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R. Nicholas Nelson
Title: John Thomas Whitfield (photo)  Source: Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library John Thomas Whitfield (1842–1876)
Lawrence T. Jones III Texas Photographs,
DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries,
Southern Methodist University

WHITFIELD, JOHN THOMAS (1842–1876). John Thomas Whitfield, born in Centreville, Tennessee, in 1842, was the son of John Wilkins Whitfield and Catherine M. (Danbury) Whitfield. In 1860 he was still living with his father in Kickapoo, Kansas, while he attended St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1861 John T. Whitfield joined his father's unit, Whitfield's Legion, as adjutant. In November 1861 his father wrote Gen. Benjamin McCulloch and asked him to recommend that John T. Whitfield be appointed to a lieutenancy. However, he was not appointed and instead was elected captain of Company D of Whitfield's Legion in February 1862. During the battle of Iuka on September 19, 1862, Captain Whitfield was acting major and distinguished himself by discovering and disrupting a flanking maneuver by Federal forces. He was promoted to major on May 9, 1863, and served as judge advocate in the spring of 1864. By January 1865 Lawrence "Sul" Ross was referring to him as lieutenant colonel. At his parole on May 13, 1865, he held the rank of colonel and was in overall command of Whitfield's Legion.

After the war, Whitfield moved to Houston where he worked as a lawyer. In 1870 he was living in the Enterprise Hotel. In 1871 he was involved in a scandal with James G. Tracy, editor of the Houston Union, regarding some comments of Whitfield regarding Gov. Edmund J. Davis's wife. After a series of exchanges between the two men and their friends that were published in the Union, Whitfield eventually challenged Tracy to a duel. Apparently the challenge was not accepted. Whitfield does not appear in the Harris County tax record after 1871, but his law firm, Winch & Whitfield, continued to advertise under the same name through 1873. In 1874 he served as one of the clerks in the General Land Office. Sometime afterward he moved to Lavaca County and raised stock with his father. He died on the family plantation on February 3, 1876.


Paul C. Boethel, On the Headwaters of the Lavaca and the Navidad (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1967).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, R. Nicholas Nelson, "WHITFIELD, JOHN THOMAS ," accessed August 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwh98.

Uploaded on April 14, 2011. Modified on January 18, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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