William Woods Avenil

William Woods Averell was born on November 5, 1832, in the village of Cameron, New York. In his youth he worked as a drug clerk in the nearby county seat of Bath. He was appointed to West Point in 1851 and was graduated in four years, ranking in the lower third of his class. Averell's antebellum army career included garrison duty at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri; a tour at the Cavalry School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania; and two years of rugged service against the southwestern Indians, during which he was severely wounded and invalided from 1859 until the outbreak of the Civil War. As acting assistant adjutant general to General Andrew Porter, Averell took part in the battle of First Manassas and was then commissioned colonel of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry. He participated in the Peninsular campaign as commander of a brigade; in the campaign which culminated at Sharpsburg; at Fredericksburg, in December, 1862; and in various skirmishes of the mounted branch of the Army of the Potomac. His 2nd Cavalry Division won the first claimed victory of the Federal horse over the Confederates at Kelly's Ford, Virginia, in March, 1863—an action said to have been the turning point of cavalry fighting in the Eastern theater. Meanwhile he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers on September 26, 1862. After taking part in George Stoneman's famous but ill-starred raid on Richmond during the campaign of Chancellorsville, Averell was employed in minor operations in western Virginia until Philip Sheridan's Shenandoah campaign. At the end of the war he was brevetted brigadier and major general, U. S. Army, and resigned on May 18, 1865. He served as United States consul general to British North America (French Canada) from 1866 until 1869, and then invented a number of devices which rendered him financially independent. He died at Bath, New York, February 3, 1900, and was buried there.

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Reference:  Generals in Blue.  Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Louisiana State University Press.  Baton Rouge.