Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 720

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 720


This is the grave of Jubal Early.

Unfortunately born in 1816, one of the worst people in all of American history grew up in the Virginia elite. His father had a 4,000 acre tobacco farm worked with large groups of slaves. Early went to private schools and then West Point. While at West Point, Joseph Hooker was one of his classmates. They got into a heated verbal argument in the West Point cafeteria over the morality of slavery. I don’t need to tell you which side Early was on.

Early’s first commission after graduation was to fight in the Seminole Wars in Florida, but he didn’t really do anything down there. He was annoyed that he didn’t get to kill anyone so he served his required 1-year commission and resigned in 1838. He then went back to Virginia, studied for the bar, and passed it in 1840. He was elected to the House of Delegates as a Whig in 1841 and served one term. When the U.S. decided to steal half of Mexico in order to expand slavery, Early volunteered and rejoined the Army. He became a major in the 1st Virginia Volunteers. He didn’t see any combat here either, working on logistics. His troops helped govern Monterey after the U.S. occupied the city in northern Mexico. Early returned to Virginia in the aftermath and lived a sort of weird life. He wasn’t that good of a lawyer it seems and was downwardly mobile. He only owned one slave and tended to live in hotels. He didn’t marry and instead had four children by a mistress who eventually chose to marry someone else.

Although the 1850s did not see Early have any political success, he represented Franklin County as the Virginia secession convention in 1861. At the time, he was a unionist, worried about what the impact of secession would be on slavery. But once Lincoln decided to do anything about secession, Early, like many southern unionists, went all-in for secession. And no one really meant more all-in than Early, who became a dedicated Yankee hater. He became a colonel in the Confederate Army in June 1861, commanding the 24th Virginia Infantry. He was promoted to brigadier general after First Manassas and soon became a favorite of Robert E. Lee, despite his constant swearing and temper. Early had a huge ego and loved to give out criticism to subordinates for any reason while also resisting even the most mildest criticism from superiors.

Early was shot in the shoulder during McClellan’s pathetic Peninsular Campaign; unfortunately he wasn’t killed. Equally unfortunately, he was a pretty good general. He basically saved the day for the treasonmongers at Fredericksburg, after Meade had charged through a gap in Jackson’s lines. He continued doing well at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg too. In the Gettysburg campaign, he also committed some of the most dastardly acts of the war. He started occupying Pennsylvania towns and demanding ransom or he would burn them to the ground. The town of York paid him $26,000. When he discovered an iron foundry was owned by Thaddeus Stevens, he ordered it burned to the ground. His troops also captured any Black people they could find in Pennsylvania–regardless of their status of escaped slave or free–and sent them back south into slavery.

In 1864, Early received a temporary promotion to lieutenant general and was sent to the Shenandoah Valley to start a desperate invasion of the north in order to draw troops away from Lee and find much-needed supplies that a war-ravaged Virginia really could no longer provide. He continued his ransom demands too, getting Frederick, Maryland (home town of Roger Taney) to pay $200,000 to remain in existence. Supposedly this was because some women had booed his troops the previous year as they rode north in the Gettysburg campaign and he was still mad about it. This is the kind of guy Early was. Moreover, when Chambersburg, Pennsylvania refused to meet his ransom demands, probably because it didn’t have the money, he did burn it. There was still hope he could attack Washington, but at the Battle of Winchester, his troops were decimated. By this time, Early’s troops were as limited as any Confederates. The war was to end soon. Early’s decisions also became more questionable and he lost the confidence of the rest of the Confederates’ lead generals, including Lee.

Early was so determined to keep fighting after Lee’s surrender that he fled on horse to Texas, hoping to join Edmund Kirby Smith’s forces and continue the war. But by the time he got there, Smith had surrendered. Early then went into Mexico and then to Cuba and Canada, refusing to go back to the United States. He wrote one of the first memoirs of the war while in Canada to raise money for himself, A Memoir of the Last Year of the War for Independence, in the Confederate States of America, in 1866.

Early finally returned to the U.S. after Andrew Johnson pardoned the rest of the Confederate officers in 1869. But he had come to hate the North with great passion. And he never got over that. Instead, no one did anything more to fight for the Lost Cause than Jubal Early. He would walk around wearing only gray clothes that looked like Confederate uniforms. He was deeply bitter and deeply racist. He was an unreconstructed Confederate and an unreconstructed white supremacist. He wrote of slavery, for instance:

The Creator of the Universe had stamped them, indelibly, with a different color and an inferior physical and mental organization. He had not done this from mere caprice or whim, but for wise purposes. An amalgamation of the races was in contravention of His designs or He would not have made them so different. This immense number of people could not have been transported back to the wilds from which their ancestors were taken, or, if they could have been, it would have resulted in their relapse into barbarism. Reason, common sense, true humanity to the black, as well as the safety of the white race, required that the inferior race should be kept in a state of subordination. The conditions of domestic slavery, as it existed in the South, had not only resulted in a great improvement in the moral and physical condition of the negro race, but had furnished a class of laborers as happy and contented as any in the world.

What a nice guy.

Early sought to institutionalize the Lost Cause, becoming first president of the Southern Historical Society in 1873. He wrote article after article justifying the glory of the Confederacy. The war was no longer about slavery, despite everything he also said about slavery. It was about the incredible bravery of Lee and Jackson and himself (but very much not that evil James Longstreet who had the temerity to become a Republican after the war) and how they fought the most noble cause in military history before they were just worn down in the end by a capitalist war machine led by that butcher (his favorite term to describe him) Ulysses S. Grant. He flooded the South with this tripe, helping to shape a memory to resist Reconstruction and Black rights, materially helping to give succor to those using violence against their enemies, those trying to fight for Black independence. He also became the first president of the Lee Monument Association, dedicated to festooning the South with Lee memorials, big monuments to white supremacy meant to remind Black people who was boss, slaves or not.

Early, as well as P.G.T. Beauregard, helped run the Louisiana Lottery and they basically supported themselves by stealing from it. North or South, everyone was on the take in the Gilded Age. No one really liked him. Jefferson Davis’ wife, who worked with him to promote the Lost Cause, said he was a “crabby bachelor with a squeaky, high-pitched voice.” He helped found the Sons of the Confederate Veterans in 1889 and United Daughters of Confederacy in 1894. In that same year of 1894, he fell down some stairs and died a few weeks later at the age of 77.

Jubal Early is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery, Lynchburg, Virginia. Between Early, Carter Glass, and Jerry Falwell, Lynchburg may in fact be the capital city of Terrible Americans.

Also, if you can figure out how this Confederate flag planted at Early’s grave ended up under my muddy shoes, I sure could use some help in solving this mystery.

This grave visit was sponsored by LGM reader donations. I assume this is exactly the kind of material you are looking for. If you would like this series to visit other scumbag treasonous generals, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Edmund Kirby Smith is in Sewanee, Tennessee and P.G.T. Beauregard is in New Orleans. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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