About James Franklin Fitts (1839-1890):
James Franklin Fitts, son of Moses Hall Fitts and Rachel Harrison Fitts, was born in Lockport, New York on September 11, 1839. He received most of his education from his father, a teacher. Fitts’ interest in literary pursuits led to his writing for publication from the age of eighteen. He subsequently became a member of the bar of Niagara County in 1860 and commenced the practice of law.
In September 1861, Fitts entered military service as a private in the 10th New York Cavalry. He rose to the post of Battalion Adjutant in the 10th Cavalry prior to his joining the 114th New York Volunteers in a similar capacity. Fitts was promoted to the rank of Captain on March 27, 1863. In March 1865, he was appointed Brevet Major U.S. Volunteers “for gallant and meritorious services.” Fitts also served as a correspondent to local papers for much of the war.
While with the 10th N.Y. Cavalry, Fitts performed guard duty along rail lines between Havre de Grace and Baltimore, Maryland. After joining the 114th N.Y. Volunteers, Fitts saw action first in Louisiana and later in defense of Washington, D.C. In June 1863, he commanded troops during the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana, before falling wounded during an assault on June 14. In September, he returned to action in western Louisiana and, in early 1864, along the Red River. The 114th sailed to Washington, D.C. in July 1864 to help defend the capital from an impending Confederate attack. The regiment helped repel Jubal Early’s attack on Washington in mid July before marching into western Maryland near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. Thereafter, Fitts and his regiment served with Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, where they saw action at Winchester (September 19), Fisher’s Hill (September 22), New Market (September 24), and Cedar Creek (October 19). While recovering from wounds received at Winchester, Fitts was detailed to guard rebel prisoners and army supply trains. In October 1864, Fitts became Assistant Commissary and later Commissary of Musters for the 1st Division, 19th Corps. In March 1865, he became Judge Advocate for the division. He mustered out with the regiment on June 8, 1865.
Fitts returned to Lockport, N. Y. and civilian life as a partner in the firm of Holmes and Fitts. In addition, he served several terms as City Attorney and as counsel for the Board of Supervisors. He was active in Republican politics prior to 1884, when his support of Grover Cleveland led him to switch his allegiance to the Democratic Party. Fitts also continued his writing, both as a journalist and as a writer of fiction.
Fitts published eleven titles between 1863 and 1896 – The Young Pioneer: or, The Red and White Men of Virginia; A Story of the Early Settlers (Boston: Elliott, Thomes & Talbot, 1863); Captain Kidd’s Gold: The True Story of an Adventurous Sailor Boy (New York: A.L. Burt, 1888; Mount Pleasant, Tennessee: White Horse Pub., 1999); A Sharp Night’s Work: A Powerful Detective Story (Chicago: Laird & Lee, 1888); A Modern Miracle: A Dramatic Story (New York: A.L. Burt, 1889); Plucky Burt, or, Bound to be a Soldier (New York: Union Library Co., 1890); The Parson’s Secret: A Dramatic Story, in three parts (New York: Street & Smith, 1892); A Modern Miracle; or, A Married Sinner (New York: Street & Smith, Pub., 1895); Burt the Hero, or, Adventures of a Plucky Boy (New York: Dike Book Company, 1896); Twenty-four Novelettes: complete in this number: illustrated (Augusta, Maine: John F. Hill & Co., 1896); A Bartered Birthright (Springfield, Ohio: Mast, Crowell & Kirkpatrick, 1899), and The Wife’s Secret, or, Struggles of the Heart: A Romance of Real Life (Boston: Elliott, Thomes & Talbot, 1880-1899?).
Fitts married Harriett E. Gooding, also of Lockport, N.Y., on July 1, 1868. He died on January 11, 1890, from a heart condition related to his war wounds.
About the James Franklin Fitts collection:
The Fitts Papers primarily contain Civil War letters from Major Fitts to members of his family. Most are from 1864, and describe his service in Louisiana and in defense of Washington. In addition, there is a sewn letter book of musters for the 1st Division, 19th Army Corps, dated November 1864 to 1865. There are also scattered notes about the Civil War, poems written by Fitts, an obituary from the Lockport Morning Express, and a copy of Civil War photograph of Fitts. A complete set of the letters has been photocopied and is foldered separately. In addition, there are four photographs of family members, two of Moses Hall Fitts (father) and one each of Charlotte Coleman Fitts (sister) and Edward Caverno Fitts (brother).
- Correspondence (photocopies)
- Bound letter book and muster records
- Miscellaneous writings, poetry, and clippings
- Biographical material
|f.1||October 1861, March-April 1864.
Includes one letter to his mother, dated October 1, 1861, relating to his unit’s mobilization. Others pertain to his leave in spring 1864 and subsequent return to his regiment in western Louisiana.
|f.2||April 26-July 13, 1864.
Letters relating to Banks’ Red River Campaign, weather associated sickness, and the 114th’s transfer to Washington, D.C.
|f.3||July 16-August 30, 1864.
Letters concerning the aftermath of Early’s attack on Washington, troop movements through Maryland and Virginia, and conditions within the 19th Corps.
|f.4||September 2-December 21, 1864.
Fitts describes the effects of days of constant marching, the Battle of Winchester and the wounds he received there, the Battle of Fisher’s Hill, the Battle of New Market, service as an escort both to Confederate prisoners and a Federal supply train, the Battle of Cedar Creek, his assignment as Assistant Commissary of Musters, and life in winter quarters near Newtown, VA.
II. Correspondence (photocopies) — Letters from James Franklin Fitts
|f.5-8||Arranged as above (misnumbered in upper left corner, use dates for ordering).|
III. Bound Letter Book, Muster Records, and Official Correspondence
|f.9||“Letter Book. Office Assistant Commissary Muster. 1st Division, 19th Army Corps. Camp Russell, near Newtown, VA, November 30, 1864.” Official correspondence, dated November 30, 1864 through March 29, 1865.|
|f.10||Unbound official correspondence. Two, regarding musters, dated January 1864  and January 18, 1865; A copy of a letter congratulating the 114th for their conduct during the Battle of Winchester, dated Sept. 26, 1864; and four documents related to returned ordnance stores, 1867-68.|
IV. Miscellaneous Writings, poetry, clippings, notes, etc.
|f.11||Includes notes on the costs of the Civil War, notes about the Sheridan’s Shenandoah Campaign, a chronology of the campaign along the Mississippi, notes for speeches and/or unidentified writings, manuscript and a printed copy of J.F. Fitts’ poem, “The Evil Within Me,” and an untitled Civil War poem.|
V. Biographical Material — Major James Franklin Fitts
|f.12||Photocopy of the Fitts genealogy, typescript and photocopy of Fitts’ military service record, photocopy of regimental history of the 114th N.Y. Regiment, anonymous obituary (possibly from a 10th N.Y. Cavalry Veteran Association publication), legal certificate, a front page article/obituary from the Lockport Morning Express, and a copy of an 1864 photograph of Fitts taken by Miller and McMurray in Winchester, VA. Also four 4×6 photographs, two of Moses Hall Fitts (father), and one each of Charlotte Coleman Fitts (sister) and Edward Caverno Fitts (brother).|