In yesterday’s post, I mentioned a black farmer named John Lewis who played an important role in helping to return an altar Bible taken as a battlefield souvenir during the Civil War’s Battle of Antietam.
The tale of do-gooder John Lewis gets more interesting. Here’s the short-short of it (available in more detail at various places on the world wide web):
John T. Lewis was a freeman living in the slave holding society of 1850s Maryland. In 1860, with the civil war approaching, Lewis left the Old Line State (that’s Maryland, My Maryland) for Pennsylvania before pressing on to Elmira, New York, in 1864 to work as a coachman and farmer.
One evening in 1877, John Lewis was driving his two-horse wagon home when he rescued a runaway carriage bearing Ida Langdon, her daughter Julia, and a nursemaid. Who was Ida Langdon? The sister-in-law of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain.
Later, Twain frequently referred to Lewis as an honest friend worthy of respect. Their friendship spanned some thirty years, and it is speculated that Lewis was the inspiration of Twain’s character “Jim,” a runaway black slave in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.