Civil War Letters – Early History of Hernando County, Florida


Another Letter from Tullahoma, 1863

By Charles Campbell Blankenship

This article appeared in the Florida Genealogist in 1990 and is reproduced here with the permission of the author.

Just as Washington Mackey Ives wrote home from Tullahoma, Tennessee, during the Civil War,(1) Francis R. Nicks wrote letters as well. His two surviving letters, penned at Tullahoma and Brooksville, Florida, were donated by this writer’s mother, Mrs. Frances Fair Clark Mallett, to the Florida State Archives at Tallahassee.(2) The Tullahoma letter is believed to have been sent to William Michael “Mike” Hope, son of Henry and Alatha Hope, who died during the Civil War at a Lake City, Florida, hospital in early 1864. Mike’s younger sister, Alatha Frances Jane Hope, married Francis’s younger brother, Robert Henry R. Nicks, in Hernando County, Florida, 16 June 1873. The letter has survived by being passed to their grandchildren these last 127 years. It was found by this writer in a collection of indentures, receipts, and letters of Robert Henry R. Nicks. He used this material together with Francis Fair’s “Day Book” which began 14 June 1831 (and which contained the second letter of Francis R. Nicks) as proof for the Florida Pioneer Descendant Certificates for James Rinaldo Nicks and Frances Fair which he received through the Florida State Genealogical Society in 1988.

Francis R. Nicks was born in 1837 in Lake Iamonia, Leon County, Territory of Florida, the second son of James Rinaldo Nicks and Francis Fair Nicks. He moved with the family to Hernando County when he was eighteen years old. His father was a land speculator in Georgia; in Florida he was a farmer, a justice of the peace, an election inspector in 1845, a Democratic State Convention Delegate in 1852, and finally a Representative from Hernando County to the Florida House from 1856 to 1859. In April of 1861, Francis and his brother Benjamin were mustered into C Company of the Third Florida Regiment, Hernando Guards (later known as the Hernando Wildcats). Their older brother William R. Nicks served in C Company of the Ninth Florida Infantry, moving cattle for the Confederacy.

This letter was written from Tullahoma, Tennessee, after Francis had returned from a Florida furlough in February. This probably means that he had missed the Battle of Stones River. The four-page letter is transcribed in the words in which it was written; punctuation and capitalization have been added only as necessary to make the content of the text clearer.

Tullahoma Tenn March the 9th 1863

Dear Mike

I seat myself this morning to write you according to promise. This informes you that I am well at presant and enjoying fine weather. With the exception of a bad cold my jeneral health is better than it has been for some time. Hope this few lines will reach you safe and find you an the family enjoying the same blessings. The Boys are all well and on fine spirits. We have but verry little sickness at this time and the weather is being pleasant thls morning though it has been very cold and wet. Mike, this is the worst country I ever saw in my life. It rains all the time and when it aint raining it is snowing. I dont think it will be cold much longer.

Well, Mike, I have now news that would interest you. I wish that I did have some to write you. We are building batteries and throwing brest works up and cutting down hammocks preparing to have a fight. The Jenerals are expecting that we will have a fight soon. They say that Rosancrance is advancin on ous. We will have it soon. We have a pretty large force at this place. Our force Is estimated at thirty two thousand. Van Dorn had a fight last week with the yanks and killed 2600 hundred an taking 1,000 prisoners. I cant hear one word from my brother Ben.(3) Mike, I do feel lost. We are pretty well fixed here. We have tents an little Chimneys to them. We get plenty to eat.

I suppose you have heard the Death of James Ellis pore fellow. I do feel sorry for him an his family. Benton has gon to Hospital. I tell you, Mike, Ole Jeneral Bragg is very tight on ous. We cant get an furlough unless we are going to die and every man that dont report to his command soon will be reported as deserters an treated as such.

Well, Mike, I did think some time back that there was some likely hood of peace but now from what I can learn their is no such good news. Every Person I hear speaks of it sais it will last as long as Lincolns administration last. I hope the old rascal will Die.

Jeneral Joseph E. Johnson is going to inspect our Bragade tomorrow. We are in Jeneral Prestons Division and Breckenridges Bragade under Jeneral Johnson.

Well, Mike, you must excuse bad every thing I said to with this letter in a hurry to go on review.

Mike, you must give my love to all the Girls an tell them I am fat and sassy. Mike, you must write as soon as you get this an tell me all the news. I will be glad to hear from you at any time. Your letter will be received and with pleasure so I must close. Give my love to the Family and receive the same for your self. I remain as ever your Friend until Death,

Francis R. Nicks

Direct your letter to

F. R. Nicks Company C Third Regt Fla Vols Tullahoma


Mike, I have no postage stamps nor no change so you must excuse me cant get any


1. Ives, Washington Mackey. “Two Letters from Tullahoma, 1863.” The Florida Genealogist 8 (Summer 1985); 98-102.

2. These letters are cataloged as M88-03 in the Manuscript Collection of the Florida State Archives.

3. “brother Ben” is Benjamin R. Nicks who was captured in Kentucky and later released at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

4. “James Ellis pore fellow” and “Benton” are brothers James Light Ellis and Benton Ellis of Hernando County, Florida.

5. For further information on the persons and military units mentioned in this article, see the following:

_______. “Light Townsend 1770-1851: His Antecedents in South Carolina and His Descendants in Florida.” Florida. Genealogical Journal 8 (Summer 1972): 11-20.

Coles, David J. “Ancient City Defenders: The St. Augustine Blues.” El Escribeino 23 (1986): 65-89.

_______. Soldiers of Florida in the Seminole Indian, Civil, and Spanish-American Wars. Tallahassee: Florida Board of State Institutions, 1903. Reprint. MacClenney, Florida: Richard J. Ferry, 1983.

Who Will Speak for Francis Now?

by Charles Campbell Blankenship

This article appeared in the Florida Genealogist in Spring 1992 and is reproduced here with the permission of the author.

No one spoke for Francis R. Nicks when the 1850 U.S. Census was conducted for the 8th District of Leon County. Florida. This was evident since he was listed as a female, and his name was spelled Frances which was his mother’s name.(1) Francis’ second Civil War letter was penned from home while he was on furlough in Florida. Although the letter was unsigned, it was obvious that Francis spoke as he was a member of the same C Company as was his brother under the command of Captain Walter Terry Saxon.(2)

This letter, written from Brooksville, Florida, does not mention the invasion of Union troops from Bayport, Florida, which took place in the second week of July, 1864, so his letter was probably written during the first week. His official records do not indicate that he was AWOL, and his brother was captured at a Confederate hospital in Georgia at the end of the war.(3) Both returned to the area and registered for the 1868 Voter Registration in Hernando County.(4) Francis does not appear on the 1870 U.S. Census and may have died before then. WPA Records show that he is buried in the Brooksville City Cemetery listed as F.R. Nix.(5) A lonely grave at Spring Lake south of Brooksville has a Confederate gravemarker with Frank Nix C Company on it. This is probably the grave of Francis’ brother Ben.

[Some punctuation and capitalization have been added –Editor]

Brooksville July 1864

Capt Saxon(6)

Dear Friend

I seat my self to write you a few lines to lett you know how I am well Capt I have been in a verry low state of health ever since I got hom and I am no better. I wrote you some time a go but never recd and answer also one to Suhr(7) and none from him. I cant get my furlough extended unless I report to Hacon and I am not able to travel and it c ceaps me uneasy so I dont no what to do. All my friends advis me not to go back but to write to you. Every person that seas me say I never will be able for duty any more. My friends shant advis me rong fully. Just as soon as I get able to travel I will report to Macon or to the Regt. I have [this line unreadable].

day and have been no where. I have not enjoyed my self in the least. I have had this disease so long I am affraid I never will get over it. I will assure you that I have been verry low since I got home and I am worse off than I was when I got Sixty days furlough. If you Pleasse dont Report me. I will Report as soon as I get able.

Capt I cant do no better. Brother Ben never will be able for duty and longger. He can’t eat tho he will Report as soon as he can. A peace of his jaw bone came out 2 inches long and one inch thick besides Several other pecies. Mother is verry low(8) and I have to stay with her night an day tho I cant be of (much) Service to her. I have no news to write at Presant.


Thus the son of James Rinaldo Nicks and Frances Fair spoke twice. The original question was “Who will speak for Francis now?” The answer: I will!


1. 1850 U.S. Census, (Free Schedule), Leon County, FL; p. 51, family 102, dwelling 102, lines 16-22; National Archives Microfilm M432, Roll 59.

2. Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Florida, National Archives Microcopy M-251, National Archives, Washington D.C. Hereafter cited as CSR.

3. CSR. Ben was admitted to Ocmulgee Hospital, Macon, Georgia, on 21 April 1865 and captured in April 1865.

4. Abstracted from the 1868 Voter Registration Records of Hernando County, Florida, Florida State Archives. Francis and Benjamin registered as voters #286 and #287.

5. Works Project Administration, WPA Veteran’s Grave Registration 1940-1941, Hernando County, Florida. (St. Augustine: State Arsenal, n.d.), 12.

6. Sumner A. Cunningham, “The Last Roll Call: Capt. W. T. Saxon.” Confederate Veteran 33 (1925): 62. Captain Saxon organized the Hernando Guards in 1861 with money received from surveying the Everglades.

7. CSR. Records show that Augustus W. Suhr, age thirty-five at enlistment, was later promoted to Sergeant and was killed in battle on 15 June 1864.

8. Florida Pioneer Descendant Certificate #924, James Rinaldo Nicks, Item #13. Mother, Frances, died c. 1864.

9. For further information on the persons and military units mentioned in this article, see the following:

Charles Campbell Blankenship, “Another Letter from Tullahoma, 1863.” The Florida Genealogist 14 (Fall 1990): 24-26.

History of Texas: Biographical Sketches of Many of the Leading Families of Central Texas. (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1896), 697-699.

Thomas Benton Ellis, “A Short History of Thomas Benton Ellis, Sr.” P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, Gainesville. Photocopy.

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