‘Crosshairs on the Capital’ Review: The Third, Final, and Failed Invasion of D.C.

The Confederacy’s third and last invasion of the North in June-July 1864 culminated with a ragtag assortment of about 9,000 or so drained and thirsty troopers below Lt. Gen. Jubal Early in entrance of Fort Stevens, a mere seven miles from the U.S. Capitol. Did Early actually have an opportunity to seize, plunder, and ransack Washington D.C., and maybe change the end result of the battle? Most likely not. Why then did Robert E. Lee ship his “dangerous previous man” on what can be an nearly 900-mile jaunt when two earlier excursions into Union territory by Lee in 1862 and 1863 had resulted in defeat?

James Bruns, an impartial historian, units out to reply these questions and presents new insights and reasoning not explored in-depth by earlier chroniclers. His sturdy narrative commences with the stealthy withdrawal of Early’s Military of the Valley from the trenches in entrance of Petersburg, after which follows it up the Shenandoah Valley to the calmly manned defenses of Washington, and concludes with its seemingly preordained retreat again to the Outdated Dominion. As Bruns factors out, quoting Early, “Lee by no means anticipated his troops to enter Washington.” In keeping with Early, Bruns notes, “Lee was glad with him merely threatening the Federal Metropolis,” that capturing it “can be not possible.’”

Bruns writes that Lee meant this incursion primarily as a meals raid on the wealthy agricultural bounty of Northern farms, however he additionally maintains that Lee wished to show the tables on the Federals for the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid of Richmond in February-March 1864. Though that raid failed, Bruns maintains that Lee thought of Early’s raid “worthy pay again” and asserts that “Early’s motion outdoors Washington possible extended the battle by as a lot as a yr and a half due to the meals he rustled up.”

There was purportedly one other goal to the raid. Early was to detach most of his cavalry below Brig. Gen. Bradley Johnson to Level Lookout, Md., website of a Union jail camp holding 10,000 or so Confederates captured at Gettysburg. This might be a joint operation with a naval part headed up by John Tyler Wooden. The mixed Accomplice forces would free the prisoners, arm them with rifles introduced by Wooden, and march them again to Washington to affix up with Early’s military in attacking Washington. The raid by no means materialized, aborted by Jefferson Davis himself. Bruns’ detailed evaluation reveals that this facet of the raid would have been not possible to satisfy, that it was doomed from the beginning.

In Bruns’ opinion, Early’s raid was a hit, stressing that “he’d accomplished what he got here for.” Different historians and readers may disagree; nonetheless, Bruns’ monograph has added new gasoline to a protracted smoldering story.