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Little is know about William Augustus Douglas Durnett prior to his entry into military service, but research is ongoing to determine when and where he was born.

Private William Augustus Douglas Durnett was a member of Company A, 1st Regiment of Cavalry, California Volunteers, enlisting on August 12, 1861 in San Francisco, California under the name William A. Durnett and being mustered into the unit on August 16, 1861.  His company was formed in San Francisco and then marched to Camp Carlton, near San Bernadino, California, arriving there for desert acclimatization until the end of February 1862.  They then marched, as part of Carlton's Column, across the Arizona desert from March to July 1862, pacifying outlaws and Indians along the way.  Next they marched across New Mexico to Las Cruces, New Mexico, just north of El Paso, Texas, which was then called Franklyn, Texas, in December 1862.  Along the way, in October 1862, Durnett’s company had been harassed by bands of Mescalero Apache Indians, some of whom they captured.  In January 1863, along with Company D, and led by Colonel Kit Carson, they captured the war band of the Apache Chief Mangus Colorado, and  he and his men were confined; but Mangus Colorado was shot while attempting to escape.

Less than one month later, on February 24, 1863, Private Durnett deserted and was never heard of again by the American military. His unit, in February 1863 was then in Los Francisco, New Mexico, and it is from there he is believe to have deserted.

Sometime within the next fifteen years William, for reasons known only to him, migrated to New Zealand, as William Augustus Durnett then appeared in the marriage register of St. John's Presbyterian Church on Willis Street in Wellington, New Zealand. On August 2, 1878 Durnett was married to Elizabeth Mary Hewison, who was 26 years of age, by Rev. James Paterson at his home. Durnett was then 39 years of age and employed as a “Soap Boiler”. Witnesses to their marriage were Alfred Glass and Jessie McKenzie. Nothing more is known, at present, relating to Durnett until his death.

William Augustus  Douglas Durnett died at age 67 on December 10, 1905 at number 4 Nelson Street in Karori, New Zealand.  He was buried in the Karori Cemetery  near Wellington,  in an unmarked grave; plot 36 L PUBLIC2, purchased by Mrs. E. French; located near a place where the Soldiers Walk and the Penguin Walk meet. On July 12, 1939 William’s wife Mary at the age of 84 also died and was buried with him in Karori Cemetery.


Bill Davies, Library Director, California State Military Museum, Sacramento, Calif.

Frances Sutton, Karori Historical Society, Karori, Wellington

Jan Heynes, Karori, New Zealand

Margaret Camac, descendant, New Zealand

National Archives, Microfilm Collection, Film Number M533, roll 2

Siobhan King, Wellington City Archives


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