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WILLIS, LEONIDAS M. (1831–1899). Leonidas ("Lee") M. Willis, businessman and Confederate officer, was born in Huntsville, Alabama, on September 11, 1831, to Joshua Willis and Martha Hall. Willis became an orphan at the age of two and was raised by foster parents who moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1847. In 1852 Willis relocated to Texas and settled in Gonzales County and worked as a district clerk for the county. He married Caroline Jane Mooney in Gonzales County on November 26, 1857. The couple had three sons and two daughters.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Willis, who owned five slaves, volunteered for service with the Confederacy and raised a cavalry company in the spring of 1862. This unit was incorporated in Waul's Texas Legion which was then forming at Brenham in Washington County. Willis himself joined Waul's Legion as major in command of one of the unit's two cavalry battalions and received a promotion to lieutenant colonel on September 26, 1862. In the autumn of 1862, Waul's Texas Legion was assigned to Arkansas and Louisiana. There, it was stripped of its cavalry and artillery components, and Willis's unit became Willis's Battalion Texas Cavalry.

Willis participated in numerous actions, including the battle of Vicksburg where he was captured on July 4, 1863. After receiving parole, Willis reorganized his battalion and served along the Mississippi River for most of the remainder of the war. He resigned as lieutenant colonel on February 4, 1865, three months before his unit surrendered in Alabama in May.

Following the end of the war, Willis returned briefly to Texas before moving to Salem, Oregon, in 1871. There, he bought property and established himself in the dry goods, hardware, and real estate business and worked as the city's fire inspection agent in 1880. Leonidas Willis died on April 10, 1899, and was buried in Pioneer Cemetery, Salem, Marion County, Oregon.


Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Records Service, Washington. Field Officers Serving in Texas Confederate Regiments (, accessed April 14, 2011. Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861–1865, Volume 2, FRIDAY, September 26, 1862 (, April 14, 2011.

Aragorn Storm Miller

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Aragorn Storm Miller, "WILLIS, LEONIDAS M.," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed December 01, 2015. Uploaded on April 21, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.