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Collection Title: Lewis (Levi) Letters

Collection Number: M212

Dates: August 31, 1861-March 22, 1863

Volume: 50 Items

Provenance: From letters in the possession of Lewis' great grandnephew's widow, Mrs. Robert Lewis of Biloxi. These were given to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College's Chairman of the History Department, Charles L. Sullivan, who made them available to the McCain Library in February 1986.

Restrictions: The Lewis family retains literary property rights of the contents of the collection. There can be no reproduction for profit purposes.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code). The Lewis family retains the literary rights of the collection.

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Levi Lewis, born October 16, 1841, was reared on the family farm in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. The oldest son of Robert S. and Mary Lewis, he had an older sister, Lydia Rugar, and two younger brothers, Robert T. and Car. Levi voluntarily joined Company K of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Sworn in on September 1, 1861, he was appointed corporal on September 9th and served primarily at Fort Monroe and at other camps in Virginia. He held the rank of corporal until he was killed by a sniper on March 12, 1863, at Suffolk, Virginia. His body and efforts were shipped home to Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, on March 17, 1863.

Martin Ruoff, of Dutch descent, was a close friend of Levi Lewis. Martin and Levi shared a tent during their military service, and Martin was responsible for preparing and sending Levi's personal effects to his parents following their son's death.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of typescripts of forty-two letters and photocopies of a photograph of Levi Lewis, four pieces of Civil War stationary, two express company receipts, and a poem. Of the letters, thirty-three are from Levi Lewis to his family, namely his parents, Robert and Mary Lewis, his married sister, Lydia Rugar, and his younger brothers, Robert T. and Car. These letters are dated from August 31, 1861, to March 13, 1863. There are also six letters written by Martin Ruoff, a friend of Levi's in Company K, to Levi's family. Two letters written by Lydia to Levi are full of local news. The last letter is from Captain Akerly informing Levi's parents of Levi's death.

Lewis' letters tell of his war experiences from the time of his enlistment in Pennsylvania in September 1861, to March 4, 1863, six days before he was killed by a sniper's bullet at Suffolk, Virginia. He tells of movements of Company K of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry from Washington, D.C., to various places in Virginia such as Fort Monroe, Camp White Horse, Williamsburg, Burnt Ordinary, Dismal Swamp, and Suffolk. He describes some interesting aspects of settling in at the various camps as well as details of daily life.

Of particular interest are letters dated September 22, 1861, and May 12, 1862, which mention Lincoln's presence in the camps, and letters dated march 31, 1862, and June 1, 1862, which mention General McClellan coming to the camp. Two significant battles are mentioned; a letter dated March 12, 1862, refers to the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack, and two letters dated February 2 and February 8, 1863, describe a particularly hard battle at Blackwater River, North Carolina.

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