Confederate general (1816–1894) who led troops at Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Spotsylvania. Though pardoned by President Johnson in 1868, Early remained unrepentant and was one of the leading supporters of the “Lost Cause” movement, reserving special vitriol for the actions of Confederate General James Longstreet at Gettysburg.
Jubal Early was a prominent lawyer who opposed secession in the pre-Civil War years before adopting the Southern cause when Virginia seceded. He served as a Confederate general, fighting in most of the major battles in the Eastern Theater, including the Seven Days Battles, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. He received a promotion to major general and had an important role at Gettysburg. At the battle of the Wilderness, Early briefly commanded Hill’s Corps and received a promotion to lieutenant general in 1864 for his actions. He stood before the gates of Washington on July 11, 1864, but things went poorly after that and he came out on the losing end of the Battle of Cedar Creek. After Lee surrendered, Early fled to Mexico, then Cuba and Canada, and upon being pardoned by President Andrew Johnson, returned to the United States and took pride as an “unrepentant rebel”. He remained deeply committed to the Southern cause and to keeping alive the ideals of the Confederacy as president of the Southern Historical Society.
In the summer of 1875, Early received an invitation from the Elisha B. Smith Post, Grand Army of the Republic, which invited the ex-Confederate general to attend as a special guest the semi-annual encampment of the Union veterans. As an added attraction, the Northerners planned to put on a dramatic performance entitled, “The Spy of the Shenandoah.” Since the play included a reference to the Battle of Cedar Creek, General Early would be treated to the sight of a former Union soldier impersonating himself. The one selected to play the part of Old Jube was Elmore Sharpe, who was the Chaplain of the Elisha B. Smith Post.
Autograph letter signed “JA Early”, to the Elisha B. Smith Post regarding this invitation to a Union victory gathering, Lynchburg, Virginia, July 28, 1875, to Rev. John William Jones, in full:
Please forward to me at this place the letter which you have for me. I believe it is an invitation to be present at any of the meetings of the ‘Grand Army of the Republic.’ I found one here on my return from ‘Elisha B. Post’ No 83 Dept. of New York, asking me to be present at their celebration and banquet, and informing me that during the week the drama of ‘The Spy of the Shenandoah’ would be performed, and the ‘Battle of [Cedar] Creek’ fought over during the performance on which occasion General Early would be personated by the writer of the invitation, who is chaplain of the Post.
Yours very truly, JA Early
Although there is no evidence to indicate that Old Jube took advantage of the opportunity to see the Battle of Cedar Creek played by Northerners on a stage, the invitation afforded much amusement to his friends. One of them, General Fitz Lee, could not refrain from writing, “I too have received an invitation to go on to your Elisha B. Smith banquet. I am almost sorry now I have declined the invitation, because the sign of a chaplain personating General Early is alone worth the price of the trip. I don’t see what you have done to merit all that…when the selection had to be made of a few persons to personate you the minds of the whole post instinctively turned towards their chaplain – and with one voice they all explained – ‘There art the man!’”