Isaac Avery’s Dying Words at Gettysburg
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.”
Other related resources:
- The digitized version of the “Letter from the Dead” online in the Digital Collections of the State Archives and State Library
- Images of the Civil War from the State Archives
- The Civil War on NCpedia
- The North Civil War Experience from N.C. Historic Sites
- North Carolina and the Civil War from the N.C. Museum of History
- The North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee
- North Carolina as a Civil War Battleground from N.C. Historical Publications
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