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All That It Brings

Army Letters from an Officer’s Wife 1871-1888
by Frances M. A. Roe
Edited by Michael M. London & Suzanne Pollock

In October 1871, Frances M. A. Roe left the east coastComing Soon in 2008 and West Point with her husband, Lieutenant Fayette W. Roe, to Fort Lyon in the Colorado Territory. Frances wrote an engaging collection of letters that describe her experiences in post civil war America. Frances’s letters tell the compelling story of a young officer’s wife learning what it means to live on the far frontier of the west.


KIT CARSON, COLORADO TERRITORY, October, 1871
“It is late, so this can be only a note - to tell you that we arrived here safely, and will take the stage for Fort Lyon tomorrow morning at six o'clock. I am thankful enough that our stay is short at this terrible place, where one feels there is danger of being murdered any minute. Not one woman have I seen here, but there are men - any number of dreadful-looking men - each one armed with big pistols, and leather belts full of cartridges. But the houses we saw as we came from the station were worse even than the men. They looked, in the moonlight, like huge cakes of clay, where spooks and creepy things might be found. The hotel is much like the houses, and appears to have been made of dirt, and a few dry goods boxes. Even the low roof is of dirt. The whole place is horrible, and dismal beyond description, and just why anyone lives here I cannot understand”

Frances’s delightful candor is found throughout these letters as she shares her understanding of the military protocol.

FORT LYON, COLORADO TERRITORY,
October, 1871

"It seems that in the Army, lieutenants are called "Mister" always, but all other officers must be addressed by their rank. At least that is what they tell me. But in Faye's company, the captain is called general, and the first lieutenant is called major, and as this is most confusing, I get things mixed sometimes. Most girls would. A soldier in uniform waited upon us at dinner, and that seemed so funny. I wanted to watch him all the time, which distracted me, I suppose, for once I called General Phillips "Mister!" It so happened, too, that just that instant there was not a sound in the room, so everyone heard the blunder. General Phillips straightened back in his chair, and his little son gave a smothered giggle--for which he should have been sent to bed at once. But that was not all! That soldier, who had been so dignified and stiff, put his hand over his mouth and fairly rushed from the room so he could laugh outright. And how I longed to run some place, too--but not to laugh, oh, no!"

Hers is a story of army camp life and all of its joys and frustrations; a story of a young woman, never having ridden a horse, who grows to become an accomplished equestrian; and the story of an American who falls in love with the American West.

“I love army life here in the West, and I love all the things that it brings
to me--the grand mountains, the plains, and the fine hunting.”
Frances M. A. Roe,
FORT SHAW, MONTANA TERRITORY,
May, 1885

Originally published in 1909, London House Publishing will create an experience book in an unbound, three-dimensional format, recreating the rich and descriptive letters and other artifacts that are her rare story; a peek into the world of the US Military of the late 19th century American West and a woman’s place in that time.

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