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From: Gene Eric Salecker <>
Subject: [Sultana] JAmes King Ashley
Date: Fri, 18 Apr 2003 09:56:33 -0500

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Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2003 01:18:35 -0500 (CDT)
From: Gene E Salecker <>
To: Janet Turnbull <>
cc: , , ,

Subject: Re: James K. Ashley, 20th Indiana Battery
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To Janet Turnball:

Dear Janet:

I apologize for taking so long to get back to you with my information on
James King Ashley. I looked through the file that I have on James, and
several other files that I have on Sultana soldiers and etc., and
discovered the following.

I listed James King Ashley as being a member of Company L, 1st Kentucky
Cavalry because of the following reasons; On August 24, 1990, I received a
personal letter from Mr. Shannon Ashley of Somerset, Kentucky. Shannon
Ashley is a direct descendant of JK Ashley and wrote, "I have discovered
that I had one ancestor on the boat when it exploded, supposedly he
survived. I have enclosed an article about him and the
disaster." Mr. Ashley also noted that "James King (JK) Ashley was born
circa 1845."

The enclosed article was from The Commonwealth-Journal from Somerset,
Kentucky for Sunday, February 16, 1986. The article was entitled "April
1865 was hot for survivors of Rebel prison," by O'Leary Meece. The article
stated, among other things, "Especially it was a good month for
J.K. Ashley of Science Hill (Pulaski County), Kentucky. He was finding it
hard to believe that he was on his way home to Pulaski County after 19
months' exposure to the most brutal and satanic of all Confederate

"He had survived the brutal treatment that left 12,884 graves of Union
soldiers as mute reminders that there had been a deliberate system of
savage and barbarious treatment of prisoners. He had been paroled for two
weeks and had been able to get his weight up to 72 pounds."

"The former prisoners joked with each other and with gawking citizens as
they boarded the steamer Sultana at New Orleans [sic] for the long trip
northward and a ticket home. They had survived Andersonville and the
events of Stone River, Shiloh, Atlanta and Philadelphia, Tenn., had become
agonizing memories..."

Meece tells of the explosion of the Sultana and then writes, "Ashley
survived. Years later he was able to write an article for a local
newspaper that described the tragic end of the Sultana. Some 1,500 of his
fellow prisoners were not so fortunate and perished in the Sultana

"Ashley had been captured at Philadelphia, Tenn., on October 20, 1863,
along with Pulaskians J.M. Ashley, David Jones, Walter Large, W. Owens and
Wesley H. Silvers. All were members of Company 'L,' First Kentucky
Cavalry. All had enlisted September 11, 1861, and had survived many major
battles and skirmishes. John M. Ashley, Jones, Large, Silvers and Owens
did not survive the oppressive conditions of Andersonville and were buried
far from the red clay hills of their favorite spot - Pulaski County."

At note at the top of the article that was sent to me said, "The Wesley
Silvers mentioned in the article was the brother of John P. Silvers, who
was grandfather of O'Leary M. Meece [the author of the article.]"

Since Mr. Meece was a relative of one of the soldiers in the article and
since he was writing about his home county, I felt that Mr. Meece was in a
pretty good position to know the truth. And, since I received the article
from a relative of James King Ashley I felt that Mr. Shannon Ashley must
know something about his relative. I therefore, felt that I had adequate
evidence to believe that James King Ashley had been a member of Company L,
1st Kentucky Cavalry.

However, I did have conflicting evidence as I compiled my Sultana
list. The St. Louis newspapers published a list of the Sultana victims
that were taken to various hospitals in Memphis. For Adams Hospital there
is a "Ashley, James K., 20 Ind. Bat., contusion of face, severe."

The same St. Louis newspaper published a list in March and early April of
all of the men that were being held at Camp Fisk, just outside of
Vicksburg. The men were waiting to be sent home. The newspaper listed,
"Ashley, Y.R, 20th Ind. Bat."

And finally, Rev. Chester Berry, in his 1892 book entitled "The Sultana
Disaster and Reminiscences of Survivors," listed a "Ashley, Y. K., 20th
Indiana," on page 387.

Only the St. Louis Adams Hospital list actually mentioned James K. Ashley
by name, while the Camp Fisk list had him as "Y. R. Ashley," and Berry had
him as "Y.K. Ashley." Likewise, although two places listed an Ashley with
the 20th Indiana Battery, Reverand Berry had him with the 20th Indiana

So, with so much discrepancy, and not fully knowing whether YK, YR and
James K. Ashley were all the same person, I decided to go with the
information provided by a living relative and a newspaper reporter
from Pulaski County, Kentucky that James King Ashley was actually a member
of Company L, 1st Kentucky Cavalry. I knew that Berry had been grossly
wrong before and I also knew that the newspapers sometimes made
mistakes. However, I was hoping that a living relative would have the
correct information. Apparently, in light of what you have provided, I was

It does appear as though there may have been at least two James King
Ashley's fighting in the Civil War - one that enlisted on September 11,
1861 in the Co. L, 1st kentucky Cavalry and one that enlisted in January
1863 in the 20th Indiana Battery. The first one enlisted in or
near Pulaski, Tennessee while the second enlsied in Indiana.

The first James King Ashley (perhaps a relative of the second?) was
captured on October 20, 1863 at Philadelphia, Tenn and spent 19 months in
Andersonville Prison. [That would mean that he was released in May
1865, one month after the Sultana Disaster!] The second was captured at
Bridgeport, Alabama and spent 9 months in Cahaba prison. (He must have
been captured around July 1864.)=20

From=20information provided by Jack Lundquist from the Kentucky Adjutant
Genral's Report, it appears as though the first James King Ashley was
released from Andersonville and was paroled at Charleston, South Carolina
and returned to his unit on December 15, 1864. If so, then the first JK
Ashley spent only 14 months in prison. It is possible that a 14 and a 19
could be confused.

From=20information provided by you, it appears as though the second James
King Ashley was sent to Vicksburg and was eventually placed on the
Sultana. It appears that the James King Ashley from the 20th Indiana
Battery was the soldier that was placed on board the Sultana, was injured
and taken to Adams Hospital and survived. He eventually returned to
Indiana and then to Kentucky.

At the same time, the other James King Ashley returned to Pulaski County,
Kentucky. When the Sultana survivor wrote his story, everybody must have
assumed that there was only one James King Ashley and that he had been on
the Sultana. That may be why the Kentucky Adjutant General's Report
lists the 1st Kentucky Cavalry James King Ashley as having been a
survivor of the Sultana. Even the state of Kentucky was not sure.

Years later, in 1986, when Mr. Meece wrote his newspaper article, he again
confused the two. He put the 1st Kentucky Cavalry Ashley on the Sultana
instead of the 20th Indiana Battery Ashley. The confusion was so bad, that
even the relatives of the two men were not sure. Now, however, you have
provided first person material to show that James King Ashley from the
20th Indiana Battery was on the Sultana.

Janet, I have added your write up of James K. Ashley's words to his file
and have changed him from being a member of Co. L, 1st KY Cav, to being a
member of the 20th Indiana Battery. Thanks for taking the time to write to
the SULTANA-L and for correcting a wrong.

I apologize for any inconvenience that the mislabeling might have caused
but now you can see what I had to work with. Imagine what it was like to
try and identify close to 2,200 soldiers, civilians and crew members!

Respectully yours,
Gene Eric Salecker
Author, Disaster on the Mississippi: The Sultana Explosion, April 27, 1865

On Tue, 8 Apr 2003, Janet Turnbull wrote:

> According to James K. Ashley's pension application, he was a private in t=
he 20th
> Indiana Light Artillery.
> "I was bornd in the County of Pulaski State of Ky, emigrated to the S=
tate of
> Indiana when a boy when the late war came up I enlisted in the 20 Indiana=
> in Jan 1863. I served out my term was discharged by expiration or termin=
ation of
> war. . . . I enlisted in the army I was in good health until I was captur=
ed at
> Brdigeport, Alabama. Was taken to Cahaba Alabama where I remained about =
> months in prison. After I was parolled and got back to our lines I was s=
o near
> exausted my stomache in sutch a condition from starvaion I contracted dis=
ease of
> stomache indigestion while in Vicksburg in the spring of 1865. We were a=
ll on the
> steamer Sultana whitch exploaded on the 27 day of April 1865 where many l=
ives were
> lost in the explosion, I received an injury in left knee whitch caused me=
> trouble and suffering if I stand. . . my left rist was dislocated and I w=
> scalded and was bruised up considerable got a lick on my forehead just ab=
ove my
> right eye--leaves a scar. . . . I was treated in Hospital at Adams Hospit=
al in
> Memphis Tenn for injuries received from explosion of said boat."
> Possibly the confusion stems from the fact that he was born in Kentucky, =
and after
> living in Indiana and Illinois, returned to Kentucky for the rest of his =
> Also, an article was published in a Kentucky paper about a James K. Ashle=
y who was
> in Andersonville and survived the Sultana explosion.
> If any of you have newspaper accounts of the Sultana explosion, I woul=
d love to
> have copies if you're willing to share. Interlibrary loan has been unabl=
e to help
> with my requests. I'd also like to know the source of Potter's and Salec=
> lists of Sultana passengers, if anyone knows that.
> I am going to take another look at his file, and if I find any other
> clarifying information, I'll let you know.
> Janet Turnbull
> wrote:
> > There apparently was more than one James Ashley on the Sultana or he ha=
s been
> > incorrectly identified.
> >
> > Gene Salacker and Jerry Potter both identify a James King Ashley, Pvt, =
Co. L,
> > 1st Kentucky Cavalry, captured 10/20/1863 at Philadelphia, Tennessee, a=
> > surviving, treated at Adams Hospital for severe face contusion and no f=
> > record. Also listed in Kentucky Adjutant General=E2=80=99s Report, Vol =
I, Page 44 as
> > =E2=80=9CNo further record found.=E2=80=9DAndersonville Records, Code 3=
7334, state that he
> > was paroled at Charleston, South Carolina and returned to his command,
> > December 15, 1864 and was a =E2=80=9CReported Sultana survivor=E2=80=9D=
> >
> > But in cross checking with Chester Berry=E2=80=99s book, page 387 he li=
sts a Y. K.
> > Ashley of the 20th Indiana Infantry.
> >
> > The Cincinnati Weekly Commercial, May 4, 1865 lists a James K. Ashley, =
> > Indiana Battery.
> >
> > It=E2=80=99s my guess that James King Ashley, 1st Kentucky is not the c=
orrect man to
> > have survived the Sultana. If he returnrd to his command on December 15=
, 1864
> > there would be no reason that he was on the Sultana since the passenger=
s were
> > all newly released POW=E2=80=99s.
> >
> > I would refer this to Gene Salacker, whom I have copied.
> >
> > I would be interested in knowing when and where he was mustered out or
> > discharged to make my records complete and accurate.
> >
> > Jack Lundquist



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