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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: A head‑and-shoulders photograph, three-quarters right, of a man of late middle age in the uniform tunic of an American military officer of the First World War. He wears a short mustache and has a serious, even somewhat preoccupied look. He is Thomas Jefferson Lewis, a West Point graduate and United States Army officer whose career is detailed on this webpage.]

Thomas Jefferson Lewis

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Fifty-second Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 11th, 1921.

 p67  Thomas Jefferson Lewis
No. 2802. Class of 1879.
Died, January 16, 1920, at Baltimore, Md., aged 62 years.

Colonel Thomas J. Lewis, Cavalry, U. S. Army, was a son of John Lawson Lewis, at one time Mayor of the City of New Orleans and a Major-General in the Confederate Army.​a His grandfather, Judge Joshua Lewis, was one of the three Commissioners sent to Louisiana to open up that territory and take it over from the French. Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was a great uncle.

The early boyhood days of Colonel Lewis were spent on his father's plantation in the vicinity of the City of New Orleans. He is a graduate of the public schools of that city and an alumnus of Tulane University, from which institution he entered the Military Academy, September 1, 1875, after securing the appointment in a competitive examination with several other young men.

He graduated June 13, 1879, when he was commissioned in the army as Second Lieutenant of Cavalry and assigned to the 2d Cavalry, which regiment was then stationed in the Northwest.

Colonel Lewis served continuously as an officer of this regiment through the grades of Second and First Lieutenant and Captain, until April 22, 1905, experiencing and participating in the diversified and varied service performed by that regiment during the early days of the Indian campaigning and scouting, on the frontier and later in the Spanish-American War.

 p68  On the above date he received his majority, the promotion taking him to the 13th Cavalry, after twenty‑six years' service in the old 2d Cavalry without an interruption.

During his service with the 13th Cavalry he saw Philippine service. He was a Lieutenant-Colonel March 11, 1911, and February 29, 1912, was detailed in the Adjutant-General's Department.

He was retired December 1, 1913. While on active duty during the World's War, he received his full Colonelcy on July 9, 1918.

Colonel Lewis' first active duty after graduation was on the frontier at Fort Custer, Montana, which was followed by duty at Fort Walla Walla, Washington, where he was in the field for a large portion of the time. He served at Boise Barracks, Idaho, to June, 1890, and then served at Fort Lowell, Arizona; Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and Fort Wingate, New Mexico. He was in command of the Navajo Indian troop, known as Troop L, 2d Cavalry, while at Fort Wingate. He served at Fort Riley, Kansas, from October 14, 1896, to April 19, 1898. During the Spanish-American War he was in command of Troop A, 2d Cavalry, and after being on duty at southern camps he left Tampa Bay with the Fifth Corps for Cuba, and disembarked at Daiquiri, Cuba, June 23, 1898.

He participated in the battles around Santiago, July 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and was on mounted service of various kinds in connection with Headquarters Fifth Corps. He commanded the escort to receive the surrender of the interior Spanish garrisons, July 19th to August 16th. Among other duties, he went to Montauk Point in August, 1898, and then to Huntsville, Alabama, and returned to Cuba in February, 1899, where he was in command of troops E, F and G, 2d Cavalry. After leaving Cuba he went to Fort Myer, Virginia, for duty, and was then detailed on General Recruiting Service. Other subsequent duties included service at Fort Riley, Kansas, and Fort Sheridan, Illinois. He was a member of the Cavalry Examining Board from August, 1906, to July, 1909. He commanded the march of the First Squadron, 13th Cavalry, from Fort Riley, Kansas, to Fort Sheridan, Illinois, from July 27 to September 6, 1907.

Just before retirement, December 1, 1913, Colonel Lewis was the Adjutant-General of the Southern Department, San Antonio, Texas, and Adjutant of the 1st Cavalry brigade.

As a retired officer he was on duty in the General Recruiting Service with station at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and New Orleans, Louisiana, from 1913 to 1918.º

On the outbreak of the World War he requested that his service and experience be utilized in a more useful and important sphere, whereupon he was detailed in the Inspector General's Department, July 1, 1918, with station at Portland, Oregon. This position he held at the signing of the Armistice.

 p69  During his long and diversified service, Colonel Lewis has been given many delicate and difficult tasks requiring keen judgment and tact for their successful accomplishment; how well has been their accomplishment and the high esteem in which Colonel Lewis is held by his superiors is testified to by the many commendatory letters from his superiors, setting forth his loyal, efficient and conscientious service and co‑operation.

He was a soldier of the old school, the service and duty were ever uppermost and first in his mind, self always last.

Gentlemanly, highly cultured, having the courage of his convictions and courteous to all, senior or subordinate, he had the respect, confidence and trust of both.

He was an ardent, progressive cavalry­man with an intense love of the service and all it stood for; his life and service well exemplified those words which are and should be so well known and engraven on the mind and heart of every true son of West Point, Honor, Duty, Country.º

The following is a quotation from one of the leading New Orleans daily papers:

"We note with regret the recent dispatch announcing the death of Colonel Thomas J. Lewis, an army officer and former resident of this city.

Colonel Lewis embodied the best traditions of his profession. Quiet, diplomatic and unassuming, he was a credit to the service. Unfortunately, the regular army does not get the opportunity of coming in contact with the people of the country as much as does the Navy. There is too much tendency to exalt it in war and neglect it in peace times. The West Point tradition is a splendid tradition, but West Pointers can, at times, create an impression among civilians that they are a people apart from the ordinary work-a‑day life and world in which the most of us live. The result so often is a lack of understanding between the army and the civilian population.

But it can be said of Colonel Lewis that he was a good mixer and a diplomat — a man who made friends for a service of which he was an excellent representative."

C. R. L.

Thayer's Note:

a John Lawson Lewis never served with the United States Army, but with the Louisiana Militia for many years. For his term as Mayor of New Orleans (including a brief biographical sketch), see J. S. Kendall, History of New Orleans, Chapter XI, "The Lewis and Waterman Administrations"; for his later career in the Militia including his rôle during the brief independence of Louisiana in 1861, see (passim) Chapters XIII and XIV.

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Page updated: 21 Apr 21