Lewis Francis Brest was born on May 15, 1842 in Mercer Co., Pennsylvania. On December 13, 1861 he enlisted as a private in the 57th Penna. Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company 'E'. During the next four years Private Brest would remain with his regiment and share the hardships of warfare with his comrades.  Together they would fight on the fields of Virginia, during the Peninsula Campaign, The Seven Days Battle, Second Battle of Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville Campaign. In June of 1863, Private Brest would suffer the effects of typhoid fever which would confine him to the regimental hospital, and prevent him from being in the ranks of the 57th, as they fought along the Emmitsburg Rd just South of Gettysburg. He would slowly recover from the effects of the fever and return to his regiment later that year. He would be present in the front lines from the last months of 1863 to the end of the war. During those last months of 1863 the Country would ask the men of the 57th to reenlist for three more years to see the end of this terrible Civil War. Private Brest would reenlist like many of his comrades and they would be designated as Veteran Volunteers.

 He would march with the 57th as they crossed the Rapidan River under the command of General U.S. Grant during the spring of 1864. During this campaign Private Brest would be wounded in the neck, however the wound would not keep him out of action for long. The 57th Penna. Infantry would continue to fight and die with the Army of the Potomac on their final move toward Richmond and the defeat of the rebel Army of Northern Virginia. The 57th would find themselves in the trenches surrounding Petersburg, Va., where they entered into the tedious trench warfare for the next several months. During this period many of the companies were consolidated due to increasing casualties, Prvt. Brest would now find himself a part of Company 'D'. As the ever tightening noose began to tighten around

Lewis Francis Brest
General Lee and his rebel army, the time finally came when Richmond City and the rebel government had to be abandoned.  As the 57th pushed into Petersburg in their pursuit of the retreating confederates, Private Brest and his comrades realized the end of four terrible years was rapidly approaching. On April 6, 1865 as the battle lines were again forming near a stream known as Sailor's Creek, the 57th was preparing to deliver a death blow to their vanquished foes. As the two lines of battle crashed together in the hand to hand combat that ensued, Private Brest captured the enemies battleflag. For his bravery in this action he was awarded our Countries Highest Honor, the 'Medal of Honor.'

On April 24, 1865 Private Lewis F. Brest received for his meritorious actions on the battlefield, a thirty day Leave of Absence from the War Department. This furlough would take him out of the camps of his regiment to a well deserved rest, and away from the terrible scenes of war. After his thirty day leave, Lewis returned to duty with his regiment and would take part in the Grand Review through the streets of Washington, D.C. On June 29, 1865, along with the rest of the 57th Pa. Regiment, he would be mustered out of the United States Army.

Lewis F. Brest would return to Mercer County after the end of the War and here pursued the quiet life of a civilian. He would marry, Margaret J. Hummel, and live the rest of his life with the effects of his wounds received in the defense of his beloved country. He was a member of the local 'Grand Army of the Republic' (GAR) Post in Mercer, Pa, enjoying the company of his comrades of old. On the 2nd day of December, 1915 at the age of 73 years, this hero of forgotten battlefields died at the home of his daughter. In the announcement of his death in the local newspapers, no mention was made of his distinguished service to his country in time of war, or of his being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Private Brest was buried in Citizen's Cemetery in Mercer, Pa. in a grave donated by the local GAR Post, with a headstone which simply read; Prvt. Lewis F. Brest 57th Pa. Infantry.

On May 30, 1997 'Memorial Day', the members of the Western Pennsylvania Civil War Reenactors Society, Mercer County Historical Society, planned a special Dedication Ceremony for this important part of our American Heritage. Through their efforts the United States Government awarded Private Lewis F. Brest a new memorial headstone, that has engraved upon it in gold; Lewis F. Brest 'Medal of Honor' Pvt Co 'D' 57 Pa Inf. May 15, 1842 Dec 2, 1915

Also in October 2000 for the first time in over 90 years the 'Soldier and Sailors Memorial Hall' in Pittsburgh, Pa. inducted Lewis F. Brest as one of the newest member into their prestigious 'Hall of Valor'. This was also the first time that a Veteran outside of Allegheny County had been honored in this manner. Members of the Western Pa.Civil War Reenactors Society were invited to take part in the ceremony and to accept the award on behalf of Private Brest and Mercer County. Now the veteran who had been laid to rest without any recognition of his personal contribution to our American History has been finally recognized as one of Mercer Counties most illustrious Sons.

Source: Biography taken from the Dedication Ceremony Program MCHS, Submitted by Timothy Bennett

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