Jubal Anderson Early: The Bad Old Man

Jubal Anderson Early born November 3, 1816 in Franklin County, Virginia attended schools in both Lynchburg and Danville as a child before he entered West Point in 1833. After graduation in 1837, Early served as a Second Lieutenant and earned an assignment to the United States Second Artillery Battalion. After briefly serving in the Seminole War, Early returned to Franklin County to practice law and became the prosecuting attorney for Franklin and Floyd Counties. While described as a powerful and successful attorney, Early gained fame for being opinionated, his love of chewing tobacco, and for being a master of profanities. These personality traits became associated with Early so much so that General Robert E. Lee would refer to Jubal Early as his “bad old man.” 

Jubal Early

Jubal Early

Jubal Early served as delegate at the Secession Convention of 1861 as a Virginia representative. At the time, he wanted to keep Virginia in the Union, but when outvoted he decided to remain loyal to his native state even if secession did occur.  He again entered military life and took command of the 24th Virginia Infantry of the Confederate States of America. At the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862, Early was wounded while leading the charge. This started his legacy as being a man also known for his bravery and leadership. Jubal Early partook in almost every major action that the Army of Northern Virginia participated in, including First and Second Manassas. In 1864, General Lee put Early in charge of an independent army with the task of diverting Union troops from getting to Lee’s army in Richmond and Petersburg. With this task, Early defended Lynchburg and chased Union Major General David Hunter to West Virginia. Less than six weeks before Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Jubal Early was defeated in Waynesboro, Virginia. Early’s troops dwindled to a mere 1,600 and were facing 10,000 Union soldiers. While defeated, his task of diverting Union troops away from General Lee’s was a success as it prolonged the declaration of Confederate surrender by at least six months. Early was relieved of his command ten days before the surrender.

Refusing to believe that the Confederacy had lost, Jubal Early never surrendered after the Confederate defeat. While hiding in Franklin County, he escaped to Mexico and then Canada before being pardoned in 1868 by President Andrew Johnson. He then returned to Lynchburg to continue practicing law. Early became the primary promoter of the Lost Cause and the authority on published Confederate history. Later as the president of the Southern Historical Society, Early continued to support the Confederate cause with pen instead of sword.  

Jubal Early died in Lynchburg in 1894 at the age of 77, and is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery. Currently on display at the Lynchburg Museum at the Old Court House is Jubal Early’s post-war suit and beverage cooler. 

Early's beverage cooler, on display at the Lynchburg Museum

Early's beverage cooler, on display at the Lynchburg Museum

Written by Kaitlin Shiflett, LMS Staff
Sources: 
LMS, People Binder 2 
http://www.jubalearly.org/jubal.html