Maine native Leonidas Smith (b. 1829) became a sailor as a youth and, by age 21 commanded the U.S. Mail Packet Pacific along the west coast. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, he was sailing out of Galveston, Texas. He served as volunteer naval aide to Gen. John Bankhead Magruder, who commanded Confederate forces in Texas and gave Smith control of the Texas Marine Department. Although Smith remained a volunteer, he was noted in records as Captain,
Major or Commodore, and by the nickname "Lion," for his courage and boldness.
On January 1, 1863, Smith played a decisive role in the Battle of Galveston when, in support of Magruder's plan to drive Federal forces from the island, he led an assault utilizing "cottonclad" steamships armed with field artillery pieces and infantry troops. Smith used the C.S.S. Bayou City to ram the U.S.S. Harriet Lane, disabling the Federal vessel and turning the battle in favor of the Confederates.
While in Beaumont on September 8, 1863, Smith heard cannon fire from Sabine Pass signaling a battle for control of this strategic area. Sending troops aboard the C.S.S. Roebuck, he quickly made his way here by horseback to support the Davis Guard of Lt. Dick Dowling during the Battle of Sabine Pass. After the Confederate victory, Smith took charge of
bringing captured vessels and men into port, winning praise for his efforts.
Smith returned to California after the war. In 1869, he was killed in Alaska, and his body was moved to San Francisco, California for burial.