Andrew Lewis (ca. 1720-1781), American soldier during Lord Dunmore's War, won an important victory over Native Americans that stabilized the frontier during the American Revolution and prepared the way for westward expansion.
Andrew Lewis was born in Donegal, Ireland, and fled to America with his parents after his father had killed the landlord in self-defense. Andrew became a pioneer settler in Virginia's Roanoke River frontier. There he served as justice of the peace, county lieutenant, and member of the House of Burgesses. However, he decided on a military career. His Army service started badly with a succession of defeats. He was with George Washington when their forces surrendered at Ft. Necessity in 1754. He was also with Gen. Braddock's defeated army but apparently was not present at the disastrous ambush of 1755. Three years later Lewis was captured during the Ft. Duquesne reconnaissance of Maj. James Grant and taken to Montreal as a prisoner.
Lewis's luck finally began to turn when he was appointed a Virginia commissioner to the Indian treaty concluded with the Six Nations at Ft. Stanwix in New York in 1768. In 1774 Lord Dunmore, British governor of Virginia, chose him to lead a force against Native Americans who were raiding the border. Determined not to disappoint the governor, Lewis led his men in a skillful 160-mile march across the Allegheny Mountains to Point Pleasant (now in West Virginia). There he was attacked by a Shawnee force led by the famed chief Cornstalk. Lewis then rallied his men. In the bloody battle that followed, he lost 81 men, and 140 others were wounded. However, Lewis's force killed 200 Indians and so demoralized the remainder that he won an uneasy peace from them on the exposed frontier.
Lewis's victory nullified the Quebec Act of 1774, which had blocked American expansion westward by extending the Canadian border down to the Ohio River. It also set the stage for George Rogers Clark's successful campaign in Illinois during 1778 and 1779 and, most important, opened the way for westward settlement by the new United States of America after the Revolution.
During the American Revolution, Lewis served as a brigadier general. He resigned his Army commission in 1777 because of ill health but continued to serve the state of Virginia, especially as a member of Governor Thomas Jefferson's executive council. He died on September 26, 1781.
Lewis's brief but important role in American History has been neglected by historians. To learn more about him, the reader must refer to various local histories of Virginia, such as John Lewis Peyton, History of Augusta County, Virginia (1882; 2d ed. 1953), and Joseph A. Wadell, Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, from 1726 to 1871 (1886; rev. ed. 1902).
Johnson, Patricia Givens, General Andrew Lewis of Roanoke and Greenbrier, Christiansburg, Va.: Johnson, 1980. □
LEWIS, ANDREW. (1720–1781). Continental general. Ireland and Virginia. Born in County Donegal, Ireland, on 9 October 1720, Lewis and his family were among the first white settlers of Augusta County, Virginia, in 1732. He became a lieutenant of the Augusta County militia and a justice of the peace, and he built up a considerable fortune. In 1754 he was with General George Washington at the surrender of Fort Necessity. The next year he was part of Braddock's expedition against Fort Duquesne during the French and Indian Wars, but Lewis was not present at Braddock's defeat. He then commanded the Sandy Creek expedition against the Indians in 1756, during which most of his unit deserted. As part of Forbes's expedition to Fort Duquesne in 1758 he was captured on or about 21 September 1758 with Major (later Major General) James Grant. Upon his capture he was sent to Montreal. After his release, Lewis participated in important negotiations with the Indians, including the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, which was signed in 1768.
In 1774 Lewis commanded 1,000 men in Dunmore's War and won the decisive victory at Point Pleasant on 10 October of that year. His brother, Charles, was killed in this battle. Lewis was appointed a brigadier general of the Continental army on 1 March 1776. He took command of the forces at Williamsburg, Virginia, and at Gwynn Island on 8-10 July he commanded the action that drove Loyalist Governor John Dunmore out of Virginia. When the promotion list of 19 February 1777 was announced, Lewis thought he deserved an appointment as major general, and resigned on 15 April 1777 for being passed over. He continued to serve in the Virginia militia, however, and also served on Thomas Jefferson's executive council until 26 September 1781, when he died.
Andrew's brother, Thomas (1718–1790), was in the House of Burgesses and in the state conventions that ratified the federal Constitution. Another brother, William (1724–1811), served with him in the colonial wars, rose from lieutenant of the First Virginia Regiment (2 October 1775) to major of the Tenth Virginia Regiment (12 May 1779). William was captured on 12 May 1780 at Charleston, South Carolina, and was a prisoner when the war ended. Andrew's third brother, Charles, was killed under Andrew's command in 1774.
SEE ALSO Dunmore's (or Cresap's) War.
Johnson, Patricia Givens. General Andrew Lewis of Roanoke and Greenbrier. Christiansburg, Va.: Johnson, 1980.
revised by Michael Bellesiles