To tell the Truth; Research woes or is that Roes? Will the real Fayette W. Roe please stand up

Armed with my 2007 reprint of Army Letters from an Officer’s Wife 1871-1888, I began my quest in search of the elusive one-time author Frances M.A. Roe. I soon realized the reprint wasn’t an exact copy but an edited version of the rare 1909 edition. It excluded the dedication- “To My Comrade, FAYE”, 25 illustrations and Frances M.A. Roe’s famous frontispiece.  The rare photograph of Frances brings life to her story with a face to match her adventurous spirit! Pictured below, Frances is wearing the altered West Point coatee of 2nd Lieutenant Fayette W. Roe. On her head sits a forage cap adorned with the United States Military Academy insignia. In her left hand is a riding crop, and of course, laying at her side is Hal, the ever faithful greyhound companion. Frances M.A. Roe with Hal

Curious about Frances Roe’s unusual dedication to her husband, 2nd Lieutenant Fayette Washington Roe, I began another search. Quickly, I found two archival photographs. The first photo (below left) is the USMA photo from his obituary.

USMA Obituary

USMA Obituary

The second photo (right inset) was discovered in the Denver Public Library’s digital collection. Fayette Washington Roe is seated and wearing full uniform. Simply, a grand and mesmerizing portrait of Roe in full military regalia!

Denver Public Library Western History Collection

Denver Public Library

Both photos are similar such as the military uniform, bald head and piercing eyes. Yet, the facial and body characteristics of the side profile with mustache versus the seated frontal portrait with beard are noticeably different. Maybe the images were taken years apart in his military career; thus, explaining the slight built versus the larger than life seated portrait.


USMA Cadet F.W. Roe

USMA Cadet F.W. Roe

A couple months ago, I came across a very young cadet side profile of Roe including a signature below the photo, “F.W. Roe.” This image has identical facial features as seen in the USMA obit headshot. In comparing all three photos, the Denver Public library photo was clearly less of a resemblance other than the USMA uniform and  bald head. However, according to the library notes, the inscription on the back of the photo: “Gen. Roe” penciled and “B-230” inked on glass plate by photographer; photograph of a portrait. The title: “General Fayette Washington Roe, seated, in uniform, 3/4 length,”  even though Fayette Roe never made the rank of General.  Then again, I reconsidered the “General” due to Frances explaining the confusion of real military ranks and temporary ranks- also known as a “brevet,” –General Phillips is not a real general–only so by brevet, for gallant service during the war. In other words, a temporary authorization for a person to hold a higher rank. Maybe Faye was a brevet “General” at some point in his USMA career?


As time would tell, I stumbled across another photograph of First Lieutenant Fayette Roe taken at the Pine Ridge Reservation. The Collection name: Wounded Knee Massacre. Event: Wounded Knee. Place: South Dakota. Title: General John R. Brooke and Staff at Pine Ridge Reservation. Date 1890.

Lt. Fayette Roe (left), Major Daniel Benham, General John Brooke, Major John Bacon and unidentified officer. Pine Ridge Reservation, 1890

Lt. Fayette Roe (left), Major Daniel Benham, General John Brooke, Major John Bacon and unidentified officer. Pine Ridge Reservation, 1890. Courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society (NSHS)

The next step in resolving “who’s the real F.W. Roe,”  was to find evidence of Roe commissioned at the Pine Ridge Camp, South Dakota, during the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890. Library of Congress is a great newspaper source and with determination I began the arduous task of searching through their digital collection. Lo and behold, The Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City Utah) newspaper dated December 16 1890 verifies Fayette was at the Headquarters Department of the Platte, In the field, Camp at Pine Ridge Agency, South Dakota on December 9, 1890:The Salt Lake Herald: Tuesday, December 16 1890 copyHere’s a closeup of The Salt Lake Herald showing Fayette W. Roe, 1st Lieut., 3rd Infantry, Aide-de-Camp:

The Salt Lake Herald December 16 1890

So were all these photos of Roe at various stages of his life? Or is the Denver library photo not Fayette W. Roe but another Roe? After a little more digging through the newspapers and USMA archives, I uncovered the identity of the “General” and notified The Denver Public Library about the erroneous name on their photo. The correct name is Major-General Charles Francis Roe who graduated from West Point in 1868. I guess the bottom line in researching is check your resources and the sources of their sources and so forth and so on.