Andrew Jackson Smith

Historical Marker #2107 in Lyon County commemorates Andrew Jackson Smith, an African American soldier who won the Medal of Honor for heroism in the Civil War.

Smith, the son of an enslaved African American and her white owner, was born in Lyon County, Kentucky. During the Civil War, Smith's father enlisted in the Confederate army. When Smith learned that his father intended to take him along to serve as a body servant, he ran away to a Union encampment in Smithland, Kentucky. There, Smith offered his services to Major John Warner of the 41st Illinois Infantry. When the regiment received their marching orders, Smith went with them.

Smith witnessed the battles of Fort Donelson and Shiloh, both fought in Tennessee in early 1862. At Shiloh, Smith was in the heat of the battle and was struck in the temple with a spent bullet, which coursed under the skin to the middle of his forehead. Fortunately, the bullet was removed and Smith was not terribly hurt.

Later, while accompanying Major Warner to Illinois on a furlough, Smith learned about President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Smith also learned that he could serve in the Union army as a fighting soldier, rather than just an officer's servant. Therefore, Smith enlisted in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry, which was largely recruited from free African American men across the North. The regiment saw little actual combat until the fall of 1864.

At the Battle of Honey Hill, South Carolina, on November 30, 1864, the 55th fought desperately. During the action the regiment’s color bearer was hit by an exploding shell. Smith caught the flag, carried it through the battle, and was wounded. He was promoted to color sergeant for his gallantry. The commander of the 55th was wounded early in the fight and, subsequently, did not include Smith's heroic act in his official report. Fortunately, this was not the end of Smith's story.

Smith mustered out of the army in August 1865. Although he initially stayed in Illinois, he soon purchased land in Eddyville, Kentucky. The regimental surgeon of the 55th Massachusetts tried to nominate Smith for the Medal of Honor, but due to inaccuracies and the omission of Smith's actions in the battle's official report, his efforts were turned down in 1916. Smith passed away in 1932 and was buried in the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery in Grand Rivers, Livingston County, Kentucky. Finally, in 2001, Smith was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, which was received by his descendants.


This Medal of Honor recipient was born a slave in Lyon County, Ky., on September 3, 1843. Andrew Jackson Smith escaped to Union Army at 19 and fell in with 41st Illinois. Wounded at Battle of Shiloh. Recuperated at Clinton, Illinois, where he heard that blacks could join the Union Army. He mustered in Co. B, 55th Mass. Colored Infantry, May 16, 1863.


(Reverse) Posthumously awarded Medal of Honor in 2001 for gallantry for saving regimental colors when color bearer was killed at the Battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina, Nov. 30, 1864, during Civil War. He lived, bought, and sold land in Between The Rivers area after war. Died 1932. Buried at nearby Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Presented by Between The Rivers, Inc.

This marker was dedicated on August 9, 2003.