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Lieutenant Louis Hoffman Lewis
The text that follows is reproduced from (the report of the) Thirtieth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 7th, 1899.
Lieutenant Louis Hoffman Lewis, late of the Ninth Infantry, U. S. Army, was born January 28, 1872, in Cobleskill, N. Y., at which place his early boyhood years were spent. He attended the Cobleskill grammar school until the age of eleven, when Amsterdam, N. Y., having become his residence, he resumed his studies in the public schools of that city. He afterwards attended the Amsterdam Academy, and was graduated from that institution in 1889. The year 1889‑90 was an important one to young Lewis, for in it his ambition to become a soldier took root, and resulted in his preparations to enter the competitive examination for a West Point cadetship. In the ensuing preliminary examination held in his district, out of twenty-three competitors, he received the appointment of alternate, and with his principal went to West Point to try the entrance p37examinations. At these examinations the principal failed and Lewis won the cadetship and entered the Military Academy in June, 1890.
Certainly it would take a gifted pen to tell of his career at the Point. Bright and cheerful always, many was the desponding heart of a brother class-mate made happy and hopeful by his cheerful ways. Never despondent, he seemed a good Samaritan, bringing hope and comfort to the weary and homesick cadet. To but see his face and hear his laugh were things to make the tired-hearted pick up their work anew, and those only who have toiled through the drudgery of a cadet's life, can appreciate the help of such a classmate. He was the life of the Dialectic Hall, and the half hour after supper, enlivened by his presence, was the means of helping more than one friend from breaking down and quitting what seemed the endless toil.
While his death was glorious in its self-sacrifice, his life was no less noble in showing the bright and happy side and making all things more beautiful for having known him. He sleeps today as sleep the brave, with other comrades beside him, and those remaining to carry on the work for which he so cheerfully died, are made stronger in the cause of humanity by the remembrance of his life and death.
Upon his graduation from West Point, he was assigned to the Ninth Infantry, stationed at Sacketts Harbor, N. Y., from which place he went to Tampa, and later to Cuba with his regiment. He was killed in action in the attack on San Juan, on July 1st, 1898. On the day of his death he was noticeably in spirit, impatient for the conflict and filled with enthusiasm. His cheerful, brave, soldierly characteristics shone forth in exclamations such as these, which now and then burst from his lips: To a fellow officer he said: "There'll be a hot time in Cuba today." To the men of his company, when the bullets were flying thick and fast: "Isn't this fine, boys!" To a companion officer, whom he had passed by the roadside, and who had been ordered to remain in the rear on guard duty: p38"Poor Munce, you certainly have my sympathy!" A few hours later he was dead — he lay by the roadside his face turned toward heaven, and those of his fellow cadets who, passing by, stopped hurriedly to pay the last sad rites over his remains, say there was a smile upon his face. Surely the young Lieutenant was every inch a soldier and died happy, fighting valiantly for his country's flag.
Lieutenant Lewis was of an artistic temperament, and during his life at the Point, and subsequent to his graduation, made many original pen and ink sketches of real merit. He had the faculty of quickly reproducing, with pen or pencil m a striking likeness from life or from portrait of any one whom he chose. During his post-life, he was often assigned to duty in the line of topographical work, his productions being much admired and highly commended.
While at West Point he was one of the authors of, and took one of the leading parts in the Color Line Entertainment, entitled, "In Old Vienna," and in this connection it is worthy of note that Lieutenant Augustin, who was intimately connected with Lieutenant Lewis in the preparation and production of this play, was also killed in action at San Juan on July 1st, 1898.
An amusing incident of his early childhood is told, showing that when but eight and a half years of age he displayed keen perception, a sympathetic and resourceful nature.
His brother Harold was celebrating his tenth birthday. Over one hundred of his school and playmates were seated in the dining room of the hotel at a table, decorated with flowers and a huge birthday cake with its ten lighted candles. The children were joyful and filled with merriment. Some one was struck with the idea that a speech was the thing in order, and called upon Harold for one. It was no quicker suggested than a hundred little throats opened with vociferous calls for a speech! a speech! It took Harold by surprise and overwhelmed him with confusion. Louis, seated a little distance from him, took in the situation of his brother's embarrassment and the need of p39his assistance; and quick as a flash he jumped upon his chair and with a flourish of his napkin, said:
"My dear little children, I am glad to see you all here tonight. I hope you are having a good time and may we all meet in heaven."
Another incident of his boyhood, which occurred when he was about thirteen years of age, will illustrate, perhaps more than a dozen others, his manly pluck and courage:
After he went to Amsterdam to live, it was his custom to occasionally visit his old home, Cobleskill, distant •some fifty or sixty miles across the country. The trip was usually made by railroad. One day young Lewis proposed to his father that he allow him to take the trip on horseback, his father owning two fine saddle horses, which he had been allowed to ride about the city on certain occasions. His father at first firmly refused, saying he could not listen to such nonsense; that he was much too young to attempt to ride fifty miles and more across country roads comparatively unknown to him. However, after much persistent teasing, his father yielded and consented to let him take the trip. Louis carefully packed two old saddle bags which his father had carried through the Civil War, and fixed the hour of his departure at four A.M. on the appointed day. The evening before the day arrived, he bade the family good bye, saying that he would start early in the morning and before they got up and did not want to disturb anyone. When the family awoke next morning it was dark, gloomy and raining very hard; in fact it had been raining most of the night. On descending the stairs they of course expected to see Louis waiting for the storm to clear away before making his start, but their surprise and anxiety may be imagined when they learned that, regardless of the violent storm, he had, undaunted, sallied forth on his trip promptly at four A.M. Later in the same day, a gentleman who knew Louis, and who happened to be riding towards Amsterdam early that morning from a neighboring place, told his father that he had seen his son about five A.M. calmly sitting on p40horseback under a large elm tree by the roadside, drenched to the skin, but with a strange and unaccountable look of determination on his countenance. The result of the ride fully accounted for that look. He did not once look back. It was "Forward, charge!" with him until he reached his destination. It may be added that the anxiety of his family was not allayed until after a few days when they received a letter from him, saying that he arrived all right; that there is rain da little at the start, but he had "a very pleasant trip." Does not the promise of unfaltering courage, contained in this incident of his boyhood, find, to a soldier's eye, a pathetic yet glorious fulfilment in his noble sacrifice at San Juan? The sweet influence of his life and the noble example of his death, in the cause of a suffering humanity, will ever be enshrined in the hearts of those who loved him. It has been said of him:
"They pierced his body and caused it to rest on Cuban soil, and the zephyrs soughing through the low evergreens will ever dirge a constant requiem, but his soul immortal will rise and shine with the stars, and look down on a people with no greater ambition than was his."
From his father, and from his revolutionary ancestors, he inherited a taste for military matters.
His maternal great great great grandfather, with four sons, took an active part in the great revolutionary struggle so long as it lasted. He and one son were confined by the British in the sugar-house prison in New York. All except one son received no compensation from the government.
His father, Mr. Morgan S. Lewis, enlisted at the age of seventeen, at the beginning of his studies for the medical profession, at Fort Edward, N. Y. Served four years in the Sixth New York Cavalry in the War of the Rebellion. His first promotion was that of Corporal, next of Sergeant, and then to First Lieutenant and Adjutant of his regiment, for gallant and meritorious conduct.
p41 Threnody, by Rev. Dwight Galloupe, — In Memoriam.
Weep for him, O come and weep!
Look! he lieth fast asleep.
Shattered breast 'neath Cuban palm —
Moaning winds his burial psalm.
Brave among Old Glory's brave,
What remaineth to him now,
Save the laurel on his brow
And — the grave.
Call the taps! In mournful sound
Tell the serried comrades round —
Dust to dust is laid away,
"Lights out" ends the soldier's day.
Brave among Old Glory's brave,
They who love him sorrowing,
All that death hath left them bring
To the grave.
Weep for him who weeps no more —
All his days of conflict o'er;
O how great his young heart's deed
In that awful hour of need!
Brave among Old Glory's brave,
When Easter lillies bloom in spring,
The whitest offering bring
For his grave.
Weep! And yet our tears are vain —
He returneth not again.
Sound the taps! But no sad wail
Can call him back — can e'er avail!
Brave among Old Glory's brave;
Let the flag he loved so well
Droop, while mourn the soldier's knell
O'er his grave.
Weep for him, brave old fighting Ninth!
A brave man's tears, like fabled araminth,
Are glorious because so rarely fall,
Let memory oft sound his bugle call.
While years swift fly
And death draws nigh,
Till God's great "reveille" wake every grave,
And brave clasp hands again with brave.
From St. Paul's Parish paper for January, 1899.
Headquarters Ninth Infantry,
Santiago de Cuba, July 23, 1898.
1. It was with the deepest sorrow that Regimental Commander, upon rejoining the regiment in Cuba, found that one of its brightest and most promising young officers, Second Lieutenant Louis H. Lewis, had been killed in the battle of San Juan, Cuba, July 1st, 1898.
Ever energetic, full of spirit, and ambitious in his profession, he was one of those "had heard of wars" and longed to follow the field; but he was overtaken early in his ambitious desires, and now sleeps the silent sleep of death in the soil he gave his life to conquer, "with the martial cloak around him."
Lieutenant Lewis was a graduate of the U. S. Military Academy, of the class of 1895, and was entitled to his promotion as First Lieutenant at the time of his death. He was popular as an officer and was courteous and kind to all. The regiment mourns his loss and deeply sympathizes with his parents in their sad bereavement.
"The usual badge of mourning will be worn for thirty days."
By order of
Signed, Wendell L. Simpson,
First Lieutenant and Adjutant Ninth Infantry.
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