previous next

Zzzcriticisms upon Early.

To say that Early had faults is to say that he was human; and, as Marshal Turenne reminds us, ‘to say that he made mistakes, is to say that he made war.’ But even at this day it is difficult to take his problem and its resources and say where or when he might have better brought them in conjunction—the one to solve the other. To figure on his case at any time was to demonstrate failure; and so many heroic virtues postponed that failure and glorified it that I leave it for others to search for the mistakes and faults. For my part I am too much filled with honor for the man and the deed to look for or to exploit them, and most of the criticisms upon him are easily answered.

It was said that he should have attacked Hunter on the 18th of June, the day after he got to Lynchburg. Suffice to answer, [316] while he and half his corps were there, Rodes and the other half did not get there until the afternoon of the 18th, and Early arranged to attack next morning. Meantime between two suns Hunter gave leg bail. It was said he should have captured Hunter; this is equivalent to saying that Lee should have captured Pope after Manassas, or Hooker after Chancellorsville, or Grant after Cold Harbor. It was said that he should have captured Washington; this absurdity has been exposed. Grant criticises Early for sending Anderson's troops back to Lee before the battle of Winchester, and two of his own divisions to Martinsburg. As to this criticism, Lee, as Early states, requested him to send Anderson back, and he obeyed. Sheridan and Lee alike vindicate him from the second. Early, in fact, got all his troops concentrated for that battle, and Sheridan says in his report: ‘I had from early in the morning become apprised that I would have to engage Early's entire army instead of two divisions.’ General Lee writes to a critic of Early, October 10th, that so far as he can judge, Early has conducted the military operations in the Valley well; and again, October 14th, that according to his information, General Early has conducted his operations with judgment, and I am reliably informed that he spoke of Winchester as one of the best fought battles of the war.

Finally, some say Early was reckless to meet Sheridan at Winchester, and to attack him at Cedar creek. In both cases it was fight or run. To run was to disclose and confess weakness. In the latter case, to stand was to starve, for he was without rations or forage. Early had the problem that confronted the Continentals in the Revolution. He knew he was weak, but when would he be stronger? ‘It may be asked,’ he says, speaking of Cedar creek, ‘why, with my small force, I made the attack? I can only say we had been fighting large odds during the whole war, and I knew there was no chance for lessening them.’

Those who dispute this logic had better reassemble the Secession Convention of 1861, and submit the question. Early was heard upon it before the war was resolved on. After that he took the consequences unmurmuringly. And well did he vindicate Honest John Letcher's opinion, when he, as Governor, appointed him a colonel. Some secession members objected on account of Early's stubborn unionism. ‘I know Early,’ replied Letcher, ‘and if you gentlemen will do as well in the coming struggle, your State will have reason to rejoice.’ If none but those who did as well threw the first stone, it would remain long unflung.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Zzzgeneral Early (12)
Fitz Lee (5)
John Sheridan (3)
David Hunter (3)
John Letcher (2)
Leroy D. Grant (2)
Archer Anderson (2)
Marshall Turenne (1)
Rodes (1)
Bolling A. Pope (1)
Charles E. Hooker (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1861 AD (1)
October 14th (1)
October 10th (1)
June 18th (1)
18th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: