Review: Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington

by James Durney on January 20, 2009 · 0 comments

Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington

by Benjamin Franklin Cooling

Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Fire Ant Books; 1 edition (January 28, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817354751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817354756

By the summer of 1864, the Army of Northern Virginia is pinned and slowly being bled to death.  Robert E. Lee understood that his army and the Confederacy could not survive constant fighting indefinitely.   U.S. Grant understood this too and was determined to maintain constant fighting and wear out Lee’s army “if it takes all summer”.  Lee’s only chance at getting a reprieve lay in forcing the Army of the Potomac to break contact and go north.  Weeks of constant battles had not broken Grant’s resolve.  Lacking the resources for a prolonged war of attrition and unable to beat Grant on the battlefield, something else was needed.  Trying to repeat the successes of 1862, Lee determined to threaten Washington DC.  In 1862, Lincoln had reacted to a perceived threat by weakening McClellan’s army in front of Richmond.  This allowed Lee room to maneuver, attack and resulted in the withdrawal of the Union army.  While a desperate and risking idea, the option was defeat in time.  Jubal Early commanding Jackson’s old Corps and miscellaneous units made up the invasion force.  The idea is by threatening the capital; Lincoln will panic and recall Grant.  In the event Washington fell, the South expected to win the war.

This is a very complete history of Early’s 1864 raid into Maryland and the North’s response.  This is the author’s third book on Washington during the Civil War.  His studies and writing gives him an in-depth of the area and its’ defenses.  He puts this to good use in detailing both the battles and the movements during this campaign.  One of the strongest points is we are not limited to the battles at Monocacy and Fort Stevens.  The attempt on the POW camp, the action around Baltimore and who told Lincoln to “get down, you fool” receive full coverage.  This is more than a battle book.  The politics that go into many decisions are well covered as are the complex military consideration, North & South, which made this raid possible.  This area is interesting and entertaining reading, showing how hope and local priorities almost triumphed over reality.  This is a story of an invasion too.  The response of Marylanders, deeply divided by the war is not an orphaned story.  The author fully integrates local loyalties and financial considerations into the overall story.  The last chapter is “Battle Remembrance”, covering how the veterans remembered and what we are doing to preserve the area they fought in.

The author received both the won the Douglas Southall Freeman Award and the Fletcher Pratt Award for his work.  He is an excellent historian and a good storyteller.

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