Born in Albany, New York, Smith joined the Navy in September 1851. By August 5, 1864, he was serving as a second captain of the top and gun captain on the United States Ship Richmond. On that day, during the Battle of Mobile Bay, Alabama, he continued to man his gun despite heavy fire.
As captain of a gun on board the United States.S. Richmond during action against rebel forts and gunboats and with the ram Tennessee in Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864.