Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department of History
P. David Dillard
Steven W. Guerrier
In the Summer of 1864, Confederate General Robert E. Lee tasked Major General Jubal Early to protect the Army of Northern Virginia’s rear by defending the strategically vital Shenandoah Valley from Union conquest. By the Fall, Early was losing decisively, hopelessly outnumbered, and making no strategic refinements. He never seriously attempted to synchronize his Valley operations with Colonel John S. Mosby’s nearby 43rd Ranger Battalion, despite ominous reversals and Mosby’s attempts to cooperate.
Mosby was a gifted tactician who patterned his actions after his revolutionary hero, Brigadier General Francis Marion. He achieved his dream of being a “partisan” like Marion by organizing and leading Virginians behind enemy lines in hit-and-run raids against the Bluecoats. Like Early, the Patriot Major General Nathanael Greene had been significantly outmatched in the Carolinas in 1780. He had turned the tables on the British with a plan that combined European-style pitched battles with guerilla raids.
Greene strategically defeated Major General Charles Cornwallis’ Redcoats in 1781 by providing partisans like Marion with clear direction and a sense of purpose. He recognized Marion’s skill and provided him with written orders to provide intelligence, attack supply lines, and suppress Loyalists. By contrast, Early never nested Mosby’s Rangers into his operations, even when defeat appeared obvious. Greene had created opportunities with a spirit of humility and cooperation in 1780; in 1864, Early denied Mosby’s nearby Rangers any real opportunities to effectively influence his forlorn conventional strategy against Major General Phillip Sheridan’s vastly larger army.
Harris, Jacob D., "Form over function: How the Confederate oligarchy's pretense of conventional military legitimacy abandoned the legitimate American military spirit" (2017). Masters Theses. 527.