Jacob William Wheeler Ashley was born on March 18, 1833 at Laverton, Somerset, England the eldest son of James Ashley and Joanna Wheeler. The family moved to Hemington where younger brother James was born and the family are to be found in the 1841 and 1851 census returns.
Jacob married Charlotte Watts and a son Edward was born on September 12, 1853 at Rode Hill. It would be 1866 before the couples scond child Albert was born at Bradford on Avon. What was the reason for this long gap. From his obituary in 1912 we learn that.
“William Jacob Wheeler Ashley was a British army veteran, who was enrolled into the 36th, or Hereford Regiment, popularly known as the “Hereford Heroes”. This was in 1854, when he volunteered for duty in Crimea. He was transferred to the 60th, or “Wiltshire Springers”. Wm. was sent to the Black Sea, then back to England where his military picture was taken. The next transfer was to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he saw action on the British Ship Trent. By this time he was a corporal. He was stationed at St. Andrews, Maine, next to Woodstock on the St. John River, then to Kingston. He returned home to England in 1864 and rejoined his family.”
Memories of Jacob William Ashley’s military career have, like his name, become somewhat distorted over the years.
The Wiltshire Regiment was the 62nd Regiment of Foot, and it was this regiment that on October 1, 1855 in the Crimea received 150 volunteers from the 36th regiment, or Hereford Regiment. This would appear to confirm the first part of his military service.
On May 7, 1856 the 62nd embarked at Balaclava, Crimea for transport to Halifax, Nova Scotia where they arrived June 2, 1856 and occupied the Citadel Barracks. The years leading up to the American Civil War were spent at Halifax with occasional garrison duty at St. John, New Brunswick and the regular summer camp at Chobam. Although it is possible, it seems unlikely that the transports travelled via England, so we need to look elsewhere for the source of his military picture.
In September 1858 the regiment received a telegraphic order telling them not to return to England, which was a little mysterious as they had never received an order to return. The mystery was solved ten days later when the mail ship arrived with orders to return to England, accompanied by the counter-order. On 30 Nov 1859, the Regiment received orders to prepare to embark for West Indies, but these were coutermanded on 17 January, no doubt due to the possibility of Civil War in the United States. The remainder of the regiments time in North America was spent along the border with the United States.
The Trent Affair, also known as the Mason and Slidell Affair, was an international diplomatic incident that occurred during the American Civil War. On November 8, 1861 the USS San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Charles Wilkes, intercepted the British mail packet Trent and removed two Confederate diplomats, James Mason and John Slidell. The envoys were bound for Great Britain and France in order to press the Confederacy’s case for diplomatic recognition by Europe. The Trent was sailing from Havana, Cuba and the incident occurred in the Bahama Channel, a long way from the Canadian border. Jacob would certainly have heard about the incident but it is highly unlikely that he could have taken part. This is the only know incident involing the Trent.
On completing his service Jacob returned home to his wife and son, who were living in Bradford-on-Avon with Charlotte’s mother Sarah and step-father William Bray, and as previously mention a second son Albert was born in 1866.
To be continued ……