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[85]

Early.


I.

In the Virginia Convention of 1860-61, when the great struggle for separation took place, and the hot war of tongues preceded the desperate war of the bayonet, there was a gentleman of resolute courage and military experience who made himself prominent among the opponents of secession. Belonging to the old Whig party, and thinking apparently that the right moment had not yet come, this resolute soldier-politician fought the advocates of the ordinance with unyielding persistence, aiming by his hard-hitting argument, his kindling eloquence, and his parliamentary skill, to give to the action of the Convention that direction which his judgment approved. Many called him a “submissionist,” because he opposed secession then; but when the gauntlet was thrown down, this “Whig submissionist” put on a gray coat, took the field, and fought from the beginning to the very end of the war with a courage and persistence surpassed by no Southerner who took part in the conflict. When he was sent to invade Maryland, and afterwards was left by General Lee in command of that “forlorn hope,” the little Valley army, if it could be called such, in the winter of 1864-5, he was selected for the work, because it required the brain and courage of the soldier of hard and stubborn fibre. Only since the termination of the war has the world discovered the truth of that great campaign; the desperate character of the situation [86] which Early occupied, and the enormous odds against which he fought.

He entered upon the great arena almost unknown. He had served in the Mexican war, and had there displayed skill and courage; but his position was a subordinate one, and he was better known as a politician than a soldier. In the field he made his mark at once. About four o'clock in the afternoon of the 21St of July, 1861, at Manassas, the Federal forces had been driven by the resolute assault of Jackson and his great associates from the Henry-House hill; but a new and formidable line-ofbattle was formed on the high ground beyond, near Dogan's house, and the swarming masses of Federal infantry were thrown forward for a last desperate charge. The object of the Federal commander was to outflank and envelop the Confederate left, and his right wing swayed forward to accomplish that object, when all at once from the woods, which the enemy were aiming to gain, came a galling fire which staggered and drove them back. This fire was delivered by Kirby Smith and Early. So hot was it that it completely checked the Federal charge; and as they wavered, the Southern lines pressed forward with wild cheers. The enemy were forced to give ground. Their ranks broke, and in thirty minutes the grand army was in full retreat across Bull Run. The “Whig Submissionist” had won his spurs in the first great battle of the war. From that time Early was in active service, and did hard work everywhere — in the Peninsula, where he was severely wounded in the hard struggle of Malvern Hill, and then as General Early, at Cedar Mountain, where he met and repulsed a vigorous advance of General Pope's left wing, in the very inception of the battle. If Early had given way there, Ewell's column on the high ground to his right would have been cut off from the main body; but the ground was obstinately held, and victory followed. Advancing northward thereafter, Jackson threw two brigades across at Warrenton Springs, under Early, and these resolutely held their ground in face of an overpowering force. Thenceforward Early continued to add to his reputation as a hard fighter-at Bristoe, the second Manassas, Harper's Ferry, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, [87] Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, Monocacy, and throughout the Valley campaign. During the invasion of Pennsylvania he led General Lee's advance, which reached the Susquehanna and captured York. In Spotsylvania he commanded Hill's corps, and was in the desperate fighting at the time of the assault upon the famous “Horseshoe,” and repulsed an attack of Burnside's corps with heavy loss to his opponents. After that hard and bitter struggle the Federal commander gave up all hope of forcing General Lee's lines, and moving by the left flank reached Cold Harbour, where the obstinate struggle recommenced. It was at this moment, when almost overpowered by the great force arrayed against him, that General Lee received intelligence of the advance of General Hunter up the Valley with a considerable army; and it was necessary to detach a commander of ability, vigour, and daring to meet that column. Early was selected, and the result is known. General Hunter advanced, in spite of opposition from the cavalry under General Jones, until he reached the vicinity of Lynchburg; but here he came in collision with his dangerous adversary. A complete defeat of the Federal forces followed, and Hunter's campaign was decided at one blow. He gave ground, retreated, and, with constantly accelerated speed, sought refuge in the western mountains, whence, with a decimated and disheartened army, he hastened towards the Ohio. The great advance up the Valley, from which, as his report shows, General Grant had expected so much, had thus completely failed. The campaign beginning with such high hopes, had terminated in ignominy and disaster. The inhabitants of the region, subjected by General Hunter to the most merciless treatment, saw their powerful oppressor in hopeless retreat; and an advance which threatened to paralyse Lee, and by severing his communications, drive him from Virginia, had been completely defeated. Such was the first evidence given by General Early of his ability as a corps commander, operating without an immediate superior.

He was destined to figure now, however, in scenes more striking and “dramatic” still. General Grant, with about 150,000 men, was pressing General Lee with about 50,000, and forcing [88] him slowly back upon the Confederate capital. Every resource of the Confederacy was strained to meet this terrible assaultthe sinews almost broken in the effort. To divert reinforcements from General Grant was a matter of vital importance — a thing of life and death-and Jackson's Valley campaign in 1862 had shown how this could be most effectually done. To menace the Federal capital was evidently the great secret: a moderate force would not probably be able to do more than divert troops from Grant; but this was an object of the first importance, and much might be accomplished by a soldier of decision, energy, and rapidity of movement. Early had been selected for the work, with orders when he left the lowland to “move to the Valley through Swift Run Gap or Brown's Gap, attack Hunter, and then cross the Potomac and threaten Washington.” This critical task he now undertook with alacrity, and he accomplished it with very great skill and success.

Not a moment was lost in pushing his column toward Maryland; and such was the rapidity of the march upon Washington, that the capital was placed in imminent danger. In spite of the prostrating heat, the troops made twenty miles a day, and the rumour of this determined advance came to the Federal authorities at the moment when Grant was supposed to be carrying everything before him. To meet the attack of their formidable adversary, the authorities at Washington sent to hurry forward the forces of General Hunter from the Ohio, and a considerable force from General Grant's army was dispatched up the bay to man the fortifications. Early had pressed on, crossed the Potomac, advanced to Frederick City, defeated General Wallace at the Monocacy, and was now in sight of the defences of Washington; the crack of his skirmishers was heard at the “White house” and in the department buildings of the capital. The enormous march, however, had broken down and decimated his army. The five hundred miles of incessant advance, at twenty miles a day, left him only eight thousand infantry, about forty field-pieces, and two thousand badly mounted cavalry-at the moment detached against the railroads northward — with which to assault the powerful works, bristling with cannon, in his front. His position at this moment was certainly critical, and calculated [89] to try the nerves of any but a resolute and daring soldier. He was in the heart of the enemy's country, or at least in sight of their capital city; in his front, according to Mr. Stanton, the Federal Secretary of War, was the Sixth and part of the Eighth and Nineteenth Corps, and General Hunter was hastening from the West to strike his rear and cut him off from his only avenue of retreat across the Potomac. It behoved the Confederate commander under these circumstances to look to his safety; and he was reluctantly compelled to give up his intended assault upon the capital — to abandon the attempt to seize the rich prize apparently in his very grasp. Early, accordingly, broke up his camp, retreated, and, with little molestation, recrossed the Potomac, and stood at bay on the Opequon in the Shenandoah Valley.

Such had been the result of the daring advance upon the Federal capital. The extent of the danger to which Washington was then exposed, still remains a matter of doubt and difference of opinion among the most intelligent persons. It will, no doubt, be accurately defined when the events of the recent struggle come to be closely investigated by the impartial historian of the future, and the truth is sifted from the error. To the world at large, the Federal capital seemed in no little danger on that July morning, when Early's lines were seen advancing to the attack. Northern writers state that, if the assault had been made on the day before, it would have resulted in the capture of the city. But however well or ill-founded this may be, it is safe to say that the primary object of the march had been accomplished when Early retreated and posted himself in the Shenandoah Valley--a standing threat to repeat his audacious enterprise. It was no longer a mere detached column that opposed him, but an army of about 50,000 men. To that extent General Grant had been weakened, and the heavy weight upon General Lee's shoulders lightened.


Ii.

These events took place in the summer of 1864, and in the autumn of that year General Early fought his famous battles, [90] and — the world said-sustained his ignominious defeats in the Shenandoah Valley. “Ignominious” was the adjective which expressed the views of nine-tenths of the citizens outside of the immediate region, and probably of one-half the army of Northern Virginia. In the eyes of the world there is a crime for which there is no palliation, and that is failure. There is a criminal to whom all defence is denied — it is the man who fails. No matter what the failure results from, there it is, and no explanations are “in order.” Early was defeated in a pitched battle near Winchester, on the g9th of September, and the country, gloomy, despondent, embittered, and clamouring for a victory, broke out into curses almost at the man who had sustained this reverse. It was his bad generalship, they cried; “the troops had no confidence in him;” he was the poorest of soldiers, the veriest sham general-else why, with his splendid army, did he allow a second or third-rate general like Sheridan to defeat him? When the defeat at Fisher's Hill followed, and the fiasco at Waynesboroa terminated the Valley campaign, people were convinced that General Jubal A. Early was a very great dunce in military matters, had been outgeneralled and outfought by an opponent little, if any, stronger than himself, and the whole campaign was stigmatized as a disgraceful series of blunders, ending in well-merited defeat and disaster.

That was the popular clamour; but it is safe to say that popular clamour is essentially falsehood, because it is based upon passion and ignorance. The truth of that campaign is that Early was “leading a forlorn hope,” and that he never fought less than four to one. At Fisher's Hill and Waynesboroa, he fought about eight to one. It is not upon General Early's statements in his recent letter from Havana, that the present writer makes the above allegation, but upon the testimony of officers and citizens of the highest character who are unanimous in their statement to the above effect. From the date of the battle of Winchester, or the Opequon, to the present time, it has been persistently declared by the fairest and best informed gentlemen of the surrounding region, who had excellent opportunities to discover the truth, that Early's force in that fight was about eight or ten [91] thousand, and Sheridan's about forty or fifty thousand. General Early states upon his honour-and the world is apt to believe him — that his effective strength in this action was eight thousand five hundred muskets, three battalions of artillery, and less than three thousand cavalry. General Sheridan's force he makes, upon a close calculation, about thirty-five thousand muskets, one of his corps alone numbering, as captured documents showed, twelve thousand men — more than the whole Southern force, infantry, cavalry, and artillery. In the number of guns Sheridan, he says, was, “vastly superior” to him; and official reports captured showed the Federal cavalry “present for duty” two days before the battle, to have numbered ten thousand men. 1 There [92] [93] was thus a terrible disproportion between the Federal and Confederate forces. Greatly outnumbered in artillery; with thirtyfive thousand muskets opposed to his eight thousand five hundred; and ten thousand excellently mounted and armed cavalry to his three thousand miserably mounted and equipped horsemen; Early occupied anything but a bed of roses in those days of September, when his little force so defiantly faced the powerful army opposed to it.

Why he was not attacked and driven up the Valley long before the 19th of September, will remain an interesting historical problem. Nothing but the unceasing activity and audacity of the Confederate commander appears to have retarded this consummation. General Hunter seems to have been paralysed, or intimidated by the incessant movements of his wary opponent. From the period of his return to the Valley from Washington, Early had given his adversary no breathing spell. To-day he seemed retreating up the Valley; on the next day he was in Maryland; when he fell back and his adversary followed, a sudden and decisive blow at the head of the pursuing column threw the whole Federal programme into confusion; and grim and defiant, Early faced General Hunter in line of battle, defying him to make an attack.

It will be hard to establish the statement that in these movements, during the summer and autumn of 1864, in the Shenandoah Valley, Early did not carry out in the fullest degree the instructions received from General Lee, and accomplish admirably the objects for which he had been sent to that region. He was placed there as Jackson had been in 1862, to divert a portion of the Federal forces from the great arena of combat in the lowland. By his movements before and after the battle of Kernstown, Jackson, with about four thousand men, kept about twenty-five thousand of the enemy in the Valley. By his movements preceding the battle of Opequon, Early, with eight or ten thousand men, kept between forty and fifty thousand from General Meade's army at Petersburg. That he could meet the Federal force in his front, in a fair pitched battle, was not probably believed by himself or by General Lee. His command was [94] essentially what he calls it, a “forlorn hope” --the hope that it could cope with its opponents being truly forlorn. As long as that opponent was amused, retarded, or kept at arm's length, all was well. When he advanced to attack in earnest, it was doubtless foreseen that the thirty or forty thousand bayonets would drive back the eight or nine thousand. That result followed on the 9th of September, when, Sheridan having superseded Hunter, the attack was made at the Opequon. And yet nothing is better established than the fact that up to the moment when he put his cavalry in motion against the Confederate left, General Sheridan had been virtually defeated. Every assault of his great force of infantry had been repulsed; and nowhere does this more clearly appear than in an account of the action published in Harper's Magazine, by a field officer, apparently of one of the Federal regiments. That account is fair, lucid, and records the precise truth, namely, that every advance of the Federal infantry was met and repulsed. Not until the ten thousand cavalry of General Sheridan advanced on the Martinsburg road, attained the Confederate rear, and charged them in flank and rear, was there the least wavering. It is true that from that moment the action was lost. Early's line gave way in confusion; his artillery was fought to the muzzle of the guns, but could do nothing unsupported; and that night the Confederate forces were in full retreat up the Valley.

Such, divested of all gloss and rodomontade, was the battle on the Opequon. It was a clear and unmistakable defeat, but the reader has seen what produced it. Not want of generalship in the Confederate commander. It is gross injustice to him to charge him with the responsibility of that reverse; and no fair mind, North or South, will do so. He was defeated, because the force opposed to him was such as his command could not compete with. By heroic fighting, the little band kept back the swarming forces of the enemy, holding their ground with the nerve of veterans who had fought in a hundred battles; but when the numerous and excellently armed cavalry of the enemy thundered down upon their flank and rear, they gave up the struggle, and yielded the hard fought day. [95]

The second act of this exciting drama was played at Fisher's Hill, three days afterward. Sullenly retiring like a wounded wolf, who snarls and shows his teeth at every step, Early took up a position on the great range of hills above Strasburg, and waited to be attacked. His design was to repulse any assault, and at nightfall retire; but the enemy's large numbers enabling them to turn his flank, they drove him from his position, and he was forced to fall back in disorder, with heavy loss. This result was charged upon the cavalry, but Early's small force could not defend the ground, and the Federals assuredly gained few laurels there. So heavy had been the blow struck by the great force of the enemy three days before, that it is wonderful how the Southern troops could make any stand at all. Early's loss in the battle of the Opequon, in killed, wounded, and “missing” --that terrible item in a defeated and retreating army — was so great, that it is doubtful whether his army, when it stood at bay on Fisher's Hill, numbered four thousand muskets. Such, at least, is the statement of intelligent and veracious officers who took part in the engagement. They are unanimous in declaring that it did not exceed that number. Sheridan's force they declare to have been overpowering, but the Southern troops could and did meet it when the attack was made in front. Not until the great force of the enemy enabled him to turn the left flank of Early and sweep right down his line of works, did the troops give way. Numbers overcame everything.

Early retreated up the Valley, where he continued to present a defiant front to the powerful force of Sheridan, until the middle of October. On the 19th he was again at Cedar Creek, between Strasburg and Winchester, and had struck an almost mortal blow at General Sheridan. The Federal forces were surprised, attacked at the same moment in front and flank, and driven in complete rout from their camps. Unfortunately this great success did not effect substantial results. The enemy, who largely outnumbered Early, especially in their excellent cavalry, re-formed their line under General Wright. Sheridan, who had just arrived, exerted himself to retrieve the bad fortune of the day, and the Confederates were forced to retire in their turn. [96] General Early's account of this event is interesting: “I went into this fight,” he says, “with eight thousand five hundred muskets, about forty pieces of artillery, and about twelve hundred cavalry, as the rest of my cavalry, which was guarding the Luray Valley, did not get up in time, though ordered to move at the same time I moved to the attack. Sheridan's infantry had been recruited fully up to its strength at Winchester, and his cavalry numbered eight thousand seven hundred, as shown by the official reports captured. The main cause why the rout of his army in the morning was not complete, was the fact that my cavalry could not compete with his, and the latter, therefore, remained intact. He claimed all his own guns that had been captured in the morning, and afterward recaptured, as so many guns captured from me, whereas I lost only twenty-three guns; and the loss of these and the wagons which were taken, was mainly owing to the fact that a bridge, on a narrow part of the road between Cedar Creek and Fisher's Hill, broke down, and the guns and wagons, which latter were not numerous, could not be brought off. Pursuit was not made to Mount Jackson, as stated by both Grant and Stanton, but my troops were halted for the night at Fisher's Hill, three miles from Cedar Creek, and the next day moved back to New Market, six miles from Mount Jackson, without any pursuit at all.”

Thus terminated the Valley campaign of 1864. In November, Early again advanced nearly to Winchester, but his offer of battle was refused, and he went into winter quarters near Staunton, with the small and exhausted force which remained with him, the second corps having been returned to General Lee. He had then only a handful of cavalry and a “corporal's guard” of infantry. In February, 1865, when the days of the Confederacy were numbered and the end was near, he was to give the quidnuncs and his enemies generally one more opportunity of denouncing his bad generalship and utter unfitness for command. In those dark days, when hope was sinking and the public “pulse was low,” every reverse enraged the people. The whole country was nervous, excited, irascible, exacting. The people would hear no explanations — they wanted victories. Such was the state of [97] public sentiment when intelligence came from the mountains that Early's “army” had been again attacked, this time near Staunton, and owing to the excessively bad generalship of that officer, had sustained utter and ignominious defeat. How many thousands of men had thus been defeated was not exactly stated; but the public said that it was an “army.” It was one thousand infantry and about six pieces of artillery. This force was attacked by two divisions of cavalry, numbering five thousand each-ten thousand in all. Early had not a mounted man, his entire cavalry force, with the rest of his artillery, having been sent off to forage. By the great force of the enemy, Early was driven beyond the mountains, his command hopelessly defeated, and his name was everywhere covered with obloquy and insult. He said nothing, waiting with the equanimity of a brave man for the moment which would enable him to justify himself. He has done it now; and no manly heart will read his noble words without respect for this true patriot and fearless soldier. “Obvious reasons of policy,” he says, “prevented any publication of these facts during the war, and it will now be seen that I was leading a forlorn hope all the time, and the people can appreciate the character of the victories won by Sheridan over me.

But this is General Early's account of the campaign, it may be said. It is natural — some persons even now may say — that he should endeavour by “special pleading” to lift from his name the weight of obloquy, and strive to show that he was not deficient in military ability, in courage, skill, and energy. The objection is just; no man is an altogether fair witness in regard to his own character and actions. Somewhere, a fault will be palliated, a merit exaggerated. Fortunately for Early's fame-unfortunately for the theory of his enemies — a document of the most conclusive character exists, and with that paper in his hand, the brave soldier may fearlessly present himself before the bar of history. It is the letter of General Lee, to him, dated March 30, 1865, three days before that “beginning of the end,” the evacuation of Petersburg. The clamour against Early had accomplished the object of many of those who raised it. His ability was distrusted; he was regarded as unfit for command; “remove [98] him!” was the cry of the people. Here is General Lee's letter relieving him of his command. It would be an injustice to the good name of Early to suppress a line of it.

Hdqrs. C. S. Armies, March 30, 1865.
Lieut.-Gen. J. A. Early, Franklin C. H., Va.:
dear Sir: My telegram will have informed you that I deem a change of commanders in your department necessary, but it is due to your zealous and patriotic services that I should explain the reasons that prompted my action. The situation of affairs is such that we can neglect no means calculated to develop the resources we possess to the greatest extent, and make them as efficient as possible. To this end it is essential that we should have the cheerful and hearty support of the people and the full confidence of the soldiers, without which our efforts would be embarrassed, and our means of resistance weakened. I have reluctantly arrived at the conclusion that you cannot command the united and willing co-operation which is so essential to success. Your reverses in the Valley, of which the public and the army judge chiefly by the results, have, I fear, impaired your influence both with the people and the soldiers, and would add greatly to the difficulties which will, under any circumstances, attend our military operations in S. W. Va. While my own confidence in your ability, zeal, and devotion to the cause, is unimpaired, I have nevertheless felt that I could not oppose what seems to be the current of opinion, without injustice to your reputation and injury to the service. I therefore felt constrained to endeavour to find a commander who would be more likely to develop the strength and resources of the country and inspire the soldiers with confidence, and to accomplish this purpose, thought it proper to yield my own opinion, and defer to that of those to whom alone we can look for support. I am sure that you will understand and appreciate my motives, and that no one will be more ready than yourself to acquiesce in any measure which the interests of the country may seem to require, regardless of all personal considerations. Thanking you for the fidelity and energy with which you have always supported my [99] efforts, and for the courage and devotion you have ever manifested in the service of the country, I am, very respectfully and truly, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee, General.

In defeat, poverty, and exile, this recognition of his merit remains to that brave soldier; and it is enough. There is something better than the applauses of the multitude-something which will outweigh in history the clamour of the ignorant or the hostile; it is this testimony of Robert E. Lee to the “zealous and patriotic services” of the man to whom it refers; to the “ability, zeal, devotion, fidelity, energy, and courage” which he had “ever manifested in the service of the country,” leaving the “confidence” of the Commander-in-Chief in him “unimpaired.”


Iii.

In concluding this sketch, an attempt will be made to give the reader some idea of the personal character and appearance of the brave man who, in his letter from Havana, has made that calm and decorous appeal to posterity.

General Early, during the war, appeared to be a person of middle age; was nearly six feet in height; and, in spite of severe attacks of rheumatism, could undergo great fatigue. His hair was dark and thin, his eyes bright, his smile ready and expressive, though somewhat sarcastic. His dress was plain gray, with few decorations. Long exposure had made his old coat quite dingy. A wide-brimmed hat overshadowed his sparkling eyes and forehead, browned by sun and wind. In those sparkling eyes could be read the resolute character of the man, as in his smile was seen the evidence of that dry, trenchant, often mordant humour, for which he was famous.

The keen glance drove home the wit or humour, and every one who ventured upon word-combats with Lieutenant-General Early sustained “a palpable hit.” About some of his utterances there was a grim effectiveness which it would be hard to excel. There was a member of the Virginia Convention who had called him a “submissionist” in that body, but when the war commenced, [100] hired a substitute, and remained at home, though healthy and only forty. Early the “submissionist” went into the army, fought hard, and then one day in 1862 met his quondam critic, who said to him, “It was very hard to get you to go out” --alluding to Early's course in the Convention on secession. Early's eye flashed, his lip curled. “Yes,” he replied, looking at the black broadcloth of his companion, “but it is a d-d sight harder to get you up to the fighting.” There was another member of the Convention who had often criticised him, and dwelt upon the importance of “maintaining our rights in the territories at all hazards.” This gentleman, being aged, did not go into the army; and one day when Early met him, during the retreat from Manassas, the General said, with his customary wit, “Well, Mr. M— , what do you think about getting our rights in the territories now? It looks like we were going to lose some of our own territory, don't it?” When General Lee's surrender was announced to him, while lying nearly dead in his ambulance, he muttered to his surgeon, “Doctor, I wish there was powder enough in the centre of the earth to blow it to atoms. I would apply the torch with the greatest pleasure. If Gabriel ever means to blow his horn, now is the time for him to do it — no more joyful sound could fall on my ears.”

These hits he evidently enjoyed, and he delivered them with the coolness of a swordsman making a mortal lunge. In fact, everything about General Early was bold, straightforward, masculine, and incisive. Combativeness was one of his great traits.

There were many persons in and out of the army who doubted the soundness of his judgment; there were none who ever called in question the tough fibre of his courage. He was universally recognised in the Army of Northern Virginia as one of the hardest fighters of the struggle; and every confidence was felt in him as a combatant, even by his personal enemies. This repute he had won on many fields, from the first Manassas to Winchester; for one of the hardest fights of the war, if it was a defeat, was that affair on the Opequon.

It was not so much good judgment that General Early wanted [101] in his Valley campaign, as troops. He was “leading a forlorn hope,” and forlorn hopes rarely succeed. “He has done as well as any one could,” General Lee is reported to have said; and the Commander-in-Chief had better opportunities of forming a correct opinion than others.

Returning to Early the man, what most impressed those who were thrown with him, was that satirical, sometimes cynical humour, and the force and vigour of his conversation. His voice was not pleasing, but his “talk” was excellent. His intellect was evidently strong, combative, aggressive in all domains of thought; his utterance direct, hard-hitting, and telling. He was a forcible speaker; had been successful at the bar; and in the army, as in civil life, made his way by the independent force of his mind and character-by his strong will, sustained energy, and the native vigour of his faculties. Sarcastic and critical, he was criticised in return, as a man of rough address, irascible temperament, and as wholly careless whom he offended. So said his enemies-those who called in question his brains and judgment. What they could not call in question, however, was his “zeal, fidelity, and devotion,” or they will not do so to-day. Robert E. Lee has borne his supreme and lasting testimony upon that subject, and the brave .and hardy soldier who led that forlorn hope in the Shenandoah Valley, when the hours of a great conflict were numbered, and darkness began to settle like a pall upon the land illustrated by such heroic struggles, by victories so splendid — the brave and hardy Early at last has justice done him, and can claim for himself that, when the day was darkest, when all hearts desponded, he was zealous, faithful, devoted. If the world is not convinced by the testimony of Lee, that this man was devoted to his country, and true as steel to the flag under which he fought-true to it in disaster and defeat as in success and victory-let them read the letter of the exile, signing himself “J. A. Early, Lieut.-Gen. C. S. A.”

1 An interesting discussion has taken place in the journals of the day, in reference to the forces of Early and Sheridan at the battle of the Opequon. The latter replied to Early's statement by charging him with falsifying history; and this reply drew forth in turn statements from Southern officers — some sentences from which are quoted:

I know of my own personal knowledge,

wrote an officer in the New Orleans Picayune, January 13, 1866, “that General Early's statement is correct, when he states that he had about eight thousand five hundred muskets in the second engagement with General Sheridan. I was a staff officer for four years in the army of Northern Virginia. I was a division staff officer, Second Army Corps, under General Early's command, from the time the Second Corps was detached from the Army of Northern Virginia, June 1864, to the time it was ordered to Petersburg, December, 1864. I was present at the battles of Winchester, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek. I know from the official reports that I myself made, and from actual observation at reviews, drills, inspections in camp, and on the march, the effective strength of every brigade and division of infantry under General Early's command (of the cavalry and artillery I cannot speak so authoritatively), and I can therefore assert that in neither one of these actions above mentioned, did General Early carry nine thousand men (infantry) into the fight.”

One who served on Early's staff,” writes in the New York News of February 10, 1866:

The writer of this has in his possession the highest and most conclusive evidence of the truth of Early's statement of his infantry force; and in fact without this proof, it could have been substantially established by the evidence here in Lynchburg of these facts, that fifteen trains of the Virginia and Alexandria Railroad (no one train of a capacity of carrying five hundred men) brought the whole of the Second Corps of the Confederate 90 Army under division commanders Gordon, Rodes, and Ramseur to this place: that Breckenridge's division, then here, was only about two thousand men: and that these were all of the infantry carried from this place by Early down the Valley after his chase of Hunter. It will thus be perceived that Early's estimate (eight thousand five hundred) was quite full so far; and after the Winchester and Fisher's Hill engagements, his statement that Kershaw's division of two thousand seven hundred then added, did not exceed his previous losses, ought certainly not to be objected to by Sheridan who assails Early's veracity with the assertion that he inflicted on him a loss of twenty-six thousand eight hundred and thirty-one men!

The Richmond Times says:

Of General Early's actual force on the ipth of September, 1864, the day of the battle of Winchester, his first defeat, we can give statistics nearly official, procured from an officer of rank who held a high command during the campaign, and who had every opportunity of knowing. Early's infantry consisted of

Gordon's Division2,000
Ramseur's Division2,000
Rodes' Division2,500
Breckenridge's Division1,800
Total Infantry8,300
Cavalry-Fitz Lee's Division
Wickham's Brigade1,000
Lomax's old Brigade6000
Lomax's Division
McCauseland's Brigade800
Johnson's Brigade700
Imboden's Brigade400
Jackson's Brigade300
Total Cavalry3,800
Artillery
Three Battalions Light Artillery40 guns
One Battalion Horse Artillery12 guns
Total guns52 guns
About one thousand artillerists.

This recapitulation embraces all the forces of Early's command. General Sheridan, according to official statements, had under his command over thirty-five thousand muskets, eight thousand sabres, and a proportionate quantity of artillery.

The force of Sheridan is not a matter of dispute: that of Early is defined with sufficient accuracy by the above statements from honourable officers.

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Fishers Hill (Virginia, United States) (8)
Winchester, Va. (Virginia, United States) (6)
Petersburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (3)
Meadow Mills (Virginia, United States) (3)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (3)
Virginia (Virginia, United States) (2)
Strasburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (2)
Staunton, Va. (Virginia, United States) (2)
Spottsylvania (Virginia, United States) (2)
Mount Jackson (Virginia, United States) (2)
Manassas, Va. (Virginia, United States) (2)
Lynchburg (Virginia, United States) (2)
Havana, N. Y. (New York, United States) (2)
York, Pa. (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Tunstall (Virginia, United States) (1)
Sharpsburg (Maryland, United States) (1)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Opequon (Virginia, United States) (1)
New Market (Virginia, United States) (1)
Martinsburg (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Malvern Hill (Virginia, United States) (1)
Jackson (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Harper's Ferry (West Virginia, United States) (1)
Gettysburg (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Fredericksburg, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Frederick Junction (Maryland, United States) (1)
Cedar Mountain (Virginia, United States) (1)
Cedar Creek (Florida, United States) (1)
Bull Run, Va. (Virginia, United States) (1)
Bristoe (Virginia, United States) (1)

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Jubal A. Early (50)
Sheridan (18)
Cavalry-Fitz Lee (13)
Hunter (11)
Ulysses Grant (8)
J. A. Early (8)
George Washington (6)
Robert E. Lee (5)
Stonewall Jackson (4)
Stanton (2)
Rodes (2)
Ramseur (2)
Lomax (2)
Gordon (2)
Breckenridge (2)
Wright (1)
Williams Wickham (1)
Wallace (1)
S. W. Va (1)
Kirby Smith (1)
Pope (1)
Meade (1)
McCauseland (1)
Kershaw (1)
Tom Jones (1)
Bradley Johnson (1)
Imboden (1)
A. P. Hill (1)
Harper (1)
Ewell (1)
Burnside (1)
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