[civilwarwest] BRAGG'S REPLACEMENT
- View SourceAt this time I would like to offer my suggestion of possible
alternatives to Braxton Bragg as commander of the Army of Tennessee. In
1861 I believe that Albert Sidney Johnston was the best selection. I
join those that feel that Johnston's untimely death was a major
contributor to the later frustrations of the Army of Tennessee high
command. I believe that in June 1862 there were only two possible and
readily available replacements to Beauregard as Army commander. Bragg
was an easy choice,but Hardee was also a realistic possibility.
President Davis was simply never going to continue to allow Beauregard
to remain in command of one of the South's two principal field armies.
Given that undenialable fact, the choice of Bragg was a natural one in
In fact, Bragg's record from June 1862 until January 1863 was for the
most part a very successful one. He commanded the invasion of Kentucky
which I still argue was the single most productive strategic initiative
of the South during the war. He also during this period instilled in
the rank and file the discipline needed to be an effective 19th-
century fighting force. However, after the Battle of Stone's River it
should have been painfully obvious to the administration that Bragg had
lost the confidence of his principal subordinates and therefore was no
longer an effective army commander. Hardee had placed his reservations
on paper and Polk certainly had not made his dissatisfaction a secret.
Open hostilities existed between Breckenridge and Bragg. Cheatham for
very good reasons had been severely chastised by Bragg and no doubt
harbored deep resentment towards the Army commander.
It is at this time that I believe Davis should have replaced Bragg with
a new army commander. At this point it becomes necessary to list who
were available to the administration to fill this critical post. The
eligible candidates were:
I would suggest that these ten officers were the only genuine
candidates for the position of commander of the Army of Tennessee.
These officers represented the highest ranking generals of the
Confederate army; to appoint an officer of lesser rank with the
resulting detrimental effect upon officer morale would have been
justified only by a major political or military crisis.
In considering the available general officers all three candidates had
serious downside's. First, Beauregard had already totally alienated
the administration. Having already held, army command Davis had found
him to have deserted his command without orders. I simply do not
consider Beauregard to have been either politically or militarily
acceptable to President Davis. It is unfortunate that Beauregard was
never really given a chance to command. But that was mostly his own
fault and not a black mark against Davis. To argue for Beauregards'
appointment is I think being totally unrealistic. Second on the list
was Joe Johnston however, since we are speaking of January or February
1863-General Johnston was simply not available. General Johnston had
not sufficiently recovered from his previous wounds to assume a field
command in early 1863. That leaves Robert E. Lee and I believe that his
continued presence in Virginia was simply too important to have
permitted serious consideration of a transfer to the West.
Thus, the president would have been reduced to considering those
officers on his Lt. Gen. list.
Let us try to evaluate these seven candidates objectively. First,
Jackson may be the most likely candidate. Unlike the other lieutenant
generals Jackson had an established battle field record and successful
tenures in independent command. His Valley campaign remains one of the
truly spectacular of the entire War. Although Jackson possessed no
familiarity with the Western Theater and his leaving of Virginia would
probably have created political fallout among the citizens of the
Valley, he was the most logical military choice at that time. The
primary reason Jackson would not have been the appropriate choice was
that the administration saw his continued presence in the eastern
Theater of greater importance than providing the best possible
commander for the Army of Tennessee. One serious reservation which I
have regarding Stonewall's possible appointment is a concern as to how
he would have gotten along with the various personalities of the Army.
Jackson had a all ready well established record of not getting along
with subordinates. Just how he and the likes of Cheatham and Polk would
have worked together is a source for never ending speculation.
Assuming, political considerations prevented it or that Jackson turned
down the offer Davis still had two very creditable candidates to
consider These two were Hardee or Smith.My personal choice is Gen.
Smith. Unlike Hardee, Smith did possess a limited amount of
independent command experience. In August 1862 Smith had commanded the
Army of Kentucky and initially directed the campaign into Kentucky. He
had successfully exercised over all command, of the forces that won the
singular victory at the Battle of Richmond KY.Also there remained the
particular sticky problem of military protocol and appointing Hardee to
replace Bragg an officer whom Hardee had not given his full support
could not have set well with Davis.
I think, the other officers on the Lt. Gen. list had very little to
commend themselves for this critical promotion. Longstreet being the
sole exception. In evaluating Longstreet's qualifications we cannot
forget that even at this early stage there had been some examples of an
inability to get along with subordinate commanders. I believe that
Longtreet and Hill had already clashed, requiring Hill's transfer to
Jackson's Corps. Also Longstreet was clearly second in prestige to
Jackson. Old Pete's appointment would certainly have ruffled a lot of
AoT generals' feathers.
Even relying solely upon the knowledge of the time, I find it hard to
believe that Davis could have given meaningful consideration for the
appointment to Pemberton, Polk or Holmes. I consider Bishop Polk to
have been the greatest disability President Davis ever imposed upon the
Army of Tennessee. Bishop Polk could not have been given serious
consideration. He had displayed a complete lack of military
subordination. Without prior approval he had broken Kentucky's
neutrality. He had openly ignored Bragg's orders in the 62 Kentucky
campaign. Both of these acts of insubordination even his close
personal friend President Davis had to have disapproved.
At this point, Pemberton had never commanded troops in the field and
certainly his demonstrated ability to alienate the South Carolina
political structure indicated an inability to handle the political
necessities of successful command of the Army of Tennessee. Also,
Pemberton's (like Jackson's) appointment would have likely created
officer morale problems within the Army of Tennessee.The bringing in of
an outside officer could not help but have created hard feelings
between the corps and division commanders of the Army.
Regarding the possibility of Holmes appointment I can only state that
to this day I have no understanding why General Holmes was ever
promoted. I certainly recognize that he has been given an unjust
reputation for his alleged failures in the peninsula campaign. But
only his previous seniority in the United States Army and not his
combat record justified his elevation to the position of Lt. Gen.
Surely he was no Army commander.
So if it had been my call I would have sacked Bragg in January 1863 and
offered the command to Jackson, Smith and Hardee in that order.
Well folks those are just my thoughts. I would emphasis that my
discussion is limited in time to January 1863. Like you my ideas are
different for the period of January 1864.