By Danella Dickson
John Thomas Ellis was born October 21, 1839 in Greene County, Illinois, the son of Thomas McKee and Mary (Witt) Ellis. When John was seven years old he came to Texas with his parents who settled in Lancaster, Dallas County.
The 6th Texas Cavalry had organized in September of 1861 in Dallas and trained at Camp Barton, just south of Dallas. The newly formed regiment had over 1,150 soldiers in 10 companies formed from North Texas counties. In November of 1861 the 6th Texas Cavalry was ordered to Fort Smith, Arkansas. The unit saw their first military action in December 1861 when they became involved in a skirmish in Indian Territory (now the state of Oklahoma). The next engagement took place March 6-8, 1862 at Pea Ridge, Arkansas. John “Tom” Ellis enlisted as a Private in Company F, 6th Texas Cavalry on March 25, 1862 at Clarksville, Johnson County, Arkansas so he could serve with his brothers James Henry & William Franklin Ellis. During 1862 the regiment was disabled by disease with forty one deaths reported in Arkansas and sixty two in Mississippi. John was one of those affected and was absent from duty most of 1862. He was a patient in the Texas General Hospital in Quitman, Mississippi from December 1862 until February 7, 1863. According to company muster rolls Tom remained healthy most of 1863 and was present for duty.
Tom was wounded at the Battle of Lovejoy Station, Georgia on November 16, 1864 when both legs were shattered above the knees by a rifle ball. The story of what followed was reported by A.C. Greene in his Civil War article for the Dallas Morning News, October 16, 1994, “Henry Ellis was told of his brother’s injury and with the aid of Tom Dixon, another Texan, went back and loaded Tom and another wounded soldier onto a train. Then Henry and Tom Dixon ran to a spring to supply the wounded with water, and while they were gone the train pulled out with the wounded men aboard. A freight train followed the first train and Henry and companion jumped it, only to be ordered off by the conductor. After they were ordered “for the last time” to get off the freight train, Henry said “I have a wounded brother in the train ahead with no one to attend to him. I am going to stay on this train and overtake him or die in the attempt”. He stayed on.
They came to a large camp where the main hospital had been moved near a medical college, and a civilian came alongside the train calling for “a man named Ellis”. He told Henry where to find his brother and while the surgeons were waiting for Tom to die, Henry cooled his wounded legs by carrying water from a spring and keeping a stream running on them day and night for 10 days. Seeing that Tom would not die and his brother would not allow his limbs to be amputated, the doctors began treating him. Henry was allowed to stay with him for 30 days but he had to help care for the other wounded men.
Several months later Tom was sent to Jackson, Mississippi, on crutches. From Canton, Mississippi he wrote for Henry to come and take him into the country where he could “get something to eat”. Henry made friends with an Uncle Jake Harmon who took the wounded Tom in, and there he stayed until the war ended.”
Tom spent the remainder of his life in Lancaster, Dallas County, Texas where he was a successful farmer. He married his first wife, Fannie C. Stewart, on October 5, 1870 in Dallas County and they were the parents of three sons and one daughter. Fannie died July 27, 1884. John remarried July 21, 1888 to Sarah A. Sinclair who died March 19, 1915.
Tom lived to be 89 years old. H died March 14, 1929 at his home in Lancaster, Texas and is buried in the Edgewood Cemetery.
Courtesy of J.B. and Ramona Roberts.