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Averill, William woods, 1832-

Military officer; born in Cameron, N. Y., Nov. 5, 1832; was graduated at West Point in 1855. Entering the Mounted Rifles. he distinguished himself in New Mexico by the surprise and capture of a body of Indians. In that warfare he was severely wounded. Soon after the breaking out of the Civil War he was chosen colonel of a regiment of Pennsylvania cavalry, and became brigadier-general of volunteers in September. 1862. He had taken an active part in the battles on the Peninsula and in Pope's campaign in July and August, 1862. He reinforced Pleasonton in the advance after the battle of Antietam, and was afterwards very active in Virginia, especially in the mountain regions, in 1863. [238]

There had been comparative quiet in that region after the close of 1861 until the summer and fall of 1863, when General Averill, with a cavalry force, made extensive raids in that mountainous country. Before the close of that year he had nearly purged western Virginia of armed Confederates, and seriously interrupted railway communication between the

William woods Averill.

armies of Lee and Bragg. Col. John Tolland had led a cavalry raid in these mountain regions in July, 1863. He made a descent upon Wytheville, on the Virginia and Tennessee Railway, where his force was roughly handled by Confederates. Tolland was killed, and his command returned to the Kanawha. In a ride of about 400 miles, during eight days. they had suffered much, and lost eighty-two men and 300 horses. A little later General Averill started from Tygart's Valley: passed through several counties southward: drove Confederates over Warm Spring Mountains; destroyed saltpetre-works: menaced Staunton; and was confronted by a large force of Gen. S. Jones's command. near White Sulphur Springs, where a conflict for Rock Gap occurred, and lasted a greater part of Aug. 26 and 27. Averill was repulsed. and made his way back to Tygart's Valley, having lost 207 men and a Parrott gun, which burst during the fight. The Confederates lost 156 men. Much later in the year Averill made another aggressive movement. He left Beverly early in November with 5,000 men of all arms, and moved southward, driving Confederates under Gen. “Mudwall” (W. S.) Jackson to a post on the top of Droop Mountain, in Greenbrier county; stormed them (Nov. 6, 1863), and drove them into Monroe county, with a loss of over 300 men, three guns, and 700 small-arms. Averill's loss was about 100 men.

West Virginia was now nearly free of armed Confederates, and Averill started, in December, with a strong force of Virginia mounted infantry, Pennsylvania cavalry. and Ewing's battery, to destroy railway communications between the armies of Lee in Virginia and Bragg in Tennessee. He crossed the mountains amid ice and snow. and first struck the Virginia and Tennessee Railway at Salem, on the headwaters of the Roanoke River, where he destroved the station-house, rolling-stock, and Confederate supplies. Also, in the course of six hours his troops tore up the track, heated and ruined the rails, burned five bridges, and destroyed several culverts over the space of 15 miles. This raid aroused all the Confederates of the mountain region, and seven separate commands were arranged in a line extending from Staunton to Newport to intercept the raider. He dashed through this line at Covington in the face of some opposition, destroyed the bridges behind him, and one of his regiments, which had been cut off from the rest, swam the stream and joined the others, with the loss of four men drowned. Averill captured during the raid about 200 men. “My command,” he said in his report (Dec. 21, 1863), “has marched, climbed, slid, and swam 340 miles since the 8th inst.” He reported a loss of six men drowned, five wounded, and ninety missing.

He performed gallant service under Hunter, Sigel, and Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864; and was brevetted major-general of volunteers in March, 1865. The same year he resigned his commission of captain in the regular army. He was consul-general at Montreal in 1866-69. In 1888, by special act of Congress, he was reappointed a captain in the army, and soon afterwards was retired. He died in Bath, N. Y., Feb. 3, 1900.

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