Col. Jacob Ayres, now living retired on his farm of 58 acres, a valuable tract of land which is situated in Scioto Township, has many valid claims to the respect of his fellow-citizens. Colonel Ayres was born in Pickaway County. Ohio, March 12, 1841, and is a son of Isaac and Catherine (Freese) Ayres.

Isaac Ayres was born in 1810, at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and died in Delaware County, Ohio, in 1872. He learned the blacksmith's trade in York County, Pennsylvania, which he followed more or less throughout the entire period of his industrial life. When he reached the age of twenty-one years he started on foot and crossed the mountains into Ohio, settling first in Pickaway County, where he married. He remained there until after the birth of five children, when he came to Delaware County, locating near Bellpoint, where he acquired a small farm, the operating of which was largely left to his sons. He was a man of sterling character and frequently was invited to accept political office but consistently refused. He was married shortly after coming to Ohio, to Catherine Freese, who was born in 1814, and died in 1848. She was a daughter of Rev. Isaac Freese. a minister of the German United Brethren faith. He was born and married in Germany and after coming to America settled first in Pickaway County, but subsequently moved to Bellpoint, where he conducted religious services in both the German and English languages. The children born to Isaac Ayres and his wife were: John, who died in the service of his country, following the battle of Perryville, Kentucky, as a member of Company C, One Hundred Twenty-first Regiment. Ohio Volunteer Infantry; Ellen L., now deceased, who married Royal Edwards; Andrew, who died in early manhood; Martha, who is deceased; Catherine, deceased, who married David Hamilton; Sarah, also deceased, who married Frank Speese; Jacob, subject of this article; Abraham, who resides in Concord Township; Hester Flora, who married John Fuller, and resides at Roann, Indiana; Isaac, and one child unnamed that died in infancy. Both parents were very active church workers.

Jacob Ayres lived at home until his mother's death, and attended what was called the Haney School at Bellpoint. Until 1858 he resided with Green Neff, at Berlin Station, and then, coming to Delaware, learned the carpenter's trade with Henry Robinson and Geprge Perry. He continued to work as a carpenter until he enlisted in the Federal Army, on February 1, 1862. He became a member of Company I. Eighty-second Regiment. Ohio Volunteer Infantry, which was sent to Grafton. West Virginia, thence to Moorefield and later to McDowell, Virginia, where the Union forces were defeated May 8, 1862, and retreated to Moorefield. Here they were reinforced by General Fremont and then crossed the mountains to Strasburg, where they defeated General Jackson's forces and drove him up the valley to Harrisburg. Company I then fell back to Middletown, and from there went to Culpeper Court House to reinforce General Banks, going thence to the banks of the Rapidan River under General Sickles. At this point, the force with which Colonel Ayres was connected, being notified of General Lee's advance, began a retreat to Culpeper Court House. They subsequently fought in the second battle of Bull Run, under General Pope, and after the defeat fell back to Washington. The corps was left at Arlington Heights to recruit, while the remainder of the army went to take part in the battle of Antietam, as a part of the forces under General McClellan.

After that battle the Eighty-second Regiment was united with the Army of the Potomac and later took part in the battle of Chancellorville under General Hooker. After his defeat they crossed the Rappahannock River and encamped in the Stafford Hills until General Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania. The regiment then broke camp and followed the Confederate forces into Maryland, and thence to Gettysburg. There, under Generals Reynolds and Howard, the Eighty-second took part in the first day's engagement. In relating the subsequent movements at Gettysburg, Colonel Ayres' own vivid description may be used to give a clear idea to the reader.

"At four o'clock in the afternoon we retreated to the village of Gettysburg and our lines were re-established by General Hancock and formed in line of battle around Cemetery Hill. The right wing stationed upon Culp's Hill was known as the Twelfth Corps and was under General Slocum. and the Eleventh Corps, under General Howard, joined the left of the Twelfth and extended around the horseshoe bend of Cemetery Hill. The First Corps, under General Newton, joined the left of the Eleventh Corps and extended around the foot of Cemetery Hill, to the Second Corps under General Hancock and joined the left of the First Corps and extended on down Cemetery Ridge and was joined on the left of the Second Corps by General Sickles with the Third Corps that extended down to Big and Little Round Top. That position was held by each corps until the close of the following engagement. The second day opened upon the extreme left at three o'clock by General Longstreet of the Confederates against Generals Sickles and Hancock, and at eight o'clock Ewell's Corps of the Confederate army moved in upon the Union right and took the first two lines of the Union works, this closing the engagement of the second day. At the council of the generals it was decided to open against Ewell's corps as quick as they could discern an object in the morning. Slocum being re-enforced. The attack opened early in the morning upon Culp's Hill, and the Union position was re-established, the battle closing at eleven o'clock in favor of the Union forces. At 1:40 p. m. the artillery duel opened the advance of Pickett's charge, which immediately followed, and the Federal army was again victorious. The next day the scouts advanced and found that Lee was making arrangements to retire, having withdrawn Ewelfs corps from the front of Culp's Hill, and subsequently the Union army followed Lee for one day, being then drawn back to Frederick City, and thence to Funkstown, where they remained in line of battle until Lee crossed the river. The Union army then marched across the river again into Virginia and back to Bull Run battle-field, where the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps were detached from the Army of the Potomac and sent to re-enforce Rosecrans of the Army of the Cumberland. On the 27th they started from Bridgeport, crossed the Tennessee River, struck the Trenton Valley at the foot of Lookout Mountain, and at three o'clock in the afternoon, being the advance scout (having been detailed as a regular scout under General O. O. Howard in May. 1863). I was wounded at the junction of the railroad where it passes around the mountain to Chattanooga and remained there until January 23, when I was furloughed from the hospital and went home. I returned from there to Camp Chase. Columbus, Ohio, and from there was discharged for a gun-shot wound in my right hip." In the limits of the present biography, it would be impossible to give any adequate account of the dangers, adventures and thrilling escapes of Colonel Ayres, for, as a scout, his was always the post of danger, the one where hazard was the greatest, and for this dangerous work only men of unflinching courage were selected. Colonel Ayres has a war record that should be preserved entire for it is one to which his descendants can refer with feelings of pride in years to come. In the heat of battle, or in making his way cautiously to watch the movements of the enemy in advance of the army, or in carrying a message through unfriendly territory. Colonel Ayres had several horses shot from under him, and on one occasion he ran a horse to death in making his escape from his captors. On another occasion he was taken prisoner in the Shenandoah Valley, and as rain was falling as it does fall only in Virginia, and the roads were such as only Virginia can produce after such a rain, the officers of the capturing party decided that they would camp for the night in an old log cabin in a lonely spot, picketing their horses and taking their saddles and equipments within the cabin. There were fifteen Confederates in the party guarding Colonel Ayres. but that did not prevent the alert Union officer from managing to get next to the door when the tired party lay down around the room to sleep. All were worn out and all fell asleep except the prisoner, who managed to slip out of the door without arousing them, and catch the halter strap on one of the picketed horses; and while lightning flashed and thunder rolled, a Union officer was wildly galloping bare-hacked in the direction of liberty which was fifteen miles distant. Pursuit was continued for almost the whole distance to the Union lines, the pursuers sometimes being so close that bullets whistled by the colonel's ears. Fortunately he knew the men on picket duty when he reached the Union forces and with the cry. "A friend in trouble and the enemy coining." he dashed by and fell exhausted in the arms of his comrades. This thrilling experience was more than once almost duplicated by him and its recital enables the reader in these peaceful times to appreciate the nerve and valor of those who fought in the great struggle of 1861-65.

Colonel Ayres was married to Mary P. Rhoades. who was horn June 30. 1840. a daughter of Valentine Rhoades of Scioto Township, and who died March 9, 1907. leaving behind a sweet and gracious memory. She was a woman of many Christian virtues, one who bore years of suffering with patience and fortitude. There were four children born to this union, namely: John J., who is an auctioneer and carpenter; William A., who manages the home farm: Rosa Mary, who is the wife of Oliver Owens, of Radnor; and George E.. who resides in Thompson Township. Colonel Ayres has fourteen grandchildren.

After his marriage Colonel Ayres settled in School District No. 11, Scioto Township, in which he has lived ever since, and where he has been a school director for eighteen years. In 1870 he settled on his present farm and for twelve years followed carpenter work. In 1875 he began auctioneering, in which occupation he continued for many years, being the oldest living member of that craft in this section. Although reared in a Democratic family, he is a stanch Republican. He has served Scioto Township as a trustee on many occasions and has been elected when the Democratic normal majority has been 100. He is a member of Edinburg Lodge, No. 467, I. O. O. F.. at Ostrander, being past grand of the same, and belongs to Tanner Post, Grand Army of the Republic, at Ostrander. For a considerable period he lectured through Ohio, Indiana and Michigan on the subject of a Union Scout's Personal Knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg, and everywhere his vivid story was listened to with interest and benefit.

 

From 20th Century History of Delaware County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens by James R. Lytle