Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Civil War - On Both Sides

One of my great-greatgrandfathers and two greatgrandfathers fought in the Civil War. In an earlier post I told the story of my greatgrandfather Thomas Jefferson Martin, a Texan (originally from Illinois) who fought for the Union. Here are stories of another Union soldier (great-greatgrandfather John Cantrell Fite), and a Confederate (greatgrandfather William Joseph Anderson). These stories are really short sketches, based on information at hand. I would welcome anyone to do more research to add to (or even contradict) what I have found.

John Cantrell Fite was born in DeKalb Co., Tennessee in 1828. His greatgrandfather was Johannes Vogt who arrived in Philadelphia from Hesse-Kassell in the 1740s. The surname Vogt was quickly anglicized to Fite, and Johannes' son John Fite settled in east Tennessee as a Baptist minister and one of the founders of the Salem Baptist Church of Liberty, Tennessee. He was a colleague of the well-known Baptist minister Cantrell Bethel, which no doubt explains the middle name of his grandson. The Rev. John Fite had several children, in particular two sons Henry and Moses, who were close in age and who both lived in or near Liberty. Henry also became pastor of Salem Baptist, while I have found no record of Moses' connection to that church. However, it appears that the Fites were a close-knit family. Some family trees have Henry as the father of John Cantrell but I have found no documentation of this; in fact census records suggest to me that John Cantrell was more likely the son of Moses.

In any case, John Cantrell Fite married Elizabeth Bratten at Liberty, 16 September 1847, and began farming. By the start of the war, his family had moved to southern Illinois. On 31 August 1861, John enlisted in Co. B, 6th Illinois Cavalry, at the age of about 33. He served until the end of the war as a 1st Lieutenant, being discharged 5 November 1865 at Selma, Alabama. The 6th Illinois Cavalry operated throughout Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana and faired comparatively well. The Regimental history reports that during the entire war 13 officers and 388 enlisted men died. By today's standards this seems like a high mortality rate, but it was modest at the time. And as was quite common, many more men died of disease and accidents than were killed in combat.

LT Fite was wounded three times. In 1862 he received a severe stab wound to his left arm while breaking up a fight between two enlisted Union soldiers. In December 1864 at the Battle of Moscow (Tennessee!) he was nearly crushed to death when his horse was shot and fell on him, and later that same month he was shot in the left thigh in combat at Nashville. After each injury he stayed with his unit. I have no documentary evidence, but I strongly suspect that he never fully recovered the use of his left arm and left leg.

After the war the Fites moved to northeast Arkansas, where by 1870 he had a farm on Crowley's Ridge (Greene Co., Arkansas) next to the farm of John Bradberry. Fite's daughter (Healon Alice Fite, known as Allie) married John Bradberry's son George McClure Bradberry. Later the Fites moved a few miles west into Dunklin Co., Missouri where he died in 1881 (of spinal meningitis). He is buried in the Oak Grove cemetery near Clarkton, Dunklin Co.

My greatgrandfather William Joseph Anderson was born 12 July 1837 in Cumberland County, Virginia, to Chesley Anderson and Jane Wyatt Jenkins. On 9 May 1861 he enlisted at Manchester, Virginia as a corporal in Co. I, Virginia 6th Infantry (also known as the Elliott Grays). He was just shy of 24, tall for the times (5'11"), with blue eyes. His occupation was listed as "merchant". He was discharged on 16 November 1862, having contracted pneumonia the previous April. During his active service he was stationed at Norfolk, defending the Norfolk Navy Yard against Union forces. His older brother George Cumberland Anderson followed him into the Elliott Grays, enlisting in March 1862. He served through the war as a sergeant (19 battles). The Anderson brothers were big men; George Cumberland was 6'1".

After recovering from pneumonia, William continued to serve the Confederacy as a civilian. He met my greatgrandmother Mary Houston Berry while he was in Ashland, Kentucky selling salt and other supplies to the Confederate forces there. Mary was a teacher at the Ashland Academy, a "finishing" school for young ladies. In the spring of 1866 she served as headmistress.

William and Mary were married on 5 July 1866 and moved to Morganfield, Union Co., Kentucky where William started a grocery store. After about ten years, they moved to Texas. Family legend has it that they were on the first train to reach Fort Worth, on 19 July 1876. In any case, they lived in Lancaster near Dallas until sometime after 1880 when they settled in Tolar, Hood Co., Texas for the rest of their lives. William Joseph Anderson died 6 April 1904 at Tolar and Mary Houston Berry Anderson died there 24 February 1909. Their daughter (my grandmother) Caroline Jane Anderson married Stephen Albert Martin (the son of the Union soldier Thomas Jefferson Martin) there, and my mother, the youngest of five daughters, was born in Tolar in 1914.

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