Written by Joe W. Avery; edited by Cheri Todd Molter
Twenty-one-year-old Henry Harrison Avery, son of James and Elizabeth Hollingsworth Brown Avery of Morganton, North Carolina, enlisted on April 25, 1861, as a private in Company G of the North Carolina 1st Volunteers Infantry, also known as the “Burke Rifles.” The captain was Henry’s second cousin, Clark Moulton Avery. It is sad to say that Henry did not live long after enlisting: He died on August 7, 1861, after having fought at Yorktown, Virginia, on June 10, 1861.
His mother, Elizabeth Avery, received this letter of condolence:
“Mrs. Avery, Yorktown, August 7th, 1861
Dear Lady, It is with sorrow I write to you about the sickness and death of your dear son, of which you will have heard before this reaches you. I offered and your son requested me to write to you. My attention was first called to your son about 2 weeks ago by Lieut. Dickson. Since that time I have nursed him all I possibly could, giving him gruel, soups, jelly, and bathing his face and hands with cold water. He seemed very grateful for any attention and frequently spoke of your attention to him and his sisters during sicknesses at home. His breast pained him from coughing so much, so at Mrs. Col. Lee’s suggestion I greased a flannel cloth and put it on his breast which he liked. Yesterday morning when I saw him, he was very nervous and asked me if I thought he was going to die. I then thought him much better and told him so. He asked if I would have his feet bathed at night. I told him yes, if the Dr. said to. Mrs. Lee and myself stayed with him some time and talked and cheered him up very much, then left him more quiet. Afterward I went back and gave him some gruel with brandy in it, which he said he did not want, but ate a little. After [supper] I took him a roasted apple and, meeting Dr. Hines coming from his bed, I asked if he should eat some of it & also if he should have his feet bathed. The Dr. replied he may eat it if he will, and you can bathe his feet, but you must not bother him as he is very low. I offered him the apple, but he said he didn’t want it & took his hand and asked me to sit down and talk to him, to stay with him an hour. He drew me close to him and said in a low voice, ‘Mrs. Gibbon, pray for me,’ I asked him if he thought he was going to die & what I should tell you for him, He said, ‘I’d like you to write to her.’ He asked me if I was a Christian, I trusted so, then he said, ‘comfort me, where two or three are gathered you know,’ I told him our Bishop was here would he like to see him. He said, ‘Yes.’ I asked him if he was a member of the church. He said he was, and I asked if he believed in Christ. He said he did but had not taken the communion because he did not understand about it. I went and brought the Bishop to him and he talked and comforted him much. Then we prayed together for him, and then left him to go to the camp to have preaching. As I returned the nurse told me he had been quiet since we left him. He was lying still & I asked him if he felt better. He smiled. I told him good night and he took my hand and said, ‘Goodbye,’ and his Dr told me he died about three o’clock this morning. It is sad, very sad, for you, but be comforted he has escaped from a wicked world and many temptations, has done his duty (as his officers, tell me) faithfully. He is exempted from hardship and severe trial, has died young & I have not a doubt, is happy. I have just seen his bright face, now calm and still in death. God bless and comfort you and all dear to him. Very respectfully, C. Gibbon”
The body of Henry Harrison Avery reached his family by wagon, and he was buried on August 11, 1861. He was the first family member to be buried in the Canoe Hill Family Cemetery. His stone reads: “Here lies The Mortal remains of Henry Harrison Avery A private in the Bethel Regiment Who died at Yorktown, Va. August 7, 1861.”