Note: I am deeply indebted to Lee Blauvelt for the information contained in this entry. We’ve been working on James for the last week or so, trying to determine whether he was captured at Fairfield or Funkstown, and just who was commanding Company I during the aforesaid engagements. Thanks again, Lee.
James Lewis was born on September 3, 1840 to William and Hannah Lewis in Saratoga County, New York. Different documents list his exact birthplace as either Walden, Lexom Plains or Lake George, most likely the latter. The 1850 census shows his family in Fort Anne, which is very close to Lake George. By 1861, the family had moved to Southfields, Orange County, New York, now the town of Monroe.
James enlisted in Company B, 124th New York Infantry “Orange Blossoms” on August 12, 1862, and mustered in as a private on September 5th. He is described in his enlistment documents as a 21 year old farm laborer with a dark complexion, dark hair and eyes. He was tall at 6’ 1”, and one of his friends described him as “one of the strongest men in the state.”
Life as an infantryman apparently didn’t agree with him, and he transferred to the 6th U.S. Cavalry on August 26th in accordance with General Orders No. 154 of 1862. He was assigned as a private to Company I, under the command of Captain George C. Cram.
Private Lewis kept a low profile after joining the cavalry, as he doesn’t appear in the muster rolls again until April 1863, when he served on detached service at Aquia Creek, Virginia from the 12th to the 30th. He was joined there by a sergeant, a corporal, a bugler, a farrier and eighteen other privates. The nature of the duty isn’t specified, but could be anything given the location’s proximity to the camps of nearly all of the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry.
He served with his company without incident through the spring campaign of 1863, including Stoneman’s Raid, Brandy Station, and the other preliminary cavalry battles of the Gettysburg campaign. At some point that spring, he reportedly fell or was pushed off of lumber that was being used to cross a ditch and ruptured his right side on a pile of rocks. This injury caused him problems intermittently through the remainder of his life.
Private Lewis was lucky enough to come through the battle of Fairfield unscathed, though his commander and 6 enlisted men from his company were captured during the battle. Four days later at Funkstown, Maryland, Private Lewis was not so fortunate. First Sergeant Worrell led the company in the absence of any of its assigned officers, but this battle didn’t go much better than the disaster at Fairfield. Two members of the company, Corporal Alonzo Ellsworth and Private William Thomas, were killed. Ten enlisted men, including James Lewis and First Sergeant Worrell, were captured.
James participated in the long march to Richmond experienced by many prisoners of the Gettysburg campaign, arriving in Richmond at Belle Isle on July 21st. He was fortunate enough to be paroled ten days later at City Point, Virginia on August 2nd. Lewis was then sent to Camp Parole, Maryland, near Annapolis, where he was treated for chronic diarrhea until October 12, 1863.
Returning to his regiment, James once again resumed his low profile. He surfaces again the following year, when he served on detached service from February 29th to October 31st at Cavalry Corps Headquarters. Following this last period of detached service, he remained with his regiment through the end of the war, other than a few days of service at brigade headquarters in February 1865.
Following Lee’s surrender in April, Lewis accompanied his regiment to Pleasant Valley, Maryland, where he was treated for measles from May 4th to 12th. He moved to Frederick with the regiment in July, where he was discharged on July 29, 1865.
Lewis applied for an invalid pension on June 23, 1880, citing his rupture in 1863. Apparently, the attorney who prepared his paperwork was somewhat notorious for filing for pensions and was accused of forging documents.
After his time in the military, James returned to orange County, New York. He married Mary Odell in 1870, who died the following year. In March of 1872, he married Anna Eliza Johnson of Johnsontown, New York. They spent the remainder of their years in Orange and Putnam counties, raising five children. After Anna died on May 1, 1903, James lived with relatives. He died of arterial sclerosis on January 1, 1919 in Newburgh, New York. He is buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Mountainville, New York, near the town of Cornwall.
Lewis, James. Enlistment papers and pension request, NARA (information courtesy of Lee Blauvelt)
Muster Rolls, 6th U.S. Cavalry, M744, NARA