Friday, December 21, 2007

Honoring Ashby. General Turner Ashby

Thomas J. Jackson was not known to just hand out laurels. However, during his famed Valley Campaign of 1862 he paid homage to the fallen “Black Knight of the Confederacy.” Brigadier General Turner Ashby was Jacksons cavalry commander for most of the battles. Ashby was killed in a rear guard action on Chestnut Ridge near Harrisonburg, Virginia, on June 6, 1862, on the eve of the climatic battles of Cross Keys and Port Republic. In the skirmish with Federal troops, Ashby was attempting to buy time for General Richard Ewell to set up his defenses. As the Federals slammed into his men causing confusion and death, Ashby’s horse was shot out from under him. Undaunted, Ashby drew his pistol and shouted “Charge men, For God’s sake charge!” and proceeded to lead the cavalry charge on foot. After a few short steps, he was hit in the chest with a musket ball and died instantly. His death rallied his men and it bought extra time for Ewell to build up his defenses. General Ashby was just thirty-three years old. The skirmish cost the Confederates 17 killed, 50 wounded and 3 missing. However, the action was successful and set the stage for the Union defeat in the Shenandoah Valley. .” After the war a somewhat biased series of books entitled The Confederate Military History wrote of Ashby “He was the idol of his men and the beloved of every one who had the honor of knowing him intimately.”

In his battle report General Jackson paid the ultimate homage to his fallen compatriot. Ashby had served Jackson faithfully and had been instrumental to the Confederate successes in the valley. “An official report is not an appropriate place for more than a passing notice of the distinguished dead, but the close relation which General Ashby bore to my command for most of the previous twelve month, will justify me in saying that 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.”

Moreover, General John Imboden who served with both Jackson and Ashby wrote “About 10 o'clock at night I received a note from Jackson, written in pencil on the blank margin of a newspaper, directing me to report with my command at Port Republic before daybreak. On the same slip, and as a postscript, he wrote, "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." I carried that slip of paper till it was literally worn to tatters.” From the report and this letter it is easy to see that Jackson had a lot of respect for his cavalry chief.

Jackson’s Valley Report is here:

Three short but sweet biographies of Turner Ashby is here:

Photos of the General are here:

Imboden’s Article is here:

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