Levin Major Lewis


Levin Major Lewis was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 6, 1832, the son of John Kendall and Mary (Jones) Lewis. His father, of Welsh descent, belonged to a wealthy family of Dorchester County planters. His father died when Lewis was young; he was raised by an uncle at Vienna in Dorchester County, Maryland. Lewis attended school in Washington, D.C., and later was a cadet of the Maryland Military Academy. Lewis then attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, leaving in his sophomore year to study law. Lewis moved to Liberty in Clay County, Missouri, around 1854 and briefly practiced law there, but he soon abandoned that calling for the ministry. He served as a Methodist minister in Liberty and in Missouri City. From 1856 to 1859 Lewis was the principal of Plattsburg College in Plattsburg.

At the outbreak of the war Reverend Lewis organized the "Washington Guards" and was elected its captain. In April, 1861, he was elected colonel of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment of the 5th Division of the Missouri State Guard. He served twelve months in the guard, until his term of enlistment was up, seeing little action. On June 18, 1862, he was elected captain of Company A of the 7th Missouri Infantry, a Confederate army unit being recruited behind Union lines in Missouri. In an August 16, 1862, attack on Lone Jack, Missouri, Lewis was wounded four times. The regiment broke up that fall. Lewis then became major of another 7th Missouri Infantry (later redesignated the 16th). The 7th fought at the December 7, 1862, Battle of Prairie Grove. During that winter the 7th lost its commanding officer, and Lewis (a lieutenant colonel from December 4, 1862) was promoted to colonel on March 24, 1863. In his first action as regimental commander Lewis led the 7th in an assault on Helena, Arkansas, on July 4, 1863. In the assault he was disabled by a shell fragment and captured. Imprisoned at Johnson's Island, Ohio, for a year, Lewis finally was exchanged in September, 1864, and traveled to Richmond. Governor Thomas Reynolds of Missouri, who was impressed by Lewis' energy and common sense, and by his support for President Davis, offered to appoint Lewis to the Confederate Senate. After talking it over with Missouri Congressmen Clark and Conrow, Lewis decided his duty lay with the army and returned to his regiment. On May 16, 1865, General E. Kirby Smith assigned Lewis to duty as brigadier general so that Lewis could command a Missouri infantry brigade with proper rank. He had only ten days to enjoy his hard-won rank. Although Lewis vehemently opposed the move and desired to continue fighting, the Trans-Mississippi Department surrendered on May 26, 1865.

After the war General Lewis resumed his Methodist ministry, serving in Shreve-port, Louisiana; Galveston, Texas; and St. Louis. He was also active as an educator, serving as president of Arcadia Female College in Missouri; president of Arkansas Female College; professor of English at Texas A&M; and president of Marvin College in Waxahachie, Texas. In 1884 Lewis was selected to be pastor of the First Methodist Church in Dallas. He died in Los Angeles, California, where he had traveled for health reasons, on May 28, 1886, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Dallas. It was said of Lewis that "he was popular and attractive, humorous and magnetic. He never became wealthy from his own financial skill; nor would he remain wealthy if it were thrust upon him.... He was a true orator ... [and] a ripe scholar."

Wright, Wood, and CV* call Lewis a general.

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Reference:  More Generals in Gray.  Bruce S. Allardice.  A companion volume to Generals in Gray.  Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.