THE BLACK KNIGHTLt. Colonel Turner Ashby
Western Virginia, January 1862
Of the many charismatic and colorful leaders produced by the War Between the States, none shine brighter than Turner Ashby. Raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, an area noted for its superb horses and accomplished riders, he became at an early age an expert rider and trainer of horses. Ashby was well known for winning many riding tournaments in Virginia. In these contests he often used the title, Knight of the Black Prince. It was said that during the war he rode the two best horses of the army, one was white and the other black. The Black Knight of the Confederacy led his dashing command through the mountains and valleys of Virginia spreading havoc among the invading Union forces.
In January 1862, General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson implemented his plan to launch an attach and capture the Federal garrison, strategically located in the town of Romney. The 7th Virginia Cavalry, consisting of nearly 500 horsemen led by Lt. Colonel Ashby would be the eyes and ears of Jackson's army.
As Jackson's troop began their march in January 1, the pleasant weather suddenly turned cold as a norther blew in. Temperatures dropped and snow began to fall. Ashby and his cavalry led the way through the snow-covered mountains and valleys of northwest Virginia to Jackson's objectives.
Jackson's troops drove the Federals out of Bath and took the B&O Stations at Alpine, Sir John's Run, and burned the bridge at Great Capacon. As the main body of Jackson's army approached the occupied city of Hancock, Maryland, Jackson sent Lt. Col. Ashby and his men with a flag of truce to demand the town's surrender. General Lander had earlier rushed Federal troops to reinforce the garrison, and refused the demand. Jackson's men shelled the town and marched to Romney. Romney fell without resistance and Jackson now had control of the area. General Jackson had achieved his objective with the able assistance of his Black Knight.
I have always been a great fan of Turner Ashby because of his skill and abilities as a horseman. It must have been quite a sight to have watched Col. Ashby attacking the enemy, riding one of his powerful horses, sword in hand and at a full gallop. Col. Ashby led his men by example, and seemed always to be at the head of the attack. Stonewall Jackson observed his recklessness many times, and was concerned for the safety of his cavalry commander.
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