William L. Wilson and Tariff Reform, a Biography

By Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
Three Years in the Saddle [1862-1865]

THE FORCE which Wilson joined was Ashby's Cavalry, the well-known brigade of Confederate horsemen led by the Fauquier County farmer, Turner Ashby. Wilson's organization was Company B, Twelfth Virginia, recruited mainly from his own county of Jefferson and commanded by his kinsman, Captain Robert W. Baylor, late of the Third Cavalry Militia. For months Company B had been without status in the Confederate service, having neither arms nor officers, nor, in fact, sufficient men to complete its organization. But Ashby had nursed the troop and it had served him well both at the battle of Kernstown (fought between Jackson and Shields on March, 23, 1862) and during the ensuing Confederate retreat up the Shenandoah. It was in fact not until April 21, 1862, while halted at Conrad's Store, that the company was raised to full strength, provided with commissioned and noncommissioned personnel, and assigned. 1

Baylor's men were a fair sample of the first Confederate light cavalry. They were a stouthearted band, ready for any adventure but obviously untrained for war. Nearly all were youths under twenty-five; some, like Wilson, were college graduates, many had closed their books for the duration, others had left behind the leisure if not yet the responsibilities of propertied estate. Socially and economically they generally belonged to the upper-crust yeomanry of their respective communities. Each volunteer brought his own horse and many their arms and equipment. 2 Company B was splendid, but it would be superfluous to state that it posed a problem for the drillmaster.

The same could be said of Ashby's whole brigade, the total strength of which varied from ten to twenty-seven companies. It exhibited the

____________________
1
George Baylor, Bull Run to Bull Run, p. 37.
2
Ibid., p. 38.

-17-

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