a vignette as 1st lieutenant with imprint of “J.E. McClees, Philadelphia.” Carte is magnificently identified beneath portrait, “Joseph Penrose Ash/United States Army./Taken after he had received/six wounds in battle.” Written in the same hand on verso is a lofty salutation that reads, “To General US Grant/General in Chief/of the Armies of the United States,” a rank Grant achieved in March 1864, two months before Ash was killed.
Joseph Penrose Ash (1839-1864) was a fearless and efficient officer who received his appointment in the 2nd Cavalry (later 5th Cavalry) directly from President Lincoln in April 1861 after a daring reconnaissance “inside the enemy lines across the Potomac.” Ash was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in January 1862 and served in the Peninsula campaign being “one of the very few officers” fortunate to emerge unscathed from the 5th Cavalry’s epic charge at Gaines Mill. Lieutenant Ash frequently led squadron size commands and his sterling conduct under fire was mentioned in the official reports of his superior officers including Pleasanton, Merritt and Custer (see OR’s).
Ash was severely wounded at Warrenton on November 8, 1862 where he “received at least three saber cuts and a gunshot wound.” He was brevetted major for “conspicuous gallantry” at Warrenton and did not return to his regiment until the fall of 1863. Promoted to captain in September 1863, Ash rejoined the 5th Cavalry in October and was slightly wounded at Morton’s Ford before joining the fight at Bristoe Station. Serving under Merritt and Custer early in 1864, Captain Ash’s “spirited” conduct earned him the accolades of these esteemed cavalrymen.
Ash was killed at Todd’s Tavern on May 8, 1864 “while trying to rally a regiment of infantry” and hastily buried on the field. The divisional after action report served as both a testament and eulogy to the young officer: “He died nobly in the discharge of a most important duty; a heroic, patriotic, intrepid cavalry officer, a noble martyr in his country’s service.” Ash was brevetted lieutenant colonel for “conspicuous gallantry at Spotsylvania” and was later reburied in St. James-the-Less Churchyard, Philadelphia on May 15, 1865.
Condition: Carte is VG with solid edges and corners, somewhat light and sepia toned with soft clarity.