Lieutenant Alexander Lewis

Fifth Iowa Volunteer Infanty

Alexander B. Lewis was an Independence, Iowa attorney when he accepted the President's call to enlist to preserve the Union. Due to his education and leadership skills, he enlisted as a noncommissioned officer in Company E. Before he would perish as a result of a severe combat wound, Lewis would become an officer. Following the wound which would eventually cost him his life, Lewis was transported back to Iowa, where it is hoped that his loved ones at least had an opportunity to gather at his side before he drew his final breath. The Official Roster records the following details about his military service:

Lewis, Alexander B.
Age 24. Residence Independence, Iowa, nativity Pennsylvania
Enlisted July 1, 1861, as Fourth Sergeant. Mustered July 15, 1861
Promoted to Sergeant Major October 15, 1861
Promoted to First Lieutenant March 22, 1862
Wounded in thigh severely September 19, 1862, Iuka, Mississippi
Died of wounds February 25, 1863, Keokuk, Iowa

The Biographical and Historical Catalogue of Washington and Jefferson College published in 1889, states that Alexander Brown Lewis was born in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. He was a teacher in the South 1856-1858 and then a law student. He practiced law in Independence, Iowa between 1859 and the outbreak of the war in 1861. It is likely that he practiced law in partnership with William Stanhope Marshall, a college classmate who had also taught in the South before the war, and who, like Lewis, accepted a commission in the Fifth Iowa Infantry. Tragically, unlike his friend, who returned to the practice of law following the War Between the States, Lewis did not survive the conflict.

When Lewis died due to his severe injury, his longtime friend, Lieutenant Marshall, wrote a moving tribute to him. It is preserved in the History of Buchanan County, Iowa 1842 to 1881 and cited in its entirety below. It is preceded by an editorial which appeared in the local newspaper.

Tribute to Lieutenant A.B. Lewis
of the Fifth Iowa Volunteers
Who Died at Keokuk, February 25, 1863

Lieutenant Alexander B. Lewis has sunk into a soldier's grave. But last week we were all rejoicing in the assurance of his recovery and return to active duty. But alas! it was not to be. He was destined to leave his bed of pain, only to lie down in the narrow bed of death. Here, where the cords of sympathy, of friendship, of respect, of admiration for him ramified throughout our whole community, there is everywhere pain. Among his companions in arms, in whom his patriotism, his bravery, his nobleness of character, had induced a warmth of affection more than brotherly, there must he the poignancy of grief inexpressible. At his home, where the ties of kindred were strengthened by pride in his manhood and mental promise, there must be the very depths of woe.

Among the thousands of the noble and brilliant, who have given themselves up as sacrifices on the altars of country, few were more worthy than Lieutenant Lewis. Frank and social, he drew around him hosts of friends, while his mental abilities, his industry, his application, his ambition gave every promise of a successful and brilliant career in his chosen profession as a lawyer. But when the war came, imbued with as true a spirit of patriotism as ever prompted man to action, he without hesitation threw himself into the contest. He was almost the first to enlist in this county, and went into the ranks as a private soldier under Captain Lee. He soon, however, attracted the attention of Colonel Worthington, who made him sergeant major of his regiment, the Fifth, and afterwards, on the death of Lieutenant Jordan, procured his commission as first lieutenant of company E, to the infinite satisfaction of the company, who knew that as far as a man could he would replace the noble friend they had lost in Lieutenant Jordan. At the glorious battle of Iuka, September, 1862, where the fifth made itself a most honored name, Lieutenant Lewis while fighting as each fought, like a hero, received a dangerous wound in the hip. From that time he lay upon a bed of suffering. He tried to reach home, but was only able to get as far as Keokuk. There he lay for months, suffering all that acuteness of pain possible to a sensitive, nervous organization, but hearing all with calmness, with true courage. On the twenty-fifth of last month he died, bringing home to us by his loss a new appreciation of the terrible price the Nation is paying for the great crime of slaveholding. He rests in the patriot's grave, sleeps the patriot's sleep "Lost, loved, lamented." -- Editor Guardian

From a Companion in Arms

After the intimacy that existed between us for the last ten years, my regard for him resembles more that of a brother than a stranger. For three years we sat together in the same class, met together in the same societies, roomed and ate together, shared the toils and enjoyed with each other the pleasures of youth, and all the bright anticipations of the great unknown future that lay before us. Together with hearts buoyant with hope, and with spirits light and free from care, we launched our frail barks on the ocean of life. In all places, on all occasions, and under all circumstances, he proved himself the same true and tried friend; a noble, proud spirited and honorable man.

With a full knowledge of the dangers and privations he was about to incur, we see him relinquishing the promise of distinction in his profession. the pleasures of home and society, and, refusing position, taking his place in the ranks of that company to which he contributed so much labor and means, and in the welfare of which he felt such a deep interest. Together with Lieutenant Jordan, whose noble spirit preceded his to brighter realms, we see him labor day and night for the success of that cause in which his heart and soul was engaged. We follow him to the "tented field" and see him endure disease and pain until brought almost to the brink of the grave. Again restored to health and vigor, and chosen to take the place of the lamented Jordan, we see him discharging every duty of his office with promptness and fidelity; an honor to the regiment and the pride of his company.

Much improved in health and appearance, after his severe illness, he continued in the faithful discharge of his duties up to that fatal day when his regiment was called upon to pass through the first ordeal of battle. From the early part of that day until evening, beneath the burning sun, through fields and swamps, and under the fire of the enemy, he advanced with the line of skirmishers until he reached the battle-field of Iuka. A few minutes more and everything was swallowed up in the heat of battle. Well do I remember the last time I saw him during that terrible struggle. I never saw him look so well as he did at that moment. A volley of musketry had sent a shower of bullets through our ranks, but he stood at his post with a proud and fearless bearing, calmly discharging his duty. Conscious of the danger he was in, but nerved by the justice of his cause, and flushed with the desire and assurance of victory, he defied the missiles of the enemy. A half hour later, and what remained of the regiment, amidst clouds of smoke and in the shades of nightfall, emerged from the woody battle-ground and formed in line of battle in the open field. Companies reduced to squads began to count their loss and enquire for the missing. Among many others Lieutenant Lewis was absent. Many inquiries were made, but none there could answer. About nine o'clock it was ascertained that he had been wounded and carried to a house nearby where he had received proper medical attention. The nature of his wound, and the manner in which he improved for a few days, gave hope that he would speedily recover. It, however, proved the prolongation of a life but for a few months of intense suffering. All that was mortal of him now slumbers in the tomb, but his spirit lives in the region of eternal bliss. It is not all to say that he lived and that he died, but it may in truth he added that he lived uprightly and died happily. -- Lieutenant Marshall

Special thanks for the academic information about Lieutenant Lewis' life to Towner Blackstock, Curator of Archives for the Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta to which he too belonged.

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