I Have Got A Heap of Children: Jane Boykin’s Letter to Governor Robert Lowry

Two years ago I wrote an article about Jane Boykin, a widow from Smith County, Mississippi, who had eight sons that served in the Confederate army. Thanks to blind luck, I have a little additional information to add to that story. If you haven’t read the original story, it can be found here:


A few weeks ago while in the course of my official duties at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, I was doing some research in the index to the official correspondence of Governor Robert Lowry. As I looked through the column of names, I

Robert Lowry
Photo of Governor Robert Lowry (Jackson Daily News, January 20, 1910)

spotted one that looked familiar: “Jane Boykin.” My curiosity was aroused, and I wondered if this was the same Jane Boykin I had written about. I looked up the letter, and sure enough, it was her. The following document is from the Robert Lowry correspondence at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History:

Shongelo, Smith Co., May 17, 1886

Mr. Robert Lowry,

Dear friend

I will drop you a few lines to let you know that I am still a live and enjoying good health as could be expected of a woman of my age, the last time I saw you was in time of the war about 23 years ago. I will be 74 years old the 21 of August if I live to see then, and I thought I would wright to you about my family. I have raised ten boys and thare was eight of them in the war and are all a live yet except one that got drownded. I raised 13 children and they all alive yet except that one.

My family now numbers one hundred and ninety nine which is children and son in-laws and daughter in-laws and grand children and great grand children. I think you aught to make me a valuable presant or give me a pention for I don’t think thare is another woman in the state that can say as much as I can of the increase of my family. I have ben left a widow 25 years. You may not remember me by my name above. I am Jim and Jasper Boykin’s mother and Old Brance Royal’s sister, Frank Boykin’s widow. I have got a heap of children but I am two high minded to go to them for anything.

Govener if you make me a present of a mule and buggy don’t send a gray mule for I never new a gray mule to dye. I hope to hear from you soon. The reason I asked help from you is because you have the power and are able to help me. I hope you will live the life of the righteous and die the death of the same.

Jane Boykin

Shongelo P.O., Smith Co., Miss.

[Series 812, Box 1044, Folder May 1-31, 1886, MDAH]

In her letter Jane Boykin mentioned that she had last seen Governor Lowry “about 23 years ago.” She may have been 73 years old, but Jane Boykin’s memory was still sharp. Lowry had been in Smith County in the spring of 1864, but then he was General Lowry, and he was in command of an expedition to root out the deserters that were infesting south Mississippi like a plague.

1860 Map of Smith County
1860 Map of Mississippi showing Smith County (www.davidrumsey.com

I can only imagine how difficult life must have been for Jane Boykin by the spring of 1864; her husband was dead, her adult sons were away in the army, and she still had 4 small children to support. To make matters even worse, conditions in Smith County, Mississippi that spring could only be described as unsettled. On February 8, 1864, W.H.

Captain William H. Hardy
Post-War Picture of Captain William H. Hardy (Newton Record, May 17, 2000)

Hardy, a retired captain who had served in the 16th Mississippi Infantry,  wrote to Governor Charles Clark from Raleigh to inform him of the situation in Smith County. The captain blamed many of the county’s problems on deserters from neighboring Jones County:

They are in strong force supposed to be about 2 or 300 in Jones County and the smaller bandits through the country have combined with these and confederates for mutual protection and depredation they have become quite bold and in some sections of the country have so intimidated the people that to save themselves and their property from depredation and pillage they are beginning to give them aid and comfort, and I perceive now a spirit of this kind beginning to pervade the people to such an extent that almost every man now is afraid to say anything against the deserters for fear of some private injury and unless it is checked all law and order will soon be suspended and every loyal man driven out of the county. 

There is now in this town a respectable citizen who was driven from Jones County all his property destroyed because he was a true and loyal citizen. Last week the Rev. Mr. Carlile a Baptist minister in the south western part of Jasper Co. was brutally murdered in his house by them. The Rev. Nelson West was yesterday with his family given notice to quit the county or that he shall suffer the fate of Mr. Carlile. On last week a band of them sacked several houses at Trenton of all the arms and ammunition and subsequently whipped a small band of cavalry belonging to Capt. McLean’s Co. who had been sent in pursuit. 

[Charles Clark Correspondence, Series 768, Box 949, Folder 4, Mississippi Department of Archives and History]

Hardy was not the only citizen of Smith County to write to the governor asking for help; in March W.H. Quarles sent this plea to Clark:

Macon, Miss., 28th March 1864


                     I desire to inform you of the bad state of affairs in our (Smith) County. The cty. is infested with deserters of the worst class. Peacible citizens are driven from their homes. Our sheriff a refugee. 

A few days ago I was ambushed near my plantation and shot. Union or peace meetings are boldly held and union speeches made – No man’s life is safe who deems to speak out against them. In the name of our citizens and myself I appeal to you for assistance to drive them out of our county. 

I am sir with great respect,

Your Obedient Servant,

Wm. H. Quarles

[Charles Clark Correspondence, Series 768, Box 949, Folder 5, Mississippi Department of Archives and History]

Quarles’ letter had been forwarded to Governor Clark by Major D.V. Merwin, who was

Order from the Mississippi Bureau of Conscription regarding the arrest of deserters. The breakdown of law and order in Smith County made these orders almost impossible to enforce. (The Daily Clarion, September 9, 1864)

with the Bureau of Conscription and was operating in Smith County. The Major included this brief message to the governor giving his thoughts on the situation in Smith County:

Bureau of Conscription

Department of Mississippi

Enterprise, March 19, 1864


                Mr. W. H. Quarles a gentleman from Smith County will represent to you the condition of affairs in this county, it being infested with deserters of the worst character, and will ask for some assistance from the governor. I have but a small force of cavalry and but partially equipped, and can render no assistance for the reason that this immediate neighborhood is in a like condition, and the force here will be kept busily engaged; In this unfortunate condition of the county it is highly necessary that a force be sent, to clear the county that is so much harrased by this class of community.

I am Colonel very respectfully

Your Obt. Svt.,

D.V. Merwin, Maj. & A.A.G.

Command  Conscripts Smith Co., Miss.

[Charles Clark Correspondence, Series 768, Box 949, Folder 4, Mississippi Department of Archives and History]

Governor Clark was not the only one receiving complaints about the problem with

Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk

deserters in Smith County; Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, the department commander, had been informed as well, and he felt decisive action was needed. The general had his assistant adjutant general, T.M. Jack, send Major General Dabney H. Maury the following orders:

GENERAL: Information from other sources confirms the statement in the dispatch of Colonel Maury as to the extent of the defection in the southern counties of Mississippi. The lieutenant-general commanding is of the opinion that an infantry force is indispensable so far as Smith County is concerned.  He has accordingly organized such a force, which will leave here to-morrow for Meridian, under Colonel Lowry, one of the oldest colonels in the army, and an officer of vigor and decision. He will go to Smith County to commence operations. 

[Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 32, Part 3, Page 661]

That same day, Colonel Lowry received his written orders from General Polk’s headquarters at Demopolis, Alabama:


HEADQUARTERS, Demopolis, Ala., March 20, 1864

I. Colonel Lowry, Sixth Mississippi Regiment, will take charge of the expedition against deserters and disloyal men between Pearl River and Tombigbee, south of the Southern Railroad. he will proceed without delay by cars to Meridian, with the command organized for that purpose, and execute with vigor the verbal instructions already received from the lieutenant-general commanding.

By command of Lieutenant-General Polk:

T.M. Jack, Assistant Adjutant General

[Official Records, Series 1, Volume 32, Part 3, Page 662]

Accompanying Colonel Lowry and his two regiments of infantry (6th Mississippi & 20th Mississippi) on the expedition was a small cavalry force under the command of Colonel J.S. Scott. His orders from General Polk were very explicit:

What has been said to Colonel Lowry is repeated to you, that in the prosecution of this

Notice of the execution of two deserters at Meridian (The Daily Clarion, June 25, 1864)

campaign you are allowed to exercise a sound discretion in the execution of its details. You will nevertheless bear in mind that the country which is the theater of this campaign has been sadly demoralized and none other than the most vigorous and decisive measures will serve to impress its inhabitants with a sense of their duties to their Government and to bring it back to a sound and healthful moral condition. You will keep a list of all captures, and if in the execution of your orders you are resisted by force of arms you will not hesitate to punish the offender with death upon the spot.

[Official Records, Series 1, Volume 32, Part 3, Page 820]

In April 1864, the editor of the Macon Beacon received a letter from an unidentified member of the 20th Mississippi Infantry, giving a detailed description of the work done by the Lowry expedition in Smith County. This letter was published in full by the newspaper:

From the Noxubee Riflemen

Enterprise Miss.

April 8th, 1864

Mr. Beacon

                        Prayers have been answered, and the piney woods of dear, old Mississippi now resound to the music of our footsteps, instead of the “sloshy” limestone of ‘ye Mississippi loving Alabam.’ This touches a much talked of subject, so pardon just one moment; while at Demopolis, a Mississippi soldier went to a house, engaged breakfast, ate it, and then enquired his bill; the reply was, ‘Nothing sir, but never come here again.’ Another soldier from our state went up to the entrance of a spacious mansion and asked ‘if the dogs would bite?’ ‘No sir, they are like the people of Mississippi, they don’t care for soldiers.’ And the reply to a similar question from another Mississippian was, ‘No sir, they are like Mississippi soldiers, there is no danger in them.’

All this had its origin in Polk’s retreat from Canton, augmented by the Mobile Register’s remarks upon that retreat and the Jones County deserters. It is unjust to a people to judge them by isolated examples of its members, for what would become of the honorable name conferred upon Alabama by her glorious 4th Reg’t at the first Manassas, should the unpleasant order of Baker’s Creek be inhaled too freely? But enough. I am surprised at this Mobile Journal, as the editor says his remarks were intended for those only who fell off like ‘autumn leaves,’ and was not intended to reflect upon those who stood by their flag in that severest of all ordeals, a long retreat, for his remarks could only reach those who did not desert, as they who took the woods, had no opportunities of reading or profiting by his sarcasm. We soldiers think it a shallow excuse for an unjust calumny.

On the 22 ult., the 20th and 6th Mississippi Regiments, under command of Col. Robt. Lowry of the 6th, were formed into a detachment, and sent back here for the purpose of breaking up the nests of deserters known to exist in Smith, Jones and adjoining counties. We reached Raleigh in Smith County on the 29th March. Head Quarters were established there, and detachments sent out in various directions for the purpose of gobbling up all stray cattle of the C.S. army, deserters, tories, bushwackers, paroled (Vicksburg) prisoners, conscripts, furloughed men overstaying their time, and all other shirkers.

The 6th charged a church about five miles from town and caught ten or fifteen. I cannot

Massey Deserters
List of Deserters from the 20th Mississippi Infantry. It was men like this that Lowry’s Expedition was attempting to root out of Smith County (Macon Beacon, October 7, 1863)

describe the scene among the softer sex as I did not participate, but from what I have heard, it was rich, and worthy of the region. On the same day, Sunday 29th, the day of our arrival, Major C.K. Massey, of the 20th, with four or five men caught three deserters and tories; but one of their prisoners effected his escape by slipping through a noose peculiarly adopted for ‘hard cases.’ The man’s name was Rains, and had been noted for his activity in encouraging desertion.

The Major appears to be unlucky in this respect, as he caught several more a few days afterwards, and again allowed one of them to escape; and strangely enough in the very same manner in which Rains got off and that seems stranger still this second man whose name was McNeill, slipped through a noose in the very same rope used by rains to effect his escape. McNeill is represented to have been a very bad man; he deserted just after the battle of Corinth and had been lying out ever since, and by some is said to have been one of the party of desperadoes who went to Paulding in Jasper County not long since and stole the Government property left there. A ‘roll book’ containing a great many names was found on his person, supposed to have constituted that batch of tories known as ‘McNeill’s Battalion.’

Col. Brown, of the 20th, captured a large gang including the notorious Hawkins of ‘Illinois corn’ fame; this man Hawkins has four sons, deserters, who managed to elude us; they are a bad family, and the true citizens regret that he was not Massey-cred as soon as arrested. Hawkins is the man who went to St. Louis, Illinois and other places in the North at the beginning of the war for the purpose of procuring corn for the starving people of his district; the result of that agency kept him quiet until Sherman made his grand raid into the state, when thinking the state was lost beyond doubt, he showed the cloven foot, spoke to Union meetings, advocated ‘no meddling with private property, but fight the rebel soldiers like the devil,’ and was known and feared as an uncompromising Unionist. With him was

A Poor Harvest in 1861 left many Mississippians in a Nearly Starving Condition – Benjamin Hawkins of Smith County went North to seek aid for his fellow citizens (Daily Nashville Patriot, March 12, 1861)

captured a badly gotten up Union Flag; it is made of coarse, white cotton cloth, upon which is worked in spotted calico, the shape of an eagle, surrounded by thirty-seven blue stars, with the letters U.S.A. in flaming blue capitals below the eagle. This flag was taken from around the body of Hawkins’ wife, who said ‘she would rather die than surrender it:’ but came the flag, which now floats its dishonoring folds in front of Head Quarters – an emblem of treason and desertion. A copy of Helpers Impending Crisis was also found at his house, with another abolition pamphlet. Hawkins is a native of North Caroline; his case was tried before a military court, and turned over to civil authorities.

Some of the men arrested were soldiers paroled at Vicksburg and were impressed with the belief that they were not exchanged; these men are sent to parole camps or to their respective command, and will make as good soldiers as we have. But the large majority were ‘hard nuts,’ and I would respectfully suggest to our authorities that they send all these whom they do not shoot, to the Virginia army, as they will never do to make trusty soldiers in this Department.

Our ‘bull-ring’ would present a curious study for the phrenologist; every conceivable variety of a ‘frontispiece’ is there presented; the snotty-nosed ‘babe’ of ‘just eighteen next fall,’ the blear-eyed dirty bushwhacker, and the veritable piney-woods ‘stump-shakers;’ our frame is frequently sent with pictures of Smith County femininity, who come to bring their traitorous relatives grub and clean shirts; and these same pictures are the primary causes of so much desertion. We have caught eight or ten men who had been married but a few days; some were dragged from the nuptial couch, and substituted for ‘coral lips’ and ‘silken tresses,’ the smutty face and wrinkled locks of some fellow-deserter who had ‘gone up before.’

Altogether this is a wild, exciting service, and although arduous in the extreme, the boys like it exceedingly and strive to excel in the business. There are many true, patriotic citizens in Smith County, but the mean ones are in the majority. You would be surprised to see the number of men in the out-of-the-way county who are not in the army – some never have been conscripted, and with no exemption papers either. Up to last Monday of _____ week from the date of our arrival, we had arrested 217 men, and out of the number retained in custody about 150, 76 were sent here day before yesterday under guard and that is why I write from Enterprise. We will doubtless start for Raleigh tomorrow, and I doubt not will have a second cargo await transportation.

Col. Lowry is managing matters finely, and I assure you his is no enviable ‘posish.’ If we are permitted to remain long in that section of country, I am confident that the death blow to desertion and toryism will be dealt with a heavy hand by Col. L. The citizens fear that we will leave them too soon, and that after we are gone the deserters will be more audacious than ever; but time shall we ask to wipe out these bloches on the fair name of our state, and when that is done we hope to be transferred to some honorable duty, for this is the most degrading of duties to a volunteer Southern soldier. I will keep you posted if I can. Our advance into Jones may be more exciting.

By the way we had forgotten to mention that on _____day, Lt. Evans, of the 6th, was [wounded] by a man in ambush. Lt. Evans was wounded through both thighs and two other men were struck, one _____ the body, the other in the ankle. The bushwhacker used a double barrel shot gun and got off safely.


[Macon Beacon, April 20, 1864]

Colonel Lowry’s raid into Smith County may have settled things for a time, but all too soon the troops left – they were going to be needed on many a bloody battlefield in Georgia. I doubt the situation for Jane Boykin and hundreds of others like her in Smith County improved substantially until the war ended. And one question remains to be answered – did Mrs. Boykin ever get that mule from Governor Lowry?


A Most Universally Admired And Esteemed Character: The Life of Thomas E. Lewis of Vicksburg

In my youth, I was fortunate enough to work for nine years at the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg, Mississippi. During those years I met with thousands of tourists from all over the world, and was asked one question more than any other; “Where are the caves?” I knew exactly what caves they were referring to: the caves dug by the inhabitants of Vicksburg during the 1863 siege to protect themselves from the devastating Union bombardment of the city.

I had to reluctantly inform them that almost all of the caves were gone – lost to time, the elements, and to progress in the form of bulldozers and earth moving equipment. The one surviving cave that I knew of was on private property and not open to the general public. Tourists were always disappointed to find out they couldn’t visit an authentic Civil War cave – but I did the next best thing and showed them a picture of a cave, usually this one:

Photo of Tom Lewis standing at the entrance of a Vicksburg cave (Enterprise-Journal, McComb, Mississippi, October 29, 2001)

Although taken long after the war, the photo above is probably the best surviving image of a Vicksburg siege cave. It was taken in the early 1900’s and shows Thomas E. Lewis standing at the entrance to the cave that he and his family sheltered in during the siege of Vicksburg. The photo is very well known, and has been published in many books about the Civil War. I have seen this photo literally hundreds of times, but up until very recently, never gave much thought to Mr. Lewis; after all, the real star of the image is the cave itself. I decided to look into the background of Tom Lewis, to try and find out who this man was; and in the process found a very interesting story.

Lewis Cave 2
The Lewis Family Cave was Located Behind This Home on East Grove Street in Vicksburg. Unfortunately no trace of it has survived to the present day. (Photo Courtesy of Tommy Presson)

Thomas E. Lewis was born about 1849 in Vicksburg; in the 1860 U.S. Census, he was listed

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Cotton Press patented by Lewis Lewis in 1852 (Google Patents)

as living with his parents, Lewis and Emily Lewis, and brothers Henry, Nicholas, and Prentiss. His father, Lewis Lewis, was born in Pennsylvania, and made a very comfortable living as a mechanic. (1860 U.S. Census, Warren County, Mississippi) Lewis was also an inventor, and patented an “Improvement in Cotton Presses” in 1852. (United States Patent Office, Patent #8774, dated March 2, 1852)

I did a good bit of research on Tom Lewis, and scoured the Vicksburg newspapers for information about him and his family. I found numerous articles about his activities after the war, but precious few that spoke of his experiences during the conflict. From the Vicksburg newspaper I did discover that the family residence was located on east Grove street. (The Vicksburg American, December 30, 1905)

I did find one brief mention of Mr. Lewis’ wartime experiences in The Vicksburg Herald, March 17, 1901:

Mr. Thomas E. Lewis, after whom Cave Lewis was appropriately named, knows more than anybody not actively engaged in the siege of Vicksburg about the battle fields around the city. Mr. Lewis was not big enough then to carry a gun, but he did what he could towards helping the defenders of the besieged city; he carried water for the soldiers and many a thirsty man was satisfied by the bare footed boy now known as Tom Lewis…

That one brief paragraph is all that I have been able to find that speaks directly to Tom Lewis’ wartime experiences; fortunately his post-war life is much better documented.

In the late 1860’s, Tom Lewis went to work at the shoe store of P.H. Gilbert on

Max Kuner Vicksburg
1866 Illustration of Washington Street in Vicksburg (Harper’s Weekly, June 1866)

Washington Street in Vicksburg. Tom worked at the shop until 1884, when he partnered with his brother Prentiss and opened his own shoe shop. The Vicksburg Evening Post gave the new business some free advertising saying that

Mr. Tom Lewis will have personal charge and management of the store, and that he is thoroughly qualified to conduct the shoe business, may be inferred fro the fact that he has been with Mr. P.H. Gilbert, in his large shoe establishment (the celebrated Parlor Shoe Store on Washington Street) for the last sixteen years. (The Vicksburg Evening Post, April 21, 1884)


Advertisement for the Lewis Brothers Shoe Store, The Vicksburg Herald, January 17, 1885

The Lewis Brothers Shoe Store prospered, and in time Tom followed in his father’s footsteps and became an inventor. On September 8, 1896, The Vicksburg Evening Post noted that

Mr. T.E. Lewis, left for Chicago by this morning’s 8:15 train to confer with the manufacturers of his latest patent, one of the most original and perfect contrivances for shoe dealers. The improvement consists in a small contrivance for exhibiting any kind of shoe in its original package. It is so arranged that it fits any kind of a box or shoe, and is regarded by shoe dealers as a most valuable invention.

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Patent Illustration showing Tom Lewis’ invention to display shoes (Google Patents, Patent #575897, dated January 26, 1897)

On December 27, 1894, the United States Congress established Shiloh National Military Park, and this action spurred local citizens and veterans of both the Union and Confederate armies that had fought at Vicksburg to lobby for the creation of a national park in the Hill City. One citizen took it upon himself to become a vocal advocate for the creation of a military park at Vicksburg; none other than Mr. Tom Lewis. On March 21, 1900, The Vicksburg Evening Post ran an article about the arrival in Vicksburg of Mr. H. B. Pierce of Rock Rapids Iowa. The paper explained that

Mr. Pierce was here in 1895, and took great interest in the movement inaugurated by Messrs. Lewis and Cashman for marking the lines and forts of the opposing armies during the  great siege, and which was the forerunner of the Park movement which now promises to be such a great success. It so happened that in the early part of 1895 Mr. Lewis escorted Mr. Pierce to portions of the old lines, and found some difficulty in locating positions with which he (Mr. Lewis) thought he was familiar. The action of the elements, the natural growth, and other causes made it difficult to recall the points of interest, and upon Mr. Lewis’s return to the city he visited the editor of the EVENING POST to discuss some method by which the old breastworks, forts, etc., could be kept from obliteration. 

Then it was that Mr. Cashman suggested a petition to Congress, and wrote one, which he and Mr. Lewis submitted to Congressman Catchings who was then in the city, and secured his promise of hearty effort to secure an appropriation for the desired work. A copy of the petition was sent to Mr. Pierce at his Iowa home, and he was very active in advancing it. Another copy was circulated in Vicksburg during the session of the great Farmers Institute in February 1895, when Gov. Hoard, Capt. Merry and other distinguished Northern ex-soldiers were here, and when Capt. Merry and others of the visitors signed the petition, and soon after set on foot the grand movement for the establishment of the National Military Park here. 

The lobbying effort by Tom Lewis and many others was ultimately successful, and

Representative Thomas C. Catchings of Mississippi (Wikipedia Entry on Catchings)

legislation to establish the park was introduced by Representative Thomas C. Catchings of Mississippi and after many fits and starts, the bill was passed into law on February 21, 1899, when it was signed by President William McKinley. (An Illustrated Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign & National Military Park by Jeff Giambrone, page 151)

A few months after the park legislation passed, Tom Lewis wrote an article for The Vicksburg Herald simply entitled “NATIONAL MILITARY PARK.” In this article Lewis continued his efforts to promote the battlefield, saying

The site of our National Park was rendered by nature a peculiarly suitable scene of contest for contending armies…As in time of conflict, so nature today clearly outlines the site of what will be one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Even now the scenery stretches out in grandeur, only needing a touch here and there from the hand of man. I have heard many tourists exclaim, ‘This is as grand a view as I have ever seen anywhere.’ What will they say when the park is finished?

Lewis closed his missive with an invitation to attend the opening of the military park:

In visiting these restored locations of the positions held by soldiers, do not be surprised if you find you can stand on some one of them and toss a pebble over into the opposite one, from either side, Yank or Reb. On the day of dedication, when Old Glory will run up and down her staff, signalling a united country; inviting all to come and see the spot where bravery and endurance met and fought, and to hear the tale told of victory won by Blue and deeds done by Gray; Gray and Blue both one under her sheltering folds, I know I, for one, will be glad to be there. (The Vicksburg Herald, May 7, 1899)

The Vicksburg National Military Park worked exactly as the city father’s had hoped,

Lewis Cave MDAH
Colorized Real Photo Postcard of Tom Lewis Standing in Front of His Family’s Cave (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Cooper Poscard Collection)

bringing visitors to the city from all across the United States. In addition to touring the military park, many of these visitors wanted to see one of the caves where the civilian population had lived during the siege. Fortunately, there was one that was in good enough condition for viewing: the Lewis family cave on the grounds of Mr. Tom Lewis’ home. On April 10, 1900, The Vicksburg Evening Post noted: “CAVE LEWIS, on Grove Street, a relic of the late Civil War, is one of the principal attention [attractions] to visitors to this city. It is reached by the Clay Street car line.”

In May 1900, the United Daughters of the Confederacy held their annual state convention in Vicksburg. As part of the festivities, a flag raising ceremony was held at the Lewis Cave. This event was considered so important that the Vicksburg city schools gave their students a half day off so that they could attend the ceremony. (The Vicksburg Evening Post, April 30, 1900; The Clarion-Ledger, May 1, 1900)

The Lewis Cave was very popular, but the throngs of visitors touring the site may have caused it to weaken. The June 11, 1901 edition of The Vicksburg Herald wrote an article with the bold headline ‘CAVE LEWIS NEEDS REPAIRS.’ It went on to say

It has been about a year since Mr. T.E. Lewis with the assistance of a number of public spirited citizens began the work of restoring to something like its former appearance the war time cave wherein the family of Mr. Lewis sought refuge during the siege. Mr. Lewis states that the tunnel like entrance to the cave is in need of strengthening and repairing as well as other parts, and as it is visited almost every day by strangers as well as residents of the city, considerable work is necessary in order to preserve it intact. There is no fund upon which to draw except what those citizens who are interested and kindly disposed are willing to contribute to its upkeep. Mr. Lewis states that he will take charge of any and all subscriptions for this purpose and will personally superintend such repairs as are necessary. He will be glad to hear from or call on any who may notify him, to receive contributions for the repair fund.

As time when on, Tom Lewis found his services as a tour guide to the Vicksburg National Park to be in high demand. In its January 3, 1903 edition, The Vicksburg American noted:

The National Park is fast coming into prominence and Northern tourists who come to this city nearly all want to go over the lines. Mr. Tom Lewis has acted as escort for a dozen or more parties, who drove over the lines in vehicles during the past week or two. 

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A Visitor to the Vicksburg National Military Park Touring the Battlefield in the Early 1900s. (Series 573, Vicksburg National Military Park Photographs, Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

Tome Lewis guided more than just individuals or families around the military park; at times he took on the considerable job of escorting entire groups. In May 1903 he had to arrange 20 teams of horses to convey Colonel J.H. McDowell and a group of Tennessee Civil War veterans around the Vicksburg battlefield. (The Vicksburg American, May 23, 1903)

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Tourists in the Vicksburg National Military Park (Series 573, Vicksburg National Military Park Photographs, Mississippi Department of Archives and History)

Tom Lewis’s relationship with the Vicksburg National Military Park had been a private one up until 1906, when he was appointed the Park’s first marshal. The Vicksburg Evening Post made the announcement in its December 27, 1905, edition:

Mr. T.E. Lewis for the last several years, the only official guide to points in the Vicksburg National Military Park, has been appointed U.S. Marshal for the entire inclosure and reservation of the Park, taking effect January 1, 1906. The requirements of the appointment are that he is to visit twice each week, every monument, slab and marker. The appointment is a fitting one, and is appreciated by the citizens of Vicksburg and especially by the many personal friends of Mr. Lewis. It was made on the recommendation of the Park Commission.

The next day The Vicksburg American had a follow-up article, laying out Tom Lewis’ duties as Park Marshal:

As Park Guardian of the National Park, Mr. Tom Lewis will be expected to also do detective work, where any depredations may occur, and to bring any guilty parties to justice. It is to be hoped that no one will ever deface any of the park monuments, but in this event, Mr. Lewis will have to do a little Sherlock Holmes work, and endeavor to run down the guilty ones. He will very likely be given police powers. (The Vicksburg American, December 28, 1905)

On January 8, 1906 The Vicksburg American ran another article entitled, “Park Guardian Lewis on Duty,” and gave some additional information about the work he was doing in the military park:

Park Guardian Tom Lewis, a well known citizen, who was appointed to watch over and care for The Vicksburg National Military Park, commencing his duties on the first of the month, has been busy since his taking the office visiting all of the monuments and markers in the park, and making book memorandums, so that he will have a handy reference. Mr. Lewis stated today that in all of his rounds of the park thus far, he has not found the least disfigurement or derangement of any of the monuments which is an indication that the souvenir hunters have thus far not defaced any of them. 

The Pemberton monument in the National Cemetery, prior to its having been placed there,

Surrender Monument, MDAH

was chipped very badly, and it was feared that the souvenir cranks would do the same to some of the handsome memorials in the National Park, hence the appointment of a guardian. The Illinois monument is nearly completed, being a magnificent mausoleum, which will cost nearly two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. With many others to be equally as valuable, it will be readily seen that a park guardian is a timely office, created by the government under the suggestion of the park commission.

Just a few days later paper ran another article under the headline “Prominent Englishmen Invading The Park Today,” concerning Tom Lewis’ guiding of two foreign tourists through the military park. In this article it was noted that

Mr. Lewis was asked about the number of tourists that are coming this way, and says that they are steadily increasing, and he now carries two or three times as many visitors to see the park as he did some time back. With trains in and out of here as they are running, tourists may rest assured that it is well worth their while to spend an hour or so here and visit the park, and many who come south are taking advantage of this opportunity. It is now scheduled so that travelers can spend an hour or two here, a half day, or a day, and enjoy a drive in the park, and then continue their journey without stopping off here longer if they so desire. (The Vicksburg American, April 12, 1906)

As Park Marshal, Tom Lewis was responsible for all of the monuments in the Vicksburg National Military Park, but without a doubt the most visually impressive was the Illinois monument. Completed in 1906 at a cost of $194,423.92, it’s design was inspired by the Roman Pantheon, and it was made of Georgia white marble. (https://www.nps.gov/vick/learn/historyculture/illinois-memorial.htm)

When the Illinois Memorial was completed in October 1906, The Vicksburg American noted, “Park Marshal Tom Lewis was given charge of the monument, and will keep it open that visitors may see it during the present week, until time for the dedication. (The Vicksburg American, October 22, 1906)

Illinois Monument Dedication, MDAH.jpg
(Cooper Postcard Collection, MDAH)

With more and more visitors coming to the park, Tom Lewis had his work cut out for him in trying to protect all of the monuments and signage from damage. In its June 28, 1907 edition, The Vicksburg Herald noted a problem with the Iowa Memorial:

Captain W.T. Rigby, chairman of the National Park Commission, earnestly requests all people who visit the National Park to refrain from eating lunches in or around the monuments. There is nothing as injurious to marble or granite as grease and this is the reason for the request. It has been discovered that some persons have been eating lunches within the Iowa state memorial. As a result this beautiful structure is stained with grease and an unsightly appearance is presented…Yesterday a representative of the Herald, in company with Park Marshal Thomas Lewis, visited the Iowa monument and saw the damage that had been done by the grease. 

Iowa State Memorial, MDAH.jpg
(Cooper Postcard Collection, MDAH)

Tom Lewis was such a fixture in the Vicksburg National Military Park that many locals probably thought he would be there forever. Sadly, this was not the case, and on March 28, 1908, The Vicksburg American ran the following story under the headline “Necrological:”

The community was shocked to learn this morning of the death of Thos. E. Lewis, which sad event occurred in New Orleans last night where he had  been for the past two weeks in hopes of relief from his illness, but without avail…Mr. Lewis was a well known citizen of probity and industry and at the time of his death was a valued employee of the National Park Commission, he being the official guide of the park property. The remains of Mr. Lewis will arrive from New Orleans this evening when the funeral arrangements will probably be announced. Mr. Lewis was a member of the Methodist Church.

The Vicksburg Herald gave additional details about Tom Lewis’ funeral:

The funeral of Mr. Thomas E. Lewis will be held this morning from the residence of Hardy Jones, on East Avenue at 9:30 o’clock…Mr. Lewis was always a most interested worker in National Park affairs. In taking parties through the park, and to see ‘Cave Lewis,’ which is on part of his property on East Clay Street, he many times afforded much pleasure and instruction to visiting tourists. His death means the taking away of a most universally admired and esteemed character in the active life of Vicksburg. (The Vicksburg Herald, March 29, 1908)

After much research, I have been unable to find the location of Tom Lewis’ grave. He was probably buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery, but at this point that is just speculation on my part. It’s a real shame that Tom Lewis, who dedicated years of his life to preserving the memory of the men who fought and died at Vicksburg lies in a forgotten grave. I can’t make any promises, but if I can find the location of his grave, and if it is indeed unmarked, I will do what I can to see that this “most universally admired and esteemed character” has his own memorial in Vicksburg.