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Ashby, Turner - Brig. Gen.
Brigadier-General Turner Ashby, a hero of the South whose memory is cherished with peculiar tenderness by the people of the Shenandoah valley, was born at Rose Hill, Fauquier county, in 1824. He was a grandson of Capt. John Ashby, of the revolutionary war. At the time of John Brown's raid he was captain of a volunteer cavalry company, which he led to the scene of trouble. On the 16th of April, 1861, he was at Richmond, with other bold spirits, and took part in the planning of the capture of Harper's Ferry. The next morning, the day of the passage of the ordinance of secession, he went to his home to call out his cavalry company. His brief career from that time was of the most romantic nature, and he speedily became the idol of the volunteer troopers who rallied at Harper's Ferry in April and May, to recruit Jackson's forces. He was assigned to command of the Confederate post at Point of Rocks, where his activity and alertness were of great value. In June he was in command of a troop of Col. Eppa Hunton's regiment, but obtained permission to rejoin his own regiment, Col. Angus McDonald's legion, and McDonald recommended him to promotion as lieutenant-colonel, speaking of him at this early date, June 25th, as "already known as one of the best partisan leaders in the service. " Meanwhile Ashby, in addition to his other duties, had attracted attention by his daring in making a trip to Chambersburg, Pa., disguised and unattended, and obtaining complete information regarding the Federal force under Patterson. He was soon promoted lieutenant-colonel, and the rank of colonel followed in a few months. While Johnston was moving to Manassas, to the support of Beauregard, Ashby and Stuart, with their cavalry commands, were very successful in masking the transfer of the troops until it was too late for Patterson to have any influence upon the battle of July 21st. In October, General Jackson was assigned to the Valley district, and Ashby, as colonel of the Seventh Virginia cavalry, was put in command of the cavalry. In February he was authorized by the war department to raise cavalry, infantry and heavy artillery. During one of the engagements of 1861, his brother, Capt. Richard Ashby, to whom he was tenderly attached, had been slain by the enemy, and the circumstances of the death so affected him as to give to his natural heroism an extraordinary enthusiasm. Turner Ashby was of striking aspect and splendid personality when he came to take command of Jackson's cavalry. In form he was trimly built, in movement graceful, and when mounted on his splendid horse, he appeared a chevalier of romance. The attachment of his men to him was displayed on all occasions, and his own devotion to Jackson was so great that he was accustomed to say, "I would follow him or go where he commanded without knowing anything except that it was Stonewall Jackson's order." His faith in Jackson was like Jackson's faith in Lee. It is this trust of the army, in its leaders reciprocated by the faith of the leaders in the army which makes heroes in battles. In March he withdrew with Jackson from Winchester, before the advance on Banks, but on the 22d returned and by an audacious attack drove in the enemy's outposts. The battle of Kernstown immediately followed, in which Ashby, with his cavalry and artillery, and an infantry support, rendered effective service upon the Confederate right. After this Jackson was rapidly reinforced, and Ashby's force was recruited to the dignity of a brigade, though his commission as brigadier-general was not issued until May 23d. He pursued the Federals after the battle of McDowell, played a prominent part in the rout of the Federals at Middletown, and defended the rear during the Confederate retreat up the Valley early in June. On the 3d his horse was shot under him while his men were burning the bridge over the Shenandoah. "Ashby has infernal activity and ingenuity in this way, " Shields reported to Washington. On June 6th, near Harrisonburg, he repulsed an attack, capturing the Federal commander, Sir Percy Wyndham. He immediately planned an ambush of the pursuing Federal advance, and a fierce combat ensued. As Ashby led the attack, his horse was shot under him, and he rushed forward on foot, urging his men to charge, when a ball pierced his breast and he fell forward dead. His death was felt as a severe loss to the army. Tackson wrote to General Imboden: "Poor Ashby is dead. He fell gloriously. I know you will join with me in mourning the loss of our friend, one of the noblest men and soldiers in the Confederate army. In his official report he wrote: "As a partisan officer, I never knew his superior. His daring was proverbial, his powers of endurance almost incredible, his tone of character heroic, and his sagacity almost intuitive in divining the purposes and movements of the enemy." In October, 1866, his body was reinterred with impressive ceremonies in the Stonewall cemetery at Winchester, where the anniversary of his death is annually commemorated by the strewing of flowers upon the graves of the unknown dead.
Confederate Military History, Vol. III.