"...running over with a desire to be a soldier..." Horatio Farnham Lewis's childhood and enlistment
From his birth on March twenty-seventh, 1845, Horatio Farnham Lewis dreamed of being a soldier. His father, Marcus Lewis, a prosperous farmer from Harborcreek, Pennsylvania, built a steam-powered sawmill, providing a comfortable income for the large Lewis family, which consisted of ten children. The family attended St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Erie, which still stands. This religiously-rooted upbringing undeniably shaped the future of both Horatio’s sacred and secular beliefs, especially given that St. Paul’s own Reverend Spaulding would later urge his congregation to recognize and protect the “value of the form and government a band of reckless traitors are seeking to destroy.”
Tragedy plagued Horatio’s early years, beginning with the death of his mother, Sarah Allen Lewis (a grand-niece of the famed Ethan Allen) in December of 1850. Three years later, in 1854, his grandfather, Zuriel, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and no doubt an inspiration to the patriotic youth, died, and just a few months later, his uncle, Zuriel Lewis, Jr., also died. As his aunt, Rebecca Lewis, was unable to care for their eleven children alone, her son, Franklin Gifford Lewis, was sent to live with his uncle Marcus. Horatio and Franklin, born almost a year apart, became inseparable.
In 1855, Horatio’s father married Jane Nicholson, and the Lewis family moved to her farm in Fairview, eight miles west of Erie, in March of 1856. Death, which seemed to haunt the Lewises in later years, struck once more, and Horatio’s stepmother died on October 3, 1857, once again leaving the young boy without a mother.
Despite the trials he faced early in life, his older brother Harry attested that Horatio, “a noted school boy orator,” showed great promise for a prosperous future, making a name for himself at a young age by making speeches “at spelling schools and exhibitions and later at various public and political meetings.”
By all accounts, and as noted by Harry, Horatio “was, almost from infancy, full and running over with a desire to be a soldier.” From a young age, Harry attested that Horatio “evinced an eager desire to learn military tactics” and “thoroughly mastered” William J. Hardee’s 1855 Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics. It was his deepest desire to receive a proper military education at West Point, and “he was promised an appointment…but the Congressman disappointed him.” Without graduating from West Point, Horatio was unable to secure an officer’s commission. There is no doubt Horatio would have done well at the academy; he was known for his scholarly skills and, according to Harry, “he was a good shot with both rifle and revolver.” Many years later, his older brother, Harry Whitlock Lewis, recalled, “With his rifle he would bring down from the tallest chestnut or oak the squirrel with a bullet through the head every time. He could put six shots from a revolver into a bull’s eye at 15 paces.” It certainly seemed he was destined to be a soldier.
Undeterred by the Congressman’s disappointment, his military ambitions only grew. As acquaintance Alonzo Fassett noted, with Horatio, “it was all military.” At the age of thirteen, in 1858, with himself as Captain, and his cousin, Franklin, as his First Lieutenant, Horatio formed a twenty-member infantry group made of his friends from the surrounding area. Using “wooden guns and swords which he had made,” Horatio drilled his men using the tactics he so diligently studied, leading Pennsylvania’s Adjutant General, A.L. Russell, to label it as “the best drilled company in the state.”
In early April 1859, his father married Emily Knapp, whose four stepchildren added to the already burgeoning family. On January 22, 1860, Emily gave birth to Horatio’s half-sister, Emma Jane Lewis. Horatio took an instant liking to the child, fondly caring for the sibling fifteen years his junior.
Around this time, Horatio and his compatriots grew tired of infantry, and decided to switch to artillery. The group shrank to ten boys, but according to Erie resident A.D. Fassett, they “all wore the regulation uniform.” Josephine Swan, an Erie resident and sister of one of Horatio’s friends, recalled that being an artillery unit, the boys “concluded they must have a cannon,” so by saving and selling scraps of iron and through their own “commendable enterprise,” they saved “enough money to pay for a small gun, a four-pounder, which was cast in Erie.” Swan declared that this cannon was “the pride and joy of the boys” and it seems they took every opportunity to fire it.
Marcus Lewis, a Whig and later Republican, imbued his political beliefs upon young Horatio, who, as attested by Harry, “with his company was an attraction in all the parades” that were held for the 1860 presidential election in Erie, Buffalo, and Cleveland, “as well as in many smaller towns.” One can only imagine the young men as they traveled by steamboat, their uniform buttons gleaming as brilliantly as their smiles as they eagerly awaited the excited crowds sure to greet them.
Horatio and his company must have been thrilled to hear that Abraham Lincoln would pass through Erie on February 16, 1861, on his way to Washington D.C. On that day, the boys traveled to the Swan Station canal bridge west of Erie, which overlooked the railroad on which Lincoln’s train traveled. With their prized canon in tow, Harry recalled that the company hoped to “fire as many times as possible before” Lincoln’s train passed. Harry remembered the unfortunate moment when the cannon discharged prematurely, sending “the heavy hickory ramrod nearly against the train,” blowing the skin off Horatio’s thumb, and filling Henry Clay Swan and George Fox’s arms and eyes with powder. As a result of the accident, Henry Swan’s Swan was rendered blind “for three weeks or more.” It seems there were no hard feelings between the Swans and Lewises, for many years later, Josephine, sister of Henry C. Swan, would remark of Horatio that “no braver boy ever left the county.”
Once more undeterred from his martial dreams, Horatio continued to operate as Captain of the artillery company. Despite Swan and Fox’s serious injuries, Horatio’s men still admired his natural leadership abilities and martial knowledge. Several months later, for the Fourth of July, the artillery company once more settled on the idea of firing a patriotic salute. Around four in the morning, as one disgruntled Erieite recalled, “the boys became restless and anxious to make a great noise, and hurried to their homes and hastily secured all the powder and guns within reach…and prepared to load for an early salute.” After firing the cannon, the boys fired a volley, which “continued as rapidly as possible for about an hour, when the people of the burg were thought to be nearly all awakened.” Satisfied that their mission was complete, the company marched towards Fairview, “drawing their cannon” behind them, where they joined the township’s brass band and throngs of local citizens.
Determined as ever to be a true soldier, Horatio’s artillery company paraded themselves into town and proposed to enlist if they would all be mustered into service. The proposition was denied. However, Charles M. Lynch, later an organizer of the 145th Pennsylvania Infantry, impressed by the boys’ efforts, accepted Horatio and a handful of boys from the company into his McLane Avengers company. The McLane Avengers eventually became Company D of the 145th. Years later, Lynch expressed his pride in the young men, “but allegedly teased them at the muster-in for stretching as tall as they could on their toes, chiding, “Be careful, boys, or you’ll fall over backward!” Each night the McLane Avengers held drill at Wayne Hall.
Not long afterwards, on August 6, 1861, Horatio and Franklin enlisted in the 144th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In yet another setback, the unit failed to organize, which was likely a great disappointment to the aspiring soldier.
Horatio received a second chance, and taking it, he and Franklin enlisted in Company D of the 145th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry on August 27, 1861. While Franklin, then eighteen, was mustered in as a Private, Horatio, then seventeen years old, was mustered in as a Sergeant. Both men enlisted under Captain Charles M. Lynch. Franklin’s enlistment is an enduring mystery, given that he was described as “crippled” in several accounts written by his cousin, Harry W. Lewis. Horatio’s underage enlistment is suspicious, especially since Captain Lynch likely knew Horatio was still several months away from eighteen. Perhaps Captain Lynch sympathized with the patriotic youth who wished to fight to preserve the Union alongside his cousin, or perhaps Captain Lynch was unaware of Horatio’s actual age.
Many years later, Alonzo Dorman Fassett, an acquaintance of the Lewis family, recalled Marcus Lewis’s words to his son after his enlistment: “Rake, you’ll live to see the day you’ll be sorry for this.” Given Horatio’s deeply avowed patriotism he likely disagreed with his father’s words. Yet, one must wonder whether this changed when his fate became clear.
"Horatio the Soldier Boy" August 1862 - June 1863
At the time of his enlistment, Horatio was listed as five feet seven and one-half inches tall, with blue eyes and light hair, although his brother, Harry, later described Horatio’s hair as curly and blond. Just a few days after his enlistment, on September 5, he was promoted to Orderly Sergeant. Although the regiment was not there for long, while encamped at Erie’s Camp Russell, it seems Horatio quickly acquired a reputation for impressive leadership and solid knowledge of military tactics and was tasked with drilling the new recruits.
Horatio and the 145th Pennsylvania left Erie on September 11, traveling to Harrisburg. Boarding a train, the unit then traveled to Chambersburg arriving on September 13, where, according to Pennsylvania State Historian Samuel Bates, they were given “the old Harper’s Ferry musket,” and stopped for two days, before continuing to Hagerstown, Maryland. On September 17, Bates attested that the sound of cannons from the field at Antietam “awakened intense excitement in every breast, and all were impatient to march to the theatre of conflict,” but the day would not mark the 145th’s first encounter with battle. Despite the men’s eagerness to participate in the battle, the regiment had not been assigned to a brigade yet, and to men like Company D’s Clayton Wiston Lytle it seemed that “nobody wanted us; we were too raw.” Nonetheless, Lytle established that they “came very near getting the fire from our own troops,” who mistook the regiment for Confederate soldiers, given that the regiment’s hastened departure from Erie meant it remained without a flag.
Led by Colonel Hiram Loomis Brown, John L. Street, of Company A, wrote to his parents that Horatio and the 145th were taken “within about forty rods of our batteries to see the elephant.” Although he could not have known at the time, two of Horatio’s stepbrothers, John L. and James Madison Wells, were engaged in the fight unfolding before his eyes, along with another of Erie’s regiments, the 111th Pennsylvania Infantry. It would not be the last time during the war that the three brothers were in such close proximity.
Shortly after noon, Samuel Bates recounted that the regiment arrived at the extreme right of the Union line and was charged with picket duty near the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, “holding the tow-path and the road which runs along under the high bluff skirting the” Potomac River. Their position, which they held until September 19, prevented the outflanking of the Union Army. Although the battle-eager Horatio was likely disappointed in being held back from the fight, the position still allowed him to glimpse the many sights and sounds of battle. While the men of the 145th must have been dismayed at their missed opportunity for further engagement, veterans’ accounts, like the one written by Second Lieutenant Stephen Allen Osborn of Company G, expressed great pride in protecting the Union flank.
On Saturday, September 20, the 145th was tasked with burying the dead, which many in the 145th, like Private Harley J. Hilborn of Company D, described as “of such a nature as even old soldiers shrink from performing.” Although Horatio was no stranger to death, having lost many relatives in his formative years, he had never been exposed to the horrors of a battle’s aftermath. He spent his childhood parading as a soldier with his boyhood friends, but after Antietam he aided in burying hundreds of men, many of them not much older than he was. Given his devout faith and ideas of martial glory, this experience must have been a sharp introduction to the true nature of war. Like Horatio, Chaplain John Henry Wilbrandt Stuckenberg began his tenure with the 145th with an idealized view of war, but after witnessing the mangled bodies scattered across the fields at Antietam, he wondered how God could possibly allow the Union and Confederate armies “to butcher each other so cruelly.” Similar thoughts almost certainly crossed Horatio’s mind, likely complicating his earlier views of glorious and sanitized warfare.
Once their burial detail was complete, Horatio and the 145th marched to Harper’s Ferry on September 22, camping on Bolivar Heights after their arrival on the 23rd. During this period, the 145th suffered heavily from disease. For many of the men, it was the first time they were exposed to such diseases. As a direct result of the intermixing of the men with troops from other geographic areas, in late October of 1862, one hundred seventeen of the regiment’s men were placed on the sick list. The inglorious, sudden deaths from disease that ran rampant through the unit during this time directly violated Victorian notions of the “good death,” denying these soldiers the opportunity of a patriotic death on a battlefield in the name of a higher cause. Such occurrences likely weighed on the morale of the eager young troops.
Finally receiving their assignment, the 145th was assigned to the Irish Brigade, under division commander Winfield Scott Hancock and corps commander Edwin Vose Sumner. Chaplain Stuckenberg attested that the assignment “was very displeasing to us, there being very few Irishmen in our regiment.” Unsurprisingly the men of the 145th displayed the flagrant anti-Irish bias that permeated nineteenth century society. The young Erie men would have likely preferred to fight alongside the other Erie regiments – the 83rd and 111th Pennsylvania Infantry regiments – whose ranks were filled with their relatives and neighbors. With the 145th’s assignment also came the arrival of their long-awaited flag on September 24, which was presented to the regiment “with the prayers and unceasing Solicitude of the Ladies of Erie.” The flag provided a tangible link to the loved ones left behind in Erie. When soldiers gazed upon this handsewn banner they recognized the loving handiwork of their mothers, wives, and sisters. For many, the flag represented everything they were fighting for, from home to homeland.
Just two days after arriving at Bolivar Heights, on September 25, seventeen-year-old Horatio was promoted again, to Sergeant Major.
Still largely untrained, the regiment was given a strict drilling schedule, with Company D completing company drill from 5:30am to 8am, and brigade drill from 9am to 12pm. While the exact date is unknown, it was likely during this time that Horatio once more made a name for himself. In an account written by Alonzo Fassett, one day, during drill, Major John Wagner Patton issued “a wrong command and was quickly corrected” by Horatio, which greatly infuriated Major Patton, “who gave back a cutting reply.” After the call was given to break ranks, Sergeant Major Lewis approached Major Patton, and requested an apology, at which point, Major Patton worsened the situation by uttering “a more stinging and insulting remark.” Although he knew many of the men under his command, Major Patton’s position meant he had to train his former neighbors to obey his orders. This sudden change from civilian to soldier required a large adjustment by many men in the 145th who believed themselves the democratic equals of their officers, yet suddenly found themselves in strictly subordinate positions to them. Horatio, on the other hand, felt his honor had been insulted and as a young soldier eager to prove himself, he resorted to the nineteenth century man’s sole option for publicly redeeming one’s honor. Several hours after the encounter, Horatio sent his cousin, Franklin, to issue a “challenge to a duel with swords or pistols.”
Instead of taking Horatio up on his offer in earnest, Major Patton, then forty years old, decided with his fellow officers to punish him instead through public mockery and trickery, and, in the words of Alonzo Fassett, “to have some fun with the strippling.” The two men arranged the specifics, and the next morning, not far from their camp, the two met on the makeshift dueling grounds. Armed with pistols and positioned twenty yards apart, the two men stood with their backs to one another, and at the count of three, turned and fired. In a coincidence that no doubt aided in the execution of Major Patton’s prank, “the shots were almost simultaneous.” Once the smoke had cleared, Horatio saw Major Patton lying on the ground, as the surgeon (likely the regimental surgeon), George L. Potter, and the two seconds ran to Major Patton’s limp form. As recounted by Fassett, the surgeon informed Horatio “You have killed him…your bullet pierced his heart.” Shortly afterwards, Horatio was arrested, and returned to camp, where he was swiftly tried and “sentenced to be shot at sunrise.” While Franklin almost certainly worried for his dear cousin, and anxiously anticipated their family’s reaction, Fassett maintained that Horatio “never blanched or weakened, though he then had no idea that blank cartridges were used in the duel, and it was all done to test his courage.” Through his steadfast bravery, even at the threat of losing his life, young Horatio proved his courage, honor and worth as a man and as a junior officer, garnering the respect of his superiors in the 145th.
Although receiving scarce mention in most regimental accounts, the duel featured prominently in a later diary entry written by regimental Chaplain, John H.W. Stuckenberg. Deeply moved by Horatio’s strong faith, Stuckenberg was never able to “forget how willingly he received my reproofs for what turned out to be a sham duel.”
Surprisingly, it appears Horatio’s family did not learn of the duel until many months after it occurred. In a letter dated June 15, 1863, his stepmother, Emily, expressed her shock and dismay, warning that “much depends upon the course you take now,” and urging him to “adhere to the strickest [sic] integrity.” After hearing reports of the many vices that ran rampant in camp life, Emily worried that Horatio had fallen victim to these bad habits. Although many men gave in to these vices, it greatly assuaged Emily’s fears to learn that Horatio did not “drink, play cards, nor smoke.” Revealing a deep affection for the son she had raised as her own, she wrote at length of her disapproval of his chosen vocation, insisting “it would do for a wild, ambitious fellow,” but not “one possessed of superior talents as I ever thought you were.” Finishing her statements about his life as a soldier, she reaffirmed her faith in God’s plan for her son, insisting “I assume your future course is planned.” Unbeknownst to her, her eighteen-year-old son had barely more than a month left to live.
Much to the excitement of many men in the 145th, on October 1, the regiment was reviewed by General McClellan and President Lincoln. Their delight was heightened by General McClellan’s remark that “there is a fine new regiment, the 145th Pennsylvania.” A few weeks after this review, the regiment was reassigned, to the First Brigade, First Division, of the 2nd Corps, commanded by Brigadier General John Curtis Caldwell. The regiment was reviewed once more on the morning of October 29, before leaving that evening for Falmouth, Virginia, stopping for several days near Warrenton. During this time the 145th and Horatio saw a great deal of then-Brigadier General Winfield Scott Hancock, much to the chagrin of Chaplain Stuckenberg, who lamented an incident that occurred on November 9, when Brigadier General Hancock “swore most vilely in presence of our regiment.” Much like Emily Lewis, Chaplain Stuckenberg worried the men under his spiritual guidance would indulge in the vices of camp life. Perhaps it was around this date that the Brigadier General first became acquainted with Horatio. Regardless of the exact date of their first meeting, General Hancock was thoroughly impressed by the young man and his martial talents and according to Harry Lewis, “came near recommending him for promotion as Major over all the Captains and Lieutenants of the regiment.”
In their winter quarters at Falmouth, Horatio and the 145th continued drilling and garnering many more compliments, including those from Major General Sumner, who, during a review completed on Wednesday, November 26, cited the regiment as “tremendously strong.” From Horatio’s mastery of Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, and his experiences as Captain of his boyhood unit, he understood the importance of thorough drilling. Nonetheless, this background, and the military pomp showcased during the reviews contributed to his idealized view of soldierly life. The neatly arranged units, parading before their officers, as their flags waved overhead undoubtedly falsely bolstered Horatio’s romanticized beliefs.
The Battle of Fredericksburg and its aftermath
After leaving their winter quarters at Falmouth in the early morning hours of December 11 and spending the next night sleeping in the woods, in the afternoon of December 12, Horatio and the 145th crossed the upper pontoon bridge over the Rappahannock River into the town of Fredericksburg. Spending the night on Sophia Street, near the ruins of the railroad bridge, the men of the 145th woke early the next morning and marched to Caroline Street, where they waited for nearly an hour before Confederate artillery batteries commenced firing on the town. Chaplain Stuckenberg noted that, by 10am they had formed in a line of battle “directly in front of the Catholic Church,” taking heavy artillery fire. Like several men, Chaplin Stuckenberg recalled in horror the sickening way that a “piece of railroad iron” flew through the air on Princess Anne Street, “twirling round and round as it went.”
This terrifying sight must have been a shock to the green men of the 145th, and to Horatio in particular. War was no longer an abstract notion he could merely envision. Instead, as Horatio waited for instructions with his regiment, he heard the deafening roar of artillery and musket fire and saw men rushing from one side of the street to the other, to avoid being hit by the projectiles hurled in their direction. One wonders whether the evil iron that twisted through the air conjured images of the maimed bodies he buried at Antietam. In that moment, a multitude of emotions surely rushed through Horatio’s mind. Did he think of his family in Erie, and of his desire to see his beloved Emma again? Did he pray that he and Franklin would pass through the battle unharmed? Did he ask that, if necessary, God let him be killed outright rather than let him be disfigured? Did his father’s warning echo in his head as he contemplated the possibility of his death? Or did his faith provide him calm in that moment, as he reaffirmed his trust in God’s plan for his life and resigned himself to his fate?
It was not long before Horatio and the 145th were ordered forward. Once they reached Hanover Street, positioned behind the 7th New York Infantry, “the whole view opened up to us” and they beheld the disastrous advance that awaited them. As described by Second Lieutenant Stephen Allen Osborn of Company G, the time had come for the regiment “to be offered up on the altar of incompetency.” Years after the battle, many veterans of the 145th, like Second Lieutenant Osborn, would lament the sacrifice of more than half the regiment at Fredericksburg, blaming their superior offices for cruelly flinging them across the open ground in front of Marye’s Heights.
Reaching the old canal ditch, the men hesitated, noting that the fifteen-foot-wide mill race contained at least three feet of ice-cold water, which, although muddy on top, undoubtedly contained a thick layer of ice beneath the surface. Despite the eagerness they displayed at Antietam, the 145th had never actively participated in a battle, and lacked the experience of seasoned veterans, which caused their delay. Making matters worse, their position was open to enfilading fire from Confederate artillery batteries. Annoyed by the unit’s hesitation amidst the continuous artillery and rifle fire from Marye’s Heights, author Verel Salmon highlighted the moment when General Hancock ordered the 145th “to plunge into the icy water and cross in line.” Regardless of their previous display of uncertainty, once the 145th continued towards the stone wall, the men, eager to prove their bravery, pushed onward. However, once they noticed that Lieutenant Colonel David B. McCreary moved towards the rear to find Brigadier General Caldwell, “a sizeable chunk” of the regiment took it as a sign to retreat. General Caldwell desperately reorganized his troops near the ridge slightly beyond the millrace, returning the already devastated 145th to the front lines. Shortly thereafter, the regiment faced another obstacle in the form of a rail fence around the fairgrounds. The fence bisected the regiment, but, according to Verel Salmon, they “formed as best they could in line of battle.” The decimated regiment endured several more hours on the field, until dark, when they were relieved and fell back into the town once more.
While attempting to climb over the fence, a bullet ripped through Horatio’s right instep, tearing the sole off his boot. As the pain seared through his foot and he realized he had been shot, Horatio’s mind must have raced with fear and thoughts of those he left behind in Erie. His next steps are unknown, but there are three possibilities. Horatio may have lain on the field before he was found by his comrades and taken to the 145th’s field hospital. Given that Chaplain Stuckenberg recalled some of the 145th’s wounded arriving at the field hospital while the battle raged, it is possible that Horatio was immediately brought behind the lines by a comrade, or it is possible that he managed to drag himself to the safety and medical treatment offered by the rear.
In the chaos of the battle, Horatio and Franklin became separated. It was the last time they saw each other alive. Initially reported missing, it was not until much later, on January 15, 1863, that the family learned of Franklin’s fate through an article published in the Erie Weekly Gazette. Struck on the head by a shell fragment, eighteen-year-old Franklin Gifford Lewis’s features were so disfigured he could only be identified by papers found in his pockets. According to Harry Lewis, the sole known witness to his death was John Calvin Mackintosh. The horrific nature of his death was incredibly disturbing to his extensive family, who longed to return his body to Erie for burial. Further distressing the family, his body was never relocated after the battle, and he was interred as an unknown in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. Unable to properly grieve their unimaginable loss, the first of many the Lewis family suffered during the Civil War, they erected a memorial stone in the Erie Cemetery. Today, the large, nearly illegible stone remains a testament to the family’s deep affection for Franklin. In his obituary, Franklin was described as “quiet and unassuming, but firm and determined where duty and conscience were concerned.” When others tried to dissuade him from enlisting by arguing that he was not physically capable due to his now-unknown disability, Franklin is supposed to have replied “I will go and do what I can.” Lamenting the loss of his beloved cousin, on January 15, while in the hospital at the Old Main building of the Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, Horatio wrote to his family: “Poor Frank. I think of him all the time.” Franklin Lewis represents a mere fraction of the “91 killed outright or died of wounds and 152 wounded,” that led Samuel Bates and many men in the regiment to declare they held the grim distinction of possessing “more in killed and wounded than any other regiment.” More than one-half of the 145th became casualties that day. Company D had the honor of carrying the regimental flag, making it a prime target. Nineteen men from Company D were killed outright or later died of their wounds. Perhaps the high casualty rate contributed to the high desertion rate. By the end of the war, Company D had a desertion rate of roughly 10.75%, which was the highest rate in the regiment. Sustained high casualty rates and loss of comrades from 1862 to 1864, would certainly explain any disillusionment or dissatisfaction felt by the men of the 145th.
Horatio’s own grievous wound and the unknown whereabouts of his cousin Franklin, mixed with the regiment’s extreme losses, almost certainly dampened his once-rosy view of combat.
The 145th’s flag mirrored the regiment’s destruction. This symbol of their homes, families, and nation was damaged beyond repair, paralleling the loss felt by many, including the Lewis family. At Fredericksburg, between thirteen and eighteen bullets and a large shell fragment ripped through the silk flag. Another shell fragment fractured the flagstaff, and bullets tore off the eagle’s wings from the top of the flagstaff.
Adding insult to injury, after the battle, Brigadier General Caldwell spoke approvingly of all the regiments under his command, except for the 145th. In his report, he declared that the 145th was his only regiment that did not fight “with the greatest gallantry” or “steadiness,” and that it failed to fight with the “desperate courage” exhibited by his other regiments. Throughout the war, and in later years, scholars denigrated the 145th, despite the unit’s continuously high casualty numbers and impressive performance during the Battle of Gettysburg. Glenn Tucker’s 1980 Hancock the Superb was one of the first scholarly works to offer the 145th praise, and even then, Tucker only noted that the 145th could not have been such a disorganized, experienced regiment if they continued to count so many casualties. This is incredibly ironic, given that, after witnessing the 145th’s ill-fated advance at Fredericksburg, General Hancock announced that the men of the regiment “fight like devils.” Brigadier General Caldwell’s words amounted to the beginning of a sustained character assassination of the 145th and its men, and they would not have appreciated the questioning of their honor or devotion to duty that resulted from the remarks. Given the 145th’s record in subsequent campaigns, it seems they took the words as a challenge, and endeavored to consistently prove their bravery.
Just a day after Horatio was wounded, on December 14, the 145th’s Colonel, Hiram Loomis Brown, lying wounded in the Phillips House (General Burnside’s headquarters) noticed the six-foot-four Captain John Irvin Gregg of the 6th United States Cavalry standing in the room where he lay wounded. Colonel Brown immediately directed the regimental quartermaster, Daniel Webster Winchester Jr., to ask Captain Gregg to inform Harry Lewis or Andrew F. Swan (both of Company G, 6th U.S. Cavalry) that young Horatio lay wounded in a field hospital within the town. Harry Whitlock Lewis likely discovered his wounded brother in the Maury House, which the 145th Pennsylvania was using as their field hospital. Upon finding his brother, Harry noticed that Horatio’s wound had not been treated, and recalled that his legs were “covered with slime and mud” from the mill race, so Harry “took him on my back, carried him across the street, and put him on a bed on the second floor of” what was likely the Goolrick-Caldwell House. Fetching the necessary supplies from around the house, Harry dressed his younger brother’s wounds. Unlike most of his wounded comrades, Horatio endured his first day as an injured man under the gentle care of a family member, which undoubtedly served as both a physical and emotional balm for the convalescing soldier.
On December 17, several men from the 145th Pennsylvania, likely including Horatio, were evacuated to Washington D.C. area hospitals from the landing at Aquia Creek. The next day, December 18, Horatio was admitted to the St. Aloysius General Hospital at the corner of 7th Street and K Street NW. In a 1909 newspaper article, Harry wrote that, during Horatio’s short stay at St. Aloysius, “President Lincoln came through the ward, took the light curly-headed young soldier by the hand and cheered him up.” Horatio, always imbued with a strong sense of patriotism, must have been thrilled by this occurrence. One must wonder if Horatio mentioned the cannon incident of February 1861. Perhaps he even mentioned his boyhood unit’s efforts to campaign on behalf of President Lincoln in the 1860 election.
Just two days later, on December 20, Horatio was sent to the Crozer Theological Seminary, which had been converted to a General Hospital. Admitted on December 21, he was then promoted yet again, on January 7, 1863, to First Lieutenant, although he was still just seventeen years old. While his distinguished martial experience made him adequately qualified for the position, he actually received the promotion because Company D’s First and Second Lieutenants, John H. Hubbard, and Charles H. Riblet, respectively, were killed during the attack on Marye’s Heights – merely one example of how devastating the battle had been to the command structure of the Army of the Potomac.
While recovering from his wound, on January 15, Horatio wrote a lengthy letter home, detailing the progress of his injury. With the use of crutches, he could walk “a little bit but it makes my foot ache to let it hang down to [sic] long at a time.” Lamenting the hospital food, he wrote, “We get Soup here for breakfast lately and then we get Soup for dinner and Supper for a change; HaHa ante we lucky.” Signing the letter, “From your ever Affectionate Son & Brother, Horatio the Soldier Boy,” he ended his letter as he usually did, with a request that his family “Kiss Emma for me.” A skilled artist, on the envelope Horatio drew an eagle mid-flight with “a snake dangling from its beak”, positioned behind a shield and in front of two crossed American flags, the words “UNION FOREVER” etched around the image. Despite his debilitating injury, the loss of his dear cousin, and the destruction of his regiment, Horatio’s patriotism was unwavering. He remained committed to the political and patriotic beliefs imbued in him by his father, grandfather, and Reverend Spaulding. Horatio clung to his faith, which steadied him and provided him immense comfort and a stalwart sense of purpose and duty during his time at Crozer. During this time he also relied heavily on his “war supplement” – his letters home – which provided him with a tangible link to his loved ones, so that the inevitable pull between family and the front lines did not feel quite so strained.
Furlough and final farewells to family
Given a furlough to recover among family, Horatio arrived in Erie on Friday, January 23. In a letter to her stepdaughter, Ruth Eliza Wells, Horatio’s stepmother, Emily claimed that “his conversation is like one of advanced years.” Although he was still just seventeen years old, his experiences as a soldier forced him to mature beyond his age. He was no longer the same youth he was when he left Erie, merely fourth months prior.
Emily also described a story Horatio told her about the events preceding the Battle of Fredericksburg. In one of the only mentions of a specific disability, Horatio informed her that Franklin injured his thumb and that he attempted to dissuade him from participating in the battle, but that Franklin replied that “he would not have it said that his regiment had been in an engagement and he not with them…by so doing, he lost his life.” In several newspaper articles published in the Erie Daily Times after the Civil War, Harry Lewis attested that his cousin Franklin was disabled, and even labeled him as “crippled.” Despite his high intelligence, as a child, Franklin likely faced ridicule for his disability. Eager to prove he met the nineteenth century standards of manhood, Franklin enlisted alongside Horatio, and vowed to fight with his regiment, even if it meant his death. In sacrificing his life to preserve the Union, Franklin forever expunged any claims made against his reputation.
During his furlough, Emily observed that Horatio “moved among his old associates,” including his older brother, Marcus “Mark” Lewis Jr. (who would eventually die of typhoid while serving in the Navy, on January 15, 1865) and a friend identified as “Charly Robinson.” On January 25, the trio visited the Methodist Church in Erie. Although the reason for their visit is unknown, Horatio likely sought solace in prayer or pastoral counsel after the loss of Franklin and after his horrific trials at Fredericksburg.
Alonzo Fassett reasoned that, upon his return to Erie, the young Lieutenant Lewis “chose his old playmates…because he was as yet a child in feeling.” In spite of the great changes that had occurred in the four months since he was last in Erie, and regardless of his status in the 145th as a respected soldier, Horatio could not completely shed himself of his youthful innocence.
While home, Horatio visited an Erie photography studio. In the resulting image, he can be seen favoring his injured leg, instead placing his weight on his left leg. With his hat prominently displayed on a table beside him, the photograph nearly resembles an earlier image, taken in the 1850s. Then, in 1863, instead of the uniform of his boyhood artillery unit, Horatio stood attired in the uniform of a true soldier, just as he always dreamed. Although he was no longer the boyish youth who went off to war a few months prior, and despite the horrifying experiences he encountered at Antietam and Fredericksburg, he remained committed to his patriotic ideals and in his destiny as a dutiful soldier.
Whether he felt guilty for being separated from his men during his furlough or whether he merely missed the life he always longed for, Horatio was eager to return to his regiment and resume his life as a soldier. Instead of remaining in Erie for the duration of his fifteen-week furlough, Horatio rejoined the unit on March 14. Although still struggling with his Fredericksburg wound, on March 31st, Horatio delightedly reported in a letter to his brother Mark that, “I am in command of Co. D and on drill I command a division,” to which he gleefully added “that is two companies.” Having turned eighteen years old a few days prior, on March 27th, Lieutenant Lewis also “had the honor of seeing [Pennsylvania] Governor Andrew G. Curtin on my Birth Day.” Always imbued with the fires of patriotism, this symbol of the government he loved so dearly was a heartening treat for young Horatio. Once more, always thinking of his beloved little half-sister, he implored his family to “Kiss Emma for me.”
A few days later, in early April, the 145th was transferred to the 4th Brigade, 1st Division, of the 2nd Corps, under the command of Brigadier General John Rutter Brooke.
It wasn’t long before the darker elements of camp life reappeared, however. On April 4, Horatio and the 145th witnessed the punishment of two deserters, in front of the division. After their gruesome introduction to combat at Fredericksburg, numerous men from the 145th were greatly displeased and frustrated that the regiment remained encamped at Falmouth, just as they had before the battle. Perhaps this frustration is what led the two unnamed men to attempt desertion. With their heads half shaved, and wearing boards labeled “coward,” the men were paraded before the division as two other soldiers followed them, bayonets fixed and pointed at the deserters’ backs. The humiliating punishment represented a public reprisal of the men’s honor and served as a harsh warning against others who may have considered desertion. Interestingly, when John A. Kuhn of Company D deserted around May 1, Horatio and his friend, Second Lieutenant Clayton W. Lytle, were listed as the witnesses. Although Kuhn’s service record specifies the charges brought against him, the court martial index does not contain a trial record. Given Kuhn’s extreme injuries after the Battle of Gettysburg and subsequent recuperation, along with the fact that the author of the charging document, Captain Charles M. Lynch, and Horatio, a witness, were also severely wounded at Gettysburg, a trial likely never occurred.
The Battle of Chancellorsville
In a May 7 letter home that Horatio wrote from camp near Falmouth, he apprised his “dear friends” that the 145th had been transferred to Brooke’s Brigade, the 4th Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Corps. In one of his longest letters home, Horatio described the 145th’s involvement in the Battle of Chancellorsville. Reflecting on the utter disaster, the letter began with his musings on his “Gloomy & Peculiar” thoughts, as well as his questions of “wer we whipped; or wer we not.” The reality of facing two successive, disastrous Union defeats was staggering. The Union Army’s sustained losing streak and the fact that the 145th suffered roughly 50% casualties at both Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville cast a pallor over Horatio’s usually positive outlook.
The 145th left their quarters at Falmouth on April 28, around 4:30am, marching along muddy roads, before they were forced to build what Horatio determined were “about ¾ miles of Courdory road across a big swamp.” Facing a torrent of rain that lasted until April 30, Horatio informed his family that the men “wer unable to march very fast,” and were later detailed to build pontoon bridges at United States Ford. Assisted by members of the Army Corps of Engineers, the 145th constructed two bridges across the Rappahannock River, crossing to the other side around dusk. Essentially retracing their steps from the days leading up to Fredericksburg, the crossing likely stirred forth memories of the fatal charge across the parade grounds, and of Franklin’s horrific untimely death.
Encamped near the Chancellor House, Horatio awoke around 7:30am on May 1, saying that the battle began around 10am. Almost instantly, Horatio noted that “the roar of Artillery and Rattle of Small arms Put me in mind of Fredericksburg again.” Still new to battle, Horatio had not become hardened to war. His mind easily drifted back to his first battle. The fearful sounds once more returned his reflective mind to the scene of his greatest loss.
Retreating and advancing continuously throughout the day, by night the 145th moved into some nearby woods along the left flank. After the Confederates ceased their artillery barrage into those same woods, the regiment began digging rifle pits. Lying in the pits overnight, one wonders whether Horatio tried to bury himself into the ground, in hopes of avoiding the same disfiguring wound that befell his cousin. Thoughts of Franklin, Emma, and his family surely swirled through his mind as he lay in the rifle pit.
Early on the morning of May 2, half of the regiment was assigned to picket duty. Luckily for Horatio, he was not included in that group, for several hours afterwards, nearly all of those men were captured by the advancing Confederates. Instead, Horatio and the remaining half of the regiment were forced to retreat nearly a quarter of a mile, where they once more dug entrenchments which they laid in to avoid the artillery and infantry fire focused on their location. The regiment had been pushed back yet again, which could not have possibly pleased Horatio and the men of the 145th. If the events of the previous day did not remind them of the artillery barrage they faced at Fredericksburg, the time they spent lying in these entrenchments as shells soared overhead almost certainly called forth the chilling memories.
Later, receiving fire from three directions, the 145th shifted slightly to the right to fill the gap left by the half of the regiment assigned to picket duty in front of the rifle pits along the left flank. It is unknown whether the men were able to return fire, or whether they were forced to press their bodies as close to the ground as they could manage. Either way, Horatio’s thoughts doubtlessly echoed with prayers for survival and a desire to see his beloved Emma again.
After the rout of the 11th Corps and part of the 12th Corps, Horatio and the 145th were forced to lay flat against the ground, otherwise, he insisted that “we would have all been cut to pieces.” In a great irony, considering their previous sham duel in which he had played a casualty, Major Patton was lying directly behind Horatio when he received a grievous mortal wound. The terrible shock of seeing a man so close to him gruesomely injured presented a glaring contrast to the soldierly life he envisioned as a boy. While his boyhood drills and demonstrations left no casualties in their wake, as a true soldier he was exposed to the worst wounds imaginable.
Horatio labeled the Confederate artillery that continued to pour into the woods as “a perfect storm knocking the trees and limbs in every direction.” The regiment was given a brief respite from the barrage on May 4th, but on May 5, as they continued to lay in the woods, within the miserable rifle pits that overflowed with water from that morning’s torrential downpour, the Confederates “threw quite a quantity of shot and shell” in their direction. Under such steady fire, their only option was to remain in the waterlogged rifle pits, lest they become another name on the casualty list. In all his grand public demonstrations with his boyhood unit, Horatio likely never fathomed that he would be placed in such a position, soaked to the skin and covered in mud, as he clung to the ground simply hoping to stay alive.
Mercifully recrossing the Rappahannock at United States Ford at sunrise on Wednesday, May 6, Horatio marveled at the “grand sight” of the entire Army of the Potomac. It was a refreshingly sharp contrast to the nightmarish scenes of the preceding days. Vistas such as these, with endless rows of men marching in formation across the landscape, bayonets gleaming in the sun, were far more in line with the soldierly life Horatio imagined as a boy. The sight helped, at least momentarily, to bring back the romantic picture of warfare that Horatio had once held before the slaughter at Fredericksburg.
It was his first major march since his injury at Fredericksburg, and Horatio lamented that his “foot pained me dreadfully,” and the men “wer besmeared with mud from one end to the other.” However, ever the hopeful optimist, Horatio concluded his May 7 letter by insisting that “I am not discouraged yet. I believe Old Joe Hooker is the man. We are going to clean out the Rebs yet the Rhappahannoc is not going to seperate our lines much longer Our Governent shall be maintained at whatever cost.” He did not know then that the cost of preserving the Union included his life.
Sometime between his May 7 letter and May 25 when he wrote home again, it seems the young Lieutenant Lewis lost a tooth, which he sent home with a letter to his family. In her June 15 letter to her stepson, Emily Lewis confirmed that the tooth had arrived, but noted that “it had quite worn a hole in the letter.” Was the tooth knocked out by flying debris while the 145th huddled in the woods during the Battle of Chancellorsville? Were Horatio’s teeth unable to withstand the rougher diet he had grown accustomed to? One wonders why exactly he mailed the tooth home. Did he wish to provide his family with one tangible piece of him, should he die on the battlefield? Did he want them to keep it so that one day he could show it to his children and grandchildren as a physical reminder of the time he fought to preserve the Union? Ultimately, the cause of the lost tooth and Horatio’s reasons for sending it home, are unknown, though they were undeniably addressed in the missing May 25 letter.
"Our Government shall be maintained at whatever cost" The Battle of Gettysburg and Horatio's death
By the time the 145th began the march towards Gettysburg, it consisted of barely two hundred of the nearly one thousand men with whom it had departed Erie – a testament both to the unit’s horrific casualty rate under fire and ongoing issues with desertion. According to John Street of Company A, by June 11, the 145th was ordered to be ready to march at any moment. On June 13, they received their marching orders; after many months they were finally leaving Falmouth behind. Horatio was likely overjoyed to finally leave behind the site where so many of his comrades perished from disease, and to distance himself, even if only physically, from the lingering memories of Fredericksburg.
The first leg of the march began at 4 p.m. on June 14. It was a three-and-a-half-mile march to Banks Ford, which they reached around 6 p.m. that day. After a fifteen-minute break, the 145th rapidly resumed their march before they set up camp for the night, around midnight. They arrived in Stafford Court House on June 15, around 10 a.m., when their path was blocked by felled trees. After two hours spent “exposed to the burning rays of the sun,” Chaplain Stuckenberg attested that the delay caused by the blocked road led General Hancock (the commander of the Second Corps) to believe that the Confederates had captured the entire regiment. Chaplain Stuckenberg compared the “burning rays” that beat down on the men to those found in a desert. He furthered the comparison by observing that “water was often scarce,” and the 145th could follow the Confederate Army’s movements by tracing the dust cloud they left in their wake.
Before resuming their march once more, they burned the jail and courthouse, two symbols of the local Confederate government. The 145th’s disdain for the Confederates – a result of their slaughter at the hands of the Confederates at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville – burned just as hot as the embers of the fire they left in their wake.
Due to the blistering heat and thick clouds of dust that lined the roads, after the regiment arrived in Fairfax at 3 p.m. on June 17, they rested there until June 19, when they advanced to Centreville. They then crossed over Cub Run and arrived on a portion of the old Bull Run Battlefield.
This encounter marked yet another challenge to Horatio’s romanticized view of combat. In his June 24 letter home, Horatio informed his family that he “saw some awful sights” as the 145th marched across the battlefield at Bull Run. Horatio recalled that “Mens skulls and feet wer [sic] sticking out of the ground where the rain had washed the dirt off. one skull laid on top of the ground separate from thebody. Cannon balls shells pieces of shells pieces of muskets dead horses bones, &c. laid allover the [g]round.” Chaplain Stuckenberg further elaborated on the horrors of the Bull Run Battlefield, noting the men’s disgust with the site of the sun-bleached bones that protruded from mounds the men first thought were buried horses. Instead, upon drawing closer to the mounds, they recognized scraps of blue fabric beneath the dirt; the elevated mounds marked the graves of their own men, killed months prior. Although Chaplain Stuckenberg insisted the men of the 145th were hardened to war after their experiences at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, they “could not view such a scene without a shudder.” The hastily buried remains of their comrades presented a veritable reminder of their own mortality, particularly given the fact that they marched northward to engage in another battle. This ghastly encounter was not the first time Horatio was exposed to the bodies of the Union dead. His position on the burial detail at Antietam marked the first of these grisly experiences, and although he was still young at heart, and despite the boyish grin that danced across his face in his photographs, his mind began to harden into that of a soldier. Pushing these awful images behind them, Horatio and the 145th continued towards their fate on the fields at Gettysburg.
The regiment next embarked on what Horatio described as a “forced march” of about thirty-three miles from Thorofare Gap to Edwards Ford. Unlike their previous marches, where the dust was so thick “that you couldn’t tell a man a rod off,” this time they marched in a demoralizing, near-constant downpour, meaning “the mud was shoe deep nearly all the way.” Around dusk on Friday, June 26, Horatio and the 145th crossed the Potomac River at Edwards Ferry, in present-day Poolesville, Maryland. In a June 28 letter home, Company E’s Second Lieutenant George H. Finch echoed the sentiments of many when he recalled the bittersweet crossing, revealing that he could not ignore the thoughts of all his comrades who “crossed the Potomac with us last fall,” and lost their lives on Virginia soil. Somewhat ashamedly, Second Lieutenant Finch admitted that the thought made a “silent tear” fall from his eyes. Despite their extreme losses, time and the progress of the war never permitted the 145th to pause to mourn their fallen brethren. Just months before, Horatio had left Northern soil with Franklin, when they were two young recruits eager to prove their worth as men and soldiers. Horatio drew closer to his home state, but Franklin was no longer with him, and Horatio likely knew the circumstances of Franklin’s death meant his dear cousin’s body would never be brought back to Erie. Franklin, like so many others, was left in a foreign country, the land of their enemies, with no loving family member to decorate their graves.
Since the Potomac was “nearly half a mile wide” at Edwards Ford, the crossing required two pontoon bridges, with each bridge constructed from sixty-five pontoons. They continued their advance for another mile or two after the crossing, and marched “through the woods and brush across swamps and ditches creeks etc.” before encamping at the edge of a woodlot around 12:30 a.m.
After the regiment encamped for the night, early on the morning of Saturday, June 27, Horatio began another letter to his “dear friends at home.” Ever the ardent militarist, although he did not know where the scattered corps of the Army of the Potomac were, Horatio speculated that the corps were spread across Maryland. He noted that the rumors around camp said, “we are going up to Antietam to play a game of Ball with Lee.” This phrasing is a bit odd, considering his enormous personal loss at Fredericksburg and the battle’s continued influence on his emotions during the Battle of Chancellorsville. However, it demonstrates his resiliency and the remnants of his boyish outlook on combat.
Before Horatio could finish the letter, and shortly after the 145th finished their dinner on June 27, the regiment received further marching orders. Beginning at 6 a.m. on June 28, they continued to march to an unknown destination. While passing over Sugar Loaf Mountain, the elevation afforded them a sublime view of the valley and their intended destination, Frederick, Maryland. The regiment continued the twenty-five-mile march, and they reached Frederick, Maryland, around 1 p.m. that day. By the time they arrived in Frederick, Horatio and the 145th had marched roughly one hundred grueling miles in two weeks. Granted a short period of rest, the 145th pitched their tents. Five hours later, at 6 p.m. Horatio began writing his final letter home. Speaking of the regiment’s march through Maryland, Horatio noticed the landscape’s similarities to his native Pennsylvania, which was only eighteen miles north by his calculations. By his account, Maryland was “the finest piece of Country I ever saw.” Perhaps influenced by his farming background, he made sure to note that Maryland “is a great wheat & corn country, large Fields of wheat all ready for harvest (Part all ready in the shock) Corn looks very nice clean and free from grass & weeds. Generaly about a foot high.” Horatio and the 145th no longer marched through the war-torn landscape of Virginia. Instead, they had returned to the untouched beauty and bountiful harvests of their homeland – a cheering sight after their seemingly endless march north.
From the distance, near South Mountain, echoes of cannon-fires reached the 145th’s camp. While the sound may have once stirred excitement in the men, after Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the sound likely filled many with an uncertain dread, or led their minds to shift back to the bleached bones they saw at Bull Run just days earlier. Horatio concluded his letter by assuring his family that he was “well every way except my feet,” explaining that “they are pretty blistered up” from the intense marching.
That night, many men from the 145th ventured into Frederick, where they learned that Major General George Gordon Meade had replaced Major General Joseph Hooker as commander of the Army of the Potomac. According to Chaplain Stuckenberg, numerous soldiers “lost confidence in Hooker” months previously and gladly accepted the news of the change in command.
In Horatio’s words, the 145th had now completed “some of the hardest marching that ever was done by an army.” In his June 24 letter, he cheerfully noted that he and his close friend, Second Lieutenant Clayton Lytle were two of the only officers who were able to continue to march without requiring the aid of a horse or an ambulance. However, on June 29, five days after he wrote the letter, this situation changed. After sustained marching in tremendous heat, mud, and later dried mud, it seems that young Lieutenant Lewis’s Fredericksburg wound, as well as his blistered feet were troubling him again. In his diary, Chaplain Stuckenberg relayed the moment when Horatio found him near the rear of the regiment soon before they passed through Uniontown, Maryland. Tears streaked down Horatio’s desperate countenance as he pleaded with the Chaplain for help; Horatio “said he could go no further, but had never fallen out, and did not want to do so now.” Not wanting to disgrace himself in the eyes of the regiment or fall victim to the advancing Confederates that trailed behind them, Chaplain Stuckenberg was Horatio’s last hope. Luckily, Chaplain Stuckenberg was very fond of Horatio, due both to his ardent patriotism and his deep faith, and allowed Horatio to ride his horse for the final portion of that day’s thirty-to-thirty-four-mile march. Aside from the Sixth Corps, on July 29, the men of the 145th completed the longest march in the Army of the Potomac. For their efforts, on June 30, the 145th proudly received Major General Winfield Scott Hancock’s compliments on their difficult march. However, Chaplain Stuckenberg was worried for his men, who “were completely worn out.”
Although most of the brigade began the march to Taneytown around 8 a.m., the 145th was detailed to guard the First Division of the Second Corps’ wagon train. After the wagon train departed Uniontown at noon, Horatio and the 145th trudged behind in the large dust cloud it created for nearly a mile, before they stopped for a half hour’s break. Much to their relief, they were then ordered to return to their position with the Fourth Brigade, and they reached Taneytown around 3 p.m. Shortly thereafter, rumors rippled through the ranks of a battle raging in Gettysburg, between eight and ten miles from their position. The rumors were confirmed when the ambulance carrying the remains of the Major General John Fulton Reynolds, commander of the First Corps, drove past their line as it traveled through Harney, Maryland. Once more, Horatio and the men of the 145th were reminded of the ever-present threat of death. Their constant companion, it must have seemed that death followed their every step, just waiting to claim another of their comrades.
Gettysburg: his final battle
A short time later, the Fourth Brigade arrived in Pennsylvania, and cheers of joy echoed down the line. After an extended absence, the men were back in their home state, and they were prepared to defend it, no matter the cost.
That night the 145th encamped in a wheatfield, where they arrived around 9:30 p.m. By Chaplain Stuckenberg’s estimate, the regiment slept roughly two or three miles south of Gettysburg. However, a more recent regimental historian, Dr. Verel Salmon, estimates their bivouac was closer to about a mile south of Big Round Top and two miles south of the Leister Farm. Around 3 a.m., Horatio and the 145th were ordered to the front. Eerily, a low layer of fog clung to the ground. Traveling north on the Taneytown Road, the 145th marched to the Union center on Cemetery Hill, eventually halting a short distance to the left of Evergreen Cemetery. As they assumed their position, a brass band sought to rally the men’s spirits and played what Chaplain Stuckenberg termed “national airs.” In another of Stuckenberg’s post-war written accounts, he identified these tunes as the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Hail Columbia.”
From their position, the 145th witnessed skirmishing to their front, and noticed the nearby Irish Brigade was silent, “bowed in prayer.” Chaplain Stuckenberg surveyed his men, and, aware that “Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville still haunted their memories,” he asked Colonel Hiram Loomis Brown of the 145th to permit his men to follow the Irish Brigade’s example. Colonel Brown gave his assent, and the men of the 145th joined together in a somber prayer. For these men, it seemed that “eternity looms up near the mental vision,” and “assume[d] a terrible reality, as never before.” Perhaps Horatio was reminded of the sermons given by Reverend Spaulding in Erie, which he once attended with his parents and siblings, likely with Franklin by his side. Did his thoughts drift to the patriotic tales told to him by his grandfather, a Revolutionary War veteran? Did his mind echo with the patriotic sentiments imbued upon him by his Whig and Republican father, or to the lessons in religious piety he received from his stepmother? Was it a combination of the two – a sense that that day, on the fields of his native Pennsylvania represented his chance to honor his family and country? The Chaplain mournfully identified this as “the last prayer in which some of our regt joined.” Although the regiment left Erie with almost one thousand men, only two hundred and twenty-eight men were present at Gettysburg; two hundred and two of these men participated in the battle. When Chaplain Stuckenberg would walk among the wounded later that afternoon, he would discover that all but sixty-six men of the 145th were casualties. Over the course of the afternoon, nearly sixty-nine percent of the 145th would be killed or wounded.
While they waited along the left side of Cemetery Hill, Horatio and the 145th stacked their rifles and remained in the relatively exposed position for most of the day, until roughly 4 p.m. Similar to Chancellorsville, Horatio and the 145th were forced to lay low to the ground, as the sounds of battle rang through the air overhead. It was evident they would be engaged in the fight, but they were kept in a constant state of suspense, never knowing when exactly they would be flung into the increasingly intensifying fray.
Although he likely never knew it, just as at Antietam, Horatio was near his stepbrothers, John Lucius Wells and James Madison Wells. The two men were with the 111th Pennsylvania, stationed just a short distance away on Culps Hill. His older brother Harry Lewis, who dressed his wound after Fredericksburg, was also nearby, with the 6th United States Cavalry – the old “band of soldiers” from his boyhood days reunited once more, but this time on a deadly field of battle.
When the sounds of infantry fire pierced the air around 4 p.m. and the 145th was ordered to move roughly a quarter mile south, it seemed the regiment would finally meet the enemy. However, they were disappointed yet again, when they were ordered to return to the position that they held that morning in order to enable the Fifth Corps, under the command of Major General George Sykes, to move into position beside the Second Corps. Once more, the 145th was tossed aside, perhaps due to the lingering effects of Major General Caldwell’s disparaging remarks, which questioned their dependability. An hour later, after Major General Daniel Sickles’s “Third Corps had been hopelessly broken,” the 145th was ordered to shift a mile south to reinforce the southern section of the Union line.
Proceeding south along the Taneytown Road, west across the modern-day Sedgwick Avenue, and through the woods adjacent to the George Weikert Farm, and the nearby “low marshy grounds,” Horatio and the 145th arrived near the western stretch of the present-day Wheatfield Road around 5 p.m. After being positioned in the woods on the Abraham Trostle Farm for about ten minutes, the 145th heard their orders: “Dress into line, boys.” Company E’s Second Lieutenant Stephen Allen Osborn later recalled that the many colonels and generals in the vicinity emphasized “that we were now on Northern soil and the eyes of the whole people were upon us.” This rousing cry called forth the images of their homes and families in Erie that Horatio and the men of the 145th had clung to throughout their service. It was the closest the 145th had been to Erie since they first departed in September 1862. Unlike their previous engagements, the soldiers of the 145th fully understood they were tasked with defending their native state, in a location merely three hundred miles from their homes.
In a move that ultimately proved fatal for many, the 145th was ordered to march into the infamous wheatfield on the George Rose Farm. By then, it was nearly 6 p.m. and Confederate soldiers from Major General Joseph Brevard Kershaw’s brigade began to enter the southern end of the sinister wheatfield on the Rose Farm. Placed at the rear of the Division, Major General John C. Caldwell, the 145th’s former brigade commander, opted to hold the Fourth Brigade in reserve. While Brigadier General Edward Ephraim Cross led the First Brigade into the woods to the east of the wheatfield, directly north of Devil’s Den, Brigadier General Samuel Kosciuszko Zook (commanding the Third Brigade) and Colonel Patrick Kelly (commanding the Irish Brigade) led their men into the Rose Woods. Shortly thereafter, Major General Caldwell ordered then-Brigadier General John Rutter Brooke’s men, including the 145th Pennsylvania, to replace the First Brigade, which had begun to run low on ammunition. Advancing from their position in the Trostle Woods, the 145th and the First Brigade filled the gap recently created by the yielding right half of the First Brigade.
After they emerged from the Trostle Woods, the 145th pushed into the chaotic swirl of troops engaged in Rose’s wheatfield. They waited a mere minute before the call was given to move forward, against the Confederates situated in the Rose Woods. As he waved his sword in an attempt to spur his men onward, Colonel Hiram L. Brown, commander of the 145th, was shot in the right arm and command of the regiment shifted to Major John W. Reynolds. Despite “the hail of bullets” that rained in their direction, the 145th advanced through the wheatfield, through a meadow, and into the Rose Woods, passing over several stone walls and Rose Run (a tributary of Plum Run) as they went. Startled by what Chaplain Stuckenberg labeled as the “impetuosity” of the 145th, the Confederate line “wavered and broke.” Many more Confederates, trapped in the Rose Woods, “threw down their arms” and surrendered to the rapidly advancing troops of the 145th Pennsylvania.
As they continued to push into the Rose Woods, the 145th neared what Second Lieutenant Stephen Allen Osborn described as “a ledge of large rocks,” where the 145th captured many more prisoners. In a 1902 letter recalling his own participation in the Battle of Gettysburg with the 6th United States Cavalry, Harry W. Lewis described the landscape over which his younger brother fought, insisting that many rocks present on this ledge were as “big as a House.”
While Horatio led Company D through this area, near the ledge of rocks, he received his mortal wounds. Although it is unclear how many bullets he was struck by, he suffered a compound fracture of his left femur, and was severely wounded in his right leg as well. The horrific injury rendered him incapable of moving on his own. In all his boyhood dreams of soldiering and great battles, he likely never imagined a fate such as this.
For both Horatio and the 145th, the moments following his wounding spelled disaster. The line to the right of the 145th began to crumble, and the Confederates quickly regained the ground the 145th struggled to claim. The 145th and the rest of then-Brigadier General Brooke’s Fourth Brigade were forced to retreat, lest the scarce few who remained unharmed be captured.
Abandoned by his regiment, Horatio lay on the field for the remainder of July 2, the entirety of July 3, and throughout the torrential downpour of July 4. While he managed to apply a tourniquet to staunch the flow of blood from each leg, Horatio’s wounds continued to seep blood into the soil of the Rose Woods. Realizing the dire predicament he faced, sometime late on July 2 or on July 3, Horatio paid a Confederate soldier twenty-five dollars to assist him “to a house to their rear,” which was likely the Rose Farm, or one of the farm’s outbuildings. Although the Confederate soldier brought him to the house as agreed upon, once there the soldier “stole his watch, canteen, money, haversack,” and everything else of value. Horatio’s possessions, except for his baggage – an oilcloth bag that was later sent to his father in Erie – were gone, leaving no memento for his beloved family. Deserted by the Confederate soldier he expected to ferry him to a field hospital – whether for the money or out of a sense of Christian duty – Horatio was left on the field to await his fate. One wonders what thoughts coursed through his mind in those days he lay among the rocks and mud of the Rose Woods. Did he trust God would see him safely returned to his loved ones in Erie? Did he imagine what lay ahead and wonder if he would be reunited with his mother, grandfather, and Franklin? Did his father’s warning flash through his mind, and did he brush it away, satisfied that he had done his duty?
Meanwhile, on July 3, Harry Lewis was captured with more than half of the 6th U.S. Cavalry during the fighting in Fairfield. On his first night as a prisoner of war, he heard another prisoner ask his fellow prisoners to identify themselves. When the man, later-Corporal John Starr of Company D, 145th Pennsylvania, learned he was speaking to members of the 6th U.S. Cavalry, he inquired as to whether Harry Lewis was present. The two men met, and Starr informed Harry of Horatio’s wounds, relaying that his left femur had been shattered “near the body” and “that while they were trying to carry Horatio off the field, the rebs who gained their rear, had captured them, and that the lieutenant would bleed to death.” Imprisoned at Libby and Belle Isle Prisons for the next several months, Harry was left to speculate as to whether his younger brother lived or died, as John Starr predicted.
Eventually, after the Confederates retreated from Gettysburg, on July 5, Horatio was brought to the 2nd Corps field hospital at the Jacob Schwarz Farm. Sometime between his arrival at the hospital and July 7, regimental surgeon George L. Potter (the same man who declared Major Patton dead after the “duel,”) as well as the assistant surgeons, Daniel W. Richards and John S. Whilldin amputated his left leg and attempted to repair the wounds to his right leg. On July 7, Chaplain Stuckenberg visited him in the hospital, and commented that “he looked feeble and sallow.”
Around July 9, regimental quartermaster Daniel Webster Winchester Jr. was dispatched to Frederick, Maryland, where he sent a telegram to Horatio’s father, Marcus Lewis Sr. The telegram briefly described Horatio’s injuries and added that his wounds were “probably mortal.”
Upon receipt of the telegram, the Lewis family dispatched Horatio’s older brothers, James Allen Lewis, and Reverend Ammi Merchant Lewis of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Cape Vincent, New York, to travel to Gettysburg. Given the Lewis family’s stalwart Christian faith, Ammi was the logical choice to adhere to his younger brother’s spiritual needs. James, the oldest son not then in military service, was probably intended to act as a substitute for Marcus Lewis, who was likely too overcome with grief to make the three-hundred-mile journey. Perhaps Marcus felt guilty over his son’s wounds or felt that his words had in some way caused the devastating injuries. Although the Lewis family was likely unaware that Harry had been captured as a prisoner of war, Franklin’s untimely demise that violated nearly all conceptions of the “good death” was still fresh in their minds, furthering their convictions that family members and a man of the cloth must be dispatched at once to try to make it to Horatio’s side before his passing. Reverend Dr. Washburn of Philadelphia also attended to Horatio.
On July 14, Horatio sent a letter to his dear friend, Second Lieutenant Clayton Wiston Lytle. The letter was not in Horatio’s handwriting, but in that of “some friend,” likely James, Ammi, or Reverend Washburn. This suggests Horatio was too weak to write the letter himself, as his body slowly succumbed to the effects of his wounds and subsequent amputation. According to Lieutenant Lytle, Horatio asked him to “Tell the boys I am sorry I cannot be with them any more on the battlefield, but I hope they may go through the campaign uninjured, and that we may meet at Erie.” Even after his intense suffering on the fields at Gettysburg, Horatio held hopes of recovery and reuniting with his boyhood friends. He either did not understand the true extent of his injuries, or he did not wish his friends to know that he was dying and distract them from their duties.
Although it is unknown when James “Jim” Lewis arrived in Gettysburg, he was incredibly alarmed by his younger brother’s words and actions. While Horatio was overjoyed to see James, he “could talk of nothing but the glory of that last charge.” Between labored breaths, Horatio excitedly said, “Just think of it, Jim, I was colonel, and the boys rallied like Spartan heroes…We had been driven back time and again, but got together and went at ‘em again. This last time nothing could stop us. They stopped me but that was all. The column rushed on, and the flag, that dear old flag, waved in triumph behind the fleeing Johnnies.” Even on his deathbed, Horatio spoke of the martial glory he had wished for as a child. Horatio’s patriotic descriptions of the battle and his part in it, along with James’s and Ammi’s positions at his side exemplified the “good death.” While he had repeatedly expressed a willingness to die for the Union, Horatio likely found solace in his faith, and trusted that God would call him at the time He believed was right. Nonetheless, one wonders whether his two brothers were comforted by this idea, or whether they clung firmly to his hands as he lay dying, desperately trying to will him to live, as they prayed for their beloved younger brother to miraculously recover.
After uttering these words, Horatio supposedly fell against his pillow, weak from loss of blood and a likely infection from the amputation. James frantically asked a nurse to provide Horatio with some sort of stimulant. Horatio opened his eyes once more, “and he began muttering about the wheatfield,” – the site of his final glorious charge. Unable to believe his brother’s words, James insisted that Horatio shift his thoughts away from the war. As the family representative, James understood it was his responsibility to faithfully capture Horatio’s final words for his family members. Desperately, James entreated, “The doctors say you have but a short time to live. Is there no word you want to send home? Is there nothing you want to say to Mother or Father?” Horatio’s boyish eyes shifted to meet Jim’s. He paused momentarily, and the youth’s face “glowed for a moment,” before it paled. With his last breath, Horatio told Jim the following: “Tell father, tell him I am not sorry I enlisted.”
On July 20, 1863, Horatio Farnham Lewis died at the age of eighteen, from wounds sustained during the Battle of Gettysburg.
"Few was his years yet loved he his country" Horatio's legacy
Following Horatio’s death, his grief-stricken brother, James, arranged for his body to be embalmed and brought back to Erie. A mere three days after Horatio’s death, on Thursday, July 23, his remains arrived in Erie. One can only imagine the mournful crowd that awaited the arrival – Horatio’s father, stepmother, brother Marcus Jr., younger sister Phebe Belle Lewis, and his beloved half-sister Emma. While the exact date of Horatio’s funeral is unknown, he was ultimately interred in the Erie Cemetery, in the Lewis family plot. Fittingly, not far from Horatio’s grave lies a memorial stone to Franklin.
According to Harry Lewis, who was unable to attend the funeral since he was being marched to Richmond as a prisoner of war at the time, Horatio’s funeral was widely attended. From the accounts Harry later heard from his family after the war, “there was scarce a dry eye at his funeral” and “the entire population turned out to mourn for him.” Once more, Erie struggled to understand the loss of another of its beloved sons. Reverend Spaulding, the same man whom Horatio once saw as an emblem of faith and patriotism, performed the service.
Meanwhile, Horatio’s comrades in the 145th, stationed near Warrenton, Virginia, similarly struggled to comprehend the weight of their loss. The men’s jubilant feelings of victory after Gettysburg were dampened by the overwhelming reality of their tremendous losses. Once more, the regiment had been decimated in battle, but Horatio’s death in particular weighed heavily on all those close to him. Chaplain Stuckenberg, the man who only a few weeks prior had lent the weeping youth his horse, seemed particularly affected by the loss of yet another young man under his spiritual care. In his diary, Chaplain Stuckenberg noted that Horatio “knew a good deal about military affairs and made a good officer.” Horatio “was brave, ambitious and hopeful. There was an innocence and simplicity about him, which were well calculated to gain ones affection.” Further lamenting the loss of such “a noble young man,” Chaplain Stuckenberg wrote that Horatio’s “loss is felt severely by us all. We loved him, we admired him. He is one of the truly noble sacrifices given to our country.” Speaking to his position as chaplain, Stuckenberg asserted that, when he last saw Horatio on July 7, Horatio was “calm and resigned” and throughout his tenure as a soldier, “frequently, I was told, was found praying.” Chaplain Stuckenberg echoed the sentiments of many when he ended his entry by saying “the thought of his death greatly saddens me, for I loved him and had great hopes for him. Never shall I forget how willingly he once received my reproofs for what turned out to be a sham duel.” While Chaplain Stuckenberg’s diary was a private recording and reflection of his thoughts, these thoughts were shaped by the society he lived in. Even in his own private remembrance of Horatio, Chaplain Stuckenberg’s words adhered to Victorian notions of the “good death,” which held that death, especially the death of a young person, required a sentimental outpouring of emotion that reflected that individual’s religious faith and love of their family. Since Horatio died as a soldier, this cultural tradition influenced Chaplain Stuckenberg to commemorate Horatio’s role as a soldier, his martial masculinity, and his strong sense of duty to his country.
Similar to Chaplain Stuckenberg, Horatio’s good friend, Clayton W. Lytle, wrote to Marcus Lewis around July 27, while the 145th was still in Warrenton. As the acting quartermaster, Lytle was tasked with informing Marcus Lewis of the whereabouts of Horatio’s effects, and how he could receive the oilcloth bag held by the regiment. However, as one of Horatio’s closest friends in the 145th, Lytle felt it was his duty to express his deepest sympathies and the extreme grief he felt. Lytle insisted that he could “bear testimony to the great loss you have sustained and not only you but his Regiment, the Nation, and the whole civilized world.” For Lytle, Horatio was “a Son whom any parent might be proud of,” and through his death, “his Company and Regiment have lost a Brave and true Soldier, the Country a true Patriot and noble defender, the world one whom (had he have lived) would have been one of the brightest lights in the Social and Moral Circles.” On a more personal level, upon Horatio’s death, Lytle “lost a true friend and social companion.” During the months they served together, Lytle and Horatio forged a strong bond based on their shared experiences in the ranks. Through each battle before Gettysburg, they both witnessed the utter destruction of their regiment and the maiming or death of hundreds of their comrades. After Franklin’s death, Lytle likely served as an important friend for Horatio as he struggled to adjust to a life without his dearest friend and cousin. The near transcendent emotions that sprang from their friendship made it that much more difficult for Lytle to understand and process Horatio’s death.
Yet, Lytle found solace in his faith, and urged, “let us rejoice in the belief that he is in a better world free from all pain where all is peace and happiness.” Lytle acknowledged that he would always think of Horatio in happier times, during the marches, the many nights spent in camp, and the battles they fought in, alongside each other. Lytle then copied a poem which seems to have been first published in Thomas Roscoe’s Juvenile Keepsake in 1829. Simply labeled as “Song,” the poem speaks to the power of memory and its ability to preserve love, despite the constraints of death. Lytle concluded the letter with a promise that, if he survived the war, he would visit Erie Cemetery to “pay what little homage and respect I can to” his fallen friend.
As expected, Horatio’s family struggled immensely with his loss. In an eerily foreshadowing twist of fate, in Emily Lewis’s June 15, 1863, letter to her stepson, where she criticized him for his participation in the sham duel with Major Patton, she expressed disapproval of his chosen profession. Instead, she believed, had Horatio not enlisted, he could “have been the Chief Magistrate” or contributed to the achievement of some “great good” that would better the nation he loved so dearly. While Emily could not have known that Horatio would be dead roughly a month after she wrote the letter, her words provide an insightful glimpse into the future she wished for him. There are no known accounts of Marcus Lewis’s reaction to his son’s death, but surely the staggering loss of his beloved youngest son enveloped him in grief.
Horatio’s stepsister, Ruth Eliza Wells, who was a student at Oberlin College at the time of his death, felt incredibly moved by the loss of the man she viewed as a brother. Eliza, as she was called by the family, penned a loving tribute, which was published in the Erie City Dispatch, and which reads as follows:
One more chord on our harp has been severed,
Leaving its companions so lonely and still,
That it seemed as tho’ melody never could sweep them,
Or naught but a dirge among them could thrill.
One more star from a bright constellation,
Has fled from its sphere to one fair, and more bright;
Our world seems as gloomy, the days dark and dreary,
Bright star in our firmament, we miss thy loved light.
Left he his home, in manhood’s fair morning
With a brave heart to battle for right ‘gainst the wrong;
Few was his years, yet loved he his country,
And in its defence his young arm grew strong.
Though many have fallen and many may yet fall
In destroying the demon which reigns in our land,
Yet none are there nobler, or more justly called “Hero”
Than Horatio who left us a sad mourning band.
Yet this, this bright star has left us in darkness,
Thro’ faith its bright splendor we hail from afar,
And may not he then, if to angels ’tis given,
Look down on us here, and be our guiding star?
And its light will grow brighter and approach to us nearer
As he views that loved father now stricken with care,
Looking to Him who gave up “his only begotten”
That we might in Heaven his rich blessings share.
Sisters and brothers, companions who loved him,
In Heaven he awaits us and beckoning says “come,”
He regrets not his fate since the death angel only
Called him hence from Earth’s sorrows to a Heavenly home.
For Harry Lewis, who marched south to Belle Isle Prison in Richmond, while James accompanied Horatio’s remains north to Erie, Horatio’s loss left a gaping hole in his life. Although Harry likely did not know for sure that Horatio died from his wounds until after he was paroled in early 1864, John Starr had warned him that Horatio’s injuries would likely prove mortal. Harry probably only confirmed his younger brother’s death once he was paroled, when, in his weakened and emaciated state, he was given a short furlough to stay with a distant cousin and regain his strength. Eventually, Harry returned to the 6th U.S. Cavalry, until he was discharged at the expiration of his term of service, on July 29, 1864. While his exact reaction to his brother’s death is unknown, the inevitable anger and sorrow he felt likely followed him throughout the rest of his service.
However, the end of his service did not mark the end of his remembrance. Harry never forgot Horatio and strove to ensure his brother’s memory lived on. In the years following the war, while he struggled with chronic rheumatism, Harry became the family genealogist, enshrining his brother’s name and story in The Lewisiana and several of the almost two hundred newspaper articles he published in the Erie Daily Times. As an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, Harry witnessed the moment when the organization’s Fairview Township post, number 359, was named the Lieutenant Horatio F. Lewis Post. Harry later commented on the moment with pride, noting that Horatio’s name was selected over “the names of several Generals and Colonels.” It seems that years later, Horatio’s memory lived on through what Harry termed “his boy soldiers” from his childhood unit, many of whom followed in his footsteps in the 1860s and enlisted with him in the 145th.
Today, a tangible link to Lt. H.F Lewis Post No. 359 still stands in Fairview Cemetery. After fundraising efforts by Harry Lewis and others, on May 30, 1895, the post members dedicated a monument “in memory of the unknown dead.” Although the post number is listed on the side of the monument, the front section of the base reads “erected by Lt. H.F. Lewis.” One wonders whether Harry helped design the monument, and whether this placement was symbolic, given that Franklin is buried in the unknown section of the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. Regardless of the intended design, the monument has served as a focal point of the local Memorial Day ceremony every year since its dedication and, according to the Fairview Area Historical Society, “is quite meaningful to the community.” Although Horatio’s name may not be as well-known as Erie’s famous Strong Vincent, his spirit lives on in the minds of those who gather at the monument each year to honor the nation’s fallen heroes.
Aside from Harry’s public commemorative efforts, he traveled extensively from the 1870s until his death on March 9, 1912. Harry frequently returned to Gettysburg, and often visited the monument to the 145th, near the site “where Bro. Horatio got his death wound.” In the silence of the Rose Woods, one can almost imagine an aged Harry, his long beard grey with age, his joints aching with rheumatism, his heart throbbing with sorrow, and his eyes misted with mournful tears, as he stood before the statue of the youthful, determined soldier, the very symbol of his long-deceased, but not forgotten, brother.
For the Lewis family, Horatio’s death marked the second in a series of heart wrenching events. Barely a month afterwards, on August 25, 1863, twenty-six-year-old James was drafted into the 76th Pennsylvania Infantry and was later rendered permanently disabled after being thrown from an army wagon. Wishing to be with what he termed “the old boys” in his final years, James moved into the Yountville Veterans Home in Northern California, where he died on November 22, 1917, having never recovered from his war wounds.
Nearly three years after Horatio’s enlistment, his older brother, twenty-one-year-old Marcus Jr. enlisted in the Navy on August 30, 1864, and was assigned to serve onboard the USS Silver Lake. Tragedy befell the family once more when Marcus Jr. died of typhoid fever on January 15, 1865, less than five months into his one-year term of service. After the Lewis family lost two sons to gruesome battlefield deaths, it must have been unfathomable to lose another to disease. Yet, this illustrates the very real threat posed by disease at the time.
Marcus Jr.’s body was returned to the family and interred alongside Horatio’s on February 10, 1865. Today, the two brothers share a headstone. The simple pearl-white stone is one of the most easily distinguishable in the entire cemetery.
A little more than a year later, on August 6, 1866, twenty-one-year-old Ruth Eliza Wells joined her stepsiblings in death, having succumbed to tuberculosis. She was buried alongside her stepbrothers, but her headstone is nearly worn beyond recognition.
Harry Lewis never recovered from his many injuries and in his later years, relied on an invalid pension for financial support until his death on March 9, 1912, just one day before what would have been Franklin’s sixty-eighth birthday.
In a mere four years, the Lewis family’s world changed entirely. Surprisingly, it seems their loss of so many sons did not amount to a financial loss. Likely due to Marcus Lewis’s stake in the mill business, just a few years after the war, he was able to build a new, larger home for his family.
Nonetheless, four of the youngest Lewis children were dead and two more were forever stricken with illness and injury. In their photographs, Franklin, Horatio, and Marcus Jr., embody the promise of youth, but it was a promise that went unfulfilled.
Horatio began his life as an intelligent, lively child with a brilliant future, but his religious and patriotic ideals made him long to be a soldier. Through dedication and ingenuity, he prepared himself for this profession to the best of his ability. When he finally became a soldier, he was swiftly introduced to the cruelty of war and witnessed the repeated decimation of his regiment. Despite the loss of his best friend and his own serious injury, he remained optimistic of Union victory and determined to preserve the nation he loved so dearly. He rejoined his men in the field far before he was required to, and fought on, despite the injury that continued to plague him. After being wounded on July 2, 1863, he endured unimaginable pain as he lay in mud and rain for days, while his blood seeped into the ground around him. Yet, as Horatio lay dying at the age of eighteen, in a field hospital several hundred miles from home, he remained committed to the cause for which he fought, and his last words affirmed his belief that, had he been given another chance, he would not have altered his decision to enlist.
Today, Horatio’s story is largely forgotten. It is lovingly cherished by a handful of descendants, and his headstone is diligently cared for, but his words, his story, and his regiment have been forgotten – washed away by time and tales of Strong Vincent and the 83rd Pennsylvania, which dominate the retellings of Erie’s involvement in the Civil War.
Horatio lived his tragically short life with an unshakeable hope and an enduring dream. In a mere eighteen years he left a lasting impact that inspired those who knew him, and transcended the generations, cementing his influence on generations of his siblings’ descendants. He fought to preserve the Union and prove his ability to serve as a soldier and a leader. He willingly sacrificed his life for his ideals, and in so doing became a symbol of true patriotism to all who knew him. He was the epitome of the selfless citizen-soldier, the pure-hearted patriot who believed to his dying breath that indeed, he was fighting for what Lincoln referred to as the “last best hope” for democracy on earth.
If Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is correct that “on great fields something stays,” then on a crisp morning, when a thin layer of fog clings to the ground along modern-day Brooke Avenue, or on a humid summer evening, as one stands before the monument to the 145th Pennsylvania one can almost imagine Horatio’s last gallant charge through the Rose Woods, or envision an aged Harry Lewis standing amongst the rocks shedding a silent tear in memory of his brother. Gazing upon the 145th’s monument, in the face of the youthful soldier standing strongly atop the pedestal, one can almost see the face of Horatio Farnham Lewis, the boy born to be a soldier.
By Danielle Russell, ’25
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Compiled Military Service Record of Horatio Farnham Lewis, courtesy of Patrick Knierman.
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Lewis, Horatio Farnham. Letter dated May 7, 1863, transcribed by Horatio Farnham Curtis. In the possession of the author.
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Medical records of Horatio Farnham Lewis, courtesy of Patrick Knierman.
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