York County Soldiers: Maj. Alfred E. Lewis
Throughout 2011 we will occasionally present photos and biographies of Civil War soldiers born in or otherwise associated with York County, Pennsylvania.
Here is the first entry of the series, Maj. Alfred Eli Lewis, whose net worth was a whopping $80,500 in the 1860 U.S. Census. According to researcher Dennis Brandt, he enrolled in June 1861 as captain of Battery E, 1st Pennsylvania Artillery (43rd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers but was promoted to major August 1, 1861.
Here is his biography from an old 19th century anthology of prominent Americans:
Alfred Eli Lewis was born in York in 1834, the son of Eli and Rebecca Lewis. He had two sisters, Mary and Rebecca F. Lewis.
Major Alfred E. Lewis was born in York County, Pennsylvania, entered Princeton College in 1850, and graduated at that institution in 1853. He subsequently read law with Judge Durkee, and was admitted to the York Bar in May, 1855. He continued in legal practice at York until the breaking out of the Civil War, when he raised a company of volunteers in that town, which was accepted by Governor Curtin and mustered into service as Battery E, First Pennsylvania Artillery, of McCall’s Pennsylvania Reserves. On the formation of the regiment, Captain Lewis was elected senior major, and as such took command of the eight batteries organized at “Camp Curtin,” and mustered into the United States service.
On the call for troops after the first battle of Bull Run, McCall’s division proceeded to Washington, where, upon the division of the regiment into two battalions in February, 1862, Major Lewis selected the first battalion as head-quarters of the regiment, and was assigned to General McCall’s command, then at Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburg, Virginia. Here the “Reserves” became attached to the Grand Division of Major-General McDowell.
In May, 1862, McCall procured an order from the President detaching him from McDowell’s division, and ordering him to join General McClellan at Hanover Court-House. Here he was assigned to the Fifth Corps under General Fitz-John Porter, while Major Lewis was assigned to the staff of General McCall as “Chief of Ordnance.” He served also as an aide-de-camp to McCall during the “Seven Days’ Campaign” before Richmond. At Gaines Mill, on June 27, McCall and his staff were greatly exposed, the division being repeatedly pressed back by superior forces of the enemy. At the close of the day’s engagement, Major Lewis was the only staff officer remaining by his commander’s side.
During the evening of this day, General McCall and his faithful aide made a narrow escape from capture by the enemy. The general, seeking the house which had been General Porter’s head-quarters earlier in the day finally reached an improvised field hospital where were sixty wounded soldiers. The surgeon advised the general and major to get back to their lines with all haste. The house was nearly surrounded by rebel pickets. They attempted to obey, but in a few minutes found themselves halted by a sentry.
A brief colloquy ensued with the orderly accompanying them, in which McCall finally gave his name and rank.
“Yes,” said the sentry, “but on what side?”
“The command of General McClellan.”
“The h–11 you are!” yelled the guard, raising his piece, in which act he was joined by two others of the picket.
Fortunately, Major Lewis, who had suspected the sentries from their Southern accent, had quietly wheeled his horse. Now, as they prepared to fire, he seized the rein of the general’s horse, sank his spurs into his own, and plunged headlong away, followed by more than twenty shots from the enemy. They reached camp in safety, with no harm except to their horses, all of which were hit, and one was killed.
While the army lay encamped at Harrison’s Landing, on the James River, Major Lewis was taken with “Chickahominy fever,” which later developed into chronic laryngitis. He went to Philadelphia for treatment, and in November, 1862, he was sent to Gettysburg to take command of a drafted soldiers’ camp. He was elected colonel of the regiment, but declined to serve, on account of his loss of voice. After accompanying the regiment to Baltimore, he was forced to withdraw from further military service by his state of health. In the report of the battle of Gaines Mill, General McCall spoke of him as follows: “To Major Alfred E. Lewis, First Pennsylvania Artillery, acting aide-de-camp, my thanks are especially due for gallant and distinguished services”.
Major Lewis married in 1864, and in 1873 removed to Pike County, Pennsylvania. In 1879 he went with his family to Europe, and spent two years abroad. In politics he has always been prominent in the Democratic party, and in 1886 was appointed by President Cleveland Deputy Fifth Auditor of the Treasury. He resigned from this position in 1889. His name has been three times presented by the conferees of Pike County as candidate for Congress from the eleventh (now the eighth) Congressional district of the State. Major Lewis has a large farm near Milford, Pennsylvania, and possesses also a handsome summer residence in the town.
Source: Men of the Century, An Historical Work, Giving Portraits and Sketches of Eminent Citizens of the United States, edited by Charles Morris. Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1896.
Some more info on Major Lewis:
He was elected November 25, 1903, to the Sons of the Revolution.
He listed his address as the Dresden, Apt. 48, Washington, D.C. He was the great-grandson of Eli LEWIS (1750-1807) of Pennsylvania; Major, First Battalion, York County Associators, 1777-78.