Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Turner Ashby

The Memoirs Of General Turner Ashby And His Compeers by James Battle Avirett

Originally published in 1867 this book was interesting for more than just the story of Ashby. It was enjoyable to read a book from an unreconstructed rebel so soon after the war. He still had a lot of anger at how things turned out. One of the funny parts was when he complained about how West Virginia had been taken away from Virginia and he hoped that the wrong would soon be corrected.

Ashby was one of the early heroes of the war. Of course the author, Ashby's chaplain during the war, is going to gloss over the imperfections in his subject. At the end you're left wondering how far Ashby would have risen, and maybe he would have gone far. On the other hand though I know from other books that Ashby was not as great as he sounds here. He spent much of his time doing scouting activities that would have been better left to a man of lesser rank. A colonel should not be leading small squad scouts, that is a job for a sergeant or lieutenant, maybe even a captain. A colonel, and for a short time a brigadier general, should concern himself with the unit as a whole; perfect its training and organization.

And there were stories that Ashby's unit was not very disciplined, even the author addresses that to a small degree. But in 1867 that sort of commentary was not very likely, especially for a deceased hero. And especially by a member of his command. If you accept the fact that were will not be much criticism of the title subject than this biography is interesting.

The author goes into much detail about Ashby's personal life and how he lived a chivalric life. One thing I thought odd is there was no mention of a wife. Ashby was 33 when he died so its not like he was so young as to not have married. Its odd just because we normally don't see too many bachelors among Civil War generals.

If you want a biography of Ashby that will point out his strengths and weaknesses this is not it. That is due to the time frame when written which provides its own interesting aspects. Otherwise this is a good book, not a great one, but interesting enough to warrant reading.

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