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Jubal Early's Raid on Washington D. C.
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Raids
Raid on Washington D. C.
Other names: Raid on the B&O Railroad
By early June, Ulysses S. Grant's war of attrition was having the desired effect on Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. On June 12, 1864, Lee created the Army of the Valley from his own command and ordered Lieutenant General Jubal Early to advance from the Shenandoah Valley, engage the Union army under David Hunter then advance on Washington D. C. to relieve the pressure on Lee's army, then at Cold Harbor.
Franz Siegel [US] pulled back from Harper's Ferry to a prepared position on Maryland Heights as Confederate troops rampaged through the West Virginia town. Jubal Early did not have the time or men to drive Siegel from the heights so he simply sidestepped him to the gaps in South Mountain behind the Union Army. From South Mountain the Army of the Valley turned southeast and it was quickly apparent that Early was heading for Washington D. C. As the Army of the Valley spread across Maryland they took what they needed and destroyed portions of Sharpsburg, Hagerstown, Williamsport and Shepherdstown.
Ulysses S. Grant had been reinforcing Lew Wallace's Sixth Corps in Frederick, Maryland since July 5th. At the Monocacy River Wallace, who was hopelessly outnumbered, engaged the Confederates by was flanked by John B. Gordon and forced to withdraw. The battle of Monocacy slowed Early's advance to the point of costing him a full day, giving Christopher C. Augur, in command of the 22nd Corps much needed time to improve the defenses of Washington.
On July 11, 1864, Early reached the outer defenses of the Union capital. Within the city Major General Quincy Gilmore worked on opposing General Early's 10,000-man division with about 20,000 men, mostly new recruits and invalids. The only real fight of the raid came at Fort Stevens, now north of Military Road west of Georgia Avenue (due north of the White House). Early advanced from Rockville, Maryland, reconnoitered the fort and decided to attack the following day.
As the Army of the Valley advanced on Fort Stevens heavy skirmishing broke out along a wide front. Inside the fort Union reinforcements were moving into place and President Abraham Lincoln advanced to a parapet to watch the action. Young officer and future Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes admonished the President, telling him to "Get down, you fool." Early realized the Union positions were being reinforced and decided to withdraw to Leesburg, Virginia. He crossed the Potomac at White's Ford, ending his attack on Washington D. C.
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Jubal Early's Raid on Washington D. C. was last changed on - January 5, 2008
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