Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Wartime Sketch of Asboth in Action
This is a wartime sketch done by an artist as he watched General Alexander Asboth ride past. Asboth is the man accompanied by the dog on the horse in the foreground.
A Union general who had served in Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky, he assumed command of the Federal District of West Florida in November of 1863. Noted for his abilities as a cavalry leader and administrator, Asboth was described by Phil Sheridan (who once served under him) as "personally couragous." Sheridan, like others who knew the general, also noted, however, that Asboth often doubted his own abilities. He took part in numerous raids and small actions around Northwest Florida, including the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864, where he was seriously wounded.
Numerous eyewitness accounts indicate the general was very popular with his men and this sketch captures two commonly noted observations about him. First, he usually wore an old striped blanked "poncho style" instead of a uniform coat. Second, he was always accompanied by his two large pet dogs. It was reported of him that while stationed in Pensacola he usually fed his dogs from the table. A lover of animals, he also sent unique animals from his various posts back to New York to expand the collection of the Central Park Zoo. The zoo's first Florida black bear, for example, was captured by Asboth somewhere in Northwest Florida and sent to New York by ship.
Often confused with his predecessor, the colonel of the 7th Vermont Infantry who was a noted "piano raider" in Northwest Florida, Asboth is sometimes blamed for much of the looting and furniture stealing that took place around Pensacola during the war. While his men unquestionably inflicted damage to the areas through which they passed, many of the actions sometimes blamed on Asboth were actually carried out by Col. William Holbrooke.