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Turner Ashby, Jr. Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Turner Ashby, Jr. passes away in 1862.

Augustus Turner Ashby, Jr. was a Confederate solider during the American Civil War.

Ashby was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, October 23rd, 1828 on Rose Bank Plantation. He came from a line of soldiers his grandfather had fought in the Revolutionary War and his father in the War of 1812. Ashby's father passed away when Ashby was young. Ashby was privately educated.

Prior to the Civil War Ashby was engaged in farming and business activities, although he was never successful at either.

Ashby was an accomplished horseman. In his 20's he formed his friends into cavalry company called the Mountain Rangers. The Mountain Rangers were absorbed into the Virginia militia in 1859 after John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. The unit was sent to Charles Town, West Virginia as a guard during Brown's trial and subsequent execution.

Ashby briefly attempted to enter politics. He made the statement the Civil War actually began after Brown's insurrection. He attempted to run for office, he ran as a Whig and a follower of Henry Clay. Unfortunately it was a minority opinion in the county where he ran and he was not elected. Ashby disapproved of secession. When it became obvious Virginia was seceding, Ashby asked the Governor for permission to raid the Union armory. When the official vote was cast for secession, Ashby and his men headed for Harpers Ferry, they were too late though, the Union army burned the armory and all of the weapons inside.

Ashby served throughout the Civil War under Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.

In 1861, Ashby suffered a personal loss when his brother was killed in an engagement with Union forces. Ashby believed rumors his brother had been stabbed with a bayonet while trying to surrender, he continued to believe it until he was able to examine the body himself. Based on the rumors he sought revenge against every Union solider he encountered. He also came to hate all Northerners and became obsessed with revenge.

Ashby engaged in many battles during the Civil War. He earned the nickname the "Black Knight of the Confederacy". After gaining command of his own regiment, he grew it to the largest in the Civil War. This brought him into conflict with Jackson. Jackson for months blocked Ashby's promotion to brigadier general. Jackson felt he lacked the discipline which comes from a military academy training. He was eventually promoted to general on may 23rd, 1862.

Two weeks after being promoted to Brigadier General, on June 6th 1862, Ashby was engaged with Union forces as a rear guard for Jackson's troops. Although he and his men were able to repel the initial cavalry attack, a subsequent infantry attack shot Ashby's horse out from underneath him. Ashby rose to his feet and waving his sword in the air called out to his men "Charge, men! For God's sake. Charge!" Ashby made it only a few steps before he was shot in the heart. Some accounts have it as friendly fire, the soldiers of the 13th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry, the "Bucktails," claimed credit. Ashby's promotion was never officially confirmed by the Confederate Senate. After his death they never went back to confirm him so often he is listed as a Colonel not as a Brigadier General.

Ashby was a member of Equality Lodge No. 44 in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.