John William Wallace Ayler was the son of George and Ann E. Ayler, of Fredericksburg, VA. [Note: The name Ayler is also spelled throughout the records as “Aler” and “Aylor.”] According to the 1850 U.S. Census, George Ayler was a “trader.” In fact, from about 1848 to the time of the Civil War, George Ayler was Fredericksburg’s major slave trader and is mentioned in the reminiscences of several freed slaves.
John W. Ayler studied at Hampden-Sydney College and graduated in 1861 with an A.B.; in the 1860 U.S. Census he is listed as a “theological student.” It was at Hampden-Sydney, on 23 May 1861, that Ayler enlisted in Company G, Virginia 20th Infantry Regiment, called “the Hampden-Sydney Boys.” His enlistment record says he was twenty-three years old at the time, five feet ten inches tall, had a fair complexion, grey eyes, and dark hair. This unit fought in the early 1861 battles of the war. They were captured during the defeat of the Confederate forces on 11 July 1861 at the battle of Rich Mountain. Company G was held for two months, then the men were paroled on the condition that they return to their studies, and the unit was dissolved on 11 Sept. 1861.
Following this experience, Ayler attended the University of Virginia in session 38 (1861-1862), studying chemistry, medicine, physiology & surgery, and anatomy. After the year at U.Va., Ayler attended the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, VA, and graduated in 1864. In 1865, he was serving in the Confederate Army as a physician.
On October 30, 1862, Ayler married Eliza Archer Flournoy (b. 1843) of Chesterfield County, VA, at Hampden-Sydney. Their children were: Annie P., Fannie S., Lillie F., Lucile E., and John W. Ayler, Jr. After the Civil War, Ayler continued his career as a physician. He was active in the profession, serving as president of the Medical Society of Virginia, and as city physician for Newport News, VA. J. W. Ayler died in Newport News, VA at the age of 77, and was, according to his obituary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the oldest practicing physicians on the Virginia Peninsula.
- 1850-1910 U.S. Census. Virginia, Maryland, in Ancestry.com. United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
- “Deaths: John W. Ayler, M.D.” Journal of the American Medical Association, v.66, no. 12 (Mar. 18, 1916), p. 909.
- “George Ayler slave trader.” Fredericksburg Remembered [website]. http://fredericksburghistory.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/george-aler-and-his-slave-jail/ (Accessed 4/11/2011)
- Hampden-Sydney College. Catalogue general and annual of Hampden Sidney College from January 1, 1776 to June 13, 1867. Richmond, VA, 1867.
- Hampden-Sydney College. General catalogue of officers and students, 1776-1906. Richmond, VA, 1908.
- Historical Data Systems, comp.. American Civil War Soldiers [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999.
- Historical Data Systems, comp.. U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.
- Ingram, George A. Descendants of Jean Flournoy of Flornoy [Website]. http://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/i/n/g/George-A-Ingram/GENE6-0001.html (Accessed 4/25/2011)
- Lucas, Michael C. “Prince Edward in the Civil War.” High Bridge Battlefield Museum, 2009. http://highbridgebattlefieldmuseum.com/prince_edward_in_the_civil_war (Accessed 4/11/2011)
- Medical Society of Virginia. Transactions of the thirty-seventh annual session of the Medical Society of Virginia, held in Charlottesville, Virginia, October 9-11, 1906. Richmond, VA, 1906.
- National Park Service. U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: National Park Service, Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, online <http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/>, acquired 2007.
- University of Virginia Matriculation Books, 1825-1904, Accession #RG-14/4/2.041, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
- Williams, Isaac D. Sunshine and shadows of slave life. East Saginaw, MI, 1885.