Saturday, January 18, 2014

Jubal Early and the Invasion of Washington

Jubal Early

While the Rebels were penned outside Richmond, Robert E. Lee sent Jubal Early on an invasion of the North, with the hopes of freeing prisoners and capturing Washington is possible.  The Union had poor defense in the Shenandoah Valley, concentrating most of their troops also around the siege of Richmond.  Early easily traveled up the valley with only minor skirmishes.  They crossed the Potamac  in early July, and headed towards Washington. 
On the Union side, John Garrett, president of the U&O Railroad visited General Lew Wallace and informed him something was afoot.  General Wallace, without orders and of his own initiative, decided to investigate.  Wallace developed a defensive position at Monocacy.  This position offered defense of the turnpikes to both Baltimore and Washington.  It was a strong position but he only had 2300 local troops.  Jubal Early had nearly 15,000.  Two brigades of the sixth corp. under Brigadier General James Brewerton Ricketts had left Petersburg a few days before.  They took steamboat and train to reach Wallace before the confederates attacked.  The defending force with the reinforcements was over 5500.  The terrain wasn’t favorable for the attackers, but they did have more artillery.  The defenders were able to force Early’s side to play their cards, tipping their hats to Washington.  They were also able to hold their position most of the day, slowing down Early’s advance to Washington.  When Wallace’s men retreated, Early established headquarters in the town, and the road to Washington was clear.  However Early’s side had been depleted.  The men were exhausted and strung out.  When Early’s men headed to Washington only 8000 infantry were able to answer the call. 
Upon arriving outside Washington, a quick attack may have allowed Early’s troops to capture Fort Stevens.  However Early allowed his men to rest and regroup.  In the meantime the fort was fortified, and the opportunity was lost.  Early’s raid came within site of the Capitol, but they did not have enough strength left to capture it.
General Lew Wallace was initially blamed for the defeat at Monocacy.  However later General Grant praised him for saying Washington with his taking initiative, establishing a defensible position, and slowing the Confederate invasion.

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