Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Col. Isaac E. Avery - 6th NCST

Folks - I had a reader send me a couple of days ago this piece about the marking of the grave of Col. Isaac E. Avery of the 6th North Carolina State Troops. Averyw as from Burke County, North Carolina, and penned the famous "I died with my face towards the enemy" from the fields of Gettysburg.

This article is from The Herald-Mail

Sunday November 4, 2007Family pays its last respects to Rebel soldier who was a hero

After 34-year-old Col. Isaac Erwin Avery was shot and died during the Battle of Gettysburg, his slave, Elijah, set off on a journey south to return Avery to Swan Ponds plantation in Morganton, N.C., his native soil.

As Avery’s body began to decompose, Elijah reconsidered his plan and buried Avery in Williamsport overlooking the Potomac River. Unbeknownst to his family, Avery’s body eventually was moved to Hagerstown along with thousands of other Confederate soldiers.

Avery’s family brought his native soil to him Saturday during a tombstone dedication ceremony at Rose Hill Cemetery.

For years the Avery family had been unable to locate the colonel’s remains, Civil War enthusiast and writer Richard Clem said.

Research done by Clem, 67, of Hagerstown, determined Avery’s final resting place and was the basis for a story he wrote for The Washington Times in March.

"After I wrote the article, I put the paper between my folded hands and prayed it would end up in the hands of the right people," Clem said Saturday morning. By the blessing of God that we are here this morning.

Isaac Avery’s fourth cousin, Civil War re-enactor Bruce Avery, 52, of Stevensville, Md., read Clem’s article and called him.

Bruce Avery said the mystery was solved after all these years. He said, "We need to put a stone on that grave," Clem said.

Clem provided documentation of Avery’s Hagerstown burial to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which furnished and inscribed the marker free of charge.

More than 30 people were present for the dedication, including Clem, members of the Avery family and Civil War re-enactors from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

It was a crisp and sunny morning as Bruce Avery stood in the grass facing the ground-level marker. Avery acknowledged Clem for his efforts, then spent several minutes sharing an account of Isaac Avery’s life and service. At times, Bruce became choked up and paused to regain his composure. He said Isaac Avery’s military superiors had recommended his promotion to general, but his career was cut short by death.

Bruce’s friend and fellow re-enactor, Michael Hendricks of Virginia Beach, Va., read a letter written by Maj. Samuel Tate, Isaac Avery’s friend, following Avery’s death. Mary Ann Avery, Bruce’s wife, read an excerpt from Shelby Foote’s The Civil War " A Narrative.

"Ken Avery, 55, of Annapolis, Bruce’s brother, blessed the grave and sprinkled it with soil from Swan Ponds, the Avery plantation in North Carolina.

"May all who visit in the future know this is hallowed and sacred ground," Ken Avery said.

As the ceremony concluded, 5-year-old Christopher Avery, Bruce’s son, placed a wreath on the marker.

It’s sad for the family when you don’t know where a soldier is buried. It tore (Isaac Avery’s father apart not knowing, Mary Ann Avery said. It’s important to have him marked with soil from his home state. He is still under North Carolina soil after today.

Ken Avery said it meant a lot to finally identify his ancestor’s final resting place."We are direct descendants. He was a hero to the cause of the South," Ken Avery said. "This helps us bring some closure to this little piece of our family history."

Bruce Avery said as a Civil War re-enactor for nearly 20 years, he was especially pleased to honor his family’s history.

"I know the family story behind Isaac. It’s an honor for me to have gotten this done," Bruce Avery said. "Hopefully, he’s up there looking down and smiling."

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