Spring Campaign 1864
There was little room left for speculation when it came to General Jubal A. Early, West Point graduate, lawyer, and Confederate general. By the early summer of 1864, Early was the last remaining high-ranking officer that Lee could trust to take command of a portion of the Army of Northern Virginia and lead it into the Shenandoah Valley against Union forces under General David Hunter, and to possibly draw away forces under general Grant near Petersburg and Richmond.
By the late spring, Early had succeeded to command of the old Second Corps with the rank of lieutenant general. Despite the corps' losses in the Wilderness battles that spring, Early was able to muster about 8,000 muskets, which he led to Lynchburg, Virginia in mid-June. This inferior number would face twice that amount under Union arms. But Jubal was up to the task.
Outspoken and often acidic with his opinions, Early did not cut a dashing figure, "He was six feet high, but a stoop of the shoulder caused by rheumatism," the general was known for his "Independent mind", self-reliance, and his expertise in strategy.
Early "was an able strategist", recalled General John B. Gordon. By June 1864 Gordon was a major general in command of one of Early's divisions. In contrast to the plain Early, Gordon embodied the model of Southern generalship, though he gave the artful Early his due respect for his commander was "one of the coolest and most imperturbable of men under fire and in extremity."
If anything, Early was willing to take chances. His arrival at Lynchburg caused the retreat of Hunter's forces. The chase down the Shenandoah Valley began. Within three weeks, Early's troops were across the Potomac River where they would be threatening the Nation's capitol itself. Audacious and quick, Jubal Early took his minimal force into Union territory and through tactically did not achieve a great victory, his summer campaign achieved a needed moral boost to the worsening Confederate situation.
But his character would always remain the same, that of a stubborn fighter who depended more on his own sense of intuition than the opinions of his officers. Being a veteran of every major battle fought by the Army of Northern Virginia in that summer of 1864, he bedeviled Grant and Lincoln in the Shenandoah Valley.
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