網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

his manner was thrown aside in such sports, and his black eyes a«v* dark tine were lighted up with the zeal of competition or the excitement of danger.;

The gravity so perceptible at times in Ashby's manner was not the fcign either of a melancholy or blank mind. He was too practical for reveries; &e Vas rather a man of deep feelings. - While he scorned the vulgar and sliallo^r ambiti#n that seeks fpr notoriety, he probably had that ideal and aspiratioh which silent men often have, and which,.if called "ambition" at all, is to bfc characterized as the noble and spiritual ambition that wins the honours of history, while others contend for the baubles of the pop*lace.

f He was,," writes a lady of his neighbourhood, "a person of very deep "feelings, which would not have been apparent-to strangers, from his natuMral reserve of manner; but there was no act of friendship or kindness he "would have shrunk to perform, if called on. While he was not a professor "of religion, there was always a-^eculiar regard for the precepts of the Bible "which showed itself in his irreproachable walk in life. Often have I ktidwti *thim to open the Sabbath school at the request of his lady friends, in p. .little '• church near his home, by reading a prayer and chapter in the Bible. 'Turns* "Ashby seldom left his native neighbourhood, so strong were his local attafch"ments, and would not have done so, save at his country's,call."

That call was sounded sooner than A&hby expected. At the first prelude to the bloody drama of the war—the John Brown raid—he had been conspicupus, and his company of horse, then called "The Mountain Rangers,** did service on that occasion. He appeared to have felt and known the con-, sequences which were to ensue from this frightful crusade*. Thenceforward his physical and intellectual powers weW directed to the coming struggle. On the occasion of the irruption of John Brown and his felon band at Harjter's Ferry, he remarked to Mr. Boteler, fhe member of Congress /rom thai district, that a crisis was approaching, and that the South would be continually subject to such inroads and insults, unless some prevention was quickly effected. He continued, however, a strong Union man until the election of Lincoln; he was anxious,that harmony should be effected between the States, and the legacies of the past should be preserved in a constitutional and fraternal Union; but this hope .was instantly dispelled by the result of the election; and as soon as it was announced, he went quietly and energetically to work, drilling his men, promoting their efficiency, and preparing for that great trial of arms which he saw rapidly approaching.

The next time that Mr. Boteler met Ashby at Harper's Ferry, was on the night of the 17th of April, 1861. Mr. Boteler took him aside, and said to him, "What flag are we going to*fight under—the Palmetto or whatf Ashby lifted his hat, and within it was laid a Virginia flag. He had had it painted at midnight, before he left Richmond. "Here," said he, "is the flag I intend to fight under." That night the flag was run up by the light of the burning buildings fired by the Yankees, and the next morning the glorious emblem of the Old Dominion was seen floating from the Federal flagstaff—the first ensign of liberty raised by Virginia in this war.

It was not long after the arrival of Captain Ashby at Harper's Ferry with his cavalry, that he was placed in command at Point of Rocks by General Johnston, supported by Captain R&Welby Cartels company of cavalry .and Captain John Q. Winfield's infantry corps of *> Brock's Gap Riflemen."

About the same time Colonel Angus W. McDonald, senior, of Winchester, Virginia, -was commissioned to raise a Legion of mounted men for border service, the Lieutenant Colonelcy of .which was at once tendered to Captain1 Ashby. Without final acceptance of this position, he, with his commfpd, entered the Legion, the organization o.f which was soon accomplished.

The original Captains were Ashby, Winfield, S. W. Myers, Mason, Shands*, Jordan, Miller, liarner and Sheetz.

This force was assembled at Rompey, Hampshire county, very soon after thejevacuation of Harper's Ferry by General Johnston.

The difficulty which existed as to Captain Ashby's acceptance of the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the Legion, consisted in the fact that he felt under especial obligations to his company, who werfc unwilling to dispense with his personal command. The arrival of his brother Richard Ashby, from Texas, who joined the company as independent volunteer, appeared to open the way of relieving this difficulty, as the company was prepared to accept in him a Captain, in order to secure the promotion of their beloved leader. * But a melancholy providence was to occur at this time, which was to colour the life of Turner Ashby, and affe,ct it more deeply than anything he had yet experienced. The county of Hampshire had already been invaded by the enemy, and Colonel, now Major General, A. P. Hill had already visitgd the county with several regiments of infantry, in order to repel the invader. This county was also chosen for the labour of the Mounted Legion.

It was shortly after the organisation of the command, and its active,duty1 entered upon, that Captain Ashby led a detachment to Green Spring Station, on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, for the purpose of observation. He-had with him eleven men, and his brother Richard led another small band of six. The latter was proceeding along the railroad westward, in the direction of Cumberland—some ten miles away—when he was ambuscaded at the mouth of a ravine just beside the railroad there, runninjg just between the river bank and the* steep mountain side. The enemy's force consisted of about eighteen men, commanded by Corporal Hays, of the Indiana Zouave regiment, which was stationed at Cumberland. His men, at length compelled to fall back before superior numbers, hastened down the railroad to rejoin Richard Ashby. Covering their retreat himself, he hastened to the rescue of one of his men severely wounded in the face by a sabre stroke, and in a hand to hand fight with Corporal Hays, severely wounded him in the head with his ^abre. Following immediately his retreating co'mpahions, the horse which he, rode proved false, and fell into a cattle-stop of the railroad with his unfortunate rider. He was overtaken, beaten, bruised, wounded and left for dead. He was removed many hours afterwards, and lived for several days, enjoying every kind attention, but his wounds proved mortal. He^was buried in the beautiful Indian Mound Cemetery at Romn^y on the 4th of July, 1861.

During the engagement of his brother, Turner Ashby started up the railroad to his rescue; but in passing along the river's brink, his,force was fired upon from Kelly's Island, on the north branch of the Potomac, about twelve miles east of Cumberland. The island lies'some sixty feet from the Virginia bank, which is precipitous, and directly laid with the railroad track. Oa the other side of the island, which was reached through water to the saddle girth, there is a gently rising beach'.some thirty yards to the interiour, which is thickly wooded, and contains a dense undergrowth. Here in ambush lay, as was afterwards reported, about forty of the Indiana troop?, and nearly sixty of Merley's branch riflemen—Maryland Union men of the vicinity—woodmen skilled with the rifle, and many of them desperate characters. After receiving the enemy's fire, Turner Ashby and his eleven at once charged, and after a sharp engagement, routed and dispersed their forces. It has been declared that not less than forty shots were fired at Ashby on that occasion, but not he nor his horse were harmed, und at least five of the enemy were probably slain by his hand.

From the date of his brother's death, a change passed over the life of Turner Ashbj'. He always wore a sad smile after that unhappy day, and his life became more solemn and earnest to the end of his own evanescedt and splendid career. "Ashby," said a lady friend, speaking cf him after this period, "is .now a devoted man" His behaviour at his brother's grave, as it is described by one of the mourners at the same spot, was most touching. He 8tood.over the grave, took his brother's sword, broKe it and threw it into the opening; clasped his hands and looked upward as if in resignation; and then pressing his lips, as if in the bitterness of grief, while a tear rolled down his cheek, he turned without a word, mounted his horse and rode away. Thenceforth his name was a terrour to the enemy.

Shortly after the death of his brother, his company consented to yield him up in order that he might accept the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the Legion, and elected First Lieutenant William Turner (his cousin) Captain in his stead. The Legion, numbering at that time nearly nine hundred effective men tolerahly equipped and mounted, continued on duty in Hampshire until the 16thr of July, 1801, when it started for Manassas, but did not arrive until after the battle. The command was immediately afterwards ordered to Staunton to join General Lee's forces—subsequently to Hollingswortb, one mile south of Winchester. In the meantime, Colonel Ashby, with several companies, was sent on detaohed duty to Jefferson, into which county the enemy was making frequent incursions from Harper's Ferry and. Maryland.

In Jefferson, Ashby had command of four companies of cavalry and about eight hundred militia-. Yankee raids were kept from the doors of the inhabitants, and the enemy made but little appearance,in this portion of Virginia^ until Banks crossed the Potomac in February, 1862. i

It was about this time that Ashby's cavalry acquired its great renown. The Lincoln soldiers dreaded nothing so much as they did these hated troopers. Go where they would, out of sight of their encampments, they were almost sure to meet some of Ashby's cavalry, who seemed to possess the power of ubiquity. And, in truth, they had1 good cause both to hate and to . fear Ashby's cavalry; for many a' Federal horseman dropped from his saddle, and many a Federal soldier on foot dropped in his tracks, at the crack of Confederate rifles in the hands of Ashby's fearless sharpshooters*

During* the time of the encampment at Flowing Springs, Colonel Ashby rarely ever came into town, which was about a mile and a half distant. Northing could seduce him from his duties; no admiration, no dinner parties or eoilations, could move him to leave his camp. He always slept with his men. 'No matter what hour of the night he was aroused, he was always wakeful, self-possessed and ready to do battle. He was idolized by his men, whom he treated as companions and indulged without reference to rules of military discipline. He had great contempt for tha military arts, was probably incapable of drilling a regiment, and preserved among his men scarcely anything more than the rude discipline of camp hunters. But though no$ a atickler for military rules, he would have no coward or eye-soldier in his command. If a man was dissatisfied, he at once started him off home. He allowed his men many liberties. A gentleman asked him one day where his men were. ".Well," said he, "the boys fought very well yesterday, and there are not more than thirty of them here to-day."

Ashby's influence over his men was, principally due to the brilliant and amazing examples of personal courage which he always gave them in front of the battle. His men could never find him idle. In battle his eye kindled up most gloriously. He wore a grey coat and. pants, with boots and sash; he always looked like work,-was frequently covered with mud, and appeared to be never fatigued or dejected. He would come and go like a dream. He would be heard of at one time in one part of the country, and then", when least expected, would come dashing by on the famous white horse, which was his pride.

When the fight occurred at Boteler's Mill, the militia were for the first time under fire.4 The enemy had encamped on the other side of the Potomac, opposite the mill. Qur troops quietly crept upon them, and planted two pieces Of cannon within range, and let drive at them with terrible effect, whereupon they fled. They afterwards returned in force, and ranged themselves Qu the other side "with long range ^uns. Ashby, to encourage the militia, who were raw, advanced to the bank of the river, and rode his white horse up anddown within point blank range of the enemy's fire. When the balls were hurtling thickest, he would rein in his horse and stand perfectly still, the very picture of daring and chivalry.

At Bolivar heights, when the enemy were firing upon our men and had" shot down the gunners at the cannon, he sprang from his horse' and seized the" rammer himself. He was conspicuous in action at every point. His friends used to implore him not to ride his white horse—for he had also a black one— but he was deaf to every caution that respected the safety of his person.

The key to Ashby'.s character was his passion for danger. He craved the • excitement of battle, and was never happier than when riding his noble frteed in the thickest of the storm of battle. There are some minds which find a sweet intoxication in danger, and Macaulay has named a remarkable •instance in William III., the sileat and ascetic King of England, who was teansformed into gaiety by the excitement of personal peril. v "Danger," gays the historian, "acted upon him like wine;" it made him full of animation and speech. Ashby's delight.in danger was a royal one. It came from no Brutal hardihood or animal spirits; and the Virginia cavalier is this far superiour to other famous partisans in this war, that he united with the adTentures of courage the courtesies of a gentleman and Christian, and the refinements of a pure and gentle soul. He'was never ^ude; he was insensible to the humours of the vulgar; and he never even threw into the face of his enemy a coarse taunt or a specimen of that wit common in the army. • Turner Ashby was doubtless as perfect a specimen of modern chivalry a& the South even has ever prodnced. His brilliant daring, his extreme courtesy to woman, his devotion to the horse, his open-hearted* manner and his scorn of mean action's/are qualities as admirable now as in'the days of Froissart's Chronicles. After the battle of Winchester, the Yankee women and families of officers sometimes came to Ashby to get passes. They-were surprised to find with what readiness permits were granted. They would say, "Colonel Ashby, you may search our baggage. We assure you we are carrying away nothing which we are not at liberty to do." His reply was, "I have no right to look into ladies' baggage, or to examine their trunks. Southern gentlemen do no such thing." They said, "Colonel, you may search ou* persons, and see if we carry away anything contraband." The reply was, "Virginia gentlemen do not search the persons of ladies."'

Few young men^of Ashby's age could have resisted the intoxication of of praise heaped upon him from every quarter. The fact was, no aged and stern devotee to duty was ever more insensible, in the performance of his task, to the currents of popular favour than the young Paladin of the South. The following copy of a letter, written at the height of his refutation to an elderly gentlemen of Stafford county, 'illustrates the modesty which adorned the life of Turner Ashby> and the sense of duty which insured its mest brilliant successes:

"my Dear Sir: I have just received your exceedingly kind and most .flat* "tering letter. Let me assure you that it gives me no little pleasure to knofr "that my course, while doing my duty to my country, meets your approval", ** whose lage and experience make it more to be estimated. That I have not "sought self-aggrandizement, or regarded anything save what I belieted to ", be my duty, to my country in this war, I hope it is needless to assure you. "When my course meets with the approval of the old patriots, I feel doubly 44 satisfied that I have not mistaken what I believe to be my duty. AVha't yon "are pleased to say of my brother (who fell as I> too, expect to fall,, if my 44 country needs it) is but too true, Had he been spared longer, he would "doubtless have been of great value to our country. His fall, however, has"not been without its lesson to the enemy, teaching them that Virginians "know how to die as well as fight for their liberty. He died without a're* "gret, feeling that his life was due to his country's cause. Please presenf 44 me jnost kindly to all my friends in Stafford, and accept my highest respect* l* for yourself.

"Your obedient servant,

"Turner Ashby."

« 上一頁繼續 »