- Jubal Early's Memoirs: Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States, and: General Jubal A. Early: Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States (review)
- Civil War History
- The Kent State University Press
- Volume 36, Number 3, September 1990
- p. pp. 288-289
- View Citation
288CIVIL WAR HISTORY Jubal Early's Memoirs: Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States. Introduction by Craig L. Symonds. (Baltimore, Md.: Nautical and Aviation, 1989. Pp. xlviii, 496. $24.95.) General Jubal A. Early: Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States. Introduction by Gary Gallagher. (Wilmington, N.C.: Broadfoot Press, 1989. Pp. lxxvi, 496. $35.00.) The memoirs of Confederate General Jubal Early have reappeared in two handsome new editions, replete with fresh introductions by two major military historians. Of the two, the Broadfoot reprint is the more ambitious work, with a lengthy, footnoted introduction as well as a number of attractive maps. It also incorporates the same illustrations that graced the original. The reprint published by Nautical and Aviation, while nicely done, contains a briefer introduction, no maps, and—with the exception of the frontispiece—no illustrations. It does have, however, two advantages over the Broadfoot edition: it is more compact and less expensive. Originally published in 1912, Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative of the War Between the States lacks the polish and charm of the best Confederate memoirs, such as Henry Kyd Douglas's / Rode With Stonewall . Also, it exhibits little of the candor of E. P. Alexander's recently published Fighting for the Confederacy, provides few personal glimpses of major personalities, and offers almost no description of the human realities of combat. Indeed, despite Nautical and Aviation's republication of the work as part of its "Great War Stories" series, Early's battle narratives are sparely-written and consumed by the arid details associated with official after-action reports. They are definitely not rousing stuff. On the other hand, AutobiographicalSketch andNarrative does possess considerable strengths. First, its very tone provides a useful introduction to the blunt-spoken soldier whom Lee termed "my bad old man." An inveterate Yankee-hater—he initially fled the defeated South rather than face its occupation by the victorious Union—Early loses few opportunities to heap scorn upon the foes of the Confederacy. Conversely, he defends most of the Confederacy's actions with such passion and lack of balance as to betray his prewar career as a Virginia attorney. Indeed, Early devotes an entire chapter to an aggressive attempt to vindicate the South's treatment of Union prisoners, wounded, and dead. Typically, he places blame for any poor treatment upon the dire straits into which Federal blockades and devastations had placed the Confederacy. In one incisive passage, he notes the meager fare provided for Lee's table during the Spotsylvania Campaign—"[a few] crackers, fried fat bacon, and a beverage made as a substitute for coffee out of parched wheat"—then observes, "Such fare, if furnished to a sick or wounded Federal soldier, BOOK REVIEWS289 would have been regarded as evidence of a barbarous purpose to cause his death" (295-96). A second source of the work's value lies in Early's insights as an experienced, highly competent combat commander. Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative contains a wealth of passages that depict the problems faced by an officer in battle. Such passages go far toward reminding the armchair strategist that war is a much more uncertain business than it appears when one is looking at lines and arrows on a map. "I have known," Early writes, "important movements to be suspended on the battlefield, on account of reports from very gallant officers that the enemy was on one flank in heavy force, when a calm inspection proved the reported bodies of the enemy to be nothing more than stone or rail fences. Some officers, while exposing their lives with great daring, sometimes fail to preserve that clearness of judgment and calmness of the nerves which is so necessary to enable one to see things as they really are during an engagement" (14). Third and most important, Autobiographical Sketch and Narrative forms one of the most important primary sources for Early's 1864 campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley. By this period of the war, he had risen through brigade and division command to the rank of lieutenant general in charge of the Second Corps of Lee's army. In the summer of 1864, when Lee detached Early's corps...