William Waightstill Avery (1816 - 1864)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Swan Ponds, Burke, NC
Death: Died in Morganton, NC
Cause of death: mortally wounded in a skirmish with Tennessee Unionists
Managed by: Steven Kelley
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About William Waightstill Avery

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Waightstill_Avery

William Waightstill Avery (1816–1864) was a North Carolina politician and lawyer. Born in Burke County, North Carolina, he was the brother of Isaac E. Avery, the son of Isaac Thomas Avery, and the grandson of Waightstill Avery. In 1846, Avery married Mary Corinna Morehead, the daughter of Gov. John Motley Morehead.

A Democrat, Avery served in the North Carolina House of Commons and later in the North Carolina Senate, where he was elected Speaker in 1856. In 1858, he ran for Congress but a split among the Democrats led to a victory by Zebulon B. Vance.

After North Carolina seceded from the union in 1861, Avery was chosen to represent the state in the Provisional Confederate Congress. Then, he returned to Burke County to raise a regiment for the Confederate States Army. He died in Morganton from wounds received in a skirmish with a party of Tennessee Unionists in 1864.

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William Waightstill Avery was born May 25, 1816. William married Corrina M. Morehead, the daughter of John Motley Morehead, the Governor of North Carolina. Avery became a lawyer and a senator. At Marion, N.C. in the fall of 1851, Avery was beaten with a cowhide whip by Samuel Fleming, a merchant from Burnsville, who was a participant in a lawsuit in which Avery Appeared as legal counsel for Ephraim Greenlee. Avery was unarmed and a smaller man than Fleming. He could not defend himself. Several weeks later Fleming came to Morganton bragging of his courage and making unpleasant comments about Avery. When Fleming appeared in the courtroom and stood five feet from Avery and near the presiding judge, Avery shot Fleming dead where he stood. Avery was brought to trial for murder but was acquitted on the grounds of extreme provocation leading to temporary insanity. Avery remained popular in the world of politics and law.

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From Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina and Eminent North Carolinians :

Electronic Edition.

Wheeler, John H. (John Hill), 1806-1882.

William Waightstill Avery was born at Swan Ponds, in Burke County, on the 25th of May, 1816. He was the oldest child of Colonel Isaac T. Avery and Harriet E. Avery. His father was the only son of Waightstill Avery, and his mother was the eldest daughter of William W. Erwin, and a granddaughter of William Sharpe.

There were, during his boyhood, no classical schools in the Piedmont region equal to Bingham and others in the central counties, and on attempting to enter college, in the year 1832, W. W. Avery found that he was not thoroughly prepared in the ancient languages. He remained at Chapel Hill during the vacation and prosecuted his studies under the instruction of the late Dr. Mitchell and Abram Morehead, Esq., then a tutor, and so faithfully did he apply himself that in one year he stood at the head of his class, and graduated with the first honors in 1837 in same class with Perrin Busbee, Peter W. Hairston, Pride Jones and others.

He studied law with Judge Gaston and was licensed to practice in the Superior Courts in 1838.

He was from boyhood an ardent admirer of Mr. Calhoun, and naturally became a Statesrights Democrat. He was unsuccessful as a candidate for the Legislature in 1840; but in 1842 was elected as a Democrat from Burke County, though Governor Morehead, the Whig candidate for Governor, carried the county by a very large majority.

He had a large and lucrative practice as a lawyer, and did not appear again actively as a politician till the year 1850. In May, 1846, he was married to Corinna M. Morehead, a daughter of the late Governor Morehead. She is still living.

He served afterwards in the House of Commons, as a member from Burke, in 1850 and 1852.

In 1856 he was chairman of the North Carolina delegation in the National Democratic Convention that nominated President Buchanan, and during the same year was elected to

He was chosen Speaker of the State Senate.

In 1858 he was a candidate for Congress, to fill the vacancy made by the appointment of Hon. T. L. Clingman as United States Senator. Colonel David Coleman, who was also a Democrat, opposed him, and after they had canvassed a large portion of the district, Hon. Z. B. Vance announced himself a candidate, and Colonel Coleman withdrew; but the district had given Mr. Buchanan a very small majority, and the dissension was such that Vance was elected.

In 1860, W. W. Avery was again chairman of the North Carolina delegation in the National Convention at Charleston, and seceded with the southern wing of the party that afterwards nominated Mr. Breckenridge. During the same year he was again elected to the State Senate, and declined the nomination for Speaker in favor of his friend H. T. Clark, who become Governor after the death of Governor Ellis. After the election of Mr. Lincoln he was an avowed secessionist, and strongly urged the call of a convention during the winter of 1860 and 1861.

After the State seceded on the 20th of May, 1861, he was elected by the Convention as one of the members from the State at large of the Provisional Congress. He served in that body until the Provisional Government was succeeded by the permanent government, provided for in the Constitution adopted in 1861. He was a member and chairman on the Committee on Military Affairs.

A majority of the Democrats in the Legislature of 1861 voted for Mr. Avery for Senator in the Congress of the Confederate States; but a large minority supported Hon. T. L. Clingman, while the Whigs voted for a candidate from their own party. After balloting for several weeks the friends of the two candidates compromised by electing Hon. W. T. Dortch.

After the expiration of his term in Congress in 1862, he returned to his home with authority from the President to raise a regiment; but was prevented from carrying out his purpose by the earnest protests of his aged father and four brothers, who were already in active service. They insisted that he was beyond the age for service, and it was his duty to his family and country to remain at home.

He was an earnest and active supporter of the Confederate cause, and contributed liberally to the government and for the maintenance of the families of soldiers.

In 1864 an incursion was made by a party of so-called Unionists from Tennessee, commanded by Colonel Kirk, who afterwards gained a very unenviable notoriety in North Carolina. This party, after surprising and capturing a small body of conscripted boys in Burke County, retreated towards Tennessee. Mr. Avery with a body of North Carolina militia pursued the party, and in attacking the retreating forces at a strong position in the mountains, was mortally wounded. He was removed to his home in Morganton, where he died on the 3d day of July, 1864.

In all the relations of life he was distinguished for his kindness and affability, and his unselfish love for the comfort and happiness of others. No man has been more missed and lamented by the community in which he lived, and his aged father, (then in his eightieth year,) went down to his grave sorrowing for the loss of this the third son who had fallen in battle within one year.

William Waightstill Avery died July 3,1864 from wounds he received on the Winding Stairs about 20 miles from Morganton when the 1st Regiment N.C. Troops were overtaken by Kirk's raiders. He is buried in Morganton. His brother Col. Isaac Erwin was killed exactly one year before, July 3, 1863 at Gettysburg. Avery lead the attack of Cemetery Hill on a white horse, the only mounted man of the command. He was struck by a ball at the base of the neck and fell from the saddle. As he lay among the wounded and dying, he brought out paper and pencil and wrote in uncertain letters to his aide, Captain McPherson. "Major tell my father I died with my face to the enemy, I. E. Avery." The original note is now in the North Carolina State Archives. His body was brought by his faithful servant, Elijah, in a cart to Williamsport where it was buried. After the war, overzealous Confederates moved the body to a Confederate Cemetery, but the location has never been found. A third brother, Clark Moulton Avery was several times wounded. After being wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness, and lying on a litter, he was again hit in the body, neck and arm which was shattered by a minie ball. His arm was amputated and he was moved to the Orange County Courthouse where he was nursed until his death from infection six weeks later on June 18, 1864. His body was eventually brought back to Morganton for burial. A fourth brother, Willoughby Francis, was wounded at Sharpsburg, Gettysburg and seriously at Spotsylvania. Only a skillful operation saved him there. When the war ended he was 22 years old and plagued by his crippling wounds. He survived the war only eleven years. The four boys father, Isaac Thomas, seemed to give up his will to live at the news of the death of his third son. Isaac Avery died the last day of December1864.

Before William Waightstill's death at Winding Stair, he had a son born on his plantation in Mitchell County. His name was also William Waightstill and he was born September 3, 1863. He became an inventor, manufacturer, miner and farmer. Before his death, he had a son also named William Waightstill, born in Plumtree in 1914. He also became a miner and farmer. His son William Waightstill, Jr. became the Avery County Extension Agent and a vital part of the Avery County Community.

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William Waightstill Avery (CSA)'s Timeline

1816
May 25, 1816
Swan Ponds, Burke, NC
1846
May 27, 1846
Age 30
Greensboro, Guilford, North Carolina, United States
1848
November 6, 1848
Age 32
Morgantown, North Carolina, United States
1850
October 27, 1850
Age 34
Morgantown, North Carolina, United States
1855
February 6, 1855
Age 38
Morgantown, North Carolina, United States
1858
January 28, 1858
Age 41
Morgantown, North Carolina, United States
1860
November 23, 1860
Age 44
Morgantown, North Carolina, United States
1863
September 3, 1863
Age 47
Morgantown, North Carolina, United States
1864
July 3, 1864
Age 48
Morganton, NC
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Morganton, Burke, North Carolina, United States