In July 1864 Jubal Early and his men approached the outskirts of Washington, DC, tested the Union defenses north and northwest of the capital, and chose to withdraw rather than to launch an assault. He he arrived a day or so earlier, perhaps he would have decided differently, but his advance on Washington was delayed when Lew Wallace and a makeshift defense force put up a sharp little fight at Monocacy, Maryland, close to Frederick.
What do you think was the impact of Early’s July raid? What could have happened? Was it a sideshow, or something more?
Early’s raid really demoralized public opinion in the North. Lincoln wanted to trap Early and destroy his force but was frustrated by Early’s getaway. I guess a good deal of people thought the war was going to be over soon because of recent success but having the rebels that close to the capital really set people back.
I think it was not really a sideshow but was an effort to relieve Lee’s forces of some Federal opposition by forcing Grant/Meade ;>) to send forces north to defend Washington. Another part of this was the retaliatory raid into Pennsylvania that led to McCausland’s Burning of Chambersburg. Grant sent two divisions of VIth Corps to reinforce Wallace at Monocacy just below Frederick, Maryland, but other Union troops were rushed to DC to reiinforce the already formidible fortifications surrounding the Capital City.
Grant’s reaction was likely barely noticed by Lee. Whatever Lee hoped to get out of it, likely a breakout from Petersburg, or a major resupply. Could Lee have been thinking of abandoning Petersburg [Richmond]?
I’d also note that Grant did order Sheridan into the Valley to put an end to Early’s raids, leading to the Battle of Cedar Creek.
Grant also shifted forces intended to reinforce him at Petersburg to defend Washington and later serve under Sheridan.
It certainly was a bold gamble by Lee, although one born of necessity—Early was first sent to relieve Lynchburg from the threat of Hunter’s column. The loss of Lynchburg would have been a Big Deal. On the other hand, having roughly 1/3 of his army operating in the open field made it vulnerable to defeat, and once Sheridan got settled in to his command that is what happened.
Impact? In the short-term, it lengthened the war by attacking Union morale; in the medium- to long-term, it shortened the war by beating up Second Corps.
Did it lengthen it more than it shortened it or vice versa ?
I think the end result was favorable to the Union.
If Early had gotten there a day earlier the image of Lincoln abandoning the Capital would have been a powerful propaganda coup.
Lee had hoped to get Grant to relax his grip and have to send a sizable force after Early.
What Lee failed to account for was the Union had the troops to do both.
and to compound the issue Early was defeated and lost most of his force, men the ANV could ill afford to lose.
Wallace did as well as could be expected and he bought a critical day before being driven away. Grant unable to ever forgive Wallace for the first day of Shiloh is rather spare in his praise for Lew when he does admit he saved D.C. but he also mentions Wallace was defeated “If Early had been but one day earlier, he might have entered the capital before the arrival of the reinforcements I had sent. … General Wallace contributed on this occasion by the defeat of the troops under him, a greater benefit to the cause than often falls to the lot of a commander of an equal force to render by means of a victory.”
That Wallace was available for the command was fallout from that day in April as Grant managed to keep Wallace out of a field command after Shiloh.
Today Lew is remembered for Monacacy and his fight well regarded and as he must have made some good scratch from Ben Hur and by helping the monied interests as Governor of Az territory. Willian Boney was a good guy}
Wonder what Wallace was thinking, refusing to move forward until Halleck’s buddy James B. McPherson personally rode over some of the bridges on the march route to show that the path was clear. I cannot think of a better way to commit institutional hari-kari than to crap all over one of the big boss’ toadies.
For a politician, that seems particularly politically unsavvy.
Let’s say a lucky shot hits Lincoln at Fort Stevens and kills him. That would make it far more than a sideshow.
Would that have been a good thing or a bad thing? Would Johnson have been any worse a commander-in-chief than Lincoln at that stage of the war? Would Johnson have given Grant more personal discretion in his operations, or less? Would it have been harder or easier to displace problem political generals such as Burnside, Butler, and Banks?
Hannibal Hamlin was vice president in 1864.
lol … that sounds bad, doesn’t it? Hannibal Hamlin, CIC.
I don’t know. Can you imagine Halleck being ordered to Africa to bring back a thousand elephants to use for Grant’s logistical train?
My understanding is that Wallace had about 6,000 troops at Monocacy and Early about 14,000; if Wallace had chosen not to engage at Monocacy and simply withdrawn toward Washington, staying in front of Early until Wallace’s troops are within the MDW defenses, along with (presumably) every unit/man that Meigs et al can scare up from within the district (x-thousand, one presumes), how does the resulting tactical situation turn into any sort of benefit for Early et al?
1. While Lee took advantage of Union stumbling in the Valley, it was a calculated move. He understood that the AOP had been hit hard in the Overland Campaign. He also knew that Grant would hemorrage forces over the summer as the 3 year men started to go home. In fact, but mid -August 1864, the Union only had about a 5,000 man advantage at Petersburg. If Ole Jubilee could sack even a part of Washington/Baltimore/Harrisburg and keep the Union forces at bay it could have meant a different result in November 1864.
2. Lee launched Early right at the week point of the Union command structure…there were too many joining points of district boundaries that no one Union comamnder was in charge. This allowed Early to take advantage of this and the lack of coordiantion of commands to not only get to Washington but also to get out. Grant fixed this by sending the VIth Corps north along with Sheridan and the newly arriving XIX Corps to go after Early. Grants formed the Middle Military Division which covered all fo the midAtlantic areanot icovered by the AOP. With Sheridan in command this leads to Cedar Creek, destruction Early’s forces and helps sew up the election for Lincoln.
So Lee tookd advatage of a weakness in the Union command structgure. He almost succeeded but is stymied by Grant’s counter move not only militarily but administratively and logistically and helped Lincoln win.