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.


  1. David McGuire The garrison defending the capitol was indeed insufficient to prevail, thus nearly four divisions from Grant's army outside Richmond were sent to reinforce.

  2. John Trimble Well, Early failed against the B team, McCook was a disgraced military commander waiting around D.C. for another command but he managed to lead his ad hoc force to a victory over the veterans of the ANV at Fort Stevens. by 1864 the Union B team was probably as good as the the rebel A team. The Union forces at both Fort Stevens and Nashville were thrown together from separate commands and managed to knock the rebels back on their heals.

  3. Philip Hadad The US troops at fort Stevens were anything but the B team. Among others there was the second Rhode Island one of the combat proven regiments along with other sixth Corp regiments. They men Grant sent to Defend Washington were the best of the best.

    John Trimble I think we are in agreement about the quality of some of the soldiers involved. I call both of these Union forces B teams because they were thrown together ad-hoc. McCook had never commanded any of his troops before and for Thomas, the majority of his men were new to his command. The VI Corps was just an element at the battle of Fort Stevens just as the Detachment of Army of the Tennessee was an element during the Battle of Nashville. Both greater forces they were involved in disbanded. VI Corps would end up with with the Army of the Shenandoah under Sheridan and the Detachment of Army of the Tennessee would up being assigned to the Army of West Mississippi under Canby.

  4. Philip Hadad When we discuss civil war generals and battles we must put ourselves in the era. Two things that are often misunderstood are that troops held in reserve were usually the very best because when all has failed they are your last hope of turning the tide or saving the army and second the regiments with the most casualties ( although brave) were not led by the best generals. A great general gives the enemy high casualties while receiving very few.

  5. Jeffrey Fidler Early possibly could have taken the undermanned Washington defenses temporarily, had grant not dispatched the VI corps when he did. Overall Early's mission was to protect the Shenandoah, and damage Union communications and cause panic, hoping to force Grant to send troops to follow him . Lee hoped this would loosen the grip on Richmond/ Petersburg. Early did have partial success in this, but as was shown, Grant did not panic, and had plenty of troops to deal with Early's small force , and keep Lee held in check. Within two months he sent Sheridan with 40,000 men to break up Early. So overall he was little threat to Washington. Even if he had taken the capitol he could not have held it.

  6. Robert Gravallese Washington was loaded with heavy artillery and mortars, entrenchments, forts, etc. It is claimed there were 10,000 Unions soldiers in the city but in actuality it was closer to 30000. Some of those men were not in the best fighting condition but many were very good, experienced troops. All Early could have hoped to do is cause some panic. I think his ability to take the city is way overstated. Look at how quickly the Union troops were captured trying to do the same in the dahlgren affair. The big kick I get out of Ft Stevens was Lincoln being present with his height plus the stovepipe hat - he made an easy target. OW Holmes allegedly yelled at him something like get down you damn fool!

  7. Roger Andrews Gen. Jubal Early was dispatched with orders to clear the Shenandoah Valley of Federals, invade Maryland, disrupt the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and threaten Washington in hopes of drawing off Union troops surrounding Richmond, Virginia - even though Jubal Early was successful in his orders, Washington City was never seriously threatened

    Federal defense of Washington was accomplished by an impressive thirty one thousand troops and a thousand cannon in one hundred sixty fortifications, batteries, and trenches - altho combat effectives were often noted as 10,000 troops, even in-effective troops located in the forts surrounding Washington were a daunting task, with land having been cleared surrounding the city to create open areas for fire - in addition to the forts surrounding Washington City, 13,000 men with 400+ heavy guns were located in 80+ fortifications north of the Potomac