EARLY, Jubal A. Autograph letter signed ("J.A. Early"), TO ROBERT E. LEE, Near Winchester, 18 August . 1 page, 8vo, creased, silked, in pencil.
A FASCINATING BATTLEFIELD COMMUNIQUE AT A CRUCIAL MOMENT DURING EARLY'S SHENANDOAH VALLEY CAMPAIGN. As two of his subordinates, Generals John McCausland and Bradley Johnson, made their way back to Virginia after torching Chambersburg, Pa., Union General W. W. Averell gave chase. Freeman writes: "at Moorefield, in the belief that they were safe, the Confederate commanders relaxed their vigilance with the familiar result" (Lee's Lieutenant's, 3:572-73). Early's letter reports the disaster to Lee: "On morning of 7th Johnson's brigade of Cavalry was surprised in camp by Averell near Moorefield and routed. It was inexcusable carelessness. Four pieces of Artillery were lost. Averell has returned to upper Potomac. Hooker is reported to have arrived at Harper's Ferry & taken command. Movements of the enemy are taking place which induce me to change my location. I shall fight him at first opportunity."
Lee, watching from Petersburg, sensed a crucial strategic change in the Valley. Grant was pouring more resources into the area and Lee wanted to commit more of his own weakening force to meet him. The Valley would now, Lee thought, become the crucial theatre. Early's letter adds some important--but erroneous--intelligence of his own about the changing character of the Union effort, but it was Phil Sheridan, not Hooker, who had taken command. The Union cavalryman was one of three prongs devised by Grant to crush the rebellion, with Sherman attacking in Georgia, Grant pounding Lee at the Wilderness and Petersburg, and Sheridan pinning down Early in the Valley. This would prove to be the North's long-elusive winning plan.