At such times, a favorite entertainment was to draw General Early out upon his views of men and events, for the edification of the tavern-porch assemblage.
He was a resident of Franklin, and at that time sojourning at the tavern. He had been severly wounded in the battle of Williamsburg in May 1862, and was now quite convalescent, but still on sick leave. He was a singular being.
Franklin County had been strongly opposed to secession. Jubal A. Early was a pronounced Union man, and was elected from his county as her representative to the Secession Convention. In that body he had opposed and denounced secession until the ordinance was passed. As soon as the State seceded, he declared that his State ws entitled to his services, and tendered them. He was a man of good family, a graduate of the West Point Military Academy, and possessed unsurpassed personal courage. In 1862, he was a brigadier-general, and had been conspicuously brave in the battle in which he was wounded. His subsequent career in higher commands was disastrous. After the war, he became notorious as the most implacable and "unreconstructed" of all the Confederate generals. He was a man deeply attached to a small circle of friends, but intensely vindictive and abusive of those he disliked.
At the time of which I write, he was the hero of Franklin County, and, although he professed to despise popularity and to be defiant of public opinion, it was plain that he enjoyed his military distinction. It had done much to soften old-time asperities, and blot out from the memory of his neighbors certain facts in his private life which had, prior to the war, alienated from him many of his own class. In fact, I doubt not he was a happier man then than he had been for many a year before, or was at a later period, when he became more or less a social and political Ishmaelite.
He was eccentric in many ways, - eccentric in appearance, in voice, in manner of speech. Although he was not an old man, his shoulders were so stooped and rounded that he brought his countenance to a vertical position with difficulty. He wore a long, thin, straggling beard. His eyes were very small, dark, deep-set, and glittering, and his nose aquiline. His step was slow, shuffling, and almost irresolute. I never saw a man who looked less like a soldier. His voice was a piping treble, and he talked with a long-drawn whine or drawl. His opinions were expressed unreservedly, and he was most emphatic and denunciatory, and startlingly profane.
His likes and dislikes he announced without hesitation, and, as he was filled with strong and bitter opinions, his conversation was always racy and pungent. His views were not always correct, or just, or broad; but his wit was quick, his satire biting, his expressions were vigorous, and he was interestingly lurid and picturesque.
With his admiring throng about him on the tavern porch, on summer evenings in 1862, General Early, in my opinion, said things about his superiors, the Confederate leaders, civic and military, and their conduct of affairs, sufficient to have convicted him a hundred times over before any court-martial. But his criticisms never extended to General Robert E. Lee. For Lee he seemed to have a regard and esteem and high opinion felt by him for no one else. Although General Lee had but recently been called to the command of the army, he predicted his great future with unerring judgement.
The End of an Era by John S. Wise
Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston and New York,
The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1901, pages 226-228.