The Fite Brothers

Officers of Company B, 6th Illinois Cavalry Regiment 

Lt John C. Fite is back row, second from right in picture above and back row, third from right in picture below.

Pictures courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

Lieutenant John Cantrell Fite (1828-1881)

Lieutenant John C. Fite, 3rd great-granduncle of brother Jason Fite, was born in Smith County, Tennessee, the eldest son of Rev. Henry Fite (1800-1861) and the grandson of Revolutionary War veteran Rev. John Fite (1758-1852). He moved to Johnson County, Illinois sometime before the Civil War began. He joined the Union Army on 10 September 1861 as a 1st Lieutenant and mustered into Company B, 6th Illinois Cavalry on 17 November 1861 at Camp Butler, Illinois. His physical description at the time of entering the Army was as follows: "Age 32, height 5' 9 1/2, hair black, eyes yellow, complexion fair, marital status married, occupation farmer. nativity Smith County, TN."

Lt. Fite resigned from Company B on 27 November 1862 but his absence was short lived. He rejoined the Army on 9 March 1863 and mustered as a 2nd Lieutenant with Company B, 6th Illinois Cavalry on 28 April 1863 in La Grange, Tennessee. He served with the 6th Illinois Cavalry for the remainder of the war and it is assumed he was present at all of their engagements with the enemy to include the crucial siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana from 24 May 1863 to 9 July 1863. Lt. Fite was severely wounded at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee on 30 November 1864. The activities of the unit in the days leading up to the Battle of Franklin are especially interesting when one reads the Adjutant General's report.

The Sixth Illinois Cavalry was ordered to move rapidly to Shelbyville, Tenn.; then cross Duck River, and move 20 miles down the river and cross at Pike Ford, and return to the command at Columbia. After 2 days march, arrived at Shelbyville; the third day, at Pike Ford. On arriving there it was ascertained that General Forrest's entire command had crossed the river, 6 miles below, the day before. By this time, the rebel scouts were discovered, in every direction. The Regiment being then almost in the rear of the entire rebel forces, the only chance to escape capture or annihilation was to swim the river and cut its way through, which was done with entire success. After crossing the river, the march was resumed, constantly skirmishing with the rebel patrol and flankers. After marching 18 miles, the Regiment camped so near the enemy that their fires could be seen, and they could be heard chopping wood. Next morning the Regiment resumed the march at one o'clock, and rejoined the command at Franklin, Tenn., at ten o'clock A.M. Its loss, on expedition, was 8 men missing. The battle of Franklin commenced at one o'clock, same day, in which the Regiment took an active part.

The death toll of the 6th Illinois Cavalry during the war is a result of their constant skirmishes and engagements with the enemy, to include numerous battles against Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. The unit sustained 65 combat deaths and 401 total deaths during the war to include 13 of John's fellow officers.

2Lt. John C. Fite was mustered out of the Army at Selma, Alabama on 5 November 1865. He moved to Missouri after the war and died in 1881. John had six younger brothers and all four that were of military age served in the Union Army (below). His youngest brother, Thomas E. Fite, was the third great-grandfather of Brady Camp brother Jason Fite.

Private William L. Fite (1830-1894)

Private William L. Fite, 3rd great-granduncle of brother Jason Fite, was in Company F, 146th Ohio Infantry Regiment.

The 146th Ohio was organized at Camp Dennison, Ohio, and mustered into service on May 12, 1864. The regiment left Ohio for Charleston, West Virginia on May 17, 1864 and then moved to Fayetteville, West Virginia. The 146th was on garrison duty there till August 27 (Cos. "A" and "H" detached at Camp Chase, Ohio, to guard prisoners). The unit moved to Camp Piatt, West Virginia on August 27 and then back to Camp Dennison, Ohio, where they were mustered out of service on September 7, 1864.

Private Henry M. Fite (1832-1892)

Private Henry M. Fite, 3rd great-granduncle of brother Jason Fite, was in Company E, 4th Tennessee Mounted Infantry Regiment.

The 4th Tennessee was organized at large in Tennessee on September 1, 1864. There were stationed at Alexandria, Tennessee, operating against guerrillas.  The regiment saw action at Wall's Hill September 28, 1864. They operated against guerrillas in White, Overton, Fentress and Montgomery Counties and quieting country till August, 1865. The unit was mustered out of service on August 25, 1865.

Sergeant Isaac N. Fite (1836-1903)

Isaac N. Fite, 3rd great-granduncle of brother Jason Fite, served with his younger brother James Harvey Fite in Company G, 1st Tennessee Mounted Infantry. He was promoted to Sergeant in September 1864 and mustered out of service in April 1865.

The 1st Tennessee was organized at Nashville and Carthage, Tennessee from December, 1863 to November 1864. They were on duty at Carthage, Granville and on line of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad in District of Middle Tennessee till April, 1865. The regiment was ordered to Murfreesboro, Tennessee on April 18, 1865 and were on duty there until June 26, 1865. The 1st Tennessee was ordered to Nashville and mustered out of service on July 22, 1865.

Private James H. Fite (1847-1927)

James Harvey Fite, 3rd great-granduncle of brother Jason Fite, was the eldest son of Rev. Henry Fite's second marriage to Martha Garrison and the youngest of the Fite brothers to serve in the Union Army. He enlisted at 16 years old in Company G, 1st Tennessee Mounted Infantry and was mustered out of service in April 1865. He relocated to Anthony, Kansas after the war and served as Junior Vice Post Commander of the H. W. Lawton Post #61 of the Grand Army of the Republic. He died in 1927.

A tale of his war time service is given below in his own words. This is excerpted from William T. Hale's 1915 work History of DeKalb County, Tennesee pgs. 236-238.

"James H. Fite, formerly a trustee of DeKalb County, but now residing in Anthony, Kans., was a sixteen- year-old private in Capt. Jack Garrison's company of Federals. His home was on the pike a mile and a half west of Liberty. Of some of his experiences, he writes:

Our regiment, the First Tennessee Mounted Infantry, was mustered in at Carthage early in 1864. About May the different companies were sent to various portions of the State for garrison duty and scouting after Champe Ferguson and other guerrillas. A good part of my company (G) was from Liberty and vicinity, the officers having been a part of Stokes's regiment. We were first sent to Granville, above Carthage, on the river, to build a stockade, and then to Liberty to build another, our force numbering seventy-five or one hundred men. The latter was well started when about the first of September, late in the afternoon, Wheeler's cavalry took us by surprise, and like a covey of birds we were scattered.

A week or so prior to this Gen. H. P. Van Cleve, at Murfreesboro, sent word to our officers that Wheeler was reported coming through Sequatchie Valley and suggested to them to scout in that direction and see if the news was correct. Instead of doing that they selected about twenty of us and went through Lebanon and by Cedar Glade and Cainsville. We returned to Liberty about two hours before Wheeler came upon us from the direction of Smithville. It was a complete surprise, and the result was a route. There was considerable firing; and, while nobody was killed, they captured something like a dozen of our boys.

My horse had given out on the expedition into Wilson County, and I was riding one belonging to a member of Stokes's regiment. In returning to Liberty I stopped at my mother's [Martha Garrison Fite], just west of that village, to get supper. She prepared a sort of feast, setting the table on the front porch. I recall the big peach cobbler. I had finished supper when T. G. Bratten stopped at the gate and told me that they were fighting in town and suggested that we ride down and take part. As I had no horse, he went alone. He returned in a gallop shortly, calling to me that the Confederates were coming. I watched for the advance guard, soon seeing four about three hundred yards away, and retreated in fairly good order to a plum thicket back of the house. The Johnnies rode into the yard. Having brother [Robert Henry Fite] to hold their horses, they ate supper. Mother said one of them, finishing first, walked to the back door, and she expected every moment that I would shoot him, though I would never have killed one from the bushes. I am glad to this day I did not, for that Confederate too had a mother somewhere waiting for his return.

About sunset quite a bunch came by and stopped. Their officer proved to be a relative of ours. He asked for a pillow for a wounded man, mother taking it to the gate. They had already taken a buggy from a neighbor. When asked who was in command, the officer said, "Wheeler," adding that the force was ten thousand strong and would be a week in passing. In the night I went to the house; and, learning that the Confederates were under Wheeler, I was relieved. The im-pression was that they were Ferguson's guerillas, and I knew I would be murdered if caught by them.

The next day I found a hiding place, a thicket back of the field, and had a narrow escape. Some Confederates came down to the creek very close to me, and a number went swimming. Others were as thick as blackbirds in Eli Vick's cornfield, just across the creek. While some were at the house eating, a soldier went up and said that they had killed a Yankee back of the field. It was supposed that some one in the neighborhood told him to say that before mother, believing that she in her emotion would give me away. My little brother, Robert, whispered to her to be quiet, and he would go and see if anybody was killed. When within thirty yards of me a Confederate asked where he was going. His reply was that he was hunting where the hogs had been getting into the field. My brother soon found me and reassured mother. Truly the mothers, daughters, sisters, and sweethearts deserve as much honor as any of the soldiers.

After Wheeler passed through, our men got together again and finished the stockade. I think we could have kept off quite a force now, unless the attacking party had had cannon. We were at the stockade when the battle of Nashville took place between Hood and Thomas. We expected an attack from Forrest, but I'm thankful he never came. Only sixteen, I did not have sense enough at that age to be scared. I have seen older men have ague when they expected an attack."