The Louis L. Lewis papers provide a brief account of life in the 1st Regiment of Dragoons during the Civil War. Consisting of 55 items, 45 of these letters were written to his love interest, Mary E. Burt. Lewis writes primarily from different sites in Virginia, except when he is hospitalized for injuries in Philadelphia. Letters to Mary were mailed to addresses in Mendon, New York, and Fishers Station, New York.
Lewis devotes a great deal of time to describing the regiment's activities. He mentions their marches, life at camp, their battle engagements, and attitudes toward the "rebels." Originally a corporal in the army, Lewis was promoted to quartermaster general. His descriptions of battle are quite informative. In one letter he recounts, "I am writing this letter in the Rifle Pit on the Bank of the Nancemon River Our Regiment had a skirmish with the Rebs yesterday, and we lost three men…from what we can see and learn ther is about 50,000 of them…" (April 18, 1863). In another he writes, "This is written on the battle Field and in the Cannons roar…" (April 15, 1863).
Although he relates a great deal about army life to Mary, this is not the chief purpose of his correspondence. These are, above all, courtship letters. He writes about missing her and about his regrets of enlisting. In a letter written December 4, 1863, he finally confesses his love for her, and then discusses wedding plans.
One letter dated November 6, 1863, has a colorful letterhead depicting the Battle of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, on February 16, 1862. The rest of the collection consists of miscellaneous items, mostly notes by an unknown individual about the Lewis family history.