A Union Military Intelligence Failure: Jubal Early's Raid, June 12-July 14, 1864
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A Union Military Intelligence Failure: Jubal Early's Raid, June 12-July 14, 1864 William B. Feis In the late afternoon of July 3, 1864, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant received at his City Point, Virginia, headquarters an alarming dispatch from Chief-of-Staff Henry W Halleck in Washington. Halleck informed the commanding general that current rumors depicted the Confederate Second Corps under General Jubal A. Early marching down the Shenandoah Valley towards the Potomac River. Without hesitation, Grant replied that "Early's Corps is now here" and assured Halleck that no sizeable Confederate forces operated in the Valley. The general-inchief based his response on earlier intelligence reports that showed Early's command still defending Richmond from the onslaught of the Federal siege that had begun a month earlier. However, as Grant telegraphed his message to Washington, the twelve thousand troops under "Old Jube" Early inched northward from Winchester in the Shenandoah towards the Potomac and Maryland, over one hundred miles from the siege lines before Richmond and Petersburg. From June 12 to July 3, 1864, after the Army of the Potomac's move south of the James River, Grant felt certain that few Confederate troops occupied the Shenandoah. His confidence in that assessment eroded after Halleck apprised him of the burgeoning rumors of Confederate activity in the Valley. After further investigation, Grant realized that previous intelligence reports concerning Early's whereabouts were inaccurate . The Valley teemed with Early's men and the gray tide neared the Maryland shore. On July 5, twenty-two days after the Second Corps departed Cold Harbor for the Valley, Grant admitted to the War The author would like to express his sincere gratitude to Professor John Y. Simon, Mr. Edwin C. Fishel, and Professor Peter Maslowski for reading early drafts of this essay. Civil War History, Vol. XXXVI, No. 3, c 1990 by the Kent State University Press 210CIVIL WAR HISTORY Department that there remained "no doubt but Ewell's [Early's] Corps is away from here."1 Before Grant's awakening, Early's force had expelled Union General David Hunter's forces from the Valley and had marched the distance to Harpers Ferry at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. On the same day as Grant's revelation about his absence, "Old Jube" stood on the banks of the Potomac. Washington lay barely fifty miles away. How Early and his corps departed the lines opposite Grant's army unnoticed and eluded detection until they had reached the gates of the Federal capital was a remarkable feat and one that few historians have endeavored to explain. Scholars have examined the famous raid from varying viewpoints, but no one has studied Early's trek from Richmond to Washington from the perspective of Grant's military intelligence establishment. For example, in his Jubal's Raid: General Early's Famous Attack on Washington in 1864, Frank Vandiver masterfully recounted the Second Corps' journey down the Valley to Washington's door but made no attempt to show how the detachment got so near to the capital without attracting Grant's attention.2 Other historians have emphasized only Grant's deception of Lee during his shift south of the James. In R. E. Lee: A Biography, Douglas Southall Freeman examined this movement and the problems Lee faced in determining the scale of the maneuver, Federal intentions, and how he would respond. Freeman devoted a lengthy chapter to scrutinizing the scant information Lee had concerning the positions and movements of the Army of the Potomac. He flirted with the issue of Early's secret exodus when he stated that on the morning of June 13, "Lee's skirmishers brought back the long expected word at the very hour when the men of Early's corps were turning westward: The long trenches in front of Cold Harbor were empty; Grant was gone."3 Freeman did not attach any special significance to the simultaneous movements of Grant and Early 1 Grant to Henry W. Halleck, July 3, 1864, in John Y. Simon, The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant (henceforth USG), 16 vols, to date (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1967-), vol. 9, 166; the Confederates named their...


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