Books Collections Document of the Month Military History

July 2017 Document of the Month | Letter of John Fite

By John Coski

The recipient of the Museum’s 2015-2016 Founders Award, which recognizes excellence in the editing of primary source documents, is Albert C. Ellithorpe, the First Indian Home Guards, and the Civil War on the Trans-Mississippi Frontier, edited by M. Jane Johansson and published by Louisiana State University Press. In her prize-winning book, Johansson weaves together the journal entries and letters (published anonymously in a Chicago newspaper) of a Federal officer who commanded Indian troops in Arkansas, Missouri, and the Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma) and lobbied his government on behalf of Native American civilians who had “refugeed” from Confederate-controlled Indian Territory. Dr. Johansson is traveling to Richmond this month to receive her award.

Private John Fite of the 7th Texas Cavalry provided a Confederate perspective on that same theater of war. In this January 26, 1862 letter to his fiancé, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Henderson of Catawba County, North Carolina, Fite described the “privations” that Confederate troops were enduring and suggested the hardships that the Native Americans were suffering during the mid-winter campaign.


Cantonment Slidell

                                                                                                Johnson County Ark

                                                                                                                January the 26th 1862

Dear Lizzie

                You perhaps, are begining to think that I have forgotten you,, but I can assure you that Such is not the case.  I have not written to you Since November, and have not heard from you Since Some time before then.  When I wrote to you last, I was in Grayson County Texas, where. Col W. B. Sims Regiment of 4th Texas Cavalry, was then Encamped, to which Division of the army I .belong Since ^then I have undergone many hardships.  We have ^been Scouting all winter among the Indians, and have been engaged in two Battles, in which we came out first best. .  It would be impossible for me to tell you all theprivations [sic] to which we have been Subjected, you have doubtless Seen an account of our engagements in the papers.  The first took place on the [Red written over [illegible]] Fork of the Canadian Arkansaw River, between our Regiment the Choctaw Indians under Colonel Cooper, and one regiment of the Creeks under Col. Una McIntosh all combined, And a portion of both the Creeks and Cherokees, headed by old Opothleghola, who has caused a great partion of both the creeks & Cherokees to rebel against us, but I think and hope that this rebelion is now crushed.  However they are now all cut to peices and Scattered in every direction We have follow[e written over i][d written over n]g them, I Suppose near a thousand miles.  Sleeping at night on the frozen ground with no covering but the Canopy of heaven Except the few Blankets we carried on our horses, :and doing as many as five days at a time on fresh ^beef alone, without salt and Sometimes not even that.  We are now in winter quarters at this place, which is about fifty miles below Van, Buren on the Arkansaw River.  I am now clerking in the Commissary Department, where I Expect to remain during the remainder of the year, which will end on the 14th of October next, when I hope that the condition of the Country will be Such. that it will be unnecessary for me to enlist again—But this is a cold and Calous way of expressing my Sentiments.  I Should have told you before now, that I Still love you as warmly as ever, and although I have neglected to write to you, there has not many days passed, in which I have not thought of you, and I have often thought that I was treating you rong, by neglecting to write to you, but I Still hoped that ^I would hear from you before I wrote, and it may ^be that I am doing wrong to trouble you again with a letter,, for I feel that I have treated you very Shabily, but many Causes have influenced my Conduct and more that all the uncertainly of the times, and I cannot now venture to Say what I will do, for I am determined to remain as I am until this war is ended, and perhaps if I am not killed, to fight it through, And now Dear Lizzie although .I have often told you that I loved you and confess that I love you Still, I must say that I will Marry no one until this war is ended, for I would Consider it the basest folly for me to do So dependant as I, am, and now Since I have been So uncertain and will probably Continue So, I Cannot ask you to wait for me any longer, and perhaps deprive you of a chance of Marrying well which I, for aught that I know have already have done If Such has been the Casse I hope that you fill forgive and that heaven will pardon me, Before I left Home I destroyed all your letter—a thing I hated to do,—but I thought it imprudent to leave them there and ^as much so to carry them with me,, I left word at home that if any ^letters came there for me, to forward ^them to where I might be, but I have not heard from home for 2 months I have often looked anxiouly for letters but have always been disappointed, they were all well when I heard from home last, and I have been tolerable well all the time but have Suffered greatly with the Cold, you will please answer this as Soon as you receive it, and tell me what you think of my Conduct, also tell me if you please where all the boys are back there and if all are alive yet or not, I suppose that most of them are in the Service, but I have lost all Correspondence with any of them If you Can tell me where H, F White and Cousin W, M, Abernathy are please do So, also Losson & Dolphus and all the Boys generally, for I have not hea^rd from any of them for 6 months I will have to close by beg^ging you to excuse this abrubt letter, with the hope that we may get meet and that peace and harmony will once more be restored to our unhapy Country, and ^that many of its unhapy Citizens will be prepared to enjoy it, Direct to me Company F Sims Regt of 4th Texas cavalry Van Buren Ark.  So nothing more only that I will ever remain, your devoted lover,

                                                                                                                                                                                John. C. Fite