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Isaac Putnam Smith was born in 1835 in Brooklyn, New York. He was 24 years of age when he decided to enlist for military service, on April 18, 1861, for a period of three years. He was officially mustered in on May 23, 1861 as a Sergeant, apparently assigned to Field and Staff, because on June 1, 1861 he was transferred from Field and Staff of the 84th Regiment to Company G, of the 84th New York Infantry Regiment; also known as the 14th Brooklyn Regiment, the Brooklyn Phalanx; and Chasseurs a Pied. The Fourteenth Brooklyn was originally formed July 5, 1847 as the Fourteenth Regiment New York State Militia under Colonel Alfred M. Wood; until the New York State Legislature consolidated the individual militia companies into regiments. At that time, the Fourteenth was little more than a social club composed of men of venerable lineage who gathered on weekends and evenings for recreation.

On May 23, 1861 the 84th New York Regiment was formed, under the command of Maj. William H. de Bevoise and turned over to the state in September 1861; receiving its numerical volunteer designation on December 7th. Smith’s company left New York on May 18, 1861, serving at or near Washington D.C., attached to Andrew Porter's Brigade, Army of North East Virginia. The 84th Regiment participated in numerous engagements and battles including the Battle of Bull Run July 21st, the advance on Munson's and Hall's Hills on September 28th, the Skirmish at Fall's Church Road near Fairfax Court House on November 18, 1861, the advance on Manassas, Virginia from March 10th through the 15th 1862, McDowell's advance on Falmouth, Virginia from April 4th through the 19th, was with Pope's Campaign in Northern Virginia from August 16th through September 2nd, participated in the Battles of Gainesville on August 28, Groveton on August 29th, Bull Run on August 30th, Chantilly on September 2nd, the Maryland Campaign from September 6th through the 22nd, the Battles of South Mountain on September 14th, Antietam on September 16th and 17th, the Chancellorsville Campaign from April 27th through May 6th, the Battle of Chancellorsville from May 2nd through the 5th, the Gettysburg Campaign from June 11th through July 24th, the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1st through the 3rd, the Battle of the Wilderness from May 5th through the 7th, was at the Spottsylvania Court House from May 12th through the 21st and part of the Assault on the Salient on May 12th.

Army medical records reveal that Smith however, was not with the regiment during all its battles; he was noted as sick and absent from duty in December 1861 while at Washington D.C. and further noted he received medical treatment on August 9, 1862 and again from August 13th through September 8th, 1862 at the Cliffburn Hospital; for disability and a paralysis of his left side; before being discharged.

Smith had become a skilled marksman with a rifle during his military career and after his discharge adopted the names of “Wild Ike” and “Col. Ike Austin”; joining a traveling show that was popular at the time. He had married a woman named Julia Barclay in New York on July 4, 1861, and she served as his assistant in his performance. They had two sons, Robert Stuart and Henry Barclay, and in 1878 they left their first son Robert, in the care of Julia’s aunt, when they took their performance to England and parts of Europe; through the efforts of various theatrical agents. From England they performed east, all the way to India and Hong Kong, from where Julia returned to New York, in 1882 to take care of Robert Stuart; when she learned he had become ill. Smith went on to Shanghi in 1883, where he had a rifle range, then arrived in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in 1884 and appeared with the St. Leon Circus in Brisbane, Queensland through 1885. The Brisbane “Courier” newspaper carried an advertisement of his performance on August 28, 1885 calling him “Colonel Ike Austin, the great American sharpshooter”. In an exhibition at the Opera House, Smith would shoot an apple, or half of a cucumber, off the head of his agent Mr. Cunard, shoot a hole in a small pack of cards from his hand from the far side of the stage, snuff the fire off a candle and shoot the ash from a cigar held in his mouth; also performing numerous trick and positional shooting exhibitions. His salary at that time was a sum of 100 pounds per week and at one time he even leased the Bondi Aquarium in New South Wales.
 

Smith liked Australia so much he decided to stay and married Alexandra Anne Augusta Black at Sydney, New South Wales on June 9, 1885; although he was still married to Julia in America. The New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages reveals the birth of their son, Arthur B. Smith. According to an affidavit sworn to by Smith, by the year 1861 both his sons by Julia had already died.

 

“Colonel” Ike Austin, Issac Putnam Smith, died in the George Street Asylum in Parramatta, New South Wales on May 9, 1908, where he had lived for some ten years; at one time serving as the gate keeper for the institution. At the time of his death, Smith was drawing an American pension of 3 shillings 6 pence a day and was a standing member of the Masonic Order.

 

Issac Putnam Smith was buried in Rookwood Cemetery in the Anglican Section, grave number 249, without a headstone. A marble headstone was acquired from the American Veterans Administration in 1992 and with the cooperation of the Anglican Church, it was placed on the old flagpole stand in the then disused World War II American Cemetery; as a memorial to a great showman, an American Civil War veteran and as a tribute to all the American service men who had been buried there during World War II before being disinterred and returned to the U.S. for reburial. After Isaac’s death, his widow Julia applied for and was granted a widows pension which she received until her death.

 

"A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion", Frederick H. Dyer

Birth, Marriage and Death Records, New South Wales

“Brisbane Courier”, newspaper, 1885

“Cumberland Argus”, newspaper, Sydney, New South Wales, 1908

Induction Records and Muster Rolls

“New York in the War of the Rebellion”, Frederick Phisterer. 1912.

Rookwood General Cemetery Records

“The History of the Fighting Fourteenth” Tevis & Marquis.
U. S. Pension papers, National Archives, Washington, DC.

“Variety Magazine”, New York City, 1908

 

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