1862-63: Rees John Lewis to Mary (Allison) Lewis

These letters were written by Welsh emigrant Rees John Lewis, Sr. (1830-1907), who settled in Bourbon county, Kansas, prior to the Civil War. Muster records inform us that Rees was the 1st Lt. of Co. C, 6th Kansas Cavalry, and commanded his company during the absences of his captain, Harris Soper Greeno. He mustered out 1 December 1864 at Fort Scott.

A poor image from Find-A-Grave but supposed to be Rees with wife Mary, daughter Jenny, and perhaps a sister (ca. 1865)

“In common with other units, the 6th Kansas Cavalry initially wore civilian clothing and many men continued to do so after the regiment was uniformed; they also sometimes grew their hair long like their Confederate adversaries, as a disguise when scouting. A similar tactic was employed by Capt Tough’s notorious “Buckskin Scouts,” described as being as flamboyantly bedecked with feathers, ribbons and revolvers as the guerrillas they were hunting.” [Source]

Lieutenant Reese J. Lewis, 6th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. In January 1864 he took his company on a scout into the Territory, traveling 130 miles and capturing a Confederate outpost, killing 7 and capturing 25 before returning to Fort Smith, Arkansas. His frock coat has first lieutenant’s shoulder straps, and his dark blue trousers a Vein yellow welt. (Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka)

Rees was married to Mary Elizabeth Allison (1839-1905) in 1860. Together they had at least eight children, only daughter Jennie Mae Lewis (1862-1934)—the oldest—being born during the Civil War. Mary may have been living in Westport, Jackson county, Missouri, during the Civil War; the family resided there after the war.

1863 photograph of Market Street with hospital in background; Fort Scott, Kansas. Courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society

Letter 1

Fort Scott, Kansas
August 2nd 1862

My Dear Mary,

I did not receive a letter from you by the last mail as I was in hopes to.

We are still camped near Fort Scott (three miles from town). I am in command of the company. The question of the quartermastership is not settled. You must not be disappointed if I should not get it. All of the officers have recommended me but the two colonels—the Col. appoints.

I have been getting along very well every way since I came here. I think I will get along well in the company. I have been trying to find a place here for you but as yet I have failed.

I am afraid Writ’s is not a pleasant place. Don’t stay an hour longer than you are used well. Perhaps you can go where Mrs. Parker was. Dr. Parker was improving. I am informed that Mrs. Haynes is anxious to hire Mrs. Tolman’s house and get some woman to board with her. I will speak to Mr. Haynes about it and in the meantime you can think about it. It is said we will move soon but I don’t think we will go far.

There is no news here. I sent out a wagon for fruit yesterday. Got plenty of apples & some peaches. I think we will have plenty of peaches from this on. Write immediately what you think of living with Mrs. Haynes. I am rather inclined to think you can get along.

I don’t have much time to look after Mr. Writ’s crib. There are 7 or 8 new Lieut.’s to be commissioned. They will all be my friends. Lieut. [Brainerd D.] Benedict [of Co. E] is in command of two small cannon attached to our regiment.

So tell me all about the baby in your next. Do write by every mail. To you, — Rees

Letter 2

Fort Scott, Kansas
September 5th, 1862

My Dear Mary,

I was disappointed again last night in not receiving a letter but I hope you are still well and that our more than jewel of a baby is thriving as ever.

We expect to leave today towards Carthage. We are going slow along to head out the Rebel come along the road. I will be in command of the company and expect to have a pleasant time.

I want you to write often. Col. [Lewis R.] Jewell’s brother [Charles W. Jewell] has just come into the regiment as a Lieutenant & been appointed Quartermaster. This appointment is making great dissatisfaction in the regiment. Mary, I don’t want you to be disappointed as perhaps I will have an easier time than I would were I quartermaster.

I have no more time now. Goodbye my love, From your, — Rees

Letter 3

Fort Scott, Kansas
May 3rd 1863

My Dear Mary,

I have the honor to escort Gen. Ewing tomorrow on the march East. The commissary wagons will start at six o’clock. I will go after during the day with 25 men. I think we will have a pleasant time.

I am as ever your own, — Rees

Letter 4

Rolla [Missouri]
June 17, 1863

My dear Mary,

I start in the morning for Kansas City by the way of St. Louis. Our regiment is ordered to Fort Scott & as I have not been ordered back to the regiment, I can go that way. Them I can go down the country to Fort Scott if I have to join the company.

I will write along the road if I can. I may stop some time at Kansas City. I will got part way by river and may be delayed some time for the company to go to Fort Scott. I am going to try to get a leave of absence for a few days any way.

O! I hope to be in those arms soon again. Yours, — Rees

Lt. Rees John Lewis lies buried in Union Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri, under a Black Walnut Tree.

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