Jubal Anderson Early (1816-1894) was a Confederate General in the American Civil War. He was born in Virginia and lived much of his life there. He graduated from West Point in 1837. He fought against the Seminole in Florida before resigning from the army for the first time in 1838. He then became a lawyer and practiced law until 1861, with a brief interruption during the Mexican War (1846-1848) during which he served in the military again. During this time he became involved in state politics. Like many men who would become confederate generals, he was not enthusiastic about secession, and he voted against it in the 1860 Virginia secession convention. However, he enlisted in the Confederate army as a colonel. He was promoted to brigadier general after the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861, and was involved in most of the major battles in Virginia. He served with and was trusted and supported by the commander, Robert E. Lee.
His most important service was in the summer and fall of 1864, when he commanded the Confederacy's last two attempts to invade northern territory, even as Confederate territory was rapidly being captured by the Union armies of Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. He defeated several Union armies and damaged the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Grant finally sent out an army under Philip Sheridan which forced Early to retreat, and when he attempted to surprise the Union army he was decisively defeated at the Battle of Cedar Creek in October 1864. His greatly diminished army surrendered in March 1865, and he was removed from command during the last days of the Confederacy. Though Lee still supported him, public opinion was now against him. He fled the country, but returned to Virginia in 1869, resuming the practice of law. Though Early is not very well known, his contribution to the Confederacy's last efforts at survival were very important.
The following quote summarizes an opinion held by his admirers:
- "Honest and outspoken, honorable and uncompromising, Jubal A. Early epitomized much that was the Southern Confederacy. His self-reliance, courage, sagacity, and devotion to the cause brought confidence then just as it inspires reverence now."