Friday, April 26, 2013

Letters from an Army Officer's Wife, 1877-1888 - Frances Mack Roe

Frances M. A. Roe wearing her husband’s West Point
coatee, pictured with their dog.
I've just finished reading "Army Letters from an Officer's Wife" by Frances Mack Roe (b. 1850 - d. 5-6-1920). Frances was married to Fayette Washington Roe who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in December 1898.  Her letters are long, detailed and well written.

I think she must have been a fascinating person.  Although she appears to have unflinchingly supported her husband's military career and followed him to some rather isolated posts she impresses me as a more "modern" woman. Frances M. A. Roe, born Frances Marie Antoinette Mack (died 6 May 1920) was the wife of U. S. Army officer Fayette Washington Roe, ultimately a Lieutenant Colonel, who was sent to Fort Lyon in Colorado Territory in 1871. She accompanied him and recorded her life during these years in a memoir. While her husband's career has been described as "unremarkable", Roe continues to be known on the basis of her book for the accurate picture of Army life it painted. Black soldiers from this period became known as the "Buffalo Soldiers"; Roe's was the first documented use of the name. Roe said of the Buffalo Soldiers:
These ‘Buffalo Soldiers’ are active, intelligent, and resolute men; are perfectly willing to fight the Indians, whenever they may be called upon to do so, and appear to me to be rather superior to the average of white men recruited in time of peace.
Roe is buried with her husband in Arlington National Cemetery.

Fayette Roe’s family came from upstate New York, though he was born in Virginia. When he graduated from West Point, he married another upstate New Yorker, Frances Mack. Roe’s first post took the couple west to Colorado, and over the next fifteen years, to Montana, Utah, and the Dakotas.

Roe’s military career was an unremarkable series of clerical and administrative posts. He would have passed into obscurity had he not appeared as Frances’s beloved comrade “Faye” in her lively and perceptive account of frontier life, Army Letters from an Officer’s Wife (1909).

Captivated by the beauty of western landscapes, Frances described in telling detail the scenes and events in their army communities. She carefully balanced tales of lively social life with attention to the harsh conditions and isolation that military families endured.

- A Frontier Army Wife

One of the posts to which her husband was assigned was Fort Ellis as shown here...

She also mentions a stint at Camp Supply...

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