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Maryland's Civil War

Early's Raid on Washington


EarlyAs if Robert E. Lee needed more trouble as he faced U.S. Grant at Cold Harbor near Richmond in June 1864, the Confederate commander found himself threatened on another front. Union Gen. David Hunter had burned parts of Lexington and was advancing east toward Lynchburg, threatening Lee's supply lines from the west.

Lee dispatched Gen. Jubal Early to meet the threat. "Ol Jube" blocked Hunter at Lynchburg, then chased "Black Dave" back into West Virginia.

Early, with Lee occupied keeping Grant out of Petersburg, headed north "down" the Shenandoah Valley in an attempt to draw Union strength away from the main Confederate army in Virginia.

The Confederates crossed the Potomac at Shepherdstown July 5, bypassed Federal defenders at Harpers Ferry and pushed into Hagerstown, then to Frederick.

Early's intent was to threaten Washington DC and raid the prison camp at Point Lookout to free 17,000 Confederates there.

As Early moved through Maryland, alarms began ringing in Washington. Union Gen. Lew Wallace drew up in battle lines along the Monocacy River to delay the Confederate march. The battle there July 9, 1864, although eventually a Confederate victory, bought time for Union reenforcements to arrive in Washington.

The Confederates moved to the Federal fortifications at Washington July 11. The northern forts were defended thinly at first, but troops were pouring in from Grant's command. Fighting outside Union Fort Stevens July 12 drew curious onlookers from Washington including Abraham Lincoln. The Confederates, after moving close enough to see the Capitol dome, never seriously threatened the city. Early's little campaign was over.