Page images

We have already referred in the pages of this history to Ashby's share in the several glorious campaigns of Jackson in the Valley; to his participation in the battle of Kernstown to his famous adventure with the Yankee pickets at the bridge and to some other of his daring exploits on the front and flank of the enemy. It was on the occasion of the battle of Kernstown that his energy was exercised to an extraordinary degree in protecting the retreat and annoying the skirts of the enemy. In thirty-eight, out of forty-two days after this battle he was fighting the enemy, keeping him in check, or cutting off his communications. The terrible fatigues he incurred never seemed to depress him, or to tax his endurance. An acquaintance testifies that it was not an infrequent feat for him to ride daily over a line of pickets sixty or seventy miles in extent.

At a later period of the Valley campaign, when Banks returned from Strasburg and our troops were chasing him, Ashby would follow and charge the Yankees as the Rockbridge Artillery poured in their fire. At one time he was riding abreast of three hundred infantry, who were passing along the turnpike. All at once he wheeled his horse, and leaping the fence with drawn sword, cut his way right through them; then wheeling, he did the same thing a second time. Riding up to the standard-bearer, he seized it from him and dashed him to the earth. The terrified wretches never raised a weapon against him. Seventy-five of them, whom he cut off, laid down their arms, and sat down at his order in the corner of the fence, where they remained until his men came up to take care of them. The flag was that of a Vermont regiment. A few days after, Mr. Boteler asked Ashby of the exploit. He drew the flag from his bosom and gave it to him. It was presented by Mr. Boteler to the Library of the State, at Richmond, where it may now be seen-a testimony to one of the most brilliant deeds of Virginia's youthful hero.

A week after this adventure, Ashby was dead. But a few days before the termination of his brilliant career, he received the promotion which had been long due him from the government. Just before leaving Richmond, after the adjournmen of the first session of the permanent Congress, Mr. Boteler, who was a member of that body, and Ashby's constant friend, went to the president, told him that he was going home, and asked

that one act of justice should be done to the people of the Valley, which they had long expected. He wished to be able to carry back to his people the assurance that Ashby should be commissioned a brigadier-general. The order for the commission was at once made out. When the announcement was made to Ashby, he exhibited no emotion, except that his face was lighted up by one of those sad smiles which had occasionally brightened it since the death of his brother.

The manner of Ashby's death has already been mentioned in the preceding pages of the brief historical narrative of the Valley campaign. The writer is indebted for the particulars of that sad event to Colonel Bradley T. Johnson, the brave Maryland officer whose command was conspicuous in the affair that cost Ashby his life, and earned an immortal honor in revenging his death. He takes the liberty of extracting from a letter of this officer an account of the engagement:

"On the morning of Friday, the 6th of June," writes Colonel Johnson, "we left Harrisonburg, not having seen the enemy for two days. To our surprise, in the afternoon his cavalry made a dash into our rear-guard, and was whipped most effectually their colonel, Sir Percy Wyndham, being taken prisoner. My regiment was supporting a battery a short distance behind this cavalry fight. In half an hour we were ordered forward-that is, towards the enemy retracing the march just made. Our infantry consisted only of Brigadier-general George H. Stewart's brigade, the 58th Virginia, 44th Virginia, two other Virginia regiments, and the Maryland Line-of the latter, only the 1st Maryland was taken back; the artillery and all the cavalry were left behind us. The 58th Virginia was first, my regiment (the 1st Maryland) next, then came the 44th and the rest.

"A couple of miles east of Harrisonburg we left the road and filed to the right, through the fields, soon changing direction again so as to move parallel to the road. General Ewell soon sent for two of my companies as skirmishers. Moving cautiously through the darkening shades of the tangled wood inst as the evening twilight was brightening the trees in front of us in an opening, spot, spot, spot, began a dropping fire from the skirmishers, and instantly the 58th Virginia poured in a volley. Another volley was fired. The leaves began to fall, and the bullets hit the trees around. General Ewell came up

in a gallop.

Charge, colonel, charge to the left!' And I charged, got to the edge of the wood, and found a heavy body of infantry and cavalry supporting a battery on a hill six hun dred yards in front of me.

But the Yankee balls came fast and thick on my flank. The 58th are firing into us,' the leading captain said. General Ewell and myself, the only mounted officers, plunged after them, and found it was not their fire. I got back. Up, men, and take that hill,' pointing to my right. They went in with a cheer. In less than five seconds the first rank of the second company went down. The color-sergeant, Doyle, fell. The corporal who caught them from him fell. The next who took them fell, when Corporal Shanks, a sixfooter, seized them, raising them over his head at arm's length. Captain Robertson lay dead; Lieutenant Snowden shot to death; myself on the ground, my horse shot in three places. But still we went forward, and drove the Bucktails from the fence where they had been concealed.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

It was as the brave Marylanders were pressing on in this charge that Ashby, who was on the right of the 58th Virginia exhorting them, fell by an intelligent bullet of the enemy. His death was quickly avenged. As our troops reached the fence from which the shot had been fired, the line of Yankees melted away like mist before a hurricane.

"The account I have given you," writes Colonel Johnson, "of the manner of Ashby's death, is collated from the statements of many eye-witnesses of my skirmishing companies, who were all around him when he fell. I did not see it, though not thirty yards from him, but was busy with my own men; and I am specific in stating the source of his death, as there is a loose impression that he was killed by a shot from the 58th Virginia. I am persuaded this is not so, from the statements of two very cool officers, Captain Nicholas and Lieutenant Booth, who were talking to him the minute before he fell.

[ocr errors]

"Ashby was my first revolutionary acquaintance in Virginia. I was with him when the first blow was struck for the cause we both had so much at heart, and was with him in his last fight, always knowing him to be beyond all modern men in chivalry, as he was equal to any one in courage. He couìbined the virtues of Sir Philip Sydney with the dash of Murat. I

contribute my mite to his fame, which will live in the Valley of Virginia, outside of books, as long as its hills and mountains shall endure."

No word escaped from Ashby's lips as he fell. It was not necessary. No dying legend, spoken in death's embrace, could have added to that noble life. Itself was a beautiful poem; a sounding oration; a sufficient legacy to the virtue of his coun trymen.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the Vi


It was ace, a.


his ex


The Situation of Richmond.-Its Strategic Importance.-What the Yankees had done to secure Richmond.-THE BATTLE OF SEVEN PINES.-Miscarriage of Gen. Johnston's Plans.-THE BATTLES OF THE CHICKAHOMINY.-Storming of the Enemy's Intrenchments.-McClellan driven from his Northern Line of Defences.-The Situation on the other Side of the Chickahominy.-Magruder's Comment.-The Affair of Savage Station.-The Battle of Frazier's Farm.-A Terrible Crisis.-Battle of Malvern Hill.-The Enemy in Communication with his Gunboats.-The Failure to cut him off.-Glory and Fruits of our Victory.-Misrepresentations of the Yankees.-Safety of Richmond.--The War in other Parts of the Confederacy.-The Engagement of Secessionville.-The Campaign of the West.-The Evacuation of Corinth.-More Yankee Falsehoods.-Capture of Memphis.-The Prize of the Mississippi.-Statistics of its Navigation.-Siege of Vicksburg.-Heroism of "the Queen City."-Morgan's Raid into Kentucky.-The Tennessee and Virginia Frontier.— Prospects in the West.-Plan of Campaign there.

RICHMOND is the heart of the State of Virginia. It is hun dreds of miles from the sea, yet with water communication t Old Point, to Washington, and to New York. It is the stra tegic point of the greatest importance in the whole Confed eracy. If Richmond had fallen before McClellan's forces, the North expected that there would follow all of North Carolina except the mountains, part of South Carolina, and all of Tennessee that was left to us.

On the Richmond lines, two of the greatest and most splendid armies that had ever been arrayed on a single field confronted each other; every accession that could be procured from the most distant quarters to their numbers, and every thing that could be drawn from the resources of the respective countries of each, had been made to contribute to the strength and splendor of the opposing hosts.

Since the commencement of the war, the North had taxed its resources for the capture of Richmond; nothing was omitted for the accomplishment of this event; the way had to be opened to the capital by tedious and elaborate operations on the frontier of Virginia; this accomplished, the city of Rich mond was surrounded by an army whose numbers was all that could be desired; composed of picked forces; having every advantage that science and art could bestow in fortifications

« PreviousContinue »