A Hero for All Generations
Of all of the Laurens County veterans, Hardy Beacham Smith is the epitome of a soldier overcoming the ravages of war. Hardy, the grandson of an American Revolutionary soldier by the same name, was born in the Anderson community on October 24, 1841. His father, the second Hardy Smith, married Ann Anderson, daughter of John G. Anderson. Anderson's plantation was located on the Old River Road across Pughes Creek from Gov. George M. Troup's Valdosta Plantation.
Laurens County schools couldn't provide Hardy Smith with a superior education. Hardy Smith enrolled in an academy at Irwinton, Georgia in 1858. Hardy's father reluctantly agreed to allow his son to take a music class. The senior Smith encouraged young Hardy to join the Light Horse military company at Irwinton. In those days service in the local militia was seen as a public duty, especially for young men of higher means. Military service was also seen as a stepping stone to political office.
The state of Georgia voted to secede from the Union in January of 1861. If Hardy Smith had been a typical Laurens Countian, he would have voted to cooperate with the Union on the issue of slavery and avoid secession and war. At the beginning of the inevitable war Hardy was attending classes at the University of Georgia. He joined a volunteer company. Three weeks after the first shots were fired at Fort Sumpter, Hardy Smith received a letter from his father requesting that he come home and enlist in the Blackshear Guards. The Guards were in the early stages of organization. All the best young men were joining the company. Hardy's father was sincere. Fifty dollars was enclosed in the letter to pay his boy's accounts and his way home.
The Blackshear Guards became a part of the Confederate army on July 9, 1861. Hardy Smith was elected 1st Sergeant. W.S. Ramsay was elected Captain. When Captain Ramsay accepted a position as Lieutenant Colonel of the Regiment, Smith was promoted to Junior Second Lieutenant. The Blackshear Guards, designated as Company H of the 14th Georgia Infantry, were assigned to army of John B. Floyd. The Guards spent the remainder of the year in western Virginia engaging in little or no action. The Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862 was their first major engagement. Following the disaster at Seven Pines, Robert E. Lee was appointed to the command of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Lee decided to attack McLellan's forces near the tiny village of Mechanicsville, Virginia. Shortly after arriving at the Beaverdam Creek, the order for a late afternoon attack came. Col. E.L. Thomas led the 35th Georgia in the initial attack on the Federal right. The 14th Georgia rushed to his support. Col. R.W. Folsom got up from his sick bed to lead the 14th Georgia. The creek was waist deep and about fifteen to twenty feet wide. When the attack first began, the Confederates had woods and thickets to cover their advance. Those in the open fields were pounded with sweeping artillery fire. Once they came down the steep banks toward the creek, they were in full view of Federal riflemen. Every assault was repulsed by the Federal forces. Under heavy fire the Guards were forced to retire. When it was all over, Lt. Smith was in a field hospital. His elbow was torn into pieces. There was no hope to save his right arm. Lt. Smith was comforted by reading his "Book of Common Prayer." Blood from Smith's wounds dripped on the pages. He turned to Psalm 56 which in part read "Mine enemies are daily at hand and swallow me up ... for they be many that fight against me ... though I am afraid, I will trust in thee." The book remains in the possession of his family. Four weeks after his arm was amputated, Lt. Smith wrote with a letter with his left hand. The despondent officer seemed to apologize to his father for losing his arm, but was glad to be alive.
Lt. Smith returned to duty as soon as he could. The company missed most of the major battles from September of 1862 to the Battle of Gettysburg, where they were only slightly engaged. The Guards were heavily involved in Robert E. Lee's greatest victory at Chancelorsville, Virginia in May of 1863. Hardy B. Smith was elected Captain of the company on September 17, 1863. Capt. Smith resigned his commission on April 30, 1864, just days before the Grant's push toward Richmond at the Wilderness. Capt. Smith continued to serve his state as the 5th District enrolling officer until the end of the war.
After the war times were bad, really bad. There was little food and even less money. In the year after the war, Smith was elected to the position of Clerk of Superior Court. Smith served as Clerk for 27 years until 1893. Hardy Smith married his bride, Ella Few Douglas, on November 21, 1867. That same year Ella Smith her mother Phoebe Douglas, and her sister Eugenia Walker were among the seven women who founded the First Methodist Church.
Hardy Smith built a southern gothic style house near the edge of the struggling town of Dublin in the early 1870s. When Dublin needed a railroad, Smith invested in the M.D. and S. railroad serving as secretary and treasurer. An active member of his church, he donated land next to his house to build a church in 1887. Following the death of Judge John T. Duncan, Smith was elected as Judge of the Court of Ordinary, serving one term which ended in 1897.
After leaving public office, Smith's thoughts returned to his fellow veterans. He organized a camp of United Confederate Veterans, which was named in his honor. In the last years of his life, Capt. Smith served as Commander of the Eastern Division of Georgia.
Hardy Smith died in his bedroom on Dec. 6, 1912. He is buried in Northview Cemetery. Hardy Smith is a hero, not because of the cause he fought for and not because he lost an arm.
His accomplishments off the battlefield and his devotion to his family, his church, and his community make him a hero for all generations. Today, concerned citizens of Dublin are seeking to restore Captain Smith's home as a memorial to veterans of all of our country's wars.