General Jubal Anderson Early

 

1816 - 1894

 

 

"Lee's Bad Old Man"

 

 

"Virginia holds the dust of many a faithful son, but not of one whom loved her more, who fought for her better, or would have died for her more willingly."

Senator John Warwick Daniel - 1894

 Jubal Anderson Early was born November 3, 1816, in the Red Valley section of Franklin County, Virginia, into a well-connected old Virginia family. His father operated an extensive tobacco plantation of more than 4,000 acres at the foot of the Blue Ridge. Early attended local schools as well as private academies in Lynchburg and Danville before entering West Point in 1833. After graduation in 1837 he served briefly in the Seminole War and then returned to Franklin County to study law. He began his practice in 1840 and served as prosecuting attorney for Franklin and Floyd Counties. His law career was temporarily interrupted by the Mexican War. Early was a successful attorney; in one famous case in Mississippi in 1852 the local newspaper there reported, "So clear were his deductions from the law; the adaptation, fitness and cogency with which he applied them; his lofty and Virginia bearing to the Court" that he won the case over the top lawyers in Mississippi.

Despite his adept legal mind, his character and personality provoked controversy. He was consistently described by his peers as eccentric, outspoken, caustic, opinionated, and a great swearer with imaginatively profane speech - so much so that General Lee referred to his as his "bad old man." As a delegate to the Secession Convention of 1861 he fought valiantly to keep Virginia in the Union, but when outvoted he threw his lot with his native state. From the beginning of the war he was conspicuous for his bravery and leadership. At the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862 Early was wounded while out in front of his troops leading a charge against staggering odds. He returned to Rocky Mount to recover but within two months was back in action. He was so pugnacious it was said he would fight anything at anytime.

At First Manassas, Second Manassas and Fredricksburg, 'Old Jube' saved the day by charging at a most opportune time to change the tides of battle. He was engaged in every major action in which the Army of Northern Virginia dueled. In 1864 Lee placed Early in charge of an independent army to operate in the Valley of Virginia to divert Union troops from Lee's army at Richmond and Petersburg. Early defended Lynchburg, then chased Union Major General David Hunter to Hanging Rock where he sent Hunter scurrying back to West Virginia. From there Early proceeded down the Valley to the very gates of Washington where he "scared the hell out of Lincoln." With an army of only 14,000 at its peak, and even that subsequently riddled by attrition and suffering a lack of supplies, Early tied up an army of 40 to 60,000. Finally he was overwhelmed at Waynesboro less than six weeks before Lee's surrender at Appomattox. His remnant army numbered only about 1,400 against a Union cavalry of 10,000. His diversion, however, had succeeded; it is estimated his actions prolonged the end of the war by at least six to nine months. Early headed home, having been relieved of his command just ten days before Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

Jubal Early never surrendered. Federal troops scoured Franklin County looking for him as he moved from place to place. Hiding at his old homplace, he was able to slip by a Union encampment nearby and escape south to voluntary exile in Mexico and Canada before being pardoned in 1868 by President Andrew Johnson. Early never took the oath and remained the unreconstructed Rebel. He returned to Lynchburg where he practiced law and became the major chronicler of the Southern Cause. Many others relied on Early for his uncanny memory of events during the war. As president of the influential Southern Historical Society, Early achieved with the pen what he could not with the sword. He became the primary spokesman for the Lost Cause and became the overwhelming authority on published Confederate history. In so doing he engineered the near deification of General Robert E. Lee. The old soldier Jubal Early died in Lynchburg in 1894 and was buried on his old battleground there; he had become a well-known Southern fold hero. Senator John Warwick Daniel, who served on Early's staff, eulogized him thusly: "Virginia holds the dust of many a faithful son, but not of one whom loved her more, who fought for her better, or would have died for her more willingly."


Jubal A. Early Preservation Trust, Inc.
P.O. Box 638 Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151

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