Re: [civilwarwest] New poll for civilwarwest
- In a message dated 3/5/01 10:03:15 AM Eastern Standard Time, LWhite64@...
<< Well, I would have to say Bragg, as he is the most underappreciated and
needlessly bashed Confederate General of the War. Bragg was far from
perfect, but he isnt the inept monster he is made out to be. >>
But Lee, Bragg was his own worst enemy as a result of his personality. The
following is a little more info on this individual.
Everybody "knows" that Bragg was a fool, right? Think again. Nothing is as it
Braxton Bragg, a favorite whipping boy of historians, was a much better
general than he is made out to be. Of the eight men who reached the rank of
full general in the Confederate army Braxton Bragg was certainly the most
He was born on 22 March 1817 in Warrenton, N.C. Confederate officer whose
successes in the West were dissipated when he failed to follow up on them,
partially due to dissension among ambitious subordinate generals. After
graduating fifth in his class in 1837 from the U.S. Military Academy at West
Point, Bragg served with distinction in the Seminole Wars. In the Mexican Was
(1846-48 under Zachary Taylor he was brevetted captain for conduct in defense
of Fort Brown, major for valor at Monterey, and lieutenant-colonel for his
special services at Buena Vista where his move from the far right to the far
left with his battery of "flying artillery" probably saved the US army. By
the way, Taylor's actual order to Bragg was: "Double shot those guns and
give'em hell!". For the next 8 years Bragg did garrison duty as a
quartermaster in the regular army and earned a reputation for strict
discipline as well as a literal adherence to regulations. In 1856 Bragg left
the army to run his plantation, and he also did civil engineering work for
the state of Louisiana. After secession, he was commissioned Brigadier
General CSA on 7 March 1861. He began his Confederate service in command of
the coast between Pensicola and Mobile and demonstrated an aptitude for
training, discipline, organization, and effective provisioning of his
soldiers. Promoted to major general 12 Sept. 1861, he asked to be sent to
serve under A.S. Johnston in Kentucky and led the Confederate right wing at
the battle of Shiloh (6-7 April 1862). On 12 April Bragg was promoted to the
rank of full general and, on 27 June 1862, given command of the Army of
Tennessee, relieving General P. G. T. who resigned because of ill health and
differences of opinion with Jefferson Davis. Bragg then carried out a
successful transfer of troops by means of railroad from Tupelo, Miss. through
Mobile, and thus beat Buell to Chattanooga. Buell had the shorter route, but
he had to march, and he was also charged with repairing and guarding 500
miles of railroad as he went. Bragg's transfer was one of the first such
operations of the Civil War.
In the autumn of that year, Bragg led a bold advance from eastern Tennessee
across Kentucky almost to Louisville. Many consider this the high-water mark
of the Confederacy. However, he was hampered by the poorly defined division
of departmental responsibility between his and that of Kirby Smith, and Buell
was able to get to Louisville first. Tactically, the ensuing Battle of
Perryville of 9 Oct. 1862 was a draw. Unable to fight to a decision and being
short of supplies, Bragg withdrew into Tennessee. He had been further
hampered by the reluctance of Polk, his effective second in command placed
there by Davis, to cooperate and follow orders. This behavior on the part of
Polk degenerated into outright rebellion and undermining of Bragg's authority
within the Army of Tennessee. Polk even tried to have Bragg relieved (by
himself), but Jefferson Davis kept Bragg at the head of the Army of
Tennessee, without increasing Bragg's authority, however. On 31 December 1862
and 2 January 63 he fought the indecisive Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones
River) against Gen. William S. Rosecrans, inflicting heavy casualties, but
again forced to withdraw in the face of an unbeaten and numerically superior
opponent. During the Tullahoma campaign of 22-29 June 1863 Rosecrans, mainly
through flanking movements and the use of the new Spencer repeaters, forced
Bragg back to Chattanooga which he entered on 4 July 1864. Bragg was then
forced to retire from Chattanooga into North Georgia when Rosecrans and
Thomas again outflanked him by crossing the Tennessee river downstream and
occupied key positions on Lookout Mountain. However, Rosecarans outreached
himself and, on 19-20 Sept. 1863 Bragg defeated Rosecrans at Chickamauga,
although he was unable to overcome the resistance of George H. Thomas and his
14th Corps on Snodgrass Hill. Critics thought that Bragg should have pursued
more vigorously, but having sustained 18,000 casualties on the two days, his
army was not in much better shape than the Federal army was.
After the battle Bragg laid siege to the poorly supplied Federals inside the
strong fortifications of Chattanooga while the rebellion among many of his
officers, mainly Polk, Hardee, Longstreet and A.P. Hill, flamed up again.
This time Davis came to the Army of Tennessee in person in order to try to
find a solution. Again he supported Bragg, sending Polk and Hill to other
commands, leaving however, Longstreet who did even more damage than Polk by
practically throwing away Bragg's entire left flank in Lookout Valley on the
west side of Lookout Mountain. In the meanwhile large Federal reinforcements
were concentrated under Ulysses S. Grant and George H. Thomas, and the
decisive battle of Chattanooga (23-25 November 1863) ended in the defeat of
Bragg's army. On 24 Feb. 1864 Bragg requested to be relieved from of his
command, whereupon Davis made him his military adviser. he held this position
until 31 Jan. 1865. During The Atlanta Campaign, Bragg was ordered to Atlanta
as an observer. He met with J.E. Johnston several times between July 13 and
15, 1864, after which he advised Davis that Johnston, who had replaced him as
commander of the Army of Tennessee, had no serious intention to take the
offensive. Two days after he communicated this to President Davis Johnston
was replaced by Hood who then lost four straight battles in the defense of
Atlanta and would later lead the Army of Tennesse to destruction at the
battle of Nashville. On 19 March 1865 Bragg commanded a division under
Johnston at the abortive battle of Bentonville, and he was captured on 9 May
1865 while accompanying Davis on his flight into Georgia. During this final
period Bragg was observed by a Georgia girl who wrote in her diary: "Generals
Bragg and Breckinridge are in the village with a host of minor celebrities.
General Breckinridge is called the handsomest man in the Confederate army,
and Bragg might be called the ugliest. He looks like an old porcupine."
After the war he was a civil engineer in Alabama and Texas. He died on 27
Sept. 1876 in Galveston, Texas while walking down the street with a friend.
He is buried in Mobile, Alabama. Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is named in his
Historians generally cite the critics most hostile to Bragg and ignore the
many witnesses in his favor, a few of whom I quote here. In a letter to
Bragg, Joseph Wheeler (future galvanized US general who served in Cuba in the
war against Spain) wrote:
"I have been serenaded twice in the past few days by Pensacola troops who
said they had come to hunt up Genl. Bragg's friends….They said the only
enemies you had were a few bad Generals and some newspaper editors. They
might have included a few soldiers who had been misinformed and influenced by
On December 10, 1863, just a few days after Bragg had relinquished command of
the army, the inspector general of the Army of Tennessee wrote him:
"I have just inspected the army, and I find a general regret at your leaving.
It is evident, now, to all that the rank and file of this army and the more
efficient and honest officers prefer you to any other leader that could be
sent here, and they would hail your return with earnest satisfaction."
General Philip D. Roddey wrote Bragg:
"The news has just reached us that you have been relieved of the command of
the Army of Tennessee. You will please pardon this intrusion, but I am so
mortified that I cannot, in justice to my own feelings, resist the temptation
to say that we can never be as well satisfied with a commander as we have
been with you nor do we believe that any officer on the continent could have
done more or better with the Army of Tennessee than you have done. I have
heard a general expression from the officers and men of my brigade, and
without exception, they prefer you as a commander to any officer in the
In Nov. 1863 Captain E. John Ellis wrote to his father:
"It was an unbending justice Bragg meted out to his generals, his colonels,
his captains, and privates alike that brings the ire of officers high in the
rank down upon General Bragg. His men love Bragg. His army has been held
together, and has been so disciplined and organized by him as to nearly
compensate in efficiency what it sadly lacked in numbers. All this is
attributable to General Bragg. The papers say he is incompetent. His career
and history gives this the lie. They say the army has no confidence in him,
but, as I know the men in this army and my acquaintance extends to many
brigades including men from every state, I am prepared to pronounce this,
like the former, a lie. No army ever had more confidence in its leaders, and
Napoleon's guard never followed his eagles more enthusiastically than this
ragged army has and will follow the lead of its gaunt, grim chieftain."
Bragg is recorded as being an incompetent battle commander, but in fact
nobody could have gotten better results from the command structure imposed
upon him by the government in Richmond. He is recorded as being a tyrannical
disciplinarian, but as even Sam Watkins admitted, "Johnston had ten times as
many soldiers shot as old Bragg ever did." In fact, Bragg attempted to
provide for his troops and made enemies in a losing struggle against an
archaic and inefficient supply system. As part of this attempt he had an
officer executed for corruption, the only commander on either side to do so
in the entire war. Throughout the war, Bragg took a sincere interest in the
welfare of his soldiers. He was constantly inspecting their camps,
questioning them about their needs, and visiting the hospitals. I believe
that Bragg "failed" as a commander because he tried to impose a modern
command structure on a society which wasn't ready for the discipline this
entailed, and many of his contemporaries, for personal reasons, turned on
him. The same thing would have happened to George H. Thomas had he elected to
fight for the South.
Finally, if Thomas was the most modern and effective of all of the Union
commanders, and he was, it makes no sense to not give the credit due to his
most dangerous opponent, Braxton Bragg.
Other articles and materials:
1. The Execution of Captain Jazeb B. Rhodes, CSA by Terry Foenander
2. Braxton Bragg - Misplaced General by Dr. Grady McWhiney, Cincinnati Civil
War Round Table
3. The Civil War Mystery of Braxton Bragg (He always stops to quarrel with
his generals) by David M.
4. excerpt from Bragg's Advance and Retreat [Perryville and Murfreesboro] by
David Urquhart, Col. CSA, member of Bragg's staff
5. excerpt from Manoeuvring Bragg out ot Tennessee [Tullahoma] by Gilbert C.
Kniffen, Lieutenant-Colonel, USV
6. excerpt from Bragg's Invasion of Kentucky by Joseph Wheeler,
7. The Papers of Braxton Bragg are available on microfilm at the Lindsay
Young Library of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
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