Col. Cyrus Smith and the Organ

Colonel Cyrus Burnet Smith

Colonel Cyrus Burnet Smith

A few months ago, our Assistant Head of Special Collections, Amanda Focke, started corresponding with an individual interested in our collection, Colonel Cyrus Burnet Smith U.S. Civil War papers.

Scot Huntington did not start doing research on Dr. Smith’s war career or his groundbreaking medical writings because he studied Civil War history or was a descendant. Instead Huntington found his name (“Cyrus Burnett Smith pumped this organ” 1850-1854) inscribed on the biggest pipe of an organ that Huntington and others had taken apart to restore.

Because of that bit of graffiti from young Smith, Huntington tracked down the man’s origins. Smith originally from North Hadley, Massachusetts attended Berkshire Medical School and graduated in 1859. His graduation thesis became an important text in the 19th century. He outlined the proper way to administer chloroform without asphyxiating the patient.*

Dr. Smith joined the 34th Massachusetts Volunteers in 1862 as Assistant Surgeon. On March 15, 1865, he accepted a commission as Surgeon in the 11th Massachusetts Volunteers, spending most of the Civil War in hospitals in Virginia and the Maryland/D. C. area. He was discharged in Washington D. C. July 31, 1865. After accomplishing so much, poor Dr. Smith died in a fire after his house was struck by lightning at the age of 40.

Scot Huntington used the sources that he acquired from us and others to write, “Wm. A. Johnson Opus 16, 1850: Its History and Restoration” a chapter within the book Johnson Organs 1844-1898 Wm. A Johnson Johnson Organ Co. Johnson & Son: A Documentary Issued in Honor of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of His Birth 1816-2016.

We’re so happy that our small collection helped tell the story of Dr. Smith and an organ.

*Source used: “Wm. A. Johnson Opus 16, 1850: Its History and Restoration” by Scot Huntington

One thought on “Col. Cyrus Smith and the Organ

  1. Neat story – Cyrus was one of my ancestors, and my father donated his papers. We are headed to Massachusetts next October for a few things, but one of which will be to visit his home town and mine, Granby, MA.

    – Merrill Aldrich

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