17 March 2013

The Civil War - 17 March 1863

During the 1862-1863 winter, the Union and Confederate calvarys broke up the dull cold winter camp life with  many raids and skirmishes. The Confederate Calvary generally performed better than the Union Calvary. Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart's men were simply better and more experienced riders. Until 17 March 1863 that is. Today - at  Kelly's Ford, Virginia - was the largest these skirmishes.

On 17 March, Union cavalry officer William W. Averell forced a crossing at Kelly's Ford. He drove back the counterattacks of Fitzhugh Lee. This forced the Confederate cavalry back several miles. Confederate artillerist John Pelham was killed during the skrimish.  Averell, despite a win being within reach, lost his nerve and withdrew. Despite Averell's actions, the battle showed that the Union cavalry was a force to be noted and respected.

Many of the soldiers in the Civil War - despite being on different sides - knew each other. Brothers fought brothers and schoolmates found themselves on different sides as well. Like many others, Averell and Lee were friends from West Point. Lee incidently was the nephew of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Averell had served in outposts in the west, attended Cavalry School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and fought Native Americans in the southwest for two years, prior to the Civil War. He graduated West Point in 1855 and was assigned to Fort McIntosh in Texas. By December 1855 he was assigned to the Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania under the command of C A May. He remained there in 1857 when he was transfered out West again.

He was commissioned an officer in Company S, Pennsylvania 3rd Cavalry Regiment on 12 Oct 1861. The following fall, on 26 September 1862, he was promoted to Full Brig-General, mustered out, and then commissioned an officer in the U.S. Volunteers General Staff Infantry Regiment all on that same day.
In 1863 - on this very day - he was promoted to Brevet Major. He was promoted several time until finally being promoted to Brevet Major-Gen on 13 Mar 1865 before mustering out a few days later. 

On a personal note, Averell was born 5 November 1832 in Cameron, Steuben County. According to a researcher on Ancestry.com (I could find no immediate documentation to confirm or deny) the General was married to English-born Kezia HAYWARD on 24 September 1885. It was her second marriage and she had two children in that first marriage. He died in Bath, New York on 3 February 1900.

William and Kezia had no children of their own. He did however have at least one sister: Lucy Lovinia Averell. Lucy married George Washington Henica. They had a daughter, Frederica Kezia Henica, born 20 August 1871.

  • Ancestry.com. Web: New York, Find A Grave Index, 1660-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Find A Grave. Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi: accessed 1 February 2013.
  • Civil War Trust. http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/kelly-s-ford.html 
  • Historical Data Systems, comp.. U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.
  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Returns from U.S. Military Posts, 1800-1916; Microfilm Serial: M617; Microfilm Roll: 183.

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