“The” Lewis House

26 06 2008

NPS Map of the Battlefield in 1861-1862

Reader Steve Keating asked:

I just finished Brent Nosworthy’s chapter in Roll Call to Destiny, on Burnside at First Manassas, and in it he keeps referring to artillery posted by the Lewis house firing on Burnside’s troops. Isn’t it the Henry house that he means? The only Lewis house I am aware of is Portici, and that is certainly out of 6 pdr range.

Portici is indeed a Lewis House, and there is a Lewis Ford on Bull Run as well.  Portici is, as Steve surmised, too far away to the southeast to have served as a platform for 6 pdr guns firing on Burnside.  After checking my maps, I replied:

I’ll look into this a little more (I only reviewed the book in brief, so I did not read it all), but there was a Maggie Lewis house just north of the northernmost bend of Young’s Branch, and south of Pittsylvania (the Carter house). Davidson’s guns were north of the pike and south of this house, and did fire on Burnside IIRC. You can see the house on Hennessy’s maps, the Collier overlay maps [their website is gone - what happened to Collier Maps?], and the Bearss maps.

Steve acknowledged:

Yeah, I dug out my Hennessy and found the Lewis place. It’s still a little low topographically, and I’ll check it out next time I’m there. With the tree removal going on, it may clear up the picture. Thanks for the info.

I have checked into it a little more, and found some info in the report of Lt. George S. Davidson, in command of a section of Latham’s Battery under “Shanks” Evans.  His is report #113 in Vol II of Series I of the ORs which I should post this weekend.  Here’s what he had to say about his positions during the day:

About this time [about 9:00 AM] it was known that the enemy was forming in force upon your [Evans’s] left flank. I was ordered to join Major Wheat’s command, which lay nearly a mile northwest of my first position. I passed by Van Pelt’s house, and went on to the Carter house, about one hundred yards northeast of which I placed my section in battery. Finding that the enemy, still encroaching upon our flank, had changed his position, I was ordered by yourself to return to the turnpike, which I followed to a high point about fifteen hundred yards west of the stone bridge. I placed my pieces in battery on open ground within two hundred yards north of the turnpike. From this position you ordered my second piece, under Lieut. Clark Leftwich, to advance along the turnpike and up the Sudley road. He accordingly took position about one hundred yards east of the Sudley road, bearing nearly five hundred yards north from the stone house of Matthews.

From this position Lieutenant Leftwich opened upon the enemy, advancing along the Sudley road, about one thousand yards distant. He inflicted considerable injury upon them, and maintained his position until our infantry had retired. He then retired to a hill south of the turnpike, and about one thousand yards distant from and west of Robinson’s house. Here he remained, firing upon the enemy until he had expended all ammunition from his limber chest. The horses of the caisson having run off, Lieutenant Leftwich came to ask me for ammunition, which I being unable to furnish him, he proceeded to the Lewis house, where he rejoined and reported to Captain Latham.

Lieutenant Leftwich had not fired more than six or eight times from his first position on the Sudley road when the enemy advanced toward our right (as our regiment then fronted), and came within range of my gun. I immediately opened fire upon him, which I kept up until I found the enemy advancing along the Sudley road toward my position. I then moved my gun into the turnpike immediately at the mouth of the lane leading to Robinson’s house, and fired upon the enemy with canister, and with good effect, until he had come up within one hundred and fifty yards of my gun. Having expended my ammunition, I reported my command to Captain Latham, then posted on Lewis’ farm, about four hundred yards east of the house.

The Lewis house mentioned by Davidson is I believe the F. Lewis House, Portici; Latham was positioned northeast of the house, between it and Bull Run.  Click on the NPS map image above for a larger version, click that again for an even larger one.  You’ll find both Lewis houses.  I hope that helps you out, Steve.  I’ll be posting some Confederate reports, including Davidson’s, this weekend, and should be getting to Burnside’s Brigade within another week or so.

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3 responses

2 07 2008
steve keating

Harry
Thanks for the info. Last Sunday I went to Matthew’s Hill, and was able to visiualize where both Davidson and Leftwich’s postiion were. The tree removal up there makes for a much clearer sight lines. Thanks for the report, it makes things much clearer.

2 07 2008
Harry Smeltzer

Steve,

Did you take any pictures? Wanna share?

Harry

2 07 2008
steve keating

Sorry, no pictures. My Canon AE-1 bit the dirt, and I havn’t replaced it yet. When I get another I’ll send you some, if you want.

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