Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Gone for Soldiers: John Warren Avery (1835 - 1900), Soldier, C.S.A.

Born on October 16, 1835, in Winston County, Mississippi, John Warren Avery was the next to last child of Samuel L. Avery and his wife Mary Thornton.

John was 17 in 1853 when his father died without having made a will, so he and his younger sister Frances were given a court-appointed guardian during probate. Although Samuel had steadily increased his wealth over the years, his estate wasn't large enough to guarantee an easy life for his 12 surviving children.

John married Celestine Letitia Herrod in 1857 and in the 1860 U.S. Census the couple were living in the household of a wealthy farmer in Dark Corner Beat in Holmes County, Mississippi, and there's no indication that either of them owned any real or personal property and no children are listed.

[ 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: 1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.]

John and several of his cousins enlisted as privates in Company D* of the 35th Mississippi Infantry Regiment Volunteers on March 3, 1862, for a term of three years. The first surviving record we have of him as a soldier has him listed as "Present Sick."

[Source: Fold3]

The 35th Mississippi fought in the Battle of Corinth on October 3-4, 1862. The regiment's losses in this Union victory were 32 killed, 110 wounded, and 347 missing but John wasn't one of them.

[Battle of Corinth--Oct 3 & 4 1862--Union (Gen. Rosecrans). Loss: Gen. Hackleman, Kirby Smith ... Conf. (Gen. Van Dorn). Loss: Col. Rogers ...Contributor Names: Kurz & Allison. Created / Published: c1891. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. ]

On December 5, 1862, John was captured at Water Valley near Coffeeville, Mississippi, by Union troops under General Grant and sent to the Alton Federal Military Prison where he arrived on January 10, 1863. He was exchanged at City Point, Virginia, on April 1st.

[From the website Alton In the Civil War]

[ U.S., Civil War Prisoner of War Records, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Records of the Commissary General of Prisoners, Record Group 249; National Archives, Washington, D.C.Selected Records of the War Department Relating to Confederate Prisoners of War, 1861-1865; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M598, 145 rolls).]

[City Point, Virginia. Railroad yard and transports,  Forms part of Civil War glass negative collection.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.]

Although the 35th Mississippi Regiment was part of the Confederate troops defending Vicksburg during Grant's siege of 1863, John's name isn't on the list of paroled soldiers and it appears that he was on leave after his release from Alton.**

[Source: Fold3]

By the end of the year John was back with his regiment (which had been reorganized after the Confederate surrender of Vickburg on July 4th), but in May of 1864 he spent nearly a month in the C.S.A. Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi.

[Source: Fold3]

[Source: Fold3]

The 35th Mississippi took part in the Atlanta Campaign from May through September, 1864, during which the Confederate Army vainly tried to halt the advance of Union forces commanded by General William T. Sherman. After they were compelled to evacuate Atlanta during the night of September 1-2, Confederate General John Bell Hood ordered his men to destroy tracks along the Western & Atlantic Railroad that was bringing supplies into Atlanta from the north. After some early successes, on October 5th Confederate troops, including the 35th Mississippi, attempted to block Allatoona Pass, capture the large amount of rations stored near there and destroy the bridge at Etowah. In the bloody battle that ensued the Rebels were unable to overpower the Union defenses and according to William T. Lewis, author of The Centennial History of Winston County, MS. (1876), Private John W.Avery was wounded and captured there.

[Atlas to accompany the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Published under the direction of the Hons. Redfield Proctor, Stephen B. Elkins and Daniel S. Lamont, secretaries of war, by Maj. George B. Davis, U.S. Army, Mr. Leslie J. Perry, civilian expert, Mr. Joseph W. Kirkley, civilian expert, Board of Publication. Compiled by Capt. Calvin D. Cowles, 23d U.S. Infantry. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1891-1895. Source: David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.]

[Detail of another section of the above map showing Allatoona and Etowah]

[Allatoona Pass, looking south (1861-1864 / Barnard, George N., 1819-1902, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.]

[Battle of Allatoona Pass / Artist: Thure de Thulstrup (1848-1930). Creator(s): L. Prang & Co., Date Created/Published: Boston : L. Prang, c1887 Dec. 19. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.]

I have not found any military records for John after Allatoona so we don't know where he was held as a P.O.W. but we have an overview of his wartime service from his indigent 80-year-old widow Celestine's pension application in 1916 which stated his regiment was paroled at Citronelle, Alabama, on May 4, 1865, the date of the last surrender of the Confederate Army east of the Mississippi.***

Although my great great grandfather John Warren Avery's father Samuel had been a relatively successful planter, John was a poor man going into the war and he remained poor the rest of his life.**** Based on information from post-war census records, he worked as a farm laborer for others. There's no suggestion that he ever owned any land himself.

Further resources:
Overview of Mississipians in the Civil War here.
Company D, (Fort Donelson Avengers), 35th Regiment, Mississippi Infantry here [PDF]
More on the Battle of Alatoona here.
Watch a lecture on Civil War POWs:

[Dan Welch of the Gettysburg Foundation presents his Winter Lecture at Gettysburg National Military Park, 2014]

*They called themselves "The Fort Donelson Avengers" in response to the previous month's unconditional surrender of that Tennessee fort to Union troops commanded by Brigadier General U.S. Grant.
**His second child, daughter Lilla , was born in 1864 so John must have spent time at home recovering his health before returning to the army.
***Prisoner exchanges had been halted in early 1864, it's almost certain he remained in a military prison until after the surrender.
****Historically the Averas/Averys appear to have been a well-to-do family. Samuel's brother Henry William Avery was worth nearly $100,000 in 1860 and he will still wealthy at his death in 1873 when he left his estate to be divided equally among his seven siblings and their heirs. While some of his heirs received substantial amounts of money because Samuel had had so many children, John's share came to $87.50 out of which he had to pay the lawyer he hired to act on his behalf. But we do have his signature from the power of attorney he signed.

["Alabama Estate Files, 1830-1976," database with images, <i>FamilySearch</i> ( : accessed 2 March 2016), Bibb &gt; Avery, Henry, Sr. image 36 of 149; county courthouses, Alabama.]

© 2016 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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