Lieutenant John Cantrell Fite (1828-1881)

Officers of Company B, 6th Indiana Cavalry

Lt John C. Fite back row, second from right (above picture) and back row, third from right (bottom picture).

Pictures courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

Lieutenant John C. Fite, 3rd great-granduncle of companion 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. His youngest brother, Thomas E. Fite, was the third great-grandfather of Virginia Commandery Companion Jason Fite.