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Henry Smith

Henry Smith, our first volunteer, was well-known in Western New York.  Ever the salesman, Henry earned his nickname, "Razor Strap," through his ability to peddle that product.  Born in England in 1817, he came to Rochester before the Civil War.  He cut an imposing figure standing five feet eleven inches tall; he had a fair complexion, gray hair and blue eyes.

Smith enlisted in the 140th New York Volunteer Infantry in August 1862.  His military career was short, spent mostly attached to various military hospitals as a nurse.  When he was with his regiment he was detailed as a hospital attendant and stretcher bearer.  

He was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, while ministering to his men.  In September 1863 he returned to Rochester on furlough to await discharge.

By June 1864 the Hospital began receiving casualties from Grant's Virginia Campaign.  Seeing a need to care for his wounded comrades, Henry offered his services as a nurse to the hospital for "as long as there were veterans to be cared for."  According to the September 1864 Hospital Review he served, "entirely without remuneration, greatly endearing himself to the soldiers and all the inmates, by his kind and faithful attendance and cheering all within his presence, by his genial manner and his lively wit and humor."  He was remembered most for his impromptu, funny speeches that would momentarily take patients' minds off their boredom.  (Courtesy Ron Erwin)