As a boy, I heard the stories about Confederate General Turner Ashby, as he was reputed to be one of my ancestors. My great grandmother, Ida Reid Ashby, wrote a lengthy passage about him in her book Ashbys, Reids and Allied Families. I have recently received information confirming the link via DNA evidence. He would have been a distant cousin, rather than a direct ancestor, as he was not married and had no children. Turner Ashby was a fascinating and dashing fellow, a key to Stonewall Jackson’s success in the Shenandoah Campaign of early 1862. I decided to include him in the novel, or at least his legend, as he was killed three weeks before the novel opens. It was not until I was well under way with the research and outlining of the book that I discovered that he had been a slave owner. I had suspected as much, but it was not confirmed until I found a copy of Thomas A. Ashby’s 1914 biography Life of Turner Ashby.
Many of my ancestors fought in the Civil War, on both sides. Major Gilbert Trusler, my great, great grandfather, was a member of Company H of the 36th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, and had been acting colonel at the Battle of Chattanooga under Ulysses S. Grant. He was 32 when he enlisted on September 9, 1861. Nelson Trusler, my 2nd great grand uncle, brother of Gilbert and a lawyer, was Colonel in the 84th Indiana Regiment.
There were a great number of Ashbys in the Civil War, over 140, or so I am told, although I doubt that I am related to them all. My great great grandfather, James Samuel Ashby, all 5 feet 4 ½ inches of him, was drafted, at the age of 24, into the 44th Infantry of Indiana, in October of 1864, mustered out at Chattanooga, Tennessee July 25th, 1865. His brothers, my 2nd great granduncles, John Hankinson Ashby, Henry Thomas Ashby and Leander Bradshaw Ashby, all had illustrious careers in the war. John Hankinson Ashby was a corporal in the 9th Kentucky Cavalry, involved with Morgan's Raid, where he was killed. Henry Thomas Ashby was one of the first volunteers from Indiana and was in the 7th Indiana Regiment. Henry must have towered over his older brother James, as he was 5 feet 11 inches tall, with grey eyes and dark hair. He had been a carpenter, and was 18 when he signed up in August of 1861. He fought at Gettysburg (in a letter to his mother, he says he was within 50 yards of where General Ewell fell), and was later killed in the Battle of the Wilderness of Spotsylvania. He was shot seven times and held the colors until he fell, May 5, 1864, on the battle field. He mentions in one of his letters that his Virginia kindred were fighting on the other side. Leander Bradshaw Ashby was 19 when he joined the 9th Indiana Cavalry of Indiana Volunteers in 1864. He served in the Col. Eli Lilly Regiment. In a bloody battle near Franklin, TN, "Uncle Lee" was one of the men who carried Lt. Burroughs to the rear in a dying condition just after Uncle Lee's own horse's head had been shot off. He mustered out at Vicksburg, Mississippi on August 28th, 1865.
And then there was Zachariah. Although not one of James Samuel Ashby’s brothers, Zachariah is also an Ashby relative; he enlisted as a private on the first of October, 1864 at the age of 18. He deserted Company K, 15th Iowa Infantry on the 5th of November, 1864. A month in the army was enough for Zachariah.
The above information has been graciously supplied by my uncle, Samuel Ashby Fuller, and through the Indiana State Archives.