Valley of the Shadow
The War Years
Spring 1861–Spring 1865

Letters & Diaries

letters and diary

Smiley Family (1861-1865)

Thomas Smiley portrait

Before the war, Thomas M. Smiley resided on the family farm in Augusta County, Virginia. At the age of nineteen, Smiley enlisted as a private in Company D of the 5th Virginia Infantry. He received a promotion to sergeant in 1863 and was captured in 1864 and imprisoned, but later released. He sustained injuries to the hand and face at Chancellorsville, but survived the war and returned to his family, dying near Moffet’s Creek in 1920.

The following links provide access to the most likely matches in the Valley of the Shadow databases:

Smiley Household


Most of the letters in this large collection were written to Thomas M. Smiley. His correspondents included his sister Mary and his aunts Ellen and Letitia. Several of Thomas's replies to his family at home have survived and are contained in this collection. The Smiley family discussed numerous topics in their letters, including life in camp, blacks, embracing religion, driving out Unionists, wartime politics, and mobilization on the homefront.


Thomas M. Smiley’s diary for July 1862 details the life of a soldier in the 5th Virginia Infantry. In this brief chronicle, Smiley mentions dissatisfaction with army rations, troop movements in Virginia, and religious sentiment among soldiers.