March 2, 2016

James F. Ayers (1847-1895)

James F. Ayers is said to have been born in Collinstown, VA.¹ That place has not been found. However, there is a Collinstown in Stokes Co., NC near the present day VA line. He was married to Matilda R. Schiller on Apr. 28, 1883 in Junction City, Geary Co., KS² and while living in OK, they became the parents of Maude B. Ayers, born Jan. 25, 1885.

Maude married Jonathon Horton Coffey, a son of Jasper Pink Coffey and Mary Jane Minton, on May 14 1903 at Junction City, Geary Co., KS.  Jonathon was born Mar. 30, 1876 in Lenoir, Caldwell Co., NC and died in Norton, Norton Co., KS on Oct. 31, 1961. Maude died on Oct. 10, 1969 in Topeka, Shawnee Co., KS and both she and Jonathan are buried at the Penwell-Gabel Cemetery in Topeka.

James had enlisted in the US Army at Richmond, VA on Oct. 13, 1868.  He was 21 years old and described as having been born at Collinstown, VA. He was 5' 8.5" tall, had grey eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion.  He was a "hatter" by trade. His enlistment record* shows that he was discharged at Louisville, KY on Nov. 13, 1871 with the rank of Corporal. His last enlistment papers, dated Jan. 16, 1892 show he was then on his sixth reenlistment.

In April 1875, Maude's father James was a member of Co. H, 6th US Cavalry serving in Kansas under the command of  Lt. Austin Henely, an Irish emigrant and West Point graduate.  His company, along with soldiers from Co. K of the 19th US Infantry, engaged a band of Cheyenne on Sappa Creek. 

According to John H. Monnett, author of the book Massacre at Cheyenne Hole: Lieutenant Austin Heneley and the Sappa Creek Controversy:
"On the morning of April 23, 1875, H Company, 6th U.S. Cavalry attacked and destroyed a Cheyenne camp located on the middle fork of Sappa Creek, a tributary of the Republican River in what is today Rawlins County, Kansas. The ensuing engagement was the last important military action of the Red River War and the last fought on the central plains between the U.S. Army and an independent band of Indians composed principally of Southern Cheyennes."³
Monnett continued with "...between 19 and 27 Cheyenne were killed while only two soldiers were killed. Eight Medals of Honor were awarded to soldiers for their actions on that date."

Citing the Museum of the Kansas National Guard, the citation for Ayers Medal of Honor reads:
Organization: Company H, 6th U.S. Cavalry. Place and date: At Sappa Creek, Kans., 23 April 1875. Entered service at: ------. Birth: Collinstown, Va. Date of issue: 16 November 1876. Citation: Rapid pursuit, gallantry, energy, and enterprise in an engagement with Indians."
Sgt. James F. Ayers was discharged on Aug. 6, 1894 "by Act of Congress" at Chicago, IL. He died on Jan. 18, 1895 and is buried at the post cemetery at Fort Riley in Geary Co., KS

¹Wikipedia at - Collinstown, NC is near the VA line.
*"United States Registers of Enlistment in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914",
²Kansas Marriages, 1840-1935", index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 May 2014)
³According to Wikipedia at, the Red River War was designed to forcibly remove all of the free roaming Southern Plains Indian tribes to reservations in then designated "Indian Territory," present day Oklahoma. 

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