LITTLE BALKANS CHRONICLES — Col. Lewis R. Jewell

J.T. Knoll
Col. Lewis R. Jewell

Girard native and local historian, John Gladson, who worked Pittsburg for a number of years as a pharmacist, provided this week’s column. It’s a real-life chronicle of the treacherous living conditions and one man’s heroic leadership in Southeast Kansas during the Civil War. — J.T.K.

While volunteering at the Girard History Museum recently, I enjoyed paging through a history and biographical record of Crawford County, which was reprinted by the genealogical society in 1976.

One of the most interesting sketches is of Col. Lewis R. Jewell. He was born August 16, 1822, at Marlboro, Massachusetts. While yet in his teens, he went to Harmer, Ohio, to assist his uncle in the mercantile business. Lewis was quite successful as a salesman and, later, as part owner of a machinery company. He even had a steamboat built which made its initial trip from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh in 1857.

In the spring of 1859, Mr. Jewell, hearing about and reading of the great possibilities in the territory of Kansas, set forth and arrived in the Cherokee Neutral Lands in the winter of that year. Fifteen miles south of Ft. Scott, in the pleasant valley west of present-day Arcadia, he located claims and began farming and stock raising. He did so until his enlistment in the army in 1860.

Difficulties occurred when U.S. Troops began driving settlers away from the Neutral Lands. They continued until they were within a few miles of Jewell's home. Settlers met the troops and demanded their rights. The army captain agreed to meet them at Cato the next day. There, a delegation of three was chosen to travel to Washington and appeal to the President. They came back with a report that the settlers would not be troubled for one year.

The Neutral Lands controversy was soon eclipsed by the outbreak of the Civil War. On August 11, 1861, Lewis Jewell was elected captain of Company D of the home guard and later commissioned Lt. Col. of the U.S. Reserve Corps.

On August 27, 1861, he was mustered into service of the 6th Kansas Cavalry Regiment stationed at Ft. Scott. Jewell's resolve was tested soon after that, when Gen. Lane, expecting a Confederate invasion, gave orders to burn Ft. Scott. Col. Jewell replied, “When Gen. Price begins his occupancy of the city then your order will be obeyed.”

Gen. Price did not invade — and the city was spared.

Col. Jewell and the 6th Kansas guarded the Kansas border against bushwhackers and Confederate detachments. They were successful in numerous campaigns, including Baxter Springs, Grand River, Ft. Gibson, Tahlequah, Lone Jack, and Newtonia.

The campaign of southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas continued in the fall of 1862. On November 28th, near Cane Hill, Arkansas, Gen. Blunt called for volunteer officers to lead a cavalry charge against the gathering Confederate forces. Col. Jewell promptly responded.

The charge started well, but ended in disaster. Rebel reinforcements came up and captured the battery, shot down Col. Jewell's horse, mortally wounded the colonel and took him prisoner. With his captured comrades he was sent back to the regiment in exchange.

Col. Jewell died of his wounds at Cane Hill on November 30, 1862. His remains were sent to his family in Kansas and given military burial in the National Cemetery at Ft. Scott.

June 1, 1872 his son,, Lewis, removed the colonel's remains from the National to the Evergreen Cemetery at Ft. Scott. In 1903, they were moved to their final resting place in Old Arcadia (aka Forest Hill) Cemetery, where a fitting monument has been erected to his memory
(Jewell County, Kansas, is named in the colonel's honor).

Girard's Sons of Union Veterans camp carried Col. Jewell’s name. He is remembered for the respect his men had for him as well as he for them. A military associate called Lt. Col. Lewis R. Jewell “the bravest man he ever met.” He was even eulogized by a Confederate general.

The Jewell legacy continued in what is now Crawford County, as his son Lewis became a founder of Arcadia. F. A. Jewell (1867-1956), grandson of the colonel and an Arcadia postmaster and businessman, wrote the sketch I've referenced here.

— John Gladson

If you have a remembrance and/or photo to share, send it — along with your name, address and phone number — by email to jtknoll@swbell.net or by land mail to 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, Kansas 66762. You can phone and text photos to 620-704-1309. — J.T. Knoll