Morton: Early’s army penetrates outskirts of D.C.
On this day (July 9) in 1864, Confederate Gen. Jubal A. Early’s Corps defeated Union Gen. Lew Wallace’s (future author of “Ben Hur”) smaller, hurriedly-assembled ragtag army in the Battle of the Monocacy.
In sending Early northward through the rich, fertile Shenandoah Valley (an area in northwest Virginia stretching from Staunton in the south to Harpers Ferry in the north) to invade the north and threaten Washington, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee hoped to force Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant into dispatching some of his besieging troops at Petersburg north to guard the nation’s capital.
Initially, Early was successful. He defeated a federal force under Gen. Franz Sigel (May 15) at New Market in the Valley, and then drove (June 16-18) Gen. David Hunter’s army out of Lynchburg into West Virginia. Emboldened by these early successes, Early then marched northward up the Valley and crossed the Potomac River into Maryland on July 6. Threats to destroy two towns in western Maryland resulted in Frederick paying $200,000 and Hagerstown $20,000 “protection money” to the conquering Confederates.
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