Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early

Sketch of Jubal Early ransoming Frederick, MD by Charles W. Reed
Sketch of General Early ransoming Frederick, MD, July 9, 1864 - Artist Charles W. Reed
Man with salt and pepper colored beard wearing a Confederate uniform.
Lieutenant General Jubal Early - Library of Congress

Jubal Anderson Early
Jubal Early was born in Franklin County, Virginia on November 3, 1816, the third of ten children. In 1832, when Early was 16, his mother passed away. The following year he received an appointment as a cadet to the Military Academy at West Point. Early later admitted “there was nothing worthy of particular note” during his time at West Point and that he was not an exemplary soldier. In 1837, he graduated 18th out of a class of 50.[1]

Upon graduation, Jubal Early was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in Company E of the 3rd United States Artillery and sent to Fortress Monroe, on the tip of the Virginia Peninsula, to train recruits. From there, Early and those he had just trained, were sent to Florida to participate in the Second Seminole War. Lieutenant Early was actually the senior officer in his company who was either present or capable of taking the field at this time and served under the command of Brigadier General Thomas Sidney Jesup from 1837-1838. Following a skirmish near Jupiter Inlet, Florida in January, 1838, Early’s company was ordered to the coast and eventually to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Seeing no further action, Jubal Early resigned his commission in the summer of 1838 and returned to Virginia to study law. Obtaining his law license in 1840, Early was elected to the Virginia Legislature from Franklin County the following year. He served in the legislature during the 1841 - 1842 sessions and was the youngest member of that governing body. Though he lost reelection the following year, he received an appointment as prosecuting attorney, which he held until 1851.[2]

On January 7, 1847, Early mustered back into the army as a major of the 1st Virginia Volunteers, for service in the Mexican-American War. During this service, Early performed garrison duties, including a two month stint as the military governor of Monterrey, Mexico. Though he saw no fighting during the war, Early was still crippled by it. In the fall of 1847 he contracted the chronic rheumatism that plagued him for the rest of his life. Relieved of duty, he was allowed to return to the United States to recuperate for several months. While attempting to return to duty in Mexico, in January, 1848, Jubal Early was aboard the steamer Blue Ridge on the Ohio River. During the night of January 8, the Blue Ridge suffered a boiler explosion that killed 14 people and injured Early slightly. He made it back to his regiment by February and commanded it until mustering out of service at Fortress Monroe in April, 1848. Once more out of the army, Jubal Early returned to his law practice.[3]

The Civil War
Although Early voted against secession during the Virginia Convention in April 1861, once his state seceded he remained loyal to Virginia and was commissioned a colonel in the 24th Virginia Infantry. Early participated in numerous battles and campaigns including the Battle of First Bull Run (21 July 1861) where he distinguished himself and was promoted to brigadier general. He also fought in the Peninsula Campaign, Malvern Hill (1 July 1862), Cedar Mountain (9 August 1862), Second Bull Run (28-30 August 1862), and Antietam (17 September 1862). At Antietam, Confederate Brigadier General Jubal Early led a brigade under General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in the terrible fighting in the West Woods near the Dunker Church.

At Fredericksburg (13 December 1862), General Early distinguished himself once again and was promoted to the rank of major general. He went on to take part in Chancellorsville (1-4 May 1863), Gettysburg (1-3 July 1863), Mine Run operations, the Wilderness (5-7 May 1864), Spotsylvania (7-19 May 1864); after which he was promoted to lieutenant general, and Cold Harbor (1-3 June 1864). Given command of the Confederate II Corps, Early was sent into the Shenandoah Valley to drive the Union forces of Major General David Hunter away from the crucial supply depot of Lynchburg (17-18 June 1864). Following the Lynchburg Campaign, Early turned his forces north, moving down the Shenandoah Valley towards Harpers Ferry and the Potomac River. During this period Early renamed his command as the Army of the Valley District.

Jubal Early at Monocacy
When the Army of the Valley District crossed the Potomac River into Maryland on July 5 – 6, 1864, the Third Confederate Invasion of the north began. Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early commanded this force of 12,000 to 15,000 men. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had ordered Early to clear the Shenandoah Valley of Union forces and advance into Maryland if possible. From there Early was to move towards Washington, DC, approaching the national capital from the northwest. The hope was that by threatening Washington, they could force General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant to break off or weaken the ongoing siege of Richmond and Petersburg by sending Union troops back north.[4]

Ransom document for Frederick, MD
Ransom demand for Frederick, Maryland - Frederick County Historical Society
Once in Maryland, Confederates captured a series of towns and cities on the way to Washington. These included Hagerstown on July 6th, Middletown on July 8th and Frederick, Maryland on July 9th. Each community was threatened with destruction unless it could pay a ransom of money as well as supplies. Hagerstown had to pay $20,000 dollars, which it did by borrowing from three separate banks, it also provided what clothing and cloth it could.[5] Middletown provided food to the Confederates and was also ordered to come up with $5,000 dollars, an amount it did not have. The town was only able to come up with $1,500 dollars. Fortunately for Middletown Confederate forces moved on without the rest of the money.[6]

Following two days of sporadic skirmishing near the Catoctin Mountains, Frederick was occupied by Confederate forces in the early morning hours of July 9, 1864. The lead Confederate infantry brigades had already passed through town by 6am on their way to attempt to secure the Jug Bridge over the Monocacy River along the Baltimore Turnpike. Lieutenant General Jubal Early soon arrived in Frederick and around 8am made his headquarters in the home of Dr. Richard Hammond at the northwest corner of 2nd and Market Street.[7] There he wrote out the ransom demand for the city, $200,000 dollars, telling the Hammond's, “you need not fear, as timely warning will be given you to leave with your family,” in the event Frederick was burned.[8]

Mayor of Frederick, MD during the CW
Mayor William Cole, Frederick Maryland - Mt. Olivet Cemetery
The ransom demand was delivered to Mayor William Cole at the Town Hall and Market House on Market Street. Soon a second demand arrived, this from Early's Chief of Commissary, Major Wells J. Hawks, for large quantities of flour, sugar, coffee, and bacon. Shocked at the amount called for, Mayor Cole, backed by a committee of leading Frederick citizens, felt the financial impact on a city of only 8,000 people was unfair and asked that General Early reconsider. This may very well have been a deliberate stall on the part of the Fredericktonians, as Mayor Cole was well aware of the Union reinforcements that had been arriving at Monocacy Junction throughout the previous night. Perhaps if the Union won the day, the city would not have to pay. Early was having none of these delaying tactics and reiterated his original demand of $200,000 or $50,000 in supplies for each of the four departments in his army. After laying down his demands once more, he turned the negotiations over to Lieutenant Colonel William Allan and proceeded towards the fighting south of Frederick near Monocacy Junction.[9]

General Jubal Early likely arrived on the battlefield sometime after 11am. In his memoirs Early stated that upon arriving he was struck by the difficulty his forces would have in crossing the Monocacy River under fire with the strong Federal position on the opposite side. He therefore began looking for other crossing points that would allow him to flank the Union troops. He wrote that the advance of Brigadier General John McCausland's cavalry brigade over the Worthington-McKinney Ford, “solved the problem for me,” as it gained the left flank of the Federal line south of the river at the Worthington Farm.[10] At this point Early was unaware that veteran reinforcements from the VI Corps had arrived the previous evening.

McCausland's Confederate cavaliers, threw themselves at what they believed were inexperienced militia around noon and were quickly swatted back by the strong Federal picket line behind a post and rail fence. A second cavalry attack occurred at 2pm, by which point McCausland had discovered the left flank of the Union skirmish line and succeeded in driving it back through the neighboring Thomas Farm. The Federal veterans did not let him keep this position long; however, as they rallied and counter attacked, driving the cavalrymen back a second time. With the repulse of this second attack Jubal Early had had enough, he ordered his second in command, Major General John Breckinridge to advance a division over the Monocacy and strike the Federal left. Breckinridge ordered up the division of Major General John B. Gordon, who crossed the Monocacy around 3pm and deployed in a long line of battle over Brooks Hill. General Breckinridge followed this portion of his command onto the field, establishing his headquarters at the Worthington Farm. At 3:30pm Gordon's attack rolled forward. Intense see-sawing action occurred through the fields of the Thomas Farm for the next hour and a half. During that time the Federal line was driven back to the Georgetown Pike and at 5pm Major General Lew Wallace ordered the Union line to break off and retreat.[11]

General Jubal Early had won the day, but at great cost of both men and time. Initially both sides tried to downplay their casualties, Early claimed his losses would not be much over 600. However, the casualties in General Gordon's division alone were nearly 700 men killed, wounded and missing. In actuality Early had lost a day’s march and just about 900 men.[12]

Knowing that time was of the essence Jubal Early ordered those men who did not fight at Monocacy up at dawn on July 10th. Early's troops marched 20 miles towards Washington under a broiling sun. Those that had fought at Monocacy were given the task of destroying the facilities of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, as well as the limited Federal fortifications near the railroad bridge before pushing on. Early had little time left and pushed his men hard over the next day and a half to reach the defenses of Washington.[13] Early's troops marched toward Washington, D.C., but the delay forced by the Battle of Monocacy allowed the fortifications around the Capital to be strengthened, and Early's attempt to capture the city was thwarted. On July 12th, following the fighting around Fort Stevens on the edge of the District of Columbia, Early ordered the retreat back to Virginia. Although he failed to capture the National Capital, the campaign apparently pleased him, as recounted by Major Henry Kyd Douglas. On the evening of July 12, 1864, after deciding to withdraw from Washington, General Early called his staff together and declared: "Major we haven't taken Washington, but we scared Abe Lincoln like hell!"[14]

After this final incursion into the North failed, Early continued to engage Union forces in a series of battles until March 1865 when he was relieved of command. With the defeat of the Confederacy, Jubal Early fled to Mexico and from there went to Cuba and later Canada. Following the amnesty proclaimed by President Andrew Johnson, Early returned to Lynchburg, Virginia where he resumed his law practice. In the later years of his life he became extensively involved with the Southern Historical Society, the Confederate veterans community and crafting the narrative of the Lost Cause. After a bad fall, Jubal Early died in Lynchburg on March 2, 1894 and is buried at Springhill Cemetery.

Please see the National Park Service biographical page on Jubal Early for more details:
[i] Benjamin Franklin Cooling, III, Jubal Early: Robert E. Lee’s “Bad Old Man”, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), 1-3
[ii] Jubal Anderson Early, Jubal Early’s Memoirs: Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States, (Baltimore, MD: The Nautical & Aviation Publishing Company of America, 1989), xl-xlii
[iii] R.H. Early, Lieutenant General Jubal Anderson Early, C.S.A.: Narrative of the War Between the States, (New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 1989), xxi-xxiv
[iv] George B. Davis, Leslie J. Perry, Joseph W. Kirkley, Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Vol. 37, Pt. 1, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), 769-770
[v] Stephen R. Bockmiller, Follow the Money: The 1864 Confederate Ransom of Hagerstown, Maryland, (Mercersburg, PA: Mercersburg Printing, Inc., 2014), 13
[vi] Brett Spaulding, Last Chance for Victory: Jubal Early’s 1864 Maryland Invasion, (Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 2010), 47-48
[vii] Last Chance for Victory, 79
[viii] Dr. B. Franklin Cooling, Monocacy – The Battle That Saved Washington, (Shippensburg, PA: White Mane Publishing, Inc., 1997), 97
[ix] Folger McKinsey, History of Frederick County Maryland, Vol. 1, (Hagerstown, MD: L.R. Titsworth & Co., 1910), 386 ; Monocacy, 97-98
[x] Narrative of the War Between the States, 387
[xi] Last Chance for Victory, 108-116
[xii] OR, Series 1, Vol. 37, Pt.1, 348 & 352
[xiii] Monocacy, 180-183
[xiv] Henry Kyd Douglas, I Rode With Stonewall, (Chapel Hill, NC: North Carolina University Press, 1968), 296

Last updated: September 1, 2023

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