Levi W. Smith was born in Vinalhaven, Knox Co., Maine, on 5 August 1838. He was the son of Thaddeus Smith and Elizabeth Pierce, both of Vinalhaven. During the Civil War, Smith served on Union ships blockading Confederate ports. His three main assignments were serving as a seaman on the U.S.S Ethan Allen (15 Sept 1861 - 15 Aug 1863); then as a Master’s Mate on the U.S.S Tuscarora (28 Sept 1863 - 3 May 1864); and finally, on the U.S.S. James Alger (Jun 1864 – May 1866). He also served on other ships for brief periods including the U.S.S. Ohio (Jun – Aug 1863) and the U.S.S. Sarah Bruen (Jan 1864). After the Civil War, Smith continued on with the Navy serving in the Caribbean until he moved back to Vinalhaven, to work as a stone cutter. He married his wife Augusta, on 7 Jan 1867 and together they had at least two children, Henry (born about 1868) and Annie (born about 1871). Smith, in 1882, was listed as the Constable and Collecter for Vinalhaven, and was also a state legislator. In 1891, 1898 and again in 1905, Smith was appointed a trial justice for Knox County. He was also a Justice of the Peace from 1905 until his death on 4 March 1910 in Vinalhaven.
The collection includes routine letters between U.S. Navy seaman and master's mate, Levi W. Smith, and his family. Smith served with the Union blockading squadrons that hampered the Confederate war effort and economy by capturing trading ships as well as destroying extensive salt works along the Florida coast. In addition to letters, the collection houses various documents and papers of Levi. W. Smith and family, including agreements, bonds, contracts, deeds, discharge papers, memorandum notes, receipts, warrantee deeds as well as three carte de visites, one of which is Levi W. Smith in a Civil War naval uniform.