Jubal Anderson Early (November 3, 1816 – March 2, 1894) was a lawyer and Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was born in Franklin County, Virginia and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1837. He fought against the Seminole in Florida before resigning from the army for the first time in 1838. He was part of the Virginia state legislature and fought in the Mexican War.
Despite his vote against secession at the April 1860 Virginia convention for that purpose, Early was soon aroused by the aggressive movements of the Federal government (President Abraham Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion) to accept a commission in the Confederate Army as a Colonel.
Early was promoted to Brigadier General after the First Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas) in July 1861. In that battle he displayed valor at Blackburn's Ford and impressed General P.G.T. Beauregard. He fought in most of the major battles in the eastern theater, including Williamsburg, Malvern Hill, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and numerous battles in the Shenandoah Valley. He was trusted and supported by the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee. Lee affectionately referred to Early as his "Bad Old Man" because of his irascible demeanor and short temper, but appreciated Early's aggressive fighting and ability to independently command units.
Under the command of Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson, Early was wounded at Williamsburg in 1862, while leading a charge against staggering odds. He convalesced in Rocky Mount, Virginia and returned in two months, in time for Malvern Hill. At Fredericksburg, Early saved the day by counterattacking the division of George G. Meade, which penetrated a gap in Jackson's lines. He was promoted to major general in January, 1863. At Chancellorsville, Lee gave him a force of 5,000 men to defend Fredericksburg at Marye's Heights against superior forces (two corps) under Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick. Early was able to delay the Union forces and pin down Sedgwick while Lee and Jackson attacked the remainder of the Union forces to the west. At Gettysburg, Early commanded a division in the corps of Richard S. Ewell and soundly defeated the Union XI Corps in assaults on July 1, 1863. In the second day at Gettysburg, he unsuccessfully assaulted East Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill. In May, 1864, Lee expressed confidence in Early's efforts and soon promoted him to the temporary rank of Lieutenant General.
General Early, disguised as a farmer, while escaping to Mexico, 1865.
Early served in the Shenandoah Valley over the winter of 1863 – 1864. Upon his return, at the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, he commanded A.P. Hill's corps due to that general's illness since the Mine Run Campaign. At the Battle of Cold Harbor, Lee replaced the ineffectual Ewell with Early as commander of the Second Corps.
Early's most important service was in the summer and fall of 1864, when he commanded the Confederacy's last invasions of the North. As Confederate territory was rapidly being captured by the Union armies of Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, Lee sent Early's corps to sweep Union forces from the Shenandoah Valley and to menace Washington, D.C., hoping to compel Grant to dilute his forces against Lee around Petersburg, Virginia. Early defeated several Union armies, including at the Battle of Monocacy. At the battle, Lew Wallace had 5,000 men against Early's 18,000. Although Early won, Washington was now reinforced. This invasion caused considerable panic in the North and Early was able to get close to the outskirts of Washington. He sent his cavalry to the west side of Washington, while his infantry attacked Fort Stevens. Abraham Lincoln witnessed the battle, being the only sitting president to do so. As Early withdrew, he said, "... We haven't taken Washington, but we scared Abe Lincoln like h[ell]."
Early withdrew to the Valley. He defeated the Union army under George H. Crook at Kernstown on July 24. Six days later, his cavalry burned much of the city of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in retaliation for David Hunter's actions in the Valley and because of the town's failure to pay the demanded ransom. Through early August, Early's cavalry and guerrilla forces attacked the B&O Railroad in various places.
Grant, losing patience and realizing Early could attack Washington any time he pleased, dealt with the threat by sending out an army under Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan. Outnumbering the Confederates two to one, Sheridan defeated Early in three battles starting in early August and laid waste to much of the agricultural properties in the Valley, denying their use as supplies for Lee's army. In a brilliant surprise attack, Early routed two thirds of the Union army at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864, but his troops were hungry and exhausted and fell out of their ranks to pillage the Union camp; Sheridan managed to rally his troops and defeat Early decisively. Most of the men of Early's corps rejoined Lee at Petersburg in December, while Early remained to command a skeleton force. Lee removed him from his command in March 1865, because the Confederate government and people had lost confidence in him.
Jubal Early in his later years.
Early fled when the Army of Northern Virginia was surrendering. He rode horseback to Texas, hoping to find a Confederate force still holding out, then proceeded to Mexico, and from there sailed to Cuba and Canada. He returned to Virginia in 1869, resuming the practice of law. He was pardoned in 1868 by President Andrew Johnson, but still remained an unreconstructed rebel. He became the first president of the Southern Historical Society and was the most vocal of those who promoted the bitter Lost Cause movement and who vilified the actions of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet. He was involved with the Louisiana Lottery along with retired General P.G.T. Beauregard.
At the age of 77, after falling down a flight of stairs, Early died in Lynchburg, Virginia. He is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery.
Early's contributions to the Confederacy's last efforts at survival were very important. Some historians contend that he extended the war six to nine months because of his efforts at Washington and in the Valley. The following quote summarizes an opinion held by his admirers:
- "Honest and outspoken, honorable and uncompromising, Jubal A. Early epitomized much that was the Southern Confederacy. His self-reliance, courage, sagacity, and devotion to the cause brought confidence then just as it inspires reverence now."
- -- James I. Robertson, Jr., Alumni Distinguished Professor of History, Virginia Tech; Member of the Board, Jubal A. Early Preservation Trust; Distinguished Civil War Historian Author.
- Early, Jubal A., & Gallagher, Gary W., A Memoir of the Last Year of the War for Independence in the Confederate States of America, University of South Carolina Press, 2001, ISBN 1-570-03450-8.
- Gallagher, Gary W., Ed., Struggle for the Shenandoah: Essays on the 1864 Valley Campaign, Kent State University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-87338-429-6.
- General Jubal Early Homeplace Preservation (http://www.jubalearly.org/)
- A memoir of the last year of the war for independence, by Jubal Early (http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=moa;idno=ADQ4842.0001.001). Online text.
- Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States (http://docsouth.unc.edu/early/menu.html). Online text.