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United States. Army. Ohio Infantry Regiment, 21st - MS 562: Transcripts
Daniel Lewis served for a long time as Lieutenant and acting Quarter Master of our Regiment, but the rapid changes incident to the fighting campaigns of 1863 advanced him to the rank of Captain of Company "C", which was without doubt the most difficult company to manage in the regiment; and as he had but little or no experience in dealing with men of strong character such as he was now to command, and who were veterans in all the arts of army life as well as fighting, he often found himself perplexed for means to sustain himself. He was not a genius in military affairs, but he was thoroughly loyal and anxious to do whatever he could to advance our lines and suppress the Rebellion.
The men in the ranks soon discovered his want of tact to command them and they took advantage of him and vexed him in various ways, and finally he heard them call him a coward. These annoyances were so arranged that he could not reach the perpetrators with punishment.
I had formerly commanded company "C"; and in the early days of the war caused the arrest of then Lt. Lewis on account of some business matters; but at this time I was commanding the regiment, and as he never afterwards felt as kindly towards me as if the arrest had not occurred, he was loth to ask me for assistance in his troubles with my old command.
But, finally he did complain to me as commander of the regiment and asked for my assistance, which I promised to give him; for he said he could not endure to be called a coward; yet how to help him I did not know myself at that time.
I never believed that Captain Lewis was a coward and I concluded to find some means to put it beyond the power of any man to apply such an ephithet to him.
If he could truly earn the reputation of being a good fighter, it would more than counter balance all his misfortunes, and his company would change from abuse to praise.
I therefore determined that Captain Lewis and his company should have a fair fight and no favors to settle their troubles. A good hot fight would settle more trouble in a company than a dozen courts martial; but no company will fight that is not under control of its officers, and here is where I feared for the success of my plan; though the company had good stuff in it.
My first acquaintance with the troubles of Captain Lewis was on the night of May 27th 1864 when he built the field works which the men said that no one but a coward could contrive; and tho' the Regiment was under fire nearly every day yet no favorable opportunity offered for a company to distinguish itself, until the night of the 9th of July at Chatahoochee Bridge or Vinings Station. But in the mean time I had not disclosed to Captain Lewis any plan. Yet he bore himself bravely, often recklessly, in the several fights at and about New Hope Church and Kenesaw, and as he frequently exposed himself to the fire of the enemy when there was no necessity for it, I knew the cause, and admonished him not to unnecessarily endanger his life. We had no lives to waste. Yet the company vexations did not cease.
On the night of July 8th 1864 the whole Regiment was detailed for out post guard duty, and reported next morning, every man in his best, and arms and accoutrements as clean as could be found in the army. An aide de camp directed us to the reserves which was in a ravine near the rail road bridge across the Chatahoochee River about seven miles north of Atlanta; and between the outposts and the River lay the Rebel Army entrenched, but we did not know that at that particular time. Upon our arrival at the Reserve Station, instead of arranging reliefs for guard duty, I received an order to move out with my regiment and attack the enemy wherever found.
I had anticipated when leaving camp a pleasant day on outpost duty; no trenches to dig, no marching, no road making, and the weather was fine. But that order to fight raised a lump in my throat, as it meant death to many of my comrades in a few moments, as the Rebels were now in plain view in an open field beyond a skirt of woods. But in five minutes the Regiment was ready for battle, and in five minutes more we were in to it; drove two rebel regiments off the field (4th Miss. And 54th La.), took their rifle pits and held them with seventeen prisoners, and a lot of arms and ammunition.
Well, fourteen loyal hearts ceased to beat there that day; and we sent thirty nine cripples to the North the next morning, and they are called government Paupers now. [clipping at end.] In my report of that fight, which was filed in Washington occurs the following paragraph
"At 4 o'clock this morning, the skirmishers under command of Captain Daniel Lewis advanced and occupied the stockade and trenches of the enemy. And in a short time our lines advanced to the Chatahoochee River."
And I have also a written order of which the following is a copy.
"Headquarters 3rd Brigade. 1st Div. 14 A.C.
July 9th/ '64.
Comdg. 21st Ohio
The 79th Pa will remain with you on the line during the night and if you desire it will take the skirmish line and you will in that case hold your Regiment in reserve where the 79th now occupies.
Do what you can in constructing pits for the skirmishers and reserves during the night.
Col. Comdg. Brigade
Now, members of the Regiment who were in the fight will remember that this order was not complied with, for the reason that to relieve our Regiment as we were posted, by another regiment that did not know the lay of the ground after dark, would create so much racket as to draw the rebel fire on both regiments and thus destroy life unnecessarily, after the position of the enemy had been fully developed by us. The next morning as the faint light in the east warmed the approach of day, the idea came to me that the opportunity for Captain Lewis had come.
I went to him at once and told him my plan and ordered him to take Company "C" and move out and attack the enemy wherever found. I ordered him to strike hard and push his company right into the fight, and wash out at whatever cost the hateful stigma. He moved out at once but, of course the enemy was gone, and when he came back, without firing a shot, we were both glad that he had missed his opportunity. Of course, it must be understood that this duty had to be performed by some one, and Company "C" was detailed for the reason I have given. Had the Rebels been found by Captain Lewis, as I believed they would be, I would in all probability have sheltered his attack with the whole Regiment; so we may be thankful that there are so many of us yet alive. This is the explanation of my reference particularly to Captain Lewis and his company in my report, and I have often wondered if the other company commanders were jealous of the distinction. The loss of fifty three old comrades, among whom were some of the best men of the regiment, brought sincere sorrow to every heart, tho' the regiment was accustomed to hasty burials on that campaign nearly every day.
While life remains we cannot forget the stormy days at Noonday Creek, New Hope Church, Bald Knob, Kenesaw, Chatahooche Bridge, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta and Jonesboro, and the one hundred and fifty three comrades who parted from us there.
The troubles of Captain Lewis with his company appeared to be overshadowed, until we came under fire on the 21st day of July at Peach Tree Creek, when it appeared that there was no place too much exposed to danger for him to get into; and that evening while directing the construction of rifle pits for his men, he stood out in fair view and point blank range of the enemys works until he was shot down and killed. He was buried with his boots on, just as he fell, in a hastily dug grave; a solid shot at his feet and a comrades blouse to cover his face. He was brave enough to give his life away, but he was not brave enough to be called a coward.
I have always grieved for the death of Captain Lewis.
The first business before the House this morning was the bill coming over from last nights session appropriating $250,000 to aid State homes for disabled volunteers.
Mr. Kilgore, of Texas, moved to amend by reducing the appropriation to $100,000. It was the duty of municipal sub-divisions of the government, he said, to care for their own paupers.
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