Jubal Early, one of Robert E. Lee’s more colorful generals, was ironically a staunch defender of the Union, voting as a delegate at the Virginia State Convention in 1861 against secession. Nevertheless, once Virginia left the Union, Early fought for the Confederacy.
Early was described by the Encyclopedia Virginia as “opinionated and critical of others but slow to see his own faults” and also, fascinating for an army famous for its piety, “notoriously quick-tempered, witty, and profane.” Lee paid Early a back handed compliment by calling him, “My bad old man.”
Early started the war as a brigade commander at the Battle of the First Manassas. By the time of Gettysburg he commanded a division as part of Early’s Corps. He was the first to approach Gettysburg from the north and attacked the Union XI Corps, according to the Botherswar site, inflicting horrible casualties and taking many prisoners, pursing the fleeing federals through the town of Gettysburg itself, before stopping at the foot of Cemetery Hill where the Union troops regrouped and dug in. Early urged his superior General Ewell for permission to attack, but was denied.
On the second day of Gettysburg, Early assaulted the Union position on Cemetery Hill at about the same time Longstreet was assailing the Union left around the Little Round Top. After achieving some initial success, Early’s men were driven back and failed to take the important position. Early’s own report of his role in the Gettysburg campaign blamed a lack of support on his right for the failure.
Early’s division played not significant role during the third day of the battle. After the failure of Pickett’s Charge, Early’s division constituted the rear guard of the Confederate Army as it retreated back to Virginia.
Later Early fought at the Wilderness and in the Second Shenandoah when he marched an army to the outskirts of Washington D.C. He ended his Civil War career after suffering a massive defeat at the Battle of Waynesboro early in 1865.
Early spent much time in exile, before returning to Virginia and practicing law. He was one of the early proponents of the so-called “lost cause” interpretation of the Civil War, depicting southern society and the men who fought for it as noble, attributing its defeat to overwhelming Union numbers rather than martial skill.
Ironically, modern Canadian born actor Nathan Fillion, who played a rebel solider in a science fiction version of the Civil War in the series “Firefly”, claims to be a descendent of Early according to his biography in IMDB. A bounty hunter character in the “Firefly” episode “Objects in Space” was named after Early, ironically played by African American actor Richard Brooks.