Jubal A. Early Biography

General, Journalist (1816–1894)
Jubal A. Early was a Confederate general in the American Civil War whose defeats during the Shenandoah Valley campaigns led to the final collapse of the South.


Jubal A. Early was born on November 3, 1816, in Franklin County, Virginia. A prominent lawyer, he opposed secession in the pre-Civil War years before adopting the Southern cause. Early enjoyed major successes as a Confederate commander before enduring crushing defeats near the end of the war. Pardoned by U.S. President Andrew Johnson in 1868, Early died on March 2, 1894, in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Early Life

Jubal Anderson Early was born on November 3, 1816, in Franklin County, Virginia. The son of a successful tobacco plantation owner, Early attended schools in the Virginia towns of Lynchburg and Danville. He enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1833, going on to graduate 18th in a class of 50.

Following his studies, he briefly fought in the Second Seminole War before returning home to Franklin County to study and practice law. The legal profession seemed to suit Early, his success helping him earn election to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1841.

Military Career

With the outbreak of the Mexican-American War in 1846, Jubal A. Early was pressed back into military service as a major with the Virginia volunteers. However, the war did not offer him and his men much combat exposure, as they primarily took on the task of garrison duty.

Following the war's conclusion, Early returned home to resume his law practice. As the issue of slavery deepened the divide between the South and North, Early advocated proponents of the budding Confederacy to temper their secession talks. Even after abolitionist Abraham Lincoln was elected U.S. President in 1860, Early pressed his fellow Southerners not to sever ties with the Union.

But his views on secession soon changed, and in 1861 he accepted a commission as brigadier general in the Virginia militia following the state's departure from the Union. Not long after, Early rose to the rank of colonel, and then first commander of the 24th Virginia Infantry Regiment as the Civil War took shape.

Early earned high praise from Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard for his fighting and leadership during the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. Other battlefield successes followed, though a wounding at the Battle of Williamsburg in May 1862 forced Early to recuperate at his home in Rocky Mount, Virginia.

In the early stages of the war, Early was a crucial commander under Confederate General Robert E. Lee. He led a devastating attack against Union forces at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862, and was instrumental to his side's early successes in the Battle of Gettysburg the following July.

But as the Union gained strength following its victory at Gettysburg, Early and the rest of the Southern command encountered increasing difficulties. Early lost three crucial battles during the 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaigns, and a devastating defeat at the Battle of Waynesboro in March 1865 ended his military career.

After the Civil War's conclusion, Early fled to Mexico, and later lived in Canada. He returned to the United States after President Andrew Johnson pardoned him in 1868.

Later Life

Back home in Virginia, Early resumed his legal career. He also remained deeply committed to the Southern cause and to keeping alive the ideals of the Confederacy as president of the Southern Historical Society. After falling down a set of stairs, Early died in Lynchburg on March 2, 1894.

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