Edmund Kirby Smith, soldier and educator, was born on May 16, 1824, in St. Augustine, Florida, where his father was a lawyer and a judge. Graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1845, he served in the Mexican War under General Zachary Taylor and General Winfield Scott and was brevetted for gallantry. After the war he taught mathematics at the Military Academy and served in the cavalry on the frontier. His botany reports, written while accompanying the Mexican Boundary Commission, were published by the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1861, Smith resigned from the army to join the Confederate forces. He was commissioned colonel of the cavalry and rose to the rank of general. He served as chief of staff to General Joseph E. Johnston at Harper's Ferry and helped organize the Army of the Shenandoah. While commanding a brigade in the army, he was severely wounded at Manassas. From 1863 until the end of the war he commanded the Trans-Mississippi department. He surrendered the last military force of the Confederacy.
After the war he considered, but abandoned, a plan to settle in Mexico. He was president of the Atlantic and Pacific Telegraph Company, chancellor of the University of Nashville from 1870 to 1875, and professor of mathematics at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. He died on March 28, 1893, at Sewanee, the last surviving full general of either army.