Morgan Lewis – Continental Army Officer – New York


Morgan Lewis (October 16, 1754 – April 7, 1844) was an American lawyer, politician and military commander.

Of Welsh descent, he was the son of Francis Lewis, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He graduated from Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) in 1773 and began to study law on the advice of his father. His studies were interrupted by military service during the American Revolutionary War. From September 1, 1776 to the end of the war he was a colonel and the Quartermaster General for the Northern Department. In 1779 he married Gertrude Livingston (1757–1833), the daughter of Robert R. Livingston.

After the Revolution, Lewis completed his legal studies and was elected to the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate. He was New York State Attorney General and later Justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York.

He served as governor of New York from 1804 to 1807, defeating Vice President Aaron Burr in the race to succeed future Vice President George Clinton as governor. On April 30, 1807, he was defeated in his run for re-election by Daniel D. Tompkins, also a future vice president. Tompkins received 35,074 votes, while Morgan Lewis received 30,989 votes.

During the War of 1812 Lewis resumed his duties as Quartermaster General and served in western New York. He was commissioned as a brigadier general on April 3, 1812 and promoted to major general on March 2, 1813. He commanded the American forces at the Battle of Fort George. Although the British position was captured, Lewis ordered Colonel Winfield Scott to break off the pursuit of the defeated British troops. But for Lewis’s over-caution, Scott might have been able to capture Major-General John Vincent’s entire division and greatly weaken the British defense of the Niagara Peninsula. Later, Lewis was appointed as commander of upstate New York. After the conclusion of the war, Lewis was discharged from the Army on June 15, 1815.

Lewis was a presidential elector in 1828.

Lewis was a Freemason, and served as Grand Master in the Grand Lodge of New York from 1830-1843.

From 1832 to 1835 he was the President of the Historical Society of New York.

Lewis was an original member of the New York Society of the Cincinnati and served as the Society’s President General from 1839 – 1844.

Lewis helped to found New York University in New York City, where he was born and where he died.

Lewis County, New York, the Town and Village of Lewiston, New York, and the Town of Lewis in Essex County, New York have been named to honor him.