Doing research into the people and events of the Maryland Campaign is often a game of large effort invested for little return. In some cases, though, the reverse is true, and the clues revealed can be a bit overwhelming.

One such case is a story I’ve been working on and off for about a year now. It centers on Captain Enoch E. Lewis, Company K, 71st Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. Or maybe it centers on President Lincoln, I’m not sure yet. All I have right now is a collection of hints and pointers to interesting relationships and events.

The bare bones are these:

Lewis, a young lawyer of privileged background, of Philadelphia society, joined Oregon Senator Edward Baker‘s famed ‘California Regiment’ in 1861 as Captain of Company K. He served bravely in action through the battle of Antietam (September 1862), where he briefly succeeded to command of the regiment as senior officer present.

poster (from California military museum)

There is significant evidence that he and (by then) Major R. Penn Smith, another Philadelphia dandy who was the regiment’s first Adjutant, had clashed personally and professionally. Was it a long-standing feud? Slights given and received while in service? Perhaps both, I can’t tell yet.

Following Antietam, Captain Lewis was reported absent and shortly afterward charged–presumably by Major Smith– then arrested and court-martialled for being absent without permission and conduct ‘unbecoming an officer’ and ‘prejudicial to good order and discipline’.

Although interrupted by the battle of Fredericksburg, the Lewis trial ran through most of December 1862. The trial transcript illuminates the somewhat relaxed view of military discipline and stiff code of honor held by the young gentleman from Philadelphia. The verdict, however, was guilty on two of the four charges, those of being absent from duty without permission. The Captain was reprimanded by having his name and offense publicly read to the Division in General Orders, and was to return to duty.

On 15 January 1863, feeling dishonored by his commanding officer, he tendered his resignation from his commission in the 71st Pennsylvania Infantry. This request came out badly, as he was instead dishonorably discharged on the 16th for attempting to resign ‘in the face of the enemy’– a cowardly act.

You would think that would be the end of his military career, but it wasn’t. Just over a year later, in May 1864, Enoch Lewis was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of the 110th Pennsylvania Infantry. He succeeded to command on the mortal wounding of Colonel Rogers in June during the Wilderness Campaign, and led the Regiment until he was seriously wounded in the arm near Petersburg on 16 July. Apparently well thought of by peers and men, he was honorably mustered out of the service on a disability due to the wound in January 1865.

In trying to answer the obvious questions about how he obtained the commission in the 110th after having been dishonorably discharged, I’ve been looking into the relationship between Lewis’ father, Joseph J., and President Lincoln. My guess is that political connections, possibly to the President personally, bought him redemption. I’ll need real evidence, though, all I have right now is suggestive.

By May 1863, after lobbying from Governor Curtin and others, the senior Lewis had been appointed by the President as Commissioner of the Internal Revenue, apparently reward for his support in Pennsylvania during the 1860 election. Students of that election may know Joseph J. Lewis as the prominent Philadelphia abolitionist lawyer and newspaper owner who edited and first published Abraham Lincoln’s 1859 auto-biographical sketch. Reprinted widely in the Northeast, it probably aided Lincoln significantly there.

I’ll be looking next at order books and correspondence of the Army Adjutant General’s Office in the Archives hoping to see how and when his new commission came through. I’ve already tramped (virtually) through the Lincoln papers at the Library of Congress, but found nothing directly bearing on young Enoch. I’d appreciate any suggestions for further sources from that side.

We’ll see where these research threads lead.

Gem of an artifact

Most of the Enoch Lewis story I know to this point is from a stack of lovely old records at the National Archives in Washington DC. The basics of the service of both Lewis and his nemesis Smith are in their consolidated service jackets. Lewis’ Court Martial transcript is also at the Archives.

One of the most interesting of the documents is Captain Lewis’ resignation letter. He later wrote a two page letter describing his reasons in some detail, but the original resignation is quite brief:

Lewis resignation letter  15 Jan 63

It’s not the text itself that is particularly exciting, it is the back of the sheet. Here we find the endorsements and notes that really tell the story. Take a look :

copy: back of resignation letter click to see larger image

The three columns are formed by the paper being folded in thirds with the main text inside. I’ve seen a number of documents like this; it seems a standard way to self-envelope Army correspondence. I know it’s kind of hard to read, so here’s my transcription:

[column one]
Head Quarters 71st P.V.
Jan’y 16th 1863
Respect’y forwarded approved.

R.P. Smith,
Major Commd’g
_________________
Headquarters 2d Brigade
2d Divn, 2d Corps
Jany 16th 1863
Respectfully forwarded approved.
Theo. Hesser
Pa 72
Lt. Col. Com. Brigade
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Head Q. 2nd Divn, 2nd Corps
Jan. 16th 1863
Repectfully forwarded.
I think, even [unreadable] + the state of feeling existing between Capt Lewis & his superior officer, that it will be better for the service to accept his resignation.
O.O. Howard

[column two]
Hd Qr 2d Army Corps
RGD
Falmouth, Va
Jan 16 63
Approved & repectfy forwarded
D. Couch
Maj Gen

Has permission to a present in person -
D. Couch
Maj Gen

Ii
2ac
XXVI

Dis’y dis’a ard
Tendering resignation in face of enemy -

Rec’d HQ 2d AC Jany 16/63

[column three]
L#364 — 1863
_____________
Near Falmouth, Va.
Jany 15/63
__________
Lewis, E. E.
Capt 71 Pa. Vols.
__________
Resignation
__________
1 enclo.

Rec’d about Sep 68

Notes to endorsements:

  • Richard Penn Smith, Major and acting commander of the 71st Pennsylvania. He had relieved the wounded Colonel Wistar at Antietam, and was himslf wounded and relieved by Capt Lewis there.
  • Theodore Hesser, Lieutenant Colonel, 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry, acting “Philadelphia” Brigade commander; later killed at Mine Run, 27 November 1863.
  • Oliver O. Howard, commanding 2nd Division. I’m guessing his handwriting is so bad because he was right handed and had his right arm amputated after being wounded at Fair Oaks (May 1862). Can anyone else read that missing bit?
  • Darius N. Couch, commanding 2nd Army Corps, part of the Right Grand Division (RGD) of the Army of the Potomac.
  • Ii 2ac XXVI = I only recognize 2ac as 2nd Army Corps. Don’t know what the other notations mean.
  • Dis’y dis’a ard [?] = dishonorably discharged
  • Third column looks to be filing notes; possibly added by a War Department clerk in Washington on receipt there.

14 Responses to “Captain Lewis and friends in high places”

  1. Jim Studnicki says:

    Brian:

    Where did you get the scans — at the National Archives? I’m guessing you printed the docs and scanned them after the fact. As far as I know, the PA Compiled Service Records (as was the case with most of the Union states) were never microfilmed; only the index cards, which don’t contain this kind of info.

    Excellent stuff — this is, as you said, “where the rubber meets the road.”

    – Jim

  2. Brian Downey says:

    You guess right, Jim.

    I xeroxed the originals at the Archives, not intending to use them online. I scanned the xeroxes at home for this post. If I had it to do again, I’d shoot the originals with the digital camera on a stand. I believe they allow that at the Natl Archives, though I’ve not tried it yet.

  3. Jim Studnicki says:

    You can also get color PDFs of an individual soldier’s envelopes and all of its cards and docs for $17, I think . . . they look great but it’s not an option if you want a lot of soldiers.

    – Jim

  4. Lance Pryor says:

    Enoch Lewis was the son of Joseph J. Lewis. Joseph’s half brother, Edward J. Lewis, served throughout the entire civil war out of Illinois. He was a prolific writer. Many of his letters were written to his sisters, Alice and Sarah Lewis, who resided in Philadelphia. These letters are found at the Chester County Historical Society. There are a few times he mentions Enoch, however, not in depth. One dated 25 Oct 1863, comments to his sister: “Is Enoch still in brother Joseph’s bureau at Washington?” This implies he was actually working at Washington and may have met with Lincoln through his father’s connections being the Commisioner of Internal Revenue. That’s all I have other than a death date and place for Enoch.

  5. Brian says:

    Lance,

    Thanks for these additional pieces to the puzzle – and more fuel on the fire! This is very fine material. I need to get back to Enoch’s case …

  6. ann lewis says:

    thank you!!! you’ve given my children a great piece of family history.you’ve done this in a fair matter.i would love to read anything else you may have.also do you know why the railroad played such an important part of this family latter on? thank you once again,annie

  7. Brian says:

    Nice to hear from you, Annie. I’ll post anything new when I get back to the Captain’s case. Someday!

  8. Lance Pryor says:

    This is a bit off the subject, but my wife and I have been researching the Enoch Lewis family for years. The civil war Enoch Lewis is the son of Joseph J. Lewis, who is the son of Enoch Lewis. We would be interested in knowing if “Annie Lewis” is related and if she would mind getting in touch with uis. Please note, our email has changed since the last time I left a message. Please feel free to provide it to Annie Lewis. Thanks.

  9. Brian says:

    Hi Lance – I’ve forwarded your comment to Annie. Good hunting.

    One of you: please tell me about the railroad connection when you figure it out …

  10. ann lewis says:

    now this is what i understand about the family.my line of lewis’ have carried on the name enoch,but i don’t remember exactly what it was,but it has something to with the crusades(that cresent moon on the family crest).my line of the family ended up in the hudson river valley.the family had mills at one time.my ggrandfather also even worked for the railroad,and as the family story goes his father might had a hand in trying to free some of the slaves using the railroad.but the thing that baffles me is how did the family go to penn.?i was always told the family came out of conn. maybe lance can help me on this. thanks annie annienloey@optonline.net

  11. ann lewis says:

    brian, here is a hint. the lewis family had connections also with west point.

  12. Lance Pryor says:

    It has been a long time since I have looked at this site. Enoch Lewis, the civil war soldier, was the son of Joseph J. Lewis, a lawyer and newspaper man living in West Chester,PA. Joseph’s father was Enoch Lewis, a strong Quaker who lived, farmed, and taught school in New Garden, PA. His ancestors all were Quakers who were early arrivals to the Philadelphia area. Enoch, the teacher, and his son William were also surveyors. At one point Enoch was the chief surveyor for the City of Phildelphia. Both, however, did a lot of surveying for the very early railroads in that area. William went to California in 1849, and became the chief surveyor and engineer for the first railroad to go from San Francisco to Santa Clara. I do not know of a CT connection as the origin of this family. This Lewis family originally came from a small town in Wales in the late 1600′s.
    Unfortunately, nothing to add about the Civil War Enoch Lewis at this time.

  13. john says:

    has anyone ever heard of Capt. A.C. Lewis? around the year 1885. i have all of his medals and awards. i once heard he was part of the crew on a Monitor class warship. thanks for the help

  14. Betty Cotton says:

    This is an old blog, so I hope it’s still active. I’m doing research on Enoch E. Lewis – he is in my direct ancestry line. I have an entire book on the Lewis line written by my great uncle. I would be interested in getting copies of the Xeroxes of the court martial notes. Someday I will get to the Nat’l Archives, but for now that would be a great help. If that’s possible, please send me an EM and I will be glad to reimburse you for the postage.

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