Documenting the American South Logo
Collections >> First-Person Narratives >> Document Menu >> Summary

Bill Arp, 1826-1903
Bill Arp from the Uncivil War to Date, 1861-1903
Atlanta, Ga.: The Hudgins Publishing Company, 1903, c1902.


Charles Henry Smith was born in Lawrenceville, Georgia in 1826 to Asahel Reid Smith and Caroline Ann Smith. He attended Gwinnet County Manual Labor Institute and later Franklin College (now the University of Georgia). In 1847, his father became ill and Charles returned home to run the family store. In 1849 he married Mary Octavia Hutchins. He was admitted to the bar and became a lawyer. The couple and their children moved to Rome, Georgia in 1851 and Charles became active in city politics. In April 1861, while serving in the Confederate army, Smith penned a satiric letter to the Southern Confederacy newspaper in Rome, Georgia, under the pseudonym Bill Arp. This letter was the beginning of an enterprise—Smith continued to publish "Bill Arp" letters to address and poke fun at various contemporary political issues and figures. By the time of his death more than 2,000 letters had appeared in print. After the Civil War, Smith was elected to the Georgia Senate, and in 1867 was elected mayor of Rome. By 1877, he had set aside politics and law for farming. He died in 1903 in Cartersville, Georgia.

The collection, Bill Arp: From the Uncivil War to Date, 1861-1903 is the most extensive collection of Smith's letters. It begins with the story of his ancestors and tells how he came to write letters under the name Bill Arp. The letters cover a variety of subjects, including the Cherokee Indian removal, the Civil War, the benefits of a farmer's life, and brief descriptions of southern society.

Works Consulted: Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, vol. 20, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Harris Henderson

Document menu