The finding of the court was approved by President Grant in the case of Cadet Wilson, but disapproved in my case, on the ground that the punishment was not severe enough. Therefore, Cadet W. served his punishment and I did not serve mine, as there was no authority vested in the President to increase it.
"On the second charge I was acquitted, for I proved, by means of the order book of the Academy that there was no company drill on that day--the 15th of August --that there was skirmish drill, and by the guard reports of the same date, that Cadet Beacom and two of his three witnesses were on guard that day, and could not have been at drill, even if there had been one. To some it might appear that the slight inconsistencies existing between the sworn testimony of those cadets and the official record of the Academy, savored somewhat of perjury, but they succeeded in explaining the matter by saying that 'Cadet Beacom only made a mistake in date.' Of course he did; how could it be otherwise? It was necessary to explain it in some way so that I might be proved a liar to the corps of cadets, even if they failed to accomplish that object to the satisfaction of the court.
"I was released in November, after the proceedings and findings of the court had been returned from Washington, where they had been sent for the approval of the President, having been in arrest for three months. But I was not destined to enjoy my liberty for any length of time, for on the 13th of December, same year, I was in the ranks of the guard, and was stepped on two or three times by Cadet Anderson, one of my classmates, who was marching beside me.
"As I had had some trouble with the same cadet some time before, on account of the same thing I believed that he was doing it intentionally, and as it was very annoying, I spoke to him about it, saying: "I wish you would not tread on my toes.' He answered: 'Keep your d--d toes out of the way.' Cadet Birney, who was standing near by, then made some invidious remarks about me, to which I did not condescend to reply. One of the Cadet Corporals, Bailey, reported me for 'inattention in ranks,' and in my written explanation of the offence, I detailed the circumstances, but both Birney and Anderson denied them, and the Commandant of Cadets took their statement in preference to mine, and preferred charges against me for falsehood.
"I was court martialled in January, 1871, Captain Piper, Third Artillery, being President of the court. By this court I was found I 'guilty,' as I had no witnesses, and had nothing to expect from the testimony of the witnesses for the prosecution. Cadet Corporal Bailey, who made the report, Cadets Birney and Anderson were the witnesses who convicted me; in fact they were the only witnesses summoned to testify in the case. The sentence of the court was that I should be dismissed, but it was changed to one year's suspension, or, since the year was almost gone before the finding of the court was returned from Washington, where it was sent for the approval of President Grant, I was put back one year.
"I had no counsel at this trial, as I knew it would be useless, considering the one-sided condition of affairs. I was allowed to make the following written statement of the affair to be placed among the records of the proceedings of the court:
"'May it please the court: I stand here to-day charged with a most disgraceful act--one which not only affects my character, but will, if I am found guilty, affect it during my whole life--and I shall attempt, in as few words as possible, to show that I am as innocent as any person in this room. I was reported on the 18th of December, 1870, for a very trivial offence. For this offence I submitted an explanation to the Commandant of Cadets. In explanation I stated the real cause of committing the offence for which I was reported. But this cause, as stated, involved another cadet, who, finding himself charged with an act for which he was liable to punishment, denies all knowledge of it. He tries to establish his denial by giving evidence which I shall attempt to prove absurd. On the morning of the 13th of December, 1870, at guard- mounting, after the new guard had marched past the old guard, and the command of "Twos left, halt!" had been given, the new guard was about two or three yards to the front and right of the old guard. Then the command of "Left backward, dress," was given to the new guard, "Order arms, in place rest." I then turned around to Cadet Anderson, and said to him, "I wish you would not tread on my toes." This was said in a moderate tone, quite loud enough for him to hear. He replied, as I understood, " Keep your d-d toes out of the way." I said nothing more, and he said nothing more. I then heard Cadet Birney say to another cadet--I don't know who it was--standing by his side, "It (or the thing) is speaking to Mr. Anderson. If he were to speak to me I would knock him down." I heard him distinctly, but as I knew that he was interfering in an affair that did not concern him, I took no further notice of him, but turned around to my original position in the ranks. What was said subsequently I do not know, for I paid no further attention to either party. I heard nothing said at any time about taking my eyes away, or of Cadet Anderson compromising his dignity. Having thus reviewed the circumstances which gave rise to the charge, may it please the court, I wish to say a word as to the witnesses. Each of these cadets testifies to the fact that they have discussed the case in every particular, both with each other and with other cadets. That is, they have found out each other's views and feelings in respect to it, compared the evidence which each should give, the probable result of the trial; and one has even testified that he has expressed a desire as to the result. Think you that Cadet Birney, with such a desire in his breast, influencing his every thought and word, with such an end in view, could give evidence unbiassed, unprejudiced, and free from that desire that "Cadet Smith might be sent away and proved a liar?" Think you that he could give evidence which should be "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God?" It seems impossible for me to have justice done me by the evidence of such witnesses, but I will leave that for the court to decide. There is another question here which must be answered by the finding of the court. It is this: "Shall Cadet Smith be allowed to complain to the Commandant of Cadets when he considers himself unjustly dealt with?" When the court takes notice of the fact that this charge and these specifications are the result of a complaint made by me, it will agree with me as to the importance its findings will have in answering that question. As to what the finding will be, I can say nothing; but if the court is convinced that I have lied, then I shall expect a finding and sentence in accordance with such conviction. A lie is as disgraceful to one man as another, be he white or black, and I say here, as I said to the Commandant of Cadets, "If I were guilty of falsehood, I should merit and expect the same punishment as any other cadet;" but, as I said before, I am as innocent of this charge as any person in this room. The verdict of an infallible judge--conscience-- is, "Not guilty," and that is the finding I ask of this court.
(Signed) "'J. W. SMITH, "'Cadet U.S.M.A.'