Civil War & Stephens Co., OK (2)

Loren Walton Lewis (1845-1914)

On Friday, July 25, 1862, dark-haired, seventeen year-old Loren Walton Lewis of Burton Township in Adams County, Illinois looked the Union Army enlistment officer in the eye and, like many a young man who served in that war, lied, stating that he was eighteen years of age. He wouldn’t turn eighteen until February of the following year, but by that time, his blue eyes had seen, and his five foot, nine inch frame experienced, more than enough to age a youth well beyond his years.

Also like many who served, Loren did not enter the service alone, but joined with a close friend, or as in Loren’s case, an older brother, Henry. Big brother would go on to become a first lieutenant, but though eventually mustered out as a Corporal, Loren would spend most of his time in the regiment at the rank in which he enlisted, a Private. The transformation of these two farm hands into Union soldiers took less than six weeks from time of enlistment to muster into Co. E of the 84th Illinois Infantry Regiment on Sept. 1.

Of the 939 enlisted men and officers of the 84th Illinois, 558 of them (59%) were eventually either wounded or killed in battle (228 of them in one battle alone, Stones River, aka: Murfreesboro). An additional 131 men (14%) either died of disease or were killed in some sort of accident. Loren’s regiment was no stranger to combat, and had inscribed on its battle flag the designations of a number of significant battles in which it had participated: Perryville, Stones River, Woodbury, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Ringgold, Dalton, Buzzard’s Roost Gap (aka: Mill Creek Gap), Resaca, Burnt Hickory, Kennesaw Mountain, Smyrna, Jonesborough, Lovejoy Station, Franklin and Nashville.

Loren’s company, Co. E, was the exact size of a typical Union infantry company: one hundred men. Of the one hundred men of Co.E, 44% of them were either killed in combat, died for whatever reason, were wounded, or were discharged with some disability. Of the one hundred men of Co.E, thirty-three of them (33%), like Loren, came from the little township of Burton, located in extreme west central Illinois. Of those thirty-three men, seventeen of them (50%) were casualties. Loren was one of the fortunate 50% of his hometown, surviving the war and having never been wounded. His brother, Henry, though surviving the war, suffered a leg wound and was partially crippled for life.

Following the war, Loren would eventually work for a time as an interior decorator. Ultimately making his way to the city of Duncan in Stephens County, OK, Fred Lewis, one of Loren’s grandsons, relates how his “grandfather, an accomplished musician, had been church organist there [First Baptist Church in Duncan, OK] before his death.”

The years were apparently not particularly kind to Loren. In June 1892, at the age of 47, Loren first made application for, and received, a Union pension. Loren made the application as an “invalid” and his pension was so certified.

Though incorrect regarding the township of Loren’s birth and early residence, the following obituary which appeared in the January 1, 1915 issue of the Duncan Banner, sums up in a few words some of Loren’s life. I am indebted to Betty Eby for finding and providing this obituary. Comments in brackets [] are my own editing.

“Loren Walton Lewis was born near Payson, Adams Co., Illinois in 1845. Was one of a family of twelve children, nine of whom lived to be grown and seven are still living, he being one of the younger children. He served during the Civil War while still a boy under the flag which he always revered and which was draped over his body as it was borne to his last resting place. He was married at Deerfield, Kansas, in 1891 [on Mar. 31] to Mary A. Keep [b. 6/25/1864; d. 2/15/1935]. To them were born seven children, six of whom are still living: Mrs. J. J. Coone of Chickasha, Elma, Robert Loren, Mercer, Chester and Forrest, all of whom were with him at the last. He was a life-long member of the Baptist church, always retaining his membership in the church at Payson. He was a member of the W.O.W. [Woodmen of the World] and K. of P. [Knights of Pythias] lodges for over twenty years. A kind husband, father and fellow citizen, always seeing the good in all, his death came as a severe blow to family and friends.”

Loren Walton Lewis (b. 2/5/1845; d.12/23/1914) is buried in block 7, lot 117 of the Duncan Municipal Cemetery in Stephens County, OK. A distinctive Woodmen of the World headstone marks his grave, making it easily recognizable from a distance. The headstone is topped with the careful carving of an open book containing his “family record.”

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