Turner Ashby "Fought With Unbridled Fury" October 23, 1828 - June 6, 1862
Cavalry Gen. Turner Ashby had become a near-legend in the Confederacy before he was killed. His many daring exploits and displays of personal bravery made him one of the South's earliest war heroes. Ashby was less than average height, but possessed great strength and was a superb horseman, always riding a beautiful white steed. With a complexion "as dark as an arab," shining brown eyes, and a full black beard, Ashby looked a bit like a pirate, but off the battlefield, he was a quiet, graceful bachelor, with manners that befitted his position in an old Virginia family.
Ashby formed his first volunteer cavalry company in 1859 in his native Fauquier County, his reputation as a horseman attracted many young men to his band. When the war started, his company became the 2nd Virginia Cavalry, with Ashby first its captain and shortly after its colonel. His brother, Richard, a captain in the 7th Virginia, was murdered by Union cavalry in June 1861, and from that moment onward Ashby fought the Yankees with unbridled fury. When Stonewall Jackson requested information on Union positions north of the Potomac River, Ashby disguised himself as a country veterinarian and visited the Union camps, returning to Jackson with accurate information.
It was Ashby and his horsemen that covered Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnson's withdrawal from Shenandoah Valley and the transfer of troops to the 1st Battle of Bull Run. Ashby's conduct in front of the enemy was almost reckless, and his reputation for bravery grew among both the gray and the blue armies. Once when he was under fire from Union cavalry in front, two blue horsemen tried to capture Ashby from behind. When he saw them, he charged straight towards the riders, shot one, grabbed the other by the neck, pulled him off his horse, and carried him back to Rebel lines. Turner Ashby was killed on June 6, 1862, near Harrodsburg, VA., while leading his men in a charge against enemy lines.
Fascinating Fact: Union Gen. Nathaniel Banks's 19,000 soldiers were held up at a creek crossing for six days by Ashby and 600 of his men. When an exasperated President Lincoln asked him why he was stalled, Banks replied with three words: "Ashby is here."
Back to index page