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George Wilson, who later became known as George Wilson Edwards, was born as George Wilson on January 3, 1843 in it is believed, Pithham, Kent, England; although it is said he often claimed to have been born in Carnarvon, Wales. George Wilson at different times used the aliases of E. Wilson and Wilson Edwards; possibly the name of a friend in England, also born in 1843. It is not known though, why he chose to use an alias. Pension records reveal that George arrived in the U.S. aboard a sailing barque, named the “Aurora”, from England, just before he enlisted; making his arrival to the U.S. mid to late 1861. The Aurora was a barque built in 1840, purchased from Norway in 1854, re-rigged as brig in 1855 and often transported passengers between England and the U.S..

George was said to have enlisted in the 6th New York Cavalry and was mustered into Company “I” on November 2, 1861. Before his death, George stated he had served at Gettysburg with the 6th New York Cavalry and had been wounded by one J. Hepburn of the Virginia Cavalry when Hepburn slashed him across the wrist with a saber. Research in the National Archives in Washington D.C. and in the Richmond, Virginia Archives though, has turned up no record of J. Hepburn; nor has any evidence been uncovered to specifically show that George served at Gettysburg. Nor is he listed on the Muster Rolls as George Wilson Edwards in Company I. There is a George Edwards listed, however, in Company B of the 6th Cavalry who enlisted on September 7, 1861; but the enlistment age is recorded as age 28, not at 18. There may be a reason for this, however. Much of the data at that time, especially relating to ages, was recorded in error for various reasons; and in all the regimental histories and accounts of the 6th Cavalry, the 6th Cavalry Regiment is discussed as a whole and on occasions there is a specific reference to the first eight companies, “I” through H”; the first to enlist and muster in, with the remaining four, I, K, L and M following. It must be assumed when the action of the regiment as a whole is discussed, relating to places and events the regiment were involved in, that all the companies were involved; even though they may not have been specifically named individually.

One cannot, without sufficient evidence, dismiss the personal testimony of a 6th Cavalry veteran who served and mustered out with the regiment and went on to draw a pension from the government he fought for. After all, he was there and many who wrote of the accounts of the regiment later, were in fact not present during the time. Some have stated that Company Muster Rolls reveal that George served as a bugler in Company I, 6th New York Cavalry Regiment, between September 1, 1864 and June 10, 1865, when he mustered out; but that has not been found to be the case. All we can say at this point is that evidence points to the fact that he served with the 6th Cavalry in some capacity.

The 6th New York Cavalry recruiting headquarters were at No. 4 Pine Street and the regiment was organized at Camp Scott and Camp Herndon on Staten Island, in New York City, to serve for a period of three years.  Its members were raised from the counties of New York, Dutchess, Columbia, Rensselaer, Washington, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Allegany, Broome, Monroe, and Steuben, and were mustered in from September 12th through December 19, 1861; Company "I" being mustered in on November 2nd. The regiment was also known as the Ira Harris Cavalry and as the Second Ira Harris Guard; after their benefactor, Senator Ira Harris. It Left New York State on December 23, 1861
under the regiment's first Colonel, Colonel Thomas C. Devin who was previously a New York City housepainter. Thomas C. Devin had been a skilled cavalryman in the State Militia and was specifically sought out by the War Department for his assignment with the New York 6th Cavalry.  Devin eventually rose in rank to command the brigade, then the Division itself as a Brevet Brigadier General. 

The regiment trained at Camp Scott on Staten Island, New York, where sanitary conditions so deplorable that recruits had to eat their daily meals standing up in a rough shed, open at one end.  In December the men protested the horrible conditions by destroying the cookhouse, vandalizing the commissary, and assaulting any officer who intervened;  continuing until Colonel Devin stepped in, waving his pair of Colt revolvers. On December 20, 1861, the regiment was ordered to York, Pennsylvania and two days before Christmas in 1861, left for Camp Scott some 20 miles east of Gettysburg.  There it was employed in building barracks and stables and received more training from superior officers. On March 6th the regiment moved to Perryville, Maryland where it served in guarding the depot and military stores of Washington D.C. until July 23, 1862. After that the regiment joined the Army of the Potomac, after General McClellan's Peninsula Campaign had ended.  

The regiment was engaged at the Spottsylvania Court House in Virginia, on April 30, 1863, but saw their most desperate action prior to the Battle of Gettysburg, at the epic cavalry battle at Brandy Station; on June 9, 1863.  Commanded by Major William E. Beardsley, the 6th and their 1st Cavalry Division under Brigadier General John Buford carried the entire first phase of the battle.  Records reveal they fought for a full 14 hours that day.  They also saw action at numerous other skirmishes and battles until the war’s end, including the Battle of Chancellorsville, the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Cold Harbor, Deep Bottom, the Battle of Winchester, Cedar Creek, the Appomattox Campaign, the Fall of Petersburg, Sailor's Creek, and the Appomattox Court House and the surrender of Lee and his army; before moving to Washington, D.C. and the Grand Review on May 23. 1865. George is said to have been discharged on June 10, 1865, at the expiration of his period of service.

New Jersey Archival Records also reveal that on November 6, 1865 Edwards was processed through the naturalization procedures at the Hudson City Courthouse in New Jersey, to become a U.S. citizen; afterwards returning to England, prior to 1871, before leaving England for Australia in 1885. Census records for County Kent, England for early 1861 lists George Wilson, born in 1843, which would coincide with George, as he enlisted about the time the 6th Cavalry was organized in September 1861; shortly after arriving in the U.S.. Census records for County Kent in 1871 also lists the same George Wilson, which would again coincide with George, as he returned to Kent County, England after becoming a naturalized American citizen in late 1865.

After arriving in Australia George at various times reported his occupation as being that of a cleric, an appraiser and an auctioneer. He lived in Sydney, New South Wales in 1890 and in the care of an individual named McPherson, at Berridale, New South Wales in 1902. He later lived at “Mayville”, Burwood in 1906, at “Wynnthrop, Bowral in 1912 and then moved to Coogee, New South Wales; where he resided until his death at the age of 97, on August 9, 1939.

George was said to have been a colorful Individual throughout his life and was well known in Sydney as the “Welsh Tiger”; being given a fifty line obituary in the “Sydney Morning Herald” newspaper when he died. He often spoke of having actually been at General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, said he had participated in the hunt for President Abraham Lincoln’s assassin and had personally shaken hands with Lincoln himself before his assassination. In any case, he was a colorful individual and always had a good yarn to entertain friends with.

Information taken from Edward’s pension papers and death certificate indicates he had been married no less than four times. He was married to Emily Taylor in London, England in 1873, to Laura Matilda Anderson at Bath, England in 1884, to Lorn Catherine McPherson at Sydney, New South Wales in 1909 and to Emily Elizabeth Brooks at Bondi, New South Wales in 1922. George had only one child, a son, with Laura Anderson. When he died he willed the sum of fifty pounds to his friend Florence Melville, wife of Edgar Pope Melville of Coogee, New South Wales and the remainder of his estate he left to Jean Whyte; daughter of Robert Whyte in Coogee. Apparently by that time he had become separated from Emily, and left her nothing. George Wilson “Edwards” died on August 9, 1939 and was cremated at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Adhering to his last wish, his ashes were scattered then in the rose garden. As such, no stone ever marked his final resting place.

 

Adjutant General's Office, “Official Army Register, 1861-1865”, United States Army

Adjutant General's Office. “Offical Army Register of the Volunteer Force for the Years 1861-1865”, United States Army, 1987

Army Induction Records

Census Records, Kent, England

Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg (New York at Gettysburg)”, New York

Monuments Commission for the Battlefields of Gettysburg and Chattanooga, 1902

Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army”, Francis B. Heitman,

1965

History of the Sixth New York cavalry (Second Ira Harris guard), Second Brigade,

First Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865”, 1908.

National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Northern Suburbs Crematorium Records, New South Wales

Official Army Register of the Volunteer Force of the United States Army, 1861-

1865”, Washington

Peter Stuart, Kent Family History Society, Kent, England

Recollections of F.M. Ackerman, Co. I, 6th N.Y. Vol. Cavalry, During the War of

1861-5”, Francis M. Ackerman,1891

Regimental Histories, 6th New York Cavalry

Royal Australian Historical Society Library

Sands Directory, New South Wales

6th New York Cavalry Regimental Rosters

 

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