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The Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley

provided for you by theOld Valley Pike Country Store, Civil War book


Turner Ashby- "Knight Of The Valley"
  October 23, 1828 - June 6, 1862
Ashby  "Fought With Unbridled Fury"
March 11, 1862
Colonel Turner Ashby
Artist:  John Paul Strain

Turner Ashby was born on October 23, 1828, in Fauquier County, Virginia. After receiving a basic education from tutors and his widowed mother, he managed the family farm, "Rose Hill," with his brothers. Ashby later purchased another home in Markham which he called Wolf's Craig. Both Rose Hill and Wolf's Craig remain today although both are private residences and not open to the public. After John Brown's Raid, Ashby raised a company of volunteer cavalry to patrol the Potomac River to guard against further raids. This volunteer company also worked with the Manassas Gap Railroad to make sure that railroad workers did not enter private property.

After Virginia seceded from the United States, Ashby's company became part of the 7th Virginia Cavalry Regiment, and Ashby was soon elevated from a captain to a colonel. After his brother was killed by a Union patrol, Ashby's desire for vengeance inspired him to become a Confederate officer known for personal bravery.

At Harpers Ferry in May of 1861, Stonewall Jackson was training the raw recruits from the Valley into what would become a superior fighting force. While there Col. J.E.B. Stuart reported to Jackson for duty. Jackson now had two fine cavalrymen, one an experienced officer of the old army, Stuart, and the other a brash but brave and inexperienced, Captain Turner Ashby. Jackson, who believed in discipline, ordered the consolidation of all his cavalry companies into a battalion, to be commanded by Stuart, thus relieving Ashby from command of the cavalry.

Ashby, the idol of all the troopers, was one of the bravest, shrewdest and most daring men ever put on outpost duty, but he was lacking in the disciplinary qualities which Stuart, as a trained soldier, had in such an eminent degree. Ashby felt so aggrieved by this action that he determined to resign his captaincy, but was persuaded by Imboden to pay Jackson a visit and discuss the situation, the result of which was that the companies present were divided into two regiments, one under command of Col. Angus W. McDonald, with Ashby as lieutenant-colonel, who soon became its colonel, and the other under Stuart. McDonald, an older man, soon resigned because of poor health, and Ashby became the commander of the 7th Virginia Cavalry regiment.

On March 11, 1862, Colonel Turner Ashby, Confederate Cavalry Commander of the Shenandoah Valley, led a small band of cavalrymen in an attack of 40,000 unsuspecting and totally surprised Federal troops north of Winchester, Virginia. Among the Confederate Army in the Valley, Colonel Ashby was worshiped as an avenging angel. His brother Richard was killed by Federal troops and he swore he would avenge his death. He became famous for his utter contempt for danger. To the Federal Army it seemed that both he and his favorite white horse "Tom Telegraph" were on every crest in the Shenandoah Valley. Word began spreading among the Federals that both he and his horse were ghosts.

He performed a number of scouting duties until the spring of 1862, when General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson put him in command of all Confederate cavalry in the Shenandoah Valley. Two weeks after he was made a brigadier general, he was shot and killed instantly. His last words were, "Forward, my brave men!" Ashby never got married, and wrote few letters. After his death, General Jackson said of him, "as a partisan officer I never knew his superior." Ashby's remains are in the Stonewall Cemetery, in Winchester, Virginia.

Grave of General Turn Ashby at Stonewall Cemetery

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