German Baker Ashlin/ A GREAT-Uncle!

Ashlin, German B, grave, 1915, Sugar Grove, Smyth VA 001

This week’s prompt for #52Ancestors is “Bachelor Uncle” and as I was searching my records, I remembered a male ancestor that never married.  I remembered him because it seems just about everyone I research did marry.  Some, of course, married more than once.  Because German Baker Ashlin never did marry and was a wounded Confederate soldier is why I became interested in his story.  I don’t know where his first name “German” came from but I figured out his middle name “Baker” was the maiden name of his paternal grandmother, Lucy Baker who married Christopher Ashlin.

German Baker Ashlin was born on 11 October of 1839, the seventh and last child of Chesley Harrison Ashlin and Phoebe Byrd James Ashlin, my third great-grandparents.  German became my third great-uncle.  I found the first record of him on the 1850 census for Smyth County, Virginia where he is 10 years old.  He was nine years younger that his big brother, Columbus Perry Ashlin, my second great-grandfather.  You can read about Chesley, Phoebe and Columbus here: First blog post  By 1860, German was 20 years old, a farmer and had a personal estate value of $125 (About $3800 today).  He was still living with his parents but the Civil War was about to begin and life would change drastically for German.

German enlisted in the 8th Regiment, Company A, Virginia Cavalry for the Confederacy.  Records show this Cavalry unit was formed 1 Jan of 1862 and mustered out 9 Apr 1865.  German entered the service as a Private and attained the rank of Sergeant.   On researching the history of battles of this unit, I found they fought mostly in West Virginia and Virginia with some battles in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.  Some of the more familiar battle places of the very, very many listed included Tazewell County, VA; Mercer County, WV; Pulaski County, VA; Amelia Courthouse; Cumberland Gap, KY; Knoxville, TN; Harper’s Ferry; Lynchburg, VA; Gettysburg, PA on 4 July 1863; Chambersburg, PA; and, Woodstock, VA.  There were so many battles and skirmishes that this cavalry unit were involved in that it was almost mind-boggling!

Beside risking his life for the Confederate cause, he also helped out in another way.  He sold to the cavalry, to which he was attached, corn and hay for the horses.  A copy of the transaction states on January 10, 1864, the Confederate States paid him $86.33 for 21 and 6/7 bushels of corn at $3.95 a bushel and paid $38.55 for 1428 pounds of hay at $2.70 per 100 pounds as forage for 34 horses for three days on picket.  The total bill was $124.88.  Another interesting thing is that the document has German’s signature on it.  He was no doubt paid in Confederate money.

Ashlin, German B, Military, 1864, Jonesville, VA 001

Information from a copy of his original pension application made on June 19, 1899 gives details of German’s service and war injuries.  About the 8th day of October, 1864, he was wounded in a charge on Sheridan’s Cavalry 3 miles east of Woodstock, Virginia.  Considering how many engagements he was in, it is surprising he wasn’t wounded sooner!  He was disabled by a bullet entering his right arm immediately before the shoulder joint and passing out near to his spine on the right side of the spinal column.  It impaired the use of his arm to the extent that he was unable to grasp and use any implements to be used on the farm and he was unable to do but very little manual labor.  In addition, his lungs were damaged to the extent that he could not exercise freely as breathing was labored.  (German did get his pension but he was already 60 years old by that time!)

So what happened after the war?  In 1870, German was only 30 years old and now  disabled but was able to find some work as a farm laborer – farming was in his blood, I guess.  He returned to the area of Smyth County, Virginia where he grew up.  I was happy to see that he did own a farm in the 1880 Agricultural Census and it was a nice sized farm.  The census listed 197 acres tilled, 127 acres laid fallow and 100 acres of woodland and forest.  The farm was valued at $1280 (About $31,500 today).   Something happened to his farm though between then and 1900 as I found him living with his sister, Catherine Ashlin Williams and her husband and family in 1900.  Catherine had married Robert Crow Williams in  1880.  Without a 1890 census, it is hard to know how long German was able to keep his farm.  Did he lose the farm because of his disability or worsening health?

The 1910 Census finds that he still lived with his sister Catherine Williams, who is now a widow as Robert died in 1907.  Catherine’s daughter, Minnie Williams, age 38, lives with them and is listed on the census as “blind” and “deaf and dumb.”  Catherine owns the farm free of mortgage and German, now 70 years old, is listed as a Survivor of the Confederate Army.

German Baker Ashlin never did marry and perhaps his disability caused by war wounds had something to do with it.  One can only speculate on this.  He died on 26 March of 1915 at the age of 75.   The Death Certificate stated that he “Died suddenly, Cause not known” at 5 a.m.   Interesting that the death certificate has his brother Columbus Ashlin and sister-in-law listed as his parents!  It is not known if the informant, H. C. Carson, was a relative or friend but obviously gave the wrong information!.

Ashlin, German B, Death cert, 1915, St Clair, Smyth VA 001

German was buried in the Ashlin-Wilkinson Family Cemetery in Sugar Grove, Smyth County VA.   A veteran’s plaque and gravestone mark the site.  The more recent picture of the grave stone shows it is now off the pedestal.  The inscription on his grave stone reads “In my father’s house are many mansions.”  Rest in peace, Great-uncle, you earned your mansion!

Ashlin, German B, grave 2, 1915, Smyth VA 001


United States Federal Census; Year: 1850; Census Place: District 60, Smyth, Virginia; Roll: M432_976; Page: 228A; Image: 457.

United States Federal Census; Year: 1860; Census Place: Smyth, Virginia; Roll: M653_1377; Page: 1050; FHL film: 805377.

National Park Service, U. S. Civil War Soldiers: 1861-1865 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 2007.

Historical Data Systems, comp. U. S., American Civil War Regiments, 1861-1866 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 1999. (Bill of Sale from The Confederate States to Germain Ashland)

United States Federal Census; Year: 1870; Census Place: St Clair, Smyth, Virginia; Roll: M593_1679; Page: 97A; FHL Film: 553178.

United States Federal Census; Year: 1880; Census Place: St Clair, Smyth, Virginia; Archive Collection Number: T1132; Roll: 29; Page: 693, Line: 3; Schedule Type: Agricultural.

United States Federal Census: Year: 1900; Census Place: Williams, Smyth, Virginia; Page: 3; Enumeration District: 0087; FHL film: 1241728.

United States Federal Census; Year: 1910; Census Place: St Clair, Smyth, Virginia; Roll T624_1649; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 0093; FHL film: 1375662.

Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Deaths, 1912-2014.

Find A Grave Memorial 110838764,

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