Braxton Bragg's Letter About Shiloh

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Ole Miss

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Braxton Bragg's character and actions have been discussed ad nauseam but I could not resist sharing his letter to his wife written just days after the battle. Among the many individuals that Bragg jousted with during his life, perhaps one of the most innocent of those to experience his venom might have been Randall Gibson. I have hi-lighted Bragg's comments regarding Gibson and his command at Shiloh which will shortly posted as a thread of its own.

Bragg's letter, in my opinion, lays the blame for the Confederate's defeat at everyones's feet except his but I will others to read this letter and decide for themselves.
Regards
David

April 8,1862 letter to his wife Eliza Brooks Ellis
My dearest Wife: How to begin a letter confounds me. So much has been crowded in a small space of time that the mind becomes confused and unable to compass it all at once. You must then excuse me from any description of the whole and content yourself now with an account of events more directly interesting to you. The first day was a great victory to us — we drove the enemy from every position? captured nearly all his Artillery, and were hotly pursuing him under my command when we were recalled. During the night we occupied his camps with millions of property, confident of his entire rout early in the morning if he did not cross the river in his gun boats — which we could not help. But the picture changed, General Buell arrived during the night with immense reenforcements and attacking us vigorously compelled us, after eight hours' hard fighting and immense slaughter, to retire from the field — utterly exhausted, many of our troops having had nothing to eat for the two days, owing to shameful neglect on the part of their officers. I remained on the field with the battery of Artillery you saw in Pensacola, and brought off the rear — the enemy fully satisfied not to follow. It was sad beyond measure, but I suppose there was no hope of success against such odds, tho I received the order with surprise and refused to obey until I sent and inquired if it was correct.

The enemy's force was three to our one, and fresh whilst ours have been marching two days, on horrible roads, knee deep in mud, and laying out in the rain night and day. We had not the wagons to carry our baggage. My command of 15,000 men, mostly from Ala., Miss., and La., composed our second or main line of battle. The action commenced early on the morning of the 6th, by our advancing upon them — My line was three miles long through a dense forest, cut by ravines and creeks and bogs. I led the centre until 11 o'clock carrying everything before us with small loss. About 10 a. m., my noble and gallant charger was shot in the middle of the forehead as he held it aloft proudly surveying the field. It was a Minie ball from one of the enemy s sharpshooters evidently intended for me, and nothing but the head of the noble animal saved me. He fell on my right leg which was extricated with difficulty — bruised, but not seriously injured. I was mounted again on an inferior animal from one of my body guard, and just then saw a Regiment of troops just to my left in full retreat. I moved to rally them and to my dismay, found Mack's La. Regt. (Mack’s 11th Louisiana?) disgraced — they belonged to Polk's mob. Moving rapidly to the front, we carried camp after camp and battery after battery, slaughtering the enemy and capturing prisoners. At 11 a. m. my second horse was shot from under me by a shower of grape shot, but a merciful Providence preserved me — Another mount and we were off. Everything on the left being accomplished, I moved to the right. Immediately on my right Randall Gibson with a Brigade of three La. Regiments and one Ark., I had not been able to force him into battle up to 12 o'clock. At last he was put in a hot place and at once retreated with his whole force. My staff and self rallied them with difficulty — Major Bush could not be found tho he was present and — well next morning — I gave them a talk, took their flag and led them in, but it was no use — they were demoralized and nothing could induce them to go — A want of confidence in their leader Gibson — destroyed theirs. Entre nous, he is an arrant coward. Finding I could do nothing with this force, and that our extreme right, under Withers, Cheatham and Breckinridge was holding back, undecided what to do, I stationed the crowd under Gibson to hold its ground, and I moved to the extreme right, where my old guard from Pensacola under Gladden, Jackson and Chalmers were at work, I found Gladden wounded, left arm off, Adams shot through the head, and the La. Regt. with only 50 men under Major Fanon. The Brigade under Col. Deas of Mobile, lying down half a mile behind our line, I rallied all and gave them a talk, moved forward the whole. With a general order "LET EVERYTHING BE FOR WARD" and nothing but forward. Beauregard was now in command — Johnston having been killed about 1 o'clock in leading back some retreating troops. Under my orders we all advanced, having turned the enemy's left flank, and we literally swept them before us, capturing his camps, artillery, men, horses, etc. One whole battery was brought to me with the officers, men and horses complete, and marched to the rear as if on parade. It was a sight rarely seen, and very impressive. It was now nearly sunset. We were close on the banks of the river just above Pittsburg, the landing place. Under a heavy fire from the gun boats when the order to retire reached me, General Prentiss — a prisoner — had just told General Beauregard that they were defeated and enroute across the river, the General thought it best to spare our men, and allow them to go — But unfortunately Buell came. Our force was disorganized, demoralized, and ex hausted — hungry some of them, because they were too lazy to hunt the enemy’s camps for provisions. Mostly out of ammunition, and though millions of cartridges were around them, not one officer in ten supplied his men, relying on the enemy's retreat. It poured rain, the third night we were in it, so that nature was exhausted, and our men dispirited. The enemy with his fresh troops arriving in boat after boat all night, met us early as we got into line — We fought them with varied success for eight hours — our Generals having to lead in person one half the troops. General Beauregard rallied several thousand, and formed a second line, behind mine, and where a part of mine gave way, he led on the rear, but they would not stand. I rallied and led back a part of mine but it was no use, no earthly power could keep them up. My Staff were imploring me not to expose myself too much, but there was no alternative. About 2 p. m. we commenced the movement back, and retired in good order, though I must say because the enemy did not pursue.

Our failure is due entirely to a want of discipline and a want of officers. Universal suffrage — furloughs and whiskey, have ruined us. If we fail it is our own fault— I have predicted the inevitable result from such premises.

Our troops were so much mixed, that the retreat has been irregular and disastrous. Our killed and wounded left and much of our ammunition, whilst tents and officers' trunks filled the wagons. Many Lieutenants and Captains have baggage enough for a trip to Saratoga. Our men nave lost largely what can not be replaced, arms — knapsacks — blankets and ammunition. Several thousands departed the field early and never returned — But the behavior of my troops from Pensacola and Mobile is beyond praise — It is the theme of admiration. All the good fighting of course could not be done with them — Some of John ston's Army fought most gallantly. But I must close for tonight, now 11 o'clock and I am very tired — having been five days in the saddle.
Yours exhausted,
Braxton Bragg

Pages 111-113
Braxton Bragg: General by Don C. Seitz (1924) pages 111 - 113
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015000586084&view=1up&seq=129
 
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Ole Miss

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In April 30, 1862, after action Official Report of his Corp’s action at the Battle of Shiloh, General Braxton Bragg made derogatory remarks about Colonel Randal L. Gibson and his handling of the 1st​ Brigade of Ruggles’ Division on Sunday, April 6, 1862. When notified about the content of Bragg’s report, Gibson seeks a court of inquiry to rebut the charges made against him and his command. I have excerpted the comments Bragg made and allow the reader to decide if Gibson had a case or not. The Confederate authorities declined to pursue the matter any further and it seems Gibson allowed the matter to drop as well.
Regards
David

"In moving over the difficult and broken ground the right brigade of Ruggles' division, Colonel Gibson commanding, bearing to the right, became separated from the two left brigades, leaving a broad interval. Three regiments of Major-General Polk's command opportunely came up and filled up the interval." (Page 465)

Bragg made another mention about Gibson and his command.
"Leaving them to hold their position, I moved farther to the right and brought up the First Brigade (Gibson) of Ruggles' division, which was in rear of its true position, and threw them forward to attack this same point. A very heavy fire soon opened, and after a short conflict this command fell back in considerable disorder. Rallying the different regiments by means of my staff officers and escort, they were twice more moved to the attack, only to be driven back by the enemy's sharpshooters occupying the thick cover. This result was due entirely to want of proper handling." (Page 466)
 
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Coonewah Creek

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Bragg truly couldn't get along with anyone, including himself. So to think that he could ever blame himself when he could find a scapegoat anywhere else is to live in fantasy-land. I extracted this from Wikipedia, but I have read it in other sources as well, including Grant's memoirs, and I can believe it is true...

There is a famous, apocryphal story, included in Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs, about Bragg as a company commander at a frontier post where he also served as quartermaster. He submitted a requisition for supplies for his company, then as quartermaster declined to fill it. As company commander, he resubmitted the requisition, giving additional reasons for his requirements, but as the quartermaster he denied the request again. Realizing that he was at a personal impasse, he referred the matter to the post commandant, who exclaimed, "My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarreling with yourself!"
 

Belfoured

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Bragg truly couldn't get along with anyone, including himself. So to think that he could ever blame himself when he could find a scapegoat anywhere else is to live in fantasy-land. I extracted this from Wikipedia, but I have read it in other sources as well, including Grant's memoirs, and I can believe it is true...

There is a famous, apocryphal story, included in Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs, about Bragg as a company commander at a frontier post where he also served as quartermaster. He submitted a requisition for supplies for his company, then as quartermaster declined to fill it. As company commander, he resubmitted the requisition, giving additional reasons for his requirements, but as the quartermaster he denied the request again. Realizing that he was at a personal impasse, he referred the matter to the post commandant, who exclaimed, "My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarreling with yourself!"
Like some quotes attributed to or about Grant himself, this pre-War story may be apocryphal but probably reflects some truth about Bragg's personality. Regarding Gibson, Earl Hess traces animosity between them to before the war and their neighboring plantations. Apparently Bragg and Gibson's father, and then his younger brother, had some unexplained dispute and when Gibson took over the plantation he stepped into it himself.
 

farmerjohn

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Braxton Bragg's character and actions have been discussed ad nauseam but I could not resist sharing his letter to his wife written just days after the battle. Among the many individuals that Bragg jousted with during his life, perhaps one of the most innocent of those to experience his venom might have been Randall Gibson. I have hi-lighted Bragg's comments regarding Gibson and his command at Shiloh which will shortly posted as a thread of its own.

Bragg's letter, in my opinion, lays the blame for the Confederate's defeat at everyones's feet except his but I will others to read this letter and decide for themselves.
Regards
David

April 8,1862 letter to his wife Eliza Brooks Ellis
My dearest Wife: How to begin a letter confounds me. So much has been crowded in a small space of time that the mind becomes confused and unable to compass it all at once. You must then excuse me from any description of the whole and content yourself now with an account of events more directly interesting to you. The first day was a great victory to us — we drove the enemy from every position? captured nearly all his Artillery, and were hotly pursuing him under my command when we were recalled. During the night we occupied his camps with millions of property, confident of his entire rout early in the morning if he did not cross the river in his gun boats — which we could not help. But the picture changed, General Buell arrived during the night with immense reenforcements and attacking us vigorously compelled us, after eight hours' hard fighting and immense slaughter, to retire from the field — utterly exhausted, many of our troops having had nothing to eat for the two days, owing to shameful neglect on the part of their officers. I remained on the field with the battery of Artillery you saw in Pensacola, and brought off the rear — the enemy fully satisfied not to follow. It was sad beyond measure, but I suppose there was no hope of success against such odds, tho I received the order with surprise and refused to obey until I sent and inquired if it was correct.

The enemy's force was three to our one, and fresh whilst ours have been marching two days, on horrible roads, knee deep in mud, and laying out in the rain night and day. We had not the wagons to carry our baggage. My command of 15,000 men, mostly from Ala., Miss., and La., composed our second or main line of battle. The action commenced early on the morning of the 6th, by our advancing upon them — My line was three miles long through a dense forest, cut by ravines and creeks and bogs. I led the centre until 11 o'clock carrying everything before us with small loss. About 10 a. m., my noble and gallant charger was shot in the middle of the forehead as he held it aloft proudly surveying the field. It was a Minie ball from one of the enemy s sharpshooters evidently intended for me, and nothing but the head of the noble animal saved me. He fell on my right leg which was extricated with difficulty — bruised, but not seriously injured. I was mounted again on an inferior animal from one of my body guard, and just then saw a Regiment of troops just to my left in full retreat. I moved to rally them and to my dismay, found Mack's La. Regt. (Mack’s 11th Louisiana?) disgraced — they belonged to Polk's mob. Moving rapidly to the front, we carried camp after camp and battery after battery, slaughtering the enemy and capturing prisoners. At 11 a. m. my second horse was shot from under me by a shower of grape shot, but a merciful Providence preserved me — Another mount and we were off. Everything on the left being accomplished, I moved to the right. Immediately on my right Randall Gibson with a Brigade of three La. Regiments and one Ark., I had not been able to force him into battle up to 12 o'clock. At last he was put in a hot place and at once retreated with his whole force. My staff and self rallied them with difficulty — Major Bush could not be found tho he was present and — well next morning — I gave them a talk, took their flag and led them in, but it was no use — they were demoralized and nothing could induce them to go — A want of confidence in their leader Gibson — destroyed theirs. Entre nous, he is an arrant coward. Finding I could do nothing with this force, and that our extreme right, under Withers, Cheatham and Breckinridge was holding back, undecided what to do, I stationed the crowd under Gibson to hold its ground, and I moved to the extreme right, where my old guard from Pensacola under Gladden, Jackson and Chalmers were at work, I found Gladden wounded, left arm off, Adams shot through the head, and the La. Regt. with only 50 men under Major Fanon. The Brigade under Col. Deas of Mobile, lying down half a mile behind our line, I rallied all and gave them a talk, moved forward the whole. With a general order "LET EVERYTHING BE FOR WARD" and nothing but forward. Beauregard was now in command — Johnston having been killed about 1 o'clock in leading back some retreating troops. Under my orders we all advanced, having turned the enemy's left flank, and we literally swept them before us, capturing his camps, artillery, men, horses, etc. One whole battery was brought to me with the officers, men and horses complete, and marched to the rear as if on parade. It was a sight rarely seen, and very impressive. It was now nearly sunset. We were close on the banks of the river just above Pittsburg, the landing place. Under a heavy fire from the gun boats when the order to retire reached me, General Prentiss — a prisoner — had just told General Beauregard that they were defeated and enroute across the river, the General thought it best to spare our men, and allow them to go — But unfortunately Buell came. Our force was disorganized, demoralized, and ex hausted — hungry some of them, because they were too lazy to hunt the enemy’s camps for provisions. Mostly out of ammunition, and though millions of cartridges were around them, not one officer in ten supplied his men, relying on the enemy's retreat. It poured rain, the third night we were in it, so that nature was exhausted, and our men dispirited. The enemy with his fresh troops arriving in boat after boat all night, met us early as we got into line — We fought them with varied success for eight hours — our Generals having to lead in person one half the troops. General Beauregard rallied several thousand, and formed a second line, behind mine, and where a part of mine gave way, he led on the rear, but they would not stand. I rallied and led back a part of mine but it was no use, no earthly power could keep them up. My Staff were imploring me not to expose myself too much, but there was no alternative. About 2 p. m. we commenced the movement back, and retired in good order, though I must say because the enemy did not pursue.

Our failure is due entirely to a want of discipline and a want of officers. Universal suffrage — furloughs and whiskey, have ruined us. If we fail it is our own fault— I have predicted the inevitable result from such premises.

Our troops were so much mixed, that the retreat has been irregular and disastrous. Our killed and wounded left and much of our ammunition, whilst tents and officers' trunks filled the wagons. Many Lieutenants and Captains have baggage enough for a trip to Saratoga. Our men nave lost largely what can not be replaced, arms — knapsacks — blankets and ammunition. Several thousands departed the field early and never returned — But the behavior of my troops from Pensacola and Mobile is beyond praise — It is the theme of admiration. All the good fighting of course could not be done with them — Some of John ston's Army fought most gallantly. But I must close for tonight, now 11 o'clock and I am very tired — having been five days in the saddle.
Yours exhausted,
Braxton Bragg

Pages 111-113
Braxton Bragg: General by Don C. Seitz (1924) pages 111 - 113
https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015000586084&view=1up&seq=129
what a self righteous egotistical self egrandizing buffoon.
 
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farmerjohn

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In April 30, 1862, after action Official Report of his Corp’s action at the Battle of Shiloh, General Braxton Bragg made derogatory remarks about Colonel Randal L. Gibson and his handling of the 1st​ Brigade of Ruggles’ Division on Sunday, April 6, 1862. When notified about the content of Bragg’s report, Gibson seeks a court of inquiry to rebut the charges made against him and his command. I have excerpted the comments Bragg made and allow the reader to decide if Gibson had a case or not. The Confederate authorities declined to pursue the matter any further and it seems Gibson allowed the matter to drop as well.
Regards
David

"In moving over the difficult and broken ground the right brigade of Ruggles' division, Colonel Gibson commanding, bearing to the right, became separated from the two left brigades, leaving a broad interval. Three regiments of Major-General Polk's command opportunely came up and filled up the interval." (Page 465)

Bragg made another mention about Gibson and his command.
"Leaving them to hold their position, I moved farther to the right and brought up the First Brigade (Gibson) of Ruggles' division, which was in rear of its true position, and threw them forward to attack this same point. A very heavy fire soon opened, and after a short conflict this command fell back in considerable disorder. Rallying the different regiments by means of my staff officers and escort, they were twice more moved to the attack, only to be driven back by the enemy's sharpshooters occupying the thick cover. This result was due entirely to want of proper handling." (Page 466)
and now we see why he got rid of everyone that saw anything differently than he. it was a given that d.h. hill was going to be gone after Chickamauga because he was a bit abrasive, and contentious,but, also plain spoken and, a great fighter. and longstreet was a threat, well just because he was LONGSTREET. very capable, and a major threat to nutcase bragg.
 
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