1816–94, Confederate general, b. Franklin co., Va., grad. West Point, 1837. After fighting against the Seminole in Florida he resigned from the army (1838), studied law, and practiced at Rocky Mount, Va. He fought briefly in the Mexican War. Early voted against secession in the Virginia convention (Apr., 1861), but when war broke out he became a colonel of Virginia troops. Promoted to brigadier general at the first battle of Bull Run (July, 1861), he fought in all the campaigns (1862–64) of the Army of Northern Virginia. He was prominent at Salem Church (see Chancellorsville, battle of) and in the Gettysburg campaign (1863). In the Wilderness campaign (1864) he temporarily commanded A. P. Hill's corps, and when R. S. Ewell was forced to retire, Early assumed command of the 2d Corps. After Cold Harbor, Lee sent Early against Gen. David Hunter, who was threatening Lynchburg. Early drove Hunter westward and then marched down the Shenandoah valley, crossed the Potomac, and moved on Washington. He defeated Lew Wallace in the battle of Monocacy (July 9, 1864) and was before the capital on July 11. The arrival of troops from Grant's army compelled him to withdraw to Virginia, but later in the month he again crossed the Potomac. His cavalry raided far and wide and burned Chambersburg, Pa., when that town refused to pay a ransom. In Sept., 1864, P. H. Sheridan moved against Early and, defeating him at Winchester and Fisher's Hill, drove him up the valley. Early returned and surprised Sheridan's army at Cedar Creek (Oct. 19) but was finally defeated. On Mar. 2, 1865, his small force was overwhelmed by Gen. George Custer, of Sheridan's army, at Waynesboro. Lee, although still confident of Early's ability, was forced by public opinion to remove him. At the end of the war Early fled the country and did not return until 1869. He resumed the practice of law and was associated with Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard in the Louisiana lottery.
- See his memoirs (1912;.
- new ed. by F. E. Vandiver, 1960);.
- biography by M. K. Bushong (1955);.
- studies by F. E. Vandiver (1960) and E. J. Stackpole (1961).
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