William A. Goldsborough,
Southern Historical Society Papers 21 (1893)
To the Editor of The Times:
The following is an extract from a telegraphic dispatch dated Salem, N. J., and published in your issue of June 27:
“Frederick Trullender, proprietor of the machine works of this city, died to-day after a long illness. He was a veteran of the late war, being a member of Company E, First New Jersey Cavalry, and served until the close of the war. The deceased had always maintained that it was he who shot Colonel Ashby, of the famous Confederate Black Horse Cavalry, in a skirmish preceding the battle Cross Keys, Virginia, in 1862. The deceased was on picket duty and shot at a rebel officer, but he did not know it was Colonel Ashby, until the next day, when our forces received news that he had been shot and killed. Trullender’s story is well authenticated, vouched for by many members of the First New Jersey Cavalry”
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 himself. The First Maryland and the Fifty-eighth Virginia regiments were given to Ashby, when, retracing the road for some distance over which he had pursued the New Jersey cavalry, he struck into the Woods to the right. Detaching two companies of the First Maryland, he led the advance with them, and in a short time came upon the Federal infantry, when an unexpectedly stubborn engagement ensued. The enemy fought with the most determined gallantry, despite the fact that the Fifty-eighth Virginia was sent to Ashby’s support, and it was not until the remaining companies of the First Maryland made a desperate charge that what was left of this gallant band sought safety in flight. The fighting had been at very short range, and while it lasted was fast and furious. Ashby’s horse was shot under him at the first fire, and a few minutes after he fell dead from a ball through the body.
After the engagement it was discovered that we had encountered the celebrated Pennsylvania Bucktails, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Kane, afterward a celebrated brigade commander. Kane and Captain Fred Taylor, afterward killed at Gettysburg, in command of the Bucktails, were wounded and prisoners in our hands.
This engagement occurred about 6 o’clock on the evening of June 6th some hours after Ashby’s encounter with Wyndham, and under no possibility could any of the First New Jersey cavalry have been in the fight. They had been completely done for some hours previous to that time, and the remnant of the regiment had taken an entirely different direction in their precipitate flight. No, the noble, chivalrous Turner Ashby died at the hands of a member of the Pennsylvania Bucktail Regiment.
W. W. GOLDSBOROUGH,
Late Major Maryland Infantry, C S. A.