William Gaston Lewis Bio-Sketch
QUICK FACTS (WGL)
Name: William Gaston Lewis
Rank: Brigadier General
Education: University of North Carolina
Birth Date: September 3, 1835
Birth Place: Rocky Mount, NC
Death Date: January 7, 1901
Death Place: Goldsboro, NC
William Gaston Lewis was born in Rocky Mount, NC on September 3, 1835 to Dr. John Wesley Lewis and Catherine Ann Battle. He attended the Lovejoy Academy in Raleigh. Dr. Lewis died and the family moved to Chapel Hill. Lewis entered the University of North Carolina to study civil engineering and graduated in 1855. He worked around the country as a teacher and surveyor. He was appointed to the United States Survey Corps in 1857. Lewis returned to North Carolina to work as the assistant engineer for the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad.
As the War Between the States began, Lewis joined the 1st North Carolina Infantry Regiment Volunteers (“The Bethel Regiment”) as a 3rd Lieutenant and participated in the Battle of Big Bethel. He tranferred to the 33rd North Carolina Infantry Regiment and was elected Major. He was commended for his bravery and skill under fire at the Battle of New Bern in March, 1862. Afterward, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 43rd North Carolina Infantry Regiment and fought with the regiment in the Seven Days’ Battle, Malvern Hill, and the defense of Richmond throughout the Peninsula Campaign.
The regiement was transferred back to North Carolina and took part in the skirmishes around Kinston and New Bern in late 1862. The regiment was then moved again to Virginia where it joined the Gettysburg Campaign. After the regiment’s colonel was wounded and captured, Lewis took command. Sent south to North Carolina again, Lewis led the regiment in actions around the coast and took part in General Hoke’s recapture of Plymouth.
In 1864, Lewis was placed at the head of Robert Hoke’s Brigade at the Battle of Cold Harbor where he was promoted to Brigadier General. As part of Jubal Early’s Division, he took part in the raid on Washington, DC where he was wounded.
He married Martha Lucinda “Mittie” Pender during this time after a courtship that began in 1861. Mittie was a first cousin of Major General Dorsey Pender.
As an engineer, he oversaw the building of Confederate entrenchments around Drewry’s Bluff which remained an essential part of the Confederate line of defense during the Petersburg Campaign. Captured at Farmville, VA on
April 7, 1865, Lewis was paroled following General Lee’s surrender on April 9th.
Upon his return to North Carolina, Lewis continued his career as a civil engineer, including a thirteen-year term as North Carolina’s State Engineer. He also worked for various railroads until his death from pneumonia in 1901. Lewis is buried in Willow Dale Cemetery in Goldsboro, NC.