October 2014 Document of the Month

 

The October 19, 1864 battle of Cedar Creek proved to be the most decisive engagement in the months-long Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Lieutenant General Jubal A. Early’s Confederate army sprung a surprise attack on Major General Philip H. Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah while Sheridan was on his way back to the army from Washington, D.C.  In a classic case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Confederate troops plundered Federal camps instead of following up their victory. Sheridan arrived on the field, rallied his forces, and routed the Confederates.

So upset was Early with his army’s uncharacteristic meltdown that on October 22nd he issued this printed broadside expressing disappointment in their behavior. “I do not speak to you in anger,” he wrote. “I wish to speak in kindness though in sorrow – my purpose is to show you the causes of our late misfortune and point out the way to avoid similar ones in [the] future and ensure success to our arms.” He castigated the men for their failures, but also reminded them of their past successes and of the unthinkable effects of enemy “subjugation” and vowed to lead them on to victory if they would only demonstrate a willingness to show obedience to discipline and “do battle like men and soldiers….”

 

The broadside is part of the Museum library’s extensive collection of Confederate Imprints (number 1597 in the Parrish & Willingham cataloging system), but it is also a manuscript. On the reverse side is written in pencil an October 28th message from Brig. Gen. Clement A. Evans to the men in his own brigade of Georgia troops. “I desire that you should receive in a becoming manner the address which the Lt Genl Cmdg this Army has seen proper to be distributed among you,” Evans began. He then echoed and reinforced all that Early had written, concluding with positive reinforcement: “You lost not a single stand of colors, and with a renewal of Thorough discipline, a revival of patriotic ardor and reliance on Providence, you will follow these colors again to victory.”

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Jackson Letter   Transcription


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Booker 1862 Booker 1863

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