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Cut Down in Gettysburg’s Wheatfield

By Gordon W. Gribble
8/24/2018 • Civil War Times Magazine

Name: Horatio F. Lewis

Dates: 1845-1863

Allegiance: Union

Highest Rank: First Lieutenant

Unit: 145th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company D

Service Record: Enlisted August 6, 1862, and mustered in on August 27 in Erie. Served with the Army of the Potomac in the II Corps. Wounded at Fredericksburg. Mortally wounded in the Wheatfield with Brooke’s Brigade at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. Died on July 20, 1863, in Gettysburg.

Horatio Farnham Lewis was born in Harbor Creek, Pennsylvania, on March 27, 1845, and raised with 11 siblings in nearby Swanville (Fairview) on Lake Erie. At the age of 13, he organized a 20-member military club near his home. On August 6, 1862, the 17-year-old Lewis enlisted in the Erie-based 144th Pennsylvania Infantry, but that unit failed to organize. Three weeks later, he was mustered in as a sergeant in Company D of the 145th Pennsylvania, joined by his first cousin and best friend, Private Franklin Gifford Lewis.

The 145th saw its first action about midday at the Battle of Antietam, engaged against Stonewall Jackson’s corps on the extreme right of the Union line. At the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, Lewis was wounded in the foot when a bullet passed through his right instep and ripped off the sole of his boot. In that battle, his cousin Franklin was killed—and apparently buried on the battlefield, since his body could not be found afterward. Although barely able to walk, Lewis returned to his unit quickly and was promoted to first lieutenant on January 7, 1863.

According to Lewis family records, II Corps commander Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock “wished and came near recommending [Lewis] for promotion as Major over all the other Captains and Lieutenants of the regiment,” but the opportunity for further promotion never materialized.

In June the young lieutenant accompanied his unit, part of Hancock’s II Corps, to Gettysburg. On the afternoon of July 2, the second day of the epic battle, the 145th was attached to Colonel John R. Brooke’s brigade in General John C. Caldwell’s division and had brief success in the heavy fighting in the Wheatfield. Eventually the brigade was flanked and forced to retreat, but Lewis, wounded in both legs, was left on the field for two days before finally receiving treatment. D.W. Winchester, quartermaster of the 145th Pennsylvania, wrote the following short note to Lewis’ father, Marcus, from Frederick, Md.: “Your son Horatio is in Hospital at Gettysburg with left leg off & wounded in the right probably mortal D W Winchester.”

Two of Lewis’ brothers, James A. Lewis (later with the 76th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry) and the Rev. Ammi M. Lewis, traveled to Gettysburg to be with him before he died on July 20. The two brought their brother’s body home and buried him in the Erie City Cemetery. After the war, the Fairview G.A.R. Post No. 359 was named in Horatio Lewis’ memory.

Horatio wrote his last letter home from Frederick City, Md., on June 28: “Maryland looks a good deal like home; between here and Edwards Ferry we have passed over the finest pies [sic] of Country I ever saw. The lake shore (Erie Lake) does not begin; It is a great wheat & corn country, large Fields of wheat all ready for harvest (Part already in shock) Corn looks very nice clean and free from grass & weeds. Generally about a foot high. Today we heard Canonadeing in the direction of South Mountain. We have not had a chance to send out any mail since we left Falmouth, Va., the letter I wrote last has not left the Regiment. Capt. Lynch and Lt. Lytle are both well. I am well every way except my feet; they are pretty blistered up. Horatio”

On July 3, the Confederates captured one of Lewis’ older brothers, Sergeant Harry W. Lewis, a member of the 6th U.S. Cavalry, near Fairfield, Pa. He spent six months in captivity at Belle Isle and Libby prisons. Another older brother, Marcus Lewis Jr., served in the Navy aboard USS Silver Lake. He died of typhoid fever while being treated aboard the hospital ship Red Rover on January 15, 1865.

 

Gordon W. Gribble is the great-great-grandnephew of Horatio Lewis.

Originally published in the September 2007 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here

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