sailing at a rapid rate, down the river. Up to a week or two since, we could get no mails or any thing that had to come from a distance, and it is still very difficult to get provisions. Mails come and go regularly now, as they have fixed ferries for stages &&.

I was made a sergeant in Co A about three weeks ago, and the evening after the first appointment, I was appointed color sergeant. I have to carry the battalion flag and have charge of the color guard, do not wear any such accoutrements as cartridge box and bayonet scabbard, when I am in charge of the guard, as the other sergeants have to do, but wear only a sword and sash, go to church in the staff, and enjoy various other privileges Jessie is getting along very well, he seems to be a great favorite. I had him put in a room, with the best new cadets that I could find. One of them is a son of Col. Dulaney of Loudoun, the others seem very nice little fellows, and they are all about the same size.

I am gettng along pretty well I think, and I written about all that I can think of at present. Let me hear from you soon and let me know whether or not Gen Smith sent pa the receipt for the deposit.

Your affectionate son,

W. Nalle

Lee Chapel Interior 1890

Gen. William Nalle died on July 30, 1911. His own obituary identifies the details of his life.

Gen. Wm. Nalle Dead

“Gen. William Nalle, for 3 years Adjutant-General of Virginia, died at his home at Culpeper Sunday afternoon after a long illness of typhoid fever.

“Gen. Nalle was a native of Culpeper county, and had been associated with the State militia since early manhood. He was a graduate of the V.M.I.

“Gen. Nalle entered the Virginia volunteers July 28, 1879, as captain of the Culpeper Minute Men. He was elected major of the Third Regiment in 1882, and later was made lieutenant-colonel. He occupied the position of lieutenant-colonel until November 15, 1838 [1883?], when he became colonel.

“He was a thorough tactician, a soldier every inch of him, and a man who commanded the respect and admiration of all.
He served two terms as Adjutant General, retiring when Gov. Swanson went into office.

“Since he went out of office, at the beginning of 1906, he had lived quietly at Culpeper, pursuing the practice of his profession as a civil engineer.”

From: THE DAILY STAR, Fredericksburg, Virginia, August 1, 1911 (page 2, column 3).

Arthur William Smith – Purple Heart Recipient

“William Arthur Smith, His Military Life & Purple Heart” is a new installment series, revealing a New Found Line for Stray Leaves.         Written by Dennis Smith, a first cousin of Frank & Jesse James, Dennis traces his ancestry in personal family stories through each generation. He reaches back to his ancestors Anthony Lindsay III &  Ailsey Cole, Richard  James Cole & Anne Hubbard, and Anthony Lindsay Jr. & Rachel Ann Dorsey.  The series culminates in the story of the author’s cousin Dr. James V. Scruggs, the doctor and family relative who was the first to arrive on the bloody scene of the Pinkerton Agency raid on James Farm in 1875. 

Arthur William Smith-Purple Heart

by Dennis Smith, his son

 

Arthur “Art” Smith had already dropped out of school prior to his marriage to Lois Roberta Roberts. He worked at various jobs to support his new family. That included working for his father Stanley D. Smith, parking cars. Stanley managed a parking garage in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Arthur William Smith
Arthur William Smith 1928-2009 – Third Great-Grandson of Anthony Lindsay & Ailsey Cole; first cousin of Frank & Jesse James

Art and Lois R. Smith were now living with Nellie Roberts, his mother-in-law, on the east side of Indianapolis, in a half of a double at 251 S. Gray St. Nellie Roberts was paying most if not all of the bills. My brother, Randall Robert Smith, was born there on March 23, 1947.

Art Smith and George Thayer, a first cousin of Lois, decided that they would enlist into the U.S. Army, together in September of 1948. According to military records, they entered the U.S. Army in Madison, Indiana.

George Thayer related that they left for basic training from Indiana to Fort Lewis in the State of Washington. On the train ride to Fort Lewis, Art and George visited one of the stores at a train stop and they took some candy without paying for it. They were caught and the U.S. Army had to pay for the candy. Art and George were not allowed off the train at any other stops.

AirborneWhile at Fort Lewis, Art and George decided to go into the Airborne together, but George got injured in basic training. Art was transferred to the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg, North Carolina after basic training. George stayed at Fort Lewis. During this time, Art received Airborne training, even though George related later they had to push Art out of the airplane every time they took him up to jump.

In 1949, the 82nd Airborne had the rare opportunity of going to Philadelphia for a parade. President Truman visited the parade and Art was one of the guards along the president’s parade route. Art’s photo was in the newspaper together with Harry Truman that year.

While at Fort Bragg, Art missed his wife Lois and son Randy. He had them come and live with him on the base. Lois related that Art did not make enough money as a private to take care of the family. She said Art ate in the mess hall. All she had to eat one night was a candy bar. She wrote her mother for a train ticket home. Her mother, Nellie Roberts, sent the ticket.

Art Smith had been friends with Chuck Hughes since he was a teenager in the Westside of Indianapolis. Chuck Hughes and two other unknown friends had come to Fort Bragg to visit Art about the same time Lois was preparing to return to Indianapolis. They had driven down in an old car. They were running low on gas money. Art, Chuck Hughes, and their friends talked Lois into cashing in the train ticket her mother sent her, and use it instead for gas money. Lois and son Randy drove back with Chuck Hughes back to Indianapolis. Art stayed at Fort Bragg. This was in the late summer of 1949.

Lois Roberts
Lois Roberta Roberts-Smith 1921-2011

On the drive back, Lois related she had used an outhouse at a rest stop where she was attacked by a rooster. Blood was running down her leg where the rooster had spurred her. Chuck Hughes knocked the chicken out with a dirt clod. The farmer who owned the rooster was upset because it was his fighting rooster. They high-tailed it from the rest stop.

By late 1949, Lois was back in Indianapolis. She lived with her mother Nellie at 316 S. Gray St. on the east side. Lois was pregnant again. Art no longer wanted to be in the U.S. Army. He asked Lois to get him out on a “hardship discharge,” because he had a wife, son and a baby on the way. Lois went to the Red Cross in early 1950 and the Red Cross got Art Smith out of the Army by the Spring of that year.

Art’s Father, Stanley D. Smith drove Lois to the hospital in an old pickup truck, on the day I was born. Stanley drove a little faster every time Lois had a labor pain. After I was born, Art and Nellie Roberts were in the living room at 316 S. Gray St., where they gave me the name of Dennis Smith. My grandfather Stanley always kept a good relationship with his grandson’s.

Art Smith-Lois Roberts-Geneva Curry
Art & Lois Smith, with Art’s mother Geneva Joseph Curry-Smith

To explain in one word, the marriage of Art and Lois turned “volatile”. They fought the whole time. Lois threw a bottle at Art as he was walking away from her and hit him in the back. Art, Lois, sons Randy and me continued living with grandmother Nellie in the small two bedroom house on Gray Street.

Art was working in Auto Body Repair but he went out for cigarettes and a newspaper one day. He never returned. Nellie Roberts who was making less than $20.00 a week took care of her daughter Lois with grandsons Randy Smith and me while paying all the bills. There was no welfare in Indiana at that time.

My mother Lois searched Indianapolis for Art. She found him on the Westside, lying on a couch with a blond girl that looked like the actress “Doris Day”. She asked him to return home but he refused.

Lois then went to the Red Cross to see what they could do to help with her financial situation. They could not help her but they were upset that Art Smith was not living with his family and informed the U.S. Army. Lois R. Smith then consulted with an attorney and filed for divorce and support in June/July 1950, her only recourse. In June 1950, the United States went to War with Korea. On 22 Sept 1950, the divorce of Arthur William Smith and Lois Roberta Smith was final, with custody and child support of Randall R. Smith and me, Dennis Smith, going to our mother.

Lois R. Smith then consulted with an attorney and filed for divorce and support in June/July 1950, her only recourse. In June 1950, the United States went to War with Korea. On 22 Sept 1950, the divorce of Arthur William Smith and Lois Roberta Smith was final, with custody and child support of Randall R. Smith and me, Dennis Smith, going to our mother.

Art Smith's Bronze StarOn 25 Sept 1950, the U.S. Army sent Arthur William Smith to Fort Hood, Texas. By Oct 1950, Arthur William Smith was on his way to the Korean conflict. He had requested to be returned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg. The U.S. Army refused his request. Arthur William Smith was sent to the front lines of the Korean War.

Art was sent on patrols and guard duty. One time he was disconnected from his company and he found himself in the midst of North Koreans and Chinese. He covered himself with dead bodies to evade capture. Then on Jan 7, 1951, Arthur W. Smith received the Bronze Star. The U.S. Army had Art’s service record number incorrect in this order. He never received or knew of his Bronze Star. An attempt to get this corrected has been filled with an Indiana Senator.

Art Smith's Purple Heart
The Purple Heart, conferred upon Arthur William Smith

Art sent a letter to his mother. Nine days later, Arthur W. Smith received the Purple Heart, for getting wounded in the buttocks from friendly fire. Korea had the worst winter in history with the temperature going 30 below zero at night.Geneva Curry Smith in Madison, Indiana telling her “he doesn’t expect to survive”, he has body lice, his feet are frozen and his friends are dying around him. An army colonel had taken their blankets away because he thought they had it too soft. By Jan. 22, 1951, Art was in a hospital in Osaka, Japan.

After his somewhat physical recovery, Art Smith was assigned to Osaka, Japan as a pay clerk until March/May 1951. Then he was sent to Wake Island to work as a clerk. They did not send him back to the front line because of his prior military service and the short time left in his enlistment. Art finally was discharged on Nov. 10, 1951 in Camp Carson, Colorado.

Stanley Smith
Stanley D. Smith 1902-1961

My grandfather Stanley was living at 1330 Naomi St. in Indianapolis in 1951, with his wife Laura Smith and stepdaughter Myrtle Woolford. When Art got out of the Army he lived with his father, stepmother, and stepsister. Art had post-traumatic stress, from his experience in the war. He was hard to wake up. Stanley had to throw a glass of water on him and run. Art would always come up fighting.

Art’s drinking increased. He was a bartender in several rough and seedy bars, one being “Blake’s Tavern.” Once, he claimed he played cards in the back room after closing with “Elvis Presley,” This could not be confirmed. It was possible, though, since the owner of Blake’s was an entertainment promoter.

Art started racing motorcycles and stock cars. He raced stock cars at the old “Art Zipps” or now Speed Drome on Kitley Road. He married a second time to Margie Louise Moore on Sept. 2, 1956. The marriage soon ended in divorce. It is said that she tried to shoot Art.

Army record for Arthur William Smith
U.S. Army military record of Arthur William Smith.

Art’s drinking led him to have a stroke before he was 30. The stroke left one side of his face paralyzed for a while.

He dated several women until he met Lorene Kellams Sodrell, who had a young son. He married Lorene on Aug. 31, 1958.

Randy Smith
Randall Robert “Randy” Smith 1947-2001, son of Arthur William & Lois Roberts-Smith, & brother of the author Dennis Smith

He remained married to her until his death in 2009. Art helped raise her son but he remained estranged to his own son’s his entire life. He rarely paid any child support for me and Randy. This put a huge strain on grandmother Nellie Roberts who mostly raised us. She never complained.

It is believed Art blamed Lois for his return to the Army and for his being sent to Korea. It is believed this resentment was directed against his sons, too. The casualties of War extend far beyond the battlefield.

Art deserved his Purple Heart and Bronze Star, but he would not have been in Korea if he had just stayed home and taken care of his family.

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SMITH FAMILY TODAY

Dennis Smith-Cory Smith-Lane Smith
Author Dennis Smith, with grandson Cory Smith and great-grandson Lane Smith

Arthur William Smith was born Nov. 15, 1928, in Switzerland County, Indiana.

On Aug. 31, 1946, Arthur William Smith married Lois Roberta Roberts, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Arthur was 17 years old and Lois was 16 years old. Lois was pregnant with Randall Robert Smith. They were living on the westside of Indianapolis, Indiana.

Arthur W. Smith was the son of Stanley D. Smith and Geneva Curry Smith. Stanley divorced Geneva in 1940. Stanley remarried to Laura B. Woolford. They lived in Indianapolis. Geneva later remarried to Edgar Fredenburgh. They lived in Madison, Indiana. Arthur’s sister Elizabeth A. Smith lived with Geneva Curry Smith Fredenburgh. 

Lois Roberta Roberts-Smith’s mother was Nellie Plummer-Roberts. She had married John D. Roberts but John Roberts left her and Lois Roberta Roberts in 1941 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Lois’ father moved to Mississippi to train troops for WWII, where he married another woman.

Nellie P. Roberts never remarried.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR, DENNIS SMITH

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