Pension records on file in the National Archives, Washington, DC, reveal excellent geneological information on the Lewis family in Herkimer County, New York; as well as some fascinating human interest stories of the Civil War. Pension records are particularly useful in uncovering family history. Although the researcher must wade through a voluminous amount of papers and forms, it is well worth the time.
Research on the Lewis family began with a soldier's name and regiment carved into the wooden stock of an 1864 Springfield musket. I learned much about Andrew Lewis' activity during the war and was able to trace his steps all the way through the Wilderness campaign to Lee's surrender at Appomattox. This information was secured through state archives and military service records at the National Archives. Pension records, however, reveal the human drama of the war. Here's what I found and, hopefully, this will add a page or two to the history of Herkimer County and its people.
Lewis Family Genealogy
Andrew W. Lewis was the son of Reese Lewis (born in Wales) and Eliz Jones Lewis (also born in Wales). He had four brothers and one sister. The second eldest brother was John. He enlisted in the 3rd New York Light Artillery. Charles and Andrew enlisted in Company K of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery. The eldest brother (name still missing) stayed at home to help his father tend to the farm; however, was drafted into the service. At that time, a citizen could buy their way out of the draft. In this case, the cost was $300. Worrying that their father would be hard pressed without their brother, Charles and Andrew contributed each $150 from their signing/enlistment bonuses to help keep their brother at home. Andrew married Ms. Lydia E. Wood 30 March 1870 in Lowell, Oneida County, New York, Rev. Hr, R. Northrup officiating. Ms. Wood was born 24 November 1847. Records show that in June 1913 she was living in Rome, New York. Andrew died January 1, 1913, in Utica, at age 67. Occupation at time of death was a cheese-maker. Pension records show that Lydia Lewis was still receiving a pension in 1932, although then living with one of her two sons in Pontiac, Michigan.
Eyewitness Accounts of the Hardships of War
In substantiating a veteran's service record and resulting disabilities, pension applicants had to submit affidavits detailing their service; both their own accounts and those of fellow veterans. The military records show that Lewis was wounded by a ball (minie') in the Wilderness (Spotsylvania Courthouse) and by shelling at the Battle of Cold Harbor. I have extracted here portions of accounts of a few of the campaign's engagements.
Battle Descriptions Andrew W. Lewis' Pension Application
Battle of Cold Harbor, June 1 - 12, 1864
"....was disabled while in line of his duty by the fall of parte of a large tree which was destroyed by shell or shot thrown from the Enemy. ..."
Andrew W. Lewis' Pension Application (12 September 1879)
June 3, 1864 at the battle of Cold Harbor, Va, while shell were felling trees one of the trees fell upon me & I sustained injuries from which I am to a great extent disabled and for which I claim a pension. Treated 1st at White House Landing. 2d Wash/n DC NE of City. 3d Summit House, West Philadephia.
Andrew W. Lewis' Notarized Statement
25 July 1881. Personally came Andrew W. Lewis who first being sworn says that he was late a private in Company K 2nd Regt Ny Heavy Art. Vols. That on or about June 3rd 1864 at or near Cole Harber State of Virgina he was disabled while in line of his duty by the fall of parte of a large tree which was destroyed by shell or shot thrown from the Enemy.
GENERAL AFFIDAVIT....18 August 1881. James C. How, MD (2d NY Hvy Arty Surgeon) Haverhill, Massachusetts
I am the identical James E. How who was surgeon of the above named Regiment in 1864 and previously that I knew and was intimately acquainted with said Lewis while he was connected with the regiment. That on or about the 3d day of June 1864 during the Battle of Cold Habor Va, said regiment was in the woods forming for a charge upon the enemy, and said Lewis was in the ranks of his company inline of his duty as a soldier and while so firing a limb of a tree fell upon him, which was then and there said to have been cut from the tree by a shell fired by the enemy. The said limb struck him upon the shoulder and back inflicting some contusions upon his shoulder and back. He was brought to the field Hospital nearby where I hastily examined his injuries and treated him for same. I was then engaged and officiated as Surgeon of said regiment. I also examined said Lewis when he entered the service and from personal knowledge know that he was then a sound and able bodied man and so continued to be up to the date of receiving the aforesaid injuries. James C. How, MD Late Surgeon 2nd Reg't NY A Vols.
Siege of Petersburg, March 31 - April 2, 1864 & Battle of Hatchers Run, Dec. 9 - 10, 1864
"....waded through a Deep Stream of water while charging the Rebel works..."
"....I recollect very well that said Andrew W. Lewis and myself went through the stream together and that our clothes froze to us..."
GENERAL AFFIDAVIT....Andrew W. Lewis, 28 February, 1887, Bryan, Williams County, Ohio (I am aged 42 years)
That I am the identical person who was a private in the above named Co and Regiment that he first gets the rheumatism for which he claims increase pension in the fall and the fore part of winter of 1864 while in the Rifle pitts and Videt holes near Petersburg, Virginia on account of continuous and terrific musket and artilery firing was some times obliged to ly down in Videt holes that was partly filled with water ........ for two hours at a time, as often sometimes as two or three days and nights in a week. That at the Battle of Hatchers Run on or about December 9th 1864 he in line of Battle with his Regiment waded through a Deep Stream of watter while charging the Rebel works weting every paticle of clothing and the night of the same day was on the skirmish line during which time snow fell to the depth of four to six Inches that his clothes being wet and in the terible snow storm he nearly perished on his post without fire or shelter.
OFFICER'S OR COMRADE'S TESTIMONY...18 January 1883. (Andrew's Company commander), 1st Lt. Harvey Rogers, Flint Creek, Ontario Co., New York
I am the identical Harvey Rogers who was Orderly Sergeant and afterwards promoted to Lieutenant and Commanded Co. "K" 2d N.Y.H Arty. I was well acquainted with Andrew W. Lewis, who was a private in Co. "K" 2d N.Y.H. Arty. That while in the line of duty as Soldier, in from of Petersburg Va during the fall and winter of 1864 and 1865 He contracted Rheumatism. On or about Dec 9 - 1864 at the battle of Hatcher's Run, Va We were ordered to charge and drive the enemy out of their works. In order to do this we had to ford the Run. I recollect very well that said Soldier Andrew W. Lewis and myself went through the stream together and that our cloths soon froze to us. That night we lay out in a Snow Storm without any Shelter whatever. The day following we returned to the trenches on the left of Petersburg Va.
GENERAL AFFIDAVIT...7 March 1888. John E. Richards (Andrew's tentmate), Trimello, Clay County, Iowa.
That he is the identical person who served as a private in Co. K 2d NY Reg't Hea Art and knows the above Soldier Andrew W. Lewis who was a member of his affiants Company and Reg't above mentioned. That he (affiant) was well and intimately acquainted with him while in the U.S. Army. In the later part of 1864 and 1865 said claiment at times was afflicted with what I thought was Rheumatism his knees and ankles. At times would swell and he complained of pains and aches in his shoulders and especially immediately after Battle of hatchers Run, Va on or about December 9 1864 whare claiment suffered greatly By exposure in rain & Snow and charging through a river with his company and regiment. I remember for while after that Battle the claimant was prety hard up and he received treatment for above ailments from the Regimental assistant Surgeon GH Howe at different times. After the Battle of Hatcheres Run in December 1864 I know the about facts concerning the claimants from the fact I tented with him...eat with him...marched with him...done Camp SO Picket duty with him...until war ended at Appomatox.
Conclusion...John Lewis' Near Death Experience.
In 1932, Mrs. Fillmore G. Utley, Andrew Lewis' sister, wrote to the US Veterans' Bureau asking the address of her sister-in-law Lydia (Andrew's wife). Her letter went into some detail about her brothers' involvement in the Civil War, in an attempt to prove that she was, in fact, related to Lydia. One incident, however, stands out. John Lewis' close encounter with death. Here are exerpts from her letter...
".....my second brother enlisted in Atica, NY in the 3rd Light Artillery (and) was stationed at Newbern NC for the first winter (.) he and Tent mate had been school boys together, one night he had been out on Sentry work (and) came back to tent very cold (.) (He) stood with back to fire and very soon fell to the floor. Tent Mate notified propper authorities, who pronounced him dead (and) ordered him taken to dead house ~ in the morning his Tent mate thought he would go see John before he was buried (.) when he arrived at dead house he found John turned over in box (excuse me I did not write you that after they placed him in box they could not find hammer to nail cover on) then notified proper authorities. My brother told me (then a little girl) the first thing he could remember was they were trying to pour hot Coffee down his throat ~ he served his time and lived twenty years after that..."
The Original Search For the Identity of Andrew W. Lewis
"I have in my possession an 1864 .58 cal.
Springfield musket which was issued to Andrew W. Lewis December 18, 1863; due to the time of the year, he was issued
the next year's model. Pvt. Lewis promptly carved his name and regiment identification into the side of the rifle
stock; evidently wanting to make a clear statement that this is "my" musket and anyone else keep their
cotton picken' hands off. Of course, this subsequently helped me to identify the history of the firearm."
Lewis enlisted at Utica, NY and was enlisted by J. VanAmburg; Lewis' signature was notarized by Eugene Stearns. He
listed his age as 18 and place of birth as Herkimer County, New York. His nearest relative was his father Res.
(abbrev.) Lewis, residing in Lowell, Oneida Co. NY. Lewis stated he was single and his occupation was that of a
farmer; he was subsequently assigned as a teamster with Co. K of the 2d NY Hvy
Artillery; perhaps due to his familiarity with farm horses. Lewis was described as 5' 10", grey eyes, dark hair
and light complexion. Even with that description, I've still not been able to identify him in the pictures of his
regiment and company on file in the Library of Congress. Lewis mustered out of the service on June 30, 1865,
his regiment having seen considerable duty in the Wilderness campaign.
As a personal aside, I participated in the 100th anniversay re-enactment of the Battle of Spottsylvania Courthouse
and used Lewis' musket one hundred years to the day that he was wounded at that battle (with a reproduction barrel
for safety purposes). The 1890 "Surviving Soldiers, Sailors & Marines, & Widows, etc" Special Census
shows that Andrew Lewis was receiving payment of $8 a month for his wounds. Lewis eventually settled in Ney,
Defiance County, Ohio. I was told by a distant descendant of his that he migrated there with his brothers from
New York in a covered wagon to start a new life; but have no more information to confirm this story. I am not
related to the gentleman about whom I write. The musket was purchased about 60 miles from Lewis' Ohio home.
The second hand/antique dealer gave me a reduced price on the firearm because some unthinking person had carved
up the stock....little did he know the story it would eventually tell. By the way, I "and" Andrew Lewis'
musket participated in the centennial anniversary of Lee's surrender at Appomatox Courthouse just as the 2d
New York Heavy Artillery had some one hundred years before!
Here is some additional information....the carving, or inscription, reads "Andrew Lewis Co. K 2nd NYA 1863". This 1864 contract Springfield .58 caliber musket was issued to Private Lewis in December, 1863. Interestingly enough, the sideplate has the date 1864 stamped on it.......the "next year's model" of musket was being issued to the enlistees in December, 1863; hence, the "1863" Lewis carved in the stock. His military records reveal that he (and his regiment) fought in the Peninsular Campaign. He was wounded at Spotsylvania Court House and Cold Harbor and was at Appomatox when Lee surrendered.....if only that musket could talk, what stories we might hear. I used the same musket in the re-enactment of these events 100 years to the day during the centennial; substituting a reproduction barrel for safety.
Tom J. Edwards
Copyright © 2000 Tom J. Edwards
All Rights Reserved.