William Burr Howell (1796 – 1863) is a very interesting figure. He was the father of Varina Banks “Howell” Davis “First Lady of the Confederacy” and son of Gov. Richard Howell. I am currently researching his military record and have found several references listed below. If you have other references for William please use the “Contact Us” link and let me know what you’ve found.
- Letter of Commendation – Capt. White Youngs to Com. Thomas MaCDonough
“United States Ship Saratoga, Lake Champlain , SIR , September 13, 1814 . I have the honor of enclosing to you a list of killed and wounded troops of the line ( acting marines, on board the squadron , Lake Champlain ) in the action of the 11th instant. In attempting to do justice to the brave officers and men I have had the honor to command, my feeble abilities fall far short of my wishes– First Lieut. Morrison , 33d infantry, stationed on board the U. S. brig Eagle, was wounded , but remained on deck during the action, animating his men by his honorable conduct. Second Lieut. James Young , 6th infantry , on board the U. S. schooner Ticonderoga, merits my warmest thanks : I would particularly recommend him to your notice. Second Lieut. William B. Howell, 15th infantry in the U. S. ship Saratoga, rendered me every assistance ; notwithstanding his having been confined, for ten days of a fever, yet, at the commencement of the action , he was found on deck , and continued until the enemy had struck , when he was borne to his bed . I would also recommend him to your notice. The conduct of the non -commissioned officers and privates was so highly honorable to their country and then selves, it would be superfluous to particularize them .I have the honor to be, Sir, your obedient servant, Com . T. MACDONOUGH, & c . WHITE YOUNGS, Capt. 15th Inf. com’ing detach. of acting marines.”
ref: The Naval Monument, Containing Official and Other Accounts of All the Battles Fought Between the Navies of the United States and Great Britain During the Late War – PDF Page 219-220 – Doc Page 153-154
- Book – Joan Cashin “First Lady of the Confederacy – Varina Davis’s Civil War“
“William Burr Howell, Varina’s father, was born in 1795. William acquired a good education, judging by his flu- ent letters. He left home to join the navy, and he matured into a tall blond with a taste for adventure. Most of his brothers stayed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where they prospered in banking, the law, and agriculture.”
This quote form her book says William was in the navy, while in fact the overwheling primary sources indicate he was in the army and an “acting marine” in the action on Lake Champlain on Sept 11, 1814.
- Vermont List of Pensioners
OFFICERS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY STATIONED AT BURLINGTON, VT., MAY20, 1814.
William B. Howell, lieutenant, 15th Infantry,
ref: A List of Vermont Pensioners of the War of 1812 Appendix I. Accounts of the Battle of Plattsburgh, September 11, 1814
- Varina (Howell) Davis‘s Biography of her husband Jefferson Davis mentions her father
“My father, William Burr Howell, was the fourth son of Governor Richard Howell and Keziah Burr. When quite young he was appointed an officer in the Marine Corp (acting Marines), and served with distinction under Commodore Decatur in the war of 1812, in the engagements on the lakes. Though quite ill, he had come on deck to participate in the fight. At one time the fire was so hot that a stool was shot from under him, and a tin cup of water, which was being handed to him at the same time, was struck out of his hand by another ball. He was three times commended in orders for extraordinary gallantry in action. His brother, Franklin Howell, was killed by a splinter on the President,  and instead of the “bad bust” which Byron dreaded, was commended in orders, and his name printed “John Howell” in a book entitled “The naval monument.”
After peace was declared my father came in 1815 in a flat-boat down to Natchez, to look at the country; he was then an officer on half-pay and on leave. Very soon after he reached there he became intimate with Mr. Joseph Emory Davis, who was practising law. They became so mutually attached that when, in 1818, Mr. Joseph E. Davis, attracted by the great fertility of the alluvial land on the Mississippi River, called by the settlers “the bottoms,” had taken up a section of the “wild land,” thirty-six miles below Vicksburg, in Warren County, in the State of Mississippi, he proposed to my father, who thought of leaving the United States Navy, to join him in the purchase and cultivation of the land; but, after riding over the tract, my father feared the malarial effect of the lowlands upon his health and declined.”
ref: Jefferson Davis: Ex-President of the Confederate States of America, A Memoir by his Wife, Volume 1 by Varina Davis
More to come as I discover it – Aaron