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[225]

I was a participant in the fight which cost the life of the noble Colonel Turner Ashby, the Bayard of the South, and as you have for years taken great pains to give to the world facts concerning important events that transpired during our great civil war, I wish to correct the false impression the publication of this dispatch might convey to the minds of many who have doubtless read it.

I said I was a participant in the fight that cost Colonel Ashby his life—yes, I was close to him when he fell, and I will as briefly as possible narrate the circumstances that led to the sad event.

During Jackson's retreat from Fremont, for some days before the Confederates reached Harrisonburg, their rear guard under Ashby, was closely pressed by a body of Federal cavalry and numerous skirmishes ensued. Ashby was heard to express his admiration for the bold trooper who showed so much audacity, and hoped the time would come when he could make a closer acquaintance. In this he was gratified, and that acquaintance indirectly cost him his life.

On the 5th of June, 1862, Jackson's army diverged from the Valley turnpike a short distance from Harrisonburg, and took the road leading to Port Republic. About two miles from the town the troops went into bivouac. On the morning of the 6th, the command moved on toward Port Republic, the enemy's cavalry videttes firing an occasional harmless shot at long range at Ashby's rear guard. The troops had proceeded some miles, and, while resting by the roadside, Ashby was much surprised to find the Federal cavalry upon him. However, the surprise did not last long, and it is a question whether the surprise was not mutual, but calling upon his followers, Ashby attacked the Federals so vigorously as to put them to rout, and, in the pursuit which followed, their commander, a Colonel Sir Percy Wyndham, an English soldier of fortune, and a large number of his troopers were captured. It proved to be the First New Jersey Cavalry. The pursuit by Ashby continued until the survivors reached the main body of Fremont's army.

In withdrawing from this pursuit Ashby perceived some distance off to the right a body of Federal infantry in bivouac without any supports near at hand. He conceived the idea of surprising and capturing this comparatively small force, and called upon General Ewell for two infantry regiments with which to accomplish his purpose. This General Ewell reluctantly granted, but so fearful was he that disaster would overtake the expedition that he accompanied it


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