Alternatives to Braxton Bragg?

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#1
Watched the lecture by historian Earl Hess, given recently at Gettysburg, on the topic of Braxton Bragg, thanks to @Jamieva for putting it up. One quote from it I found most interesting:

"Jefferson Davis clearly said in a letter why I support Bragg. 'I admire his administrative talents and even though he may not be the best general on the battlefield I don't know who else is better and until somebody better comes along he should stay where he is."

Do you agree with Jefferson Davis? Was there any alternative generals available that would have outperformed Bragg? How do you rate him when compared to Johnston, Hood, Hardee and Beauregard?
 
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Jimklag

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#2
Watched the lecture by historian Earl Hess, given recently at Gettysburg, on the topic of Braxton Bragg, thanks to @Jamieva for putting it up. One quote from it I found most interesting:

"Jefferson Davis clearly said in a letter why I support Bragg. 'I admire his administrative talents and even though he may not be the best general on the battlefield I don't know who else is better and until somebody better comes along he should stay where he is."

Do you agree with Jefferson Davis? Was there any alternative generals available that would have outperformed Bragg? How do you rate him when compared to Johnston, Hood, Hardee and Beauregard?
Good question. There were strengths and weaknesses enough to go around among all the men who could have replaced Bragg. I'm pretty sure there was no undiscovered R. E. Lee available. In short, I'm not sure Davis was wrong. Johnston was probably a better choice but his relationship vis-a-vis Davis was a disaster.
 

JohnW.

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#3
Good question. There were strengths and weaknesses enough to go around among all the men who could have replaced Bragg. I'm pretty sure there was no undiscovered R. E. Lee available. In short, I'm not sure Davis was wrong. Johnston was probably a better choice but his relationship vis-a-vis Davis was a disaster.
Well said.:D
 
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#4
Watched the lecture by historian Earl Hess, given recently at Gettysburg, on the topic of Braxton Bragg, thanks to @Jamieva for putting it up. One quote from it I found most interesting:

"Jefferson Davis clearly said in a letter why I support Bragg. 'I admire his administrative talents and even though he may not be the best general on the battlefield I don't know who else is better and until somebody better comes along he should stay where he is."

Do you agree with Jefferson Davis? Was there any alternative generals available that would have outperformed Bragg? How do you rate him when compared to Johnston, Hood, Hardee and Beauregard?
A classic unanswerable CWT question. We know that only one man's opinion counts and that of course is Jefferson Davis's. We also know that generals are not miracle workers. They can only do so much with the human and logistical sources available. We also know that Bragg had to deal with desertion and guerrilla war behind his lines especially in Eastern Tennessee and Northern Alabama.
We also know that during the siege of Chattanooga the Union Army simply outclassed the AoT in terms of manpower and logistics.
Maybe no commander of the AoT by middle 1863 could of done any better.
Leftyhunter
 
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#5
A classic unanswerable CWT question. We know that only one man's opinion counts and that of course is Jefferson Davis's. We also know that generals are not miracle workers. They can only do so much with the human and logistical sources available. We also know that Bragg had to deal with desertion and guerrilla war behind his lines especially in Eastern Tennessee and Northern Alabama.
We also know that during the siege of Chattanooga the Union Army simply outclassed the AoT in terms of manpower and logistics.
Maybe no commander of the AoT by middle 1863 could of done any better.
Leftyhunter
Do you have a source for this?
 
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#6
Do you have a source for this?
We have many past threads on General Bragg and the alternative candidates to Bragg are constantly mentioned and debated. I have pointed out many sourced examples if Confederate desertion to you including President Davis"s speech in Macon, Georgia with a link. You are also aware of my past threads on Confederate desertion and guerrilla war.
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#7
Jefferson Davis supported Bragg enough to retain him in command of AoT till Missionary Ridge, but not enough to allow Bragg to manage command positions in the army. It's a bit hard to manage your army when one of your senior subordinates has a habit of disobeying your orders and getting away with it, because the President supports him.

I personally agree with Davis about Bragg being competent administrator and not a horrible general whatsoever. But either he had to be kept out of army command (especially AoT) or he should have had full freedom in handling his subordinates. Still, even without Polk (who was much more instrumental to the Union success in Tennessee than many federal commanders) Bragg had a hard time in his relationship with Kentuckians.

J.E. Johnston was very popular throughout the army - that gave him more authority to exercise on his subordinates. So he could've avoided the deterioration of the command structure that completely paralyzed any decision-making in the army in the summer-autumn 1863. But where Bragg would fight, Johnston would seek an excuse not to fight. I find him to reluctant to take any chances unless he had an advantage that would secure him a victory with 100% probability. I don't think that's the way to go for the South. Confederate generals were outmanned and outgunned almost at any point during the war, so the only way for them were to take initiative, outmaneuver the enemy, risk and take chances. That's what made R.E. Lee so great and J.E. Johnston completely lacked this kind of audacity.

Beauregard - competent, but very unreliable. His tendency to fall sick when the burden of command were becoming too great doesn't speak in his favor. Also, his plans sometimes lost the touch with reality (see: Shiloh). He could handle the army, but in my opinion - with lots of "if"s and "when"s.

Hardee didn't take the army command when he had full right (and endorsement from the President) to do so. I definitely don't see him bearing that responsibility.

Hood wasn't an option until the end of the war. And even then he demonstrated the ability to make sound plans, but lack of ability to put execute them as designed. In my opinion, a Texan lacked a good staff school and had no opportunity to get it unfortunately.

It is very hard to name a perspective commander for the AoT. One thing I am certain about - Polk had to go just after the Kentucky.
Maybe Bragg could remain and do better without the bishop undermining every his order and authority, maybe Beauregard, if we forget about his tendency to mess into politics. Calling Longstreet from Virginia, if someone convinces Lee to part with Old Pete - an option, but Longstreet didn't show much brilliancy in the independent commands. A choice where I see no 100% "good" option.
Easier to name the perspective corps commanders - I'd like to see Cleburne, Hood, Buckner and Taylor (transferred from Trans-Mississippi) in these roles (not all of them, two or three).
 
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#11
Calling Longstreet from Virginia, if someone convinces Lee to part with Old Pete - an option, but Longstreet didn't show much brilliancy in the independent commands.
Ditto for appointing Longstreet after Chickamauga.
This is a very interesting idea. i'm not sure how Longstreet would match up against Sherman.

Had Johnston been appointed to the command after Murfreesboro, I think things would have gone much better for the Confederacy.
I'd be interested if you had any more opinions on this and how Johnston would run the campaign. If we would see a Tullahoma campaign or a Chickmauga?
 

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#13
Someone within the AOM/AOT probably would have risen to the top if the top hadn't been so stagnant. Hardee was never good enough to excel, bad enough to be removed, or willing to accept promotion to command the whole thing. Polk should have never been a general in the first place and should have been removed several times, but he was Davis' buddy. At least the deadweight in the AOTP usually died or cycled out.
 
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#14
Someone within the AOM/AOT probably would have risen to the top if the top hadn't been so stagnant. Hardee was never good enough to excel, bad enough to be removed, or willing to accept promotion to command the whole thing. Polk should have never been a general in the first place and should have been removed several times, but he was Davis' buddy. At least the deadweight in the AOTP usually died or cycled out.
I completely agree with that and want to add that in this case the earlier - the better. By the time of Chikamauga campaign command hierarchy of AoT became an utter failure. It'd be better to avoid such situation than to remedy it.
So, IMO, in a hope to get an increase in the performance of AoT one should start making changes after Kentucky or at the very least after Murfreesboro.
 
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#16
1. Retreat during the Peninsula Campaign.
2. Passiveness during the Vicksburg Campaign.
3. Retreat during the Atlanta Campaign.

Those three gave him a reputation of "most skilled and most frequent retreater" of the Civil War. Combined with his enigmatic personality and being unwilling to share his plans with his superiors... It's no wonder that it brought a great share of mistrust towards him.
 
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#17
Had Johnston been appointed to the command after Murfreesboro, I think things would have gone much better for the Confederacy.

Ditto for appointing Longstreet after Chickamauga.
All we know about Longstreet in regards to independent command is is ability to allow General Burnside to regain some glory as the hero of the defense of Knoxville, Tennessee. It take talent to make Burnside shine but there it is.
We will never know if Longstreet would of been good ar commanding an Army.
Leftyhunter
 
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#18
How did Joe Johnston get the reputation for being reluctant to attack? I don't know much about Joe Johnston other than his retreat through Georgia and his attack at Bentonville.
That's the problem with Johnston , he us simply not known for offensive victories. Not to argue that Johnston due to circumstances beyond his control did the best he could with what he had. However wars are always won on the offense. Which for practical reasons always favors the larger opponent.
Leftyhunter
 

JeffBrooks

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#19
All we know about Longstreet in regards to independent command is is ability to allow General Burnside to regain some glory as the hero of the defense of Knoxville, Tennessee. It take talent to make Burnside shine but there it is.
Even a good poker player isn't going to do well if he is dealt only a pair of sixes.
 

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