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His early life as a soldier and politician.-His "Union" sentiments in the Virginia
Convention.—Why he became an actor in the war.-Reflections upon the
Rappahannock Station. His different commands in the last year of the war.His independent campaign into the Valley and Maryland.--Outrages of the enemy in the Valley.--Gen. Early's advance upon Washington City.-Why he did not attack it.-His return to the Valley.-Battle of Winchester.-The dramatic story of Cedar Creek.--Failure of the Valley campaign.—The affair of Waynesboro.–Narrow escape of Gen. Early.--Gen. Lee's letter relieving him from command. - Review of the operations in the Valley.-Remarkable character of Gen. Early.—The "bad old man.”—His jokes and peculiarities.-Anecdotes of the camp.-Escape of Gen. Early across the Mississippi River.-His choice of exile.
JUBAL A. EARLY is a native of Virginia, and belongs to a family whose names are familiar in the public records of the Commonwealth, and in its popular history for several generations. He received a military education and graduated at West Point in 1837. Of the same class and above him were Gens. Bragg and Townsend; and below him in the same class were Gens. D. H. Hill, Sedgwick, Pemberton, Hooker, and Walker (first Confederate Se. cretary of War).
He was promoted second-lieutenant in the Third Artillery, 1837; again, first-lieutenant, 1838; but in that year he resigned his position in the army, and appears to have abandoned the idea of a military career. We next find him making his residence in Franklin county, Virginia, and universally regarded as one of the ablest lawyers in the State. His profession naturally inclined him to politics. The family to which he belonged was always Washingtonian in its ideas of Federal authority. They held jacobinism and cant in detestation. They were Federalists, but fought in the Revolution and war of 1812 ; Republicans, but hostile to democratic ideas. As Whigs, they opposed Jackson and adored Clay; as Union men, they opposed secession.
For several terms Early held a seat in the Legislature of Virginia. In the Mexican War there occurred in his life a brief interlude of military service; be being appointed Major of the 1st Regiment of Virginia Volunteers, and serving in Mexico from June 7, 1847, to August 3, 1848.
Just before the troubles between the North and South culminated in war, Virginia called a State Convention of her ablest men, and Jubal A. Early was elected a member of this historic assembly. There he was recognized as one of the leading and most obstinate Union men, and drew many censures upon his head. He worked and spoke and voted against the ordinance of secession. He went so far, perhaps, as to say that he would offer no resistance to the Federal forces who should go to South Carolina to enforce the laws. When, however, Virginia spoke through the ballot-box, and decided to take the perils of war, this whole family, father and sons, rallied to her call. The old man abandoned his estate on the Kanawha to experience all the trials of a refugee. Three sons from Missouri entered the army, one or two of them never to return alive. Those in Virginia-one of them above the military age-volunteered, and with collateral relatives enough to have formed almost a company, they entered the army and fought as faithfully through the war as any men that were in it.
Of the change of opinion which made him one of the most determined actors of the war on the side of the South, Gen. Early has written an explanation, in which he declares: “ As a member of the Virginia Convention, I voted against the ordinance of secession on its passage by that body, with the hope that, even then, the collision of arms might be avoided, and some satisfactory ad
justment arrived at. The adoption of that ordinance wrung from me bitter tears of grief; but I at once recognized my duty to abide the decision of my native State, and to defend her soil against invasion. Any scruples which I may have entertained as to the right of secession, were soon dispelled by the mad, wicked, and unconstitutional measures of the authorities at Washington, and
the frenzied clamour of the people of the North for war upon their former brethren of the South. I then, and ever since have, regarded Abraham Lincoln, his counsellors and supporters, as the real traitors who had overthrown the constitution and government of the United States, and established in lieu thereof an odious despotism; and this opinion I entered on the journal of the Convention when I signed the ordinance of secession. I recognized the right of resistance and revolution as exercised by our fathers in 1776, and without cavil as to the name by which it was called, I entered the military service of my State, willingly, cheerfully, and zealously. When the State of Virginia became one of the Confederate States, and her troops were turned over to the Confederate Government, I embraced the cause of the whole Confederacy with equal ardour, and continued in the service, with the determination to devote all the energy and talent I possessed to the common defense. I fought through the entire war without once regretting the course I had pursued; with an abiding faith in the justice of our cause; and I never saw the moment when I would have been willing to consent to any compromise or settlement short of the absolute independence of my country.”
In this conversion of the early sentiment against secession into a fierce and bitter war upon the authorities at Washington, Gen. Early was not singular or exceptional. His was the case of thousands; he represented nearly the whole of his party; and he illustrated what was of constant remark in the war, that the original Unionists, perhaps from superiour sincerity and purity of motive, rendered to it the most earnest and brilliant service that marked its annals. On the first field of Manassas, Early appeared at the head of a regiment. From that day until the surrender at Appomattox Court-House, he never looked back. He devoted, exclusively, all his talents and energy to the success of the Confederate army, and rose gradually to the second rank in the Confederate service.
In the campaign of 1862, extending from the Richmond lines to the field of Sharpsburg, Gen. Early commanded a division whose exploits were illustrated by losses which he has commemorated as follows: "The division lost in killed, 565; in wounded, 2,284; and missing, seventy; making an agregate of 2,919-showing the severity of the conflicts in which it engaged. Its loss at Sharpsburg alone was 199 killed; 1,115 wounded; and thirty-eight missing; being an aggregate loss of 1,352, out of less than 3,500, with which it went into that action. I hope I may be excused for referring to the record shown by my own brigade, which has never been broken or compelled to fall back, or left one of its dead to be buried by the enemy, but has invariably driven the enemy when opposed to him, and slept upon the ground on which it has fought, in every action, with the solitary exception of the affair at Bristoe Station, when it retired under orders, covering the withdrawal of the other troops."
At Rappahannock Station, in November, 1863, Gen. Early lost a large portion of his command-1,629 men of Hoke's brigade -by a surprise of the enemy, which cut them off on the north side of the river. Of this unfortunate occurrence there is to be found some excuse in the circumstances that the enemy was aided by a valley in front of the Confederates in concealing his advance from view, and that a very high wind effectually prevented his movements from being heard. Gen. Lee declared, with characteristic generosity, that "the courage and good conduct of the troops engaged had been too often tried to admit of question.”
It was Gen. Early's fortune to participate in most of the great military operations in which the Confederate army in Virginia was engaged. In the last year of the momentous struggle, he commanded, at different times, a division and two corps of Gen. Lee's army, in the campaign from the Rapidan to James River, and subsequently a separate force, which marched into Maryland, threatened Washington City, and then went through an eventful campaign in the Valley of Virginia. This independent campaign was an event so principal and marked in the career of Gen. Early, so important a part of the great military drama of 1864 in Virginia, so unique in its features, and so remarkable an example of the odds and disadvantages against which the Confederate power struggled in the last desperate stages of its existence, as to require a distinct and enlarged narrative.
The campaign may be said to have commenced with the effort to intercept Hunter's column marching on Lynchburg, and to defeat Grant's combination of this force and Sheridan's cavalry in an ultimate operation against Richmond.
In the early part of June, 1864, while the Second Corps (Ewell's) of the Army of Northern Virginia was lying near Gaines'