Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy

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Will Carry

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The thing I like about Hess is that he uses maps and diagrams that help the reader to understand the movements of troops.
I'm reading a mind numbing book now about the Battle of the Bulge where page after page the author writes about this unit moving here and that unit moving there and HE DOESN'T INCLUDE MAPS! It's like taking a sleeping pill!
 

civilken

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It's easy to speak about some of his blunders and his generals had a lot to do with them. The one thing that he has against him is many of the offices thought he was very petty and wrong headed I know forest wanted to knock him out more than once.
 
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rickvox79

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Over the weekend Dave Powell updated his blog with a letter from Lt. Col. Bolling Hall, Jr, of the 59th Alabama Infantry talking about Bragg. Surprisingly it is a favorable opinion/defense of Bragg after the Missionary Ridge defeat. Just goes to show that when you have thousands of soldiers in an army, the opinions can be quite different from soldier to soldier.

https://chickamaugablog.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/a-bit-of-bragg/

A bit of Bragg
I present to you part of a letter from Lt. Col. Bolling Hall, Jr, of the 59th Alabama Infantry. It was written on December 6, 1863, addressed to Hall’s father. I find it very interesting.

Speaking of the battle of Missionary Ridge, notes Hall, “All blame Hardee with it that I have seen. Every body says Bragg is not at all to blame. You would be, I can almost say, astounded were you to go into the army to see what a calamity all without exception regard the removal of Bragg.

I have talked to many from different commands & the confidence is universal in him. Of course I do not refer to general officers. I talked to none of them about it. Col. Sawyer [of the 24th Alabama Infantry] told me he always knew that Bragg was popular with a majority but he has been astonished to find how strong & universal the feeling is for Bragg and how great the confidence in him.

I heard several say the defeat at Missionary ridge was not as great a calamity as the removal of Genl Bragg & the latter has demoralized the army more than the former. What are we to come to if newspapers and politicians too cowardly themselves to go into danger are thus to break down our best & bravest Generals.

I have seen but one man who thinks Hardee can replace Bragg, i.e. is competent to take his place.”



Not the usual sort of commentary.
 

diane

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Bragg's military judgement and personality conflicts there are very much in contrast with his personality in other areas of his life. He helped Sherman start up his bank in SF with a tidy deposit and was considered an amiable person, gracious at home and all. Before the war! That's when he seemed to develop all the quirks and instabilities that have become him. I'm thinking this was a guy who should simply not have gone to war. He would have been a decent peace time soldier but the strain of action was too much. He was just not a warrior!

p s
Wait, let me edit that. Nothing wrong with Bragg's personal courage - just didn't have the temperament for the level of command he had.
 
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rickvox79

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Bragg's military judgement and personality conflicts there are very much in contrast with his personality in other areas of his life. He helped Sherman start up his bank in SF with a tidy deposit and was considered an amiable person, gracious at home and all. Before the war! That's when he seemed to develop all the quirks and instabilities that have become him. I'm thinking this was a guy who should simply not have gone to war. He would have been a decent peace time soldier but the strain of action was too much. He was just not a warrior!

p s
Wait, let me edit that. Nothing wrong with Bragg's personal courage - just didn't have the temperament for the level of command he had.
Agreed, makes you wonder how his career would have gone if he stayed at a lower level like brigade, division or corp commander instead of overall command of an army. I believe he would have done better taking orders from an army commander than the one actually giving them. He struggled too much with his own insecurities, indecisiveness and sticking to a plan. Having guys like Leonidas Polk and DH Hill around didn't help matters though and with friends like Wheeler, who needs enemies!
 
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civilken

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All we are saying is give Bragg a pass. Or was it give peace a chance either way you failed at both and that's why the North loves him.
 
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novushomus

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This is an interesting bit of news. I'll be interested to see Hess's style as a biographer.

Of course, if anyone is in the mood for a pro-Bragg biographer they can pick up Samuel J. Martin's here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0786459344/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

It is very detailed, but like most biographies it is (perplexingly) too much of an advocate of its' subject and attacks all of Bragg's detractors to the point where it seems like Bragg bore none of the responsibility for the dissension within the army.

It should be noted that Bragg had quite a prominent group of supporters within the army, and they included men who he had advanced (though mostly to the detriment of the army); Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler, Maj. Gen. William Bate (the worst division commander in the Army of Tennessee, period), Maj. Gen. J. Patton Anderson, and a notably competent exception, Maj. Gen. A.P. Stewart (though he was very quiet in his support of Bragg). Likewise, it is noted that Bragg had support in the army from among-st the original troops he commanded at Mobile and in Pensacola.

And I'll also leave that Davis left Bragg in command for such a long time had to do with his rather limited options and not his non-existent friendship with Bragg (the two at the start of the war actually had rather low opinions of each other):
Who of the proper grade and rank (which knock out Forrest and Cleburne) did Davis have to replace Bragg?

1. General Robert E. Lee. Which was a no go. Davis asked, and Lee refused.
2. General Joseph E. Johnston, a man which Davis hated with his fued over his secrecy and petty jealousy over rank, and only picked as a last resort
3. General G.T. Beauregard, the man who Davis hated even more than Johnston and who Davis had replaced with Bragg and was openly critical of the government in the press. Not really a go.
4. Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk. Even though Davis was a close friend of Polk's, I think even he had the sense that Polk was not a general. And Polk himself advocated for Johnston.
5. Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee. Declined the post and had been a problem child with Polk.

Not a lot of gleaming and obvious choice candidates in that list. So unless Davis brought in an outsider like Kirby Smith or Longstreet (which presented its own sets of challenges), there weren't a lot of good options. Outside of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederate command bench was neither broad nor deep (with a handful of exceptions).
 
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Nytram01

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...And I'll also leave that Davis left Bragg in command for such a long time had to do with his rather limited options and not his non-existent friendship with Bragg (the two at the start of the war actually had rather low opinions of each other):
Who of the proper grade and rank (which knock out Forrest and Cleburne) did Davis have to replace Bragg?

2. General Joseph E. Johnston, a man which Davis hated with his fued over his secrecy and petty jealousy over rank, and only picked as a last resort...
Davis gave Johnston the authority to remove and replace Bragg in the aftermath of Murfreesboro but Johnston did not use it. Partly this was because he thought Bragg had actually done a good job and blamed Davis's theater set-up more for the failings than any quality of, or decision from, Bragg, but also it was partly that he did not like the position he was being put into and did not think it would reflect well on him if he was to remove Bragg and take his place - it didn't sit well with his personal honour or sense of military ettiquette.

Admittedly, Davis could have ordered the change if he really wanted to but still...
 
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I've often wondered if Bragg was so hated, why in the world did they name Fort Bragg after him?
My guess is this- from wiki
Mexican-American War
ittle_more_grape_Capt._Bragg%22--General_Taylor_at_the_Battle_of_Buena_Vista%2C_Feby_23d%2C_1847.jpg

"A little more grape, Capt. Bragg" —Zachary Taylor and Bragg at the Battle of Buena Vista
On March 1, 1845, Bragg and his artillery company were ordered to join Gen. Zachary Taylor in the defense of Texas from Mexico. He won promotions for bravery and distinguished conduct in the Mexican-American War, including a brevet promotion to captain for the Battle of Fort Brown (May 1846), to major for the Battle of Monterrey (September 1846), and to lieutenant colonel for the Battle of Buena Vista(February 1847). Bragg was also promoted to captain within the regular army in June 1846. He became widely admired (professionally, not personally) in Taylor's army for the discipline and drill of his men and the newly tried tactics of light artillery that proved decisive in most of his engagements against the Mexican Army. But it was Buena Vista that brought him national fame. His timely placement of artillery into a gap in the line helped repulse a numerically superior Mexican attack. He fought in support of Col. Jefferson Davis and the Mississippi Rifles, which earned him the admiration of the future U.S. Secretary of War and president of the Confederacy.[11]

An anecdote circulated about Gen. Taylor commanding, "A little more of the grape, Capt. Bragg," which caused him to redouble his efforts and save the day; the stories are probably apocryphal.[12] Nevertheless, Bragg returned to the United States as a popular hero. A northwestern outpost, Fort Bragg, California, was named in his honor. The citizens of Warrenton presented him with a ceremonial sword. Congressman David Outlaw wrote about the honor: "Col. Bragg having, no thanks to them, won for himself a brilliant reputation, is now the object of the most fulsome adulation. Those who formerly sneered at the Braggs as plebeians, as unfit associates for them, they are glad to honor. With what scorn must Col. Bragg, in his secret heart regard them." Bragg traveled to New York, Washington, Mobile, and New Orleans, and in each place he was honored.[13]
 
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Hunter

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Bragg's military judgement and personality conflicts there are very much in contrast with his personality in other areas of his life. He helped Sherman start up his bank in SF with a tidy deposit and was considered an amiable person, gracious at home and all. Before the war! That's when he seemed to develop all the quirks and instabilities that have become him. I'm thinking this was a guy who should simply not have gone to war. He would have been a decent peace time soldier but the strain of action was too much. He was just not a warrior!

p s
Wait, let me edit that. Nothing wrong with Bragg's personal courage - just didn't have the temperament for the level of command he had.
You are right. Before the Civil War, he had never even commanded a brigade, much less an army.
 

novushomus

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You are right. Before the Civil War, he had never even commanded a brigade, much less an army.
Very few of the men who would command armies in the Civil War had. Those who had would not give very distinguished field service either. Robert E. Lee had only managed to make colonel of a regiment shortly before the outbreak of hostilities.

Winfield Scott had commanded a brigade in the War of 1812 and the Army of Invasion in Mexico, but he was too old for field duty. Gideon Pillow commanded a division under Scott in Mexico, while James Shields (beaten by Jackson in the Valley) commanded a brigade in Mexico. David E. Twiggs, also a division commander in Mexico, retired and died because of his health. There were others like Wool and Paterson who did not do very well either. For the most part, this was a war where men were absolutely new to their level of commands.
 

rickvox79

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This is an interesting bit of news. I'll be interested to see Hess's style as a biographer.

Of course, if anyone is in the mood for a pro-Bragg biographer they can pick up Samuel J. Martin's here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0786459344/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

It is very detailed, but like most biographies it is (perplexingly) too much of an advocate of its' subject and attacks all of Bragg's detractors to the point where it seems like Bragg bore none of the responsibility for the dissension within the army.

It should be note that Bragg had quite a prominent group of supporters within the army, and they included men who he had advanced (though mostly to the detriment of the army); Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler, Maj. Gen. William Bate (the worst division commander in the Army of Tennessee, period), Maj. Gen. J. Patton Anderson, and a notably competent exception, Maj. Gen. A.P. Stewart (though he was very quiet in his support of Bragg). Likewise, it is noted that Bragg had support in the army from among-st the original troops he commanded at Mobile and in Pensacola.

And I'll also leave that Davis left Bragg in command for such a long time had to do with his rather limited options and not his non-existent friendship with Bragg (the two at the start of the war actually had rather low opinions of each other):
Who of the proper grade and rank (which knock out Forrest and Cleburne) did Davis have to replace Bragg?

1. General Robert E. Lee. Which was a no go. Davis asked, and Lee refused.
2. General Joseph E. Johnston, a man which Davis hated with his fued over his secrecy and petty jealousy over rank, and only picked as a last resort
3. General G.T. Beauregard, the man who Davis hated even more than Johnston and who Davis had replaced with Bragg and was openly critical of the government in the press. Not really a go.
4. Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk. Even though Davis was a close friend of Polk's, I think even he had the sense that Polk was not a general. And Polk himself advocated for Johnston.
5. Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee. Declined the post and had been a problem child with Polk.

Not a lot of gleaming and obvious choice candidates in that list. So unless Davis brought in an outsider like Kirby Smith or Longstreet (which presented its own sets of challenges), there weren't a lot of good options. Outside of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederate command bench was neither broad nor deep (with a handful of exceptions).

I'm not looking for a positive outlook on Bragg but at the same time he shouldn't get all of the blame for the failings of the AoT. Thomas Hindman and DH Hill failed him at McLemore's Cove, Wheeler and Forrest didn't help much leading up to, during and directly after Chickamauga. Then you have Leonidas Polk....not much more needs to be said there. I think I'm just interested to learn more about the man than the usual "Mary Chesnut hated his unibrow" or "Sam Watkins thought he was the devil incarnate" type quotes.
 
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Hunter

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Very few of the men who would command armies in the Civil War had. Those who had would not give very distinguished field service either. Robert E. Lee had only managed to make colonel of a regiment shortly before the outbreak of hostilities.

Winfield Scott had commanded a brigade in the War of 1812 and the Army of Invasion in Mexico, but he was too old for field duty. Gideon Pillow commanded a division under Scott in Mexico, while James Shields (beaten by Jackson in the Valley) commanded a brigade in Mexico. David E. Twiggs, also a division commander in Mexico, retired and died because of his health. There were others like Wool and Paterson who did not do very well either. For the most part, this was a war where men were absolutely new to their level of commands.

Good point. It would take a very special man to perform at a level so much higher than his training and experience.
 
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diane

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The last few posts bring up something I've thought about - the CW really did bring out completely amazing people who would not have been even noticed otherwise. Forrest would have been just another planter, Sherman just another teacher in Louisiana, and so on. And, quite a few - Grant, for instance - seemed to have been born for that particular moment in time. It really brought out the abilities, genius and strength of Lincoln, too. But, the same war brought out the inadequacies of others and I think Bragg was in that unfortunate category. The strain was too much for him - it seemed that he became rather deranged as it went on. Developed migraines - which several others did as well - and that's often a consequence of combat. After the war, the 'deranged' condition seemed to disappear. Where others rose to the occasion, Bragg sank. Doesn't make him a bad guy, just a guy promoted above his abilities.
 
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Unfortunately, the longer war lasted the worse Braxton Bragg became – Ft. Fisher and Bentonville comes to mind.

Braxton's brother Thomas wasn't a soldier, but did serve his state and country as the 34th Governor of North Carolina (1855-1859), as a United States Senator (1859-1861), and as the second Attorney General for the Confederate States of America.

http://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/thomas-bragg-1810-1872/
You can throw Wise's Forks (March 8th) in there as well, he had Union general, Jacob D. Cox in a bad spot and let him off!
 
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