Book Review Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy by Earl J. Hess


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#64
I'm about a third through. I'm not a big fan of quoting other authors when refuting a statement or fact/ fiction, and Hess does this ad nauseam. Also, he uses Lee's failures at Malvern Hill and Antietam (not sure that was a failure) to offset Bragg's Kentucky adventures. Again, not finished but not sold yet.
 

rickvox79

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#65
I'm half way through the book and enjoying it so far. I believe Bragg probably catches more grief than he deserves really and a lot of it probably stems from the same things being said about him over and over through the years. I think we get a certain depiction of something or someone ingrained in our head sometimes, and that can be hard to lose. Subordinates definitely dropped the ball under his command often. McLemore's Cove jumps out as a big one to me. Bragg certainly had his faults and he handled situations poorly with his commanders. But at the same time, one of them is Leonidas Polk we're talking about here, not George Patton. Can you blame him for not liking that guy? It's one thing if you have to put up with a good commander that you can't stand just because of his skill, but Bragg had to put up with the backstabbing, conniving Polk and deal with his ineptitude as a commander at the same time.

Hess isn't afraid to point out where Bragg failed though and points out that, in his opinion, he should have stepped down after Stones River, when round robin letters, distrust and back stabbing kicked things up beyond the point of no return for him and majority of his senior commanders. I'm just now getting to Tullahoma/Chickamauga/Chattanooga, where things start to fall apart quickly, but I think it's a fair assessment of Bragg so far without resorting to the usual "punching bag of the Confederacy" stuff.
 

Pat Young

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#66
Hess isn't afraid to point out where Bragg failed though and points out that, in his opinion, he should have stepped down after Stones River, when round robin letters, distrust and back stabbing kicked things up beyond the point of no return for him and majority of his senior commanders. I'm just now getting to Tullahoma/Chickamauga/Chattanooga, where things start to fall apart quickly, but I think it's a fair assessment of Bragg so far without resorting to the usual "punching bag of the Confederacy" stuff.
Yes, I am no expert on Bragg, but Hess seems pretty fair. As I said in the review, this is not an attempt to rehab Bragg, but it is less myth and more documentation.
 

Pat Young

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#67
I'm about a third through. I'm not a big fan of quoting other authors when refuting a statement or fact/ fiction, and Hess does this ad nauseam. Also, he uses Lee's failures at Malvern Hill and Antietam (not sure that was a failure) to offset Bragg's Kentucky adventures. Again, not finished but not sold yet.
Did you finish? What did you think?
 

christian soldier

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#68
Pat. Thanks for offering this wonderful and enlightening review of Hess's book on Braxton Bragg. I have this book but I have not read it yet. I have all of Hess's books and have found them to be relatively well written and very well researched. I find him to be a very competent historian and he is also a very good presenter and lecturer however, he is not as good as my friend Eric Wittenberg, in my opinion. Question for you Pat: In a previous life were you a book review editor by chance? In my opinion, you are a very good writer and I enjoy very much reading your well written book reviews. Keep up the great work. Regards and Cheers. David.
 

Pat Young

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Pat. Thanks for offering this wonderful and enlightening review of Hess's book on Braxton Bragg... Question for you Pat: In a previous life were you a book review editor by chance? In my opinion, you are a very good writer and I enjoy very much reading your well written book reviews. Keep up the great work. Regards and Cheers. David.
Not a book review editor, but definitely a book review reader. I was talking to @KansasFreestater in Gettysburg in September and and we both confessed to being inveterate readers of the New York Times Book Review, to which she subscribes. She said that she can never get around to reading all the books she wants to, but the reviews give her a chance to get the most salient parts of the books reviewed. I am the same way.

I like the long-form reviews in the New York Review of Books, and on a couple of occasions I have tried my had at them here, but for the most part I stick to the shorter New York Times Book Review approach.

Thanks for reading the reviews I write. Unlike my less thought out posts on other things, the reviews take me about two hours each to write. It would not be worth my time to write them if you did not read them.

...and thanks for your kindness in writing.
 

Pat Young

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#74
There is a review of this book by Andrew S. Bledsoe The Journal of Civil War Era. 7.3 (Sept. 2017):

Earl J. Hess's provocative new biography, Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy, sets out to correct the historical record about the Confederacy's most controversial army commander. In taking on the South's favorite lightning rod, Hess has set a difficult task for himself. Few generals inspire as much criticism, disdain, and even outright loathing as Braxton Bragg. The irascible North Carolinian's reputation for military incompetence, harsh discipline, the wanton execution of his own soldiers, and tone-deaf mismanagement of his officers dogged him during the war and has tainted him ever since. And, unlike Union luminaries such as Ulysses Grant, William Sherman, and George Thomas, all of whom have benefited from recent historiography, Bragg's defenders are a small and embattled lot, if they can be found at all.
 

Pat Young

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#75
From the conclusion:

Hess concludes that Bragg "was neither a hapless fool nor a brilliant general" and that he "failed more often than succeeded." He assures us that Bragg was not universally hated by his army, nor was he a murderous "ogre," "friendless," or "cold toward his wife" (266). That is hardly a ringing endorsement of Bragg as a general, or even as a human being, and seems perilously close to ****ing with faint praise. Even so, Hess is resolute in his insistence that many of Bragg's supposed flaws were not his fault. Bragg was, Hess reminds us, a capable administrator and organizer, a stern disciplinarian, and a commander with a good deal of strategic insight. Still, one cannot escape the impression that Bragg was, and likely will remain, a cipher. "In the end," Hess admits, "we have to take Bragg for what he was, even if we cannot thoroughly explain how he came to be" (275). This, in fact, may be the most important lesson Hess imparts to us, and the greatest contribution of this welcome biography.
 

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#77
From the Civil War Book Review:

Bragg’s reputation is not apt to suddenly undergo a Renaissance—150 years of entrenched preconceptions is too much for any one book to overcome—but Hess’s sympathetic but balanced reassessment should give readers ample reason to reconsider any long-held assumptions and prejudices. In his prologue, Hess suggested that he wanted to craft a study that would transform Bragg “from a cardboard figure into a real person with admirable personal qualities as well as distressing personal faults” (xii). Braxton Bragg succeeds in recasting “the most hated man in the Confederacy” into one of the most interesting.
 

christian soldier

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#78
Pat. Thank you very much for yet another great book review. I think Earl Hess is one of the premiere historians writing civil war scholarly material today. His works are always very well researched as well as very well written and extremely accurate. David.
 

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#80
The book is reviewed in Civil War History Volume 64, Number 4, December 2018 pp. 397-398

From the review:

But is Bragg's universally besmirched reputation justified? Perhaps no historian is better qualified to reassess General Bragg than Earl Hess, arguably the finest historian of the western theater today. Hess brings his typical logical acuity, thorough research and clear prose, to bear in his latest work, Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy. Hess concludes that contemporaries and later historians largely exaggerated Bragg's negative reputation but that Bragg undermined his own case by engaging in quixotic and public critical campaigns against top subordinates after the battle of Stones River in January 1863.
 

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