Today in History:

Jubal Anderson Early

By Tyler Howat

Jubal Anderson Early--(November 3, 1816-March 2, 1894)Jubal-Early
Early Life
Jubal Anderson Early was born in Franklin County, Virginia on November 3, 1816 to parents Joab and Ruth. His father "enjoyed the esteem of his fellow-citizens and held several prominent public positions" while his mother and her family were "among the most respected citizens" of the County of Franklin (Early xvii). His mother died in 1832 leaving ten children behind--young Jubal was the third born and the second son.

Early was well educated, receiving "the benefit of the best schools in [his] region of country and...the usual instruction in the dead languages and elementary mathematics" (Early xvii). In 1833, at sixteen, he attained an appointment at the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1837 eighteenth in his class of fifty--and sixth in civil and military engineering. Regardless of his respectable placement, Early felt that he was "never a very good student, and was sometimes quite remiss" in this studies (Early xvii). He graduated at the same time as Braxton Bragg, John C. Pemberton, Arnold, Elzey, William H.T. Walker, John Sedgewick, Joseph Hooker, and William H. French.

Pre-Civil War
Due to the occurrence of the Second Seminole War in Florida (1835-1842), Early's entire graduating class were commissioned into the Army. He was made a 2nd lieutenant and posted with the 3rd U.S. Artillery, Company E (serving with future generals of the Civil War Braxton Bragg and George Gordon Meade).

In August of 1837, Early was posted at Fort Monroe to train recruits on their way to serving in Florida. After serving for less than a year, seeing battle and temporarily commanding his company, he was stationed in Chattanooga under General Scott and, on July 4, 1838, Early resigned and made his way home to study and practice law. He learned of his promotion to first lieutenant after deciding to resign.

Early was licensed to practice law in 1840 and, in early 1841 he was elected to the Virginia Legislature and was the youngest serving at the time. He returned to practicing law until January 7, 1847 when he was appointed by the governor of Virginia as a major in a regiment of Virginian volunteers at the start of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). They arrived in Mexico a month after the Battle of Buena Vista (February 1847), and they made their way to Monterey, with Early in command of half of his regiment. It was while Early and his troops were encamped at Walnut Spring that Early first met Jefferson Davis, a colonel of the First Mississippi Regiment at the time and the future president of the Confederate States of America. Early remembers being "struck with [Davis'] soldierly bearing, and he did [Early] the honor of complimenting the order and regularity of [Early's] camp" (Early xxii). Upon his arrival at Monterey, Early served as the military governor of the city for two months, and was well liked and praised for his administration.

Early left Mexico for a short time due to illness, which continued to afflict him with rheumatism for the rest of his life. While making his return to Mexico he was nearly killed while sailing back on the Ohio River. The steamboat which carried him exploded on January 8, 1848, escaping with small cuts and burns. By April of that year Early left the service again as the war came to a close, and practiced law.

In 1861 Early was elected as part of Virginia's representation in the Convention discussing secession from the United States. He "voted against the ordinance of secession...with the hope that even then, the collision of arms might be avoided and some satisfactory adjustment arrived at. The adoption of that ordinance wrung from me bitter tears of grief" (Early vii). However, his grievances, convictions, and loyalty to his state were so great that he felt it was his duty to fight for what he believed. He even went so far as to compare it to "the right of resistance and revolution as exercised by our fathers in 1776" (Early vii). He felt it was not only their right, but their duty to rebel against a government which, in their view, held too much power. It was then time to take up arms.


Just after Lee had been appointed as the commander of the Army of Virginia, Early reported to the Governor and then to Lee himself, receiving a commission as a Colonel and given the task of organizing the Virginia volunteers in Lynchburg, taking personal command of the 24th Virginia Regiment. He then led his regiment to Manassas Junction, reporting to General Beauregard on June 19.


A month later, on July 18, Early earned the attention of Beauregard due to his brigade's bravery during a skirmish at Blackburn's Ford, just outside Manassas. Early and his troops swept in to support Brigadier General Longstreet's troops. Only 3 days later came the first Battle of Manassas, also called the first Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. He successfully defeated a Union flank, winning the day for the Confederacy.


Early was promoted the Brigadier General directly following the battle at Manassas, and was placed in command of a brigade comprising many units from both Virginia and North Carolina. Early stood out through many battles as the commander who entered at the right moment to turn the tide.


Having remained in and around Manassas for the remainder of 1861 and through the first few months of 1862, Early departed in March. In the beginning of April, General McClellan led his Union forces through the Virginia Peninsula in an attempt to capture Richmond, Virginia. The next major conflict in which Early found himself was the Battle of Williamsburg (also called the Battle of Fort Magruder, taking place on May 5, 1862), under the command of Generals Hill and Longstreet. Early was severely wounded in the shoulder-and his horse lost an eye-while leading another charge against a significant enemy force. Due to his wounds, Early was out of action for about a month, returning home to recuperate.


Upon his return, Early was assigned to Major General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's command. He participated, but did not distinguish himself in, the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862. He continued his tradition of brazenly charging overwhelming lines, and his relentless fighting. He courageously led his troops through the Battles of Antietam (September 17, 1862) and Fredericksburg (December 11-15, 1862), earning a promotion to Major General in January of 1863. During the campaign at Chancellorsville (April 30-May 6, 1863) Early held the Confederate rear at Fredericksburg. They then moved to Gettysburg.


Early, under command of Lieutenant General Ewell, occupied Gettysburg on June 26, and then York two days later. He held both towns and did what he could to clothe and feed his troops, short of pillaging the town. He then returned to Gettysburg in preparation for the arrival of the Union army. On July 1, he successfully repelled the forces of General Howard of the Federals, though could not properly maintain hold and furthering his attack to take advantage of the situation. He continued to fight hard, though suffered great losses and retreated on July 4.


On November 7, Early failed to hold the bridge at Rappahannock Station, Virginia, losing approximately 1,600 of his 2,000 troops. On November 27-December 2, 1863 there were a series of skirmishes at Mine Run in Virginia; Early held his lines there, lending to the inconclusive result of the battle. During the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-6, 1864), Early took over the command of the Third Corps when A.P. Hill took ill, though General Grant's army continued to push their offensive after the inconclusive encounter.


Soon afterward, "Lee arranged Early's promotion to lieutenant general and assigned him to take charge of II Corps, and independent command" (Heidler 628). Early was meant to defend the Shenandoah Valley, drawing parts of the Union army away from Lee in Richmond. He then went on the offensive against General David S. Hunter with 14,000 men. Hunter rapidly retreated and Early gave chase in the direction of Washington D.C. and winning a battle at Monocacy, Maryland on July 9, 1864. This effectively forced Grant to redirect two corps to Washington to stop Early's advance within sight of the capital of the United States. Due to the tremendous Union defense of their capital, Early withdrew, and was pursued by the Federal cavalry commanded by General George Crook, though Early changed tact and engaged Crook at Kernstown (also called the Second Battle of Winchester on July 24, 1864). The arrival of Confederate Cavalry and Early's brazenness led to Crook's defeat and retreat.


Early and his "Army of the Valley" effectively controlled the Shenandoah Valley, raiding and skirmishing into the fall of 1864. He battled Union Major General Sheridan and his 40,000 men, suffering initial defeats. Early put up a valiant fight at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864, routing the bulk of Sheridan's troops. However, Early's troops, tired from the long march and relentless fighting, were unable to withstand Sheridan's final, famous charge. Down to nearly 1,000 troops, after a long winter in the valley, Early was soundly defeated by the combined forces of Sheridan and Custer at Waynesboro (March 2, 1865)-Early barely escaped capture.


Soon after, suffering the shame of his defeat, Early was relieved of command, though Lee did this mainly to appease an outraged public. The Confederacy surrendered to the Union Forces at Appomattox not long afterward.


Post-Civil War

Following the Civil War Early fled to Mexico and Canada in a self-imposed exile where he began to compose his memoirs, though he returned in 1868 upon learning of his pardon from President Johnson. He practiced law in Virginia and wrote prolifically about the war, chronicling his experiences. He became quite bitter, unable to reconcile himself back into the United States, and dwelled upon the missteps which led to the Confederate defeat. "Old Jube" died in Lynchburg, Virginia on March 2, 1894.

Works Cited

  • Early, Jubal Anderson. Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States. J.B. Lippincott Company: Philadelphia. 1912.
  • Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T, "John Pope", Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, Heidler, David S., and Heidler, Jeanne T., eds., W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, ISBN 0-393-04758-X


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