The Life of Gen. Turner Ashby, Confederate Hero
Turner Ashby, Jr. was born in Fauquier County, Virginia in 1828. His father and grandfather had been officers in the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War, so there was a tradition of military service in Ashby’s family. When he was young, his father died, but that did not stop Ashby from becoming a successful farmer and businessman. At one point, he tried to enter politics, but as he was a Whig in a predominantly Democratic county, that didn’t work out well.
Turner Ashby was also adept at horsemanship, and in the 1850s he organized the Mountain Rangers, a company of cavalry militia whose main duty was to maintain order among construction crews along the Manassas Gap Railroad. Once the clouds of sectional conflict appeared, Ashby’s troopers were integrated into the Virginia state militia. During the treason trial and execution of John Brown, the Rangers served as guards.
Once Virginia seceded – and planning began before the final vote took place – Ashby and the Mountain Rangers returned to Harper’s Ferry to try and capture the arms and arsenals there for the Confederacy. That raid was partially successful, and helped to establish his reputation for a willingness to take chances and engage the enemy.
Once major fighting broke out in Virginia, Ashby’s company was absorbed into the 7th Virginia Cavalry, of which he became the commander in February of 1862. His regiment served with Stonewall Jackson throughout the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862, during which Ashby was killed in action on June 6.