Isaac Avery’s Dying Words at Gettysburg

The letter that Isaac Avery wrote to his father, now held by the State Archives

The letter that Isaac Avery wrote to his father, now held by the State Archives

On July 3, 1863, 34-year-old Lt. Colonel Isaac E. Avery of the 6th North Carolina State Troops died from mortal wounds received the previous day. Shot in the neck and partially paralyzed during the Battle of Gettysburg, the Burke County native was unable to speak.

Avery fell alone while leading his men in an attack on Cemetery Hill. He had taken command of Hoke’s brigade after Hoke, himself, was wounded at Chancellorsville. Avery was the only man mounted and, once found, was carried from the field. Clutched in his hand was a small bloodstained piece of paper which has become one of the treasures of the State Archives of North Carolina.

Though right handed, he was forced to write with his left because of paralysis. His letter said, “Major, tell my father that I died with my face to the enemy. IE Avery”. Major Samuel McDowell Tate, a friend from Burke County to whom the message was addressed, remained with Avery until he died. The short letter contains words long on duty and sentiment and has been featured in many books and documentaries about the Civil War.  It has become known as the “Letter from the Dead.”

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5 responses to “Isaac Avery’s Dying Words at Gettysburg”

  1. Ken Harbit says :

    Reblogged this on Historical & Cultural Topics.

  2. F. Raymer says :

    The dedication exemplified in this note speaks volumes. Southern pride is under such attack by an ignorant (and I don’t mean that in an insulting way), uninformed population in today’s sheltered & historically censored society. So many thousands of Southerners would not have gone to such lengths to face such suffering & likely death, only to protect the rights of wealthy slave owners. They were fighting for a way of life near & dear to their hearts, & to quell the efforts of a bloated federal government tying their hands. My own great, great grandfather was captured here, & later died at the infamous, horribly inhumane POW camp at Point Lookout. This letter touches my heart.

    • C. Hoggrd says :

      I couldn’t agree more with you. Southern pride still exists, but its not politically correct to display it these days. I had two relatives both great, great uncles who fought one at Picketts charge in Gettysburg, and one in the battle of the wilderness. I am very proud of my heritage and honor their service.

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