Comparing Picketts Charge w/ Charge up Missionary Ridge and Longstreet at Chickamauga

Joshism

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Apr 30, 2012
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Jupiter, FL
As a rebel commander of a major army I consider only Lee superior to Bragg.

He doesn't have much competition when you think about it.

Beauregard: Didn't command long enough to really evaluate. Creative but flaky and had health issues.

Albert Johnston: in over his head, put bad subordinates in places where they did a lot of harm, lost KY, lost Nashville, bungled the execution of Shiloh, got himself killed in battle.

Joe Johnston: good strategy, bad tactics, never won after Bull Run.

Hood: lost every battle, wrecked his army

Price: mediocre verging on clueless.

Van Dorn: good cavalry commander, but incompetent army commander.

Edmund Kirby Smith: in his only campaign as an army commander he refused to subordinate himself or meaningfully cooperate with Bragg, sealing the Kentucky Campaign in failure.

Pemberton: I don't even need to explain why he's a failure.

If Bragg gets a C to Lee's A then yes he's second-best since everyone else gets a D, F, or Incomplete.

If you count Stonewall Jackson as an army commander from his time in the Shenandoah I'd rank him above Bragg though not by a lot. Stonewall had his only personality issues and was better suited as a corps commander under someone like Lee.

It's remarkable how much Lee stands out in ranking the above. Not just in skill or results, but in the fact that he could play well with others.

Not that Jeff Davis did these guys any favors. He was blindly supportive of some, needlessly combative with others. If we're talking about "temperamentally unsuited" Jeff Davis is a great example.

The Union had its own issues, but laying it out like this I'm starting to see why the Confederates lost.
 

jackt62

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Managerial deficiencies? What does that mean?
To put it in the most basic terms, he was a lousy "people person." While a discussion of his military aptitude can be a separate matter, Bragg had a reputation for being disagreeable, irascible, and ill-tempered, hardly a winning recipe for a successful manager in either military or civilian life.
 

jackt62

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The Union had its own issues, but laying it out like this I'm starting to see why the Confederates lost
I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your assessments of Confederate officers, but it must also be noted that the supreme leadership starting with Davis, lacked any consistent and reliable strategic plan to attain independence. Leaving strategic decisions for the most part in the hands of individual commanders who were concerned with their own fiefdoms, and misreading the Union's determination to put down the rebellion would not ensure a winning hand.
 

Package4

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
You might also find interesting Steve Davis's recent vol. 2 on John Bell Hood. He makes a detailed comparison of Hood's attack at Franklin with Pickett's.
Completely agree, though the topography at Franklin (charge field), was much more level than that at Gettysburg and absolutely nowhere to hide.
 

edfranksphd

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Aug 30, 2019
Bragg's men didn't like him. Bragg's subordinates didn't like him. Bragg's biographers don't like him. Nobody liked Braxton Bragg except Jeff Davis.

My evaluation of Bragg as talented but temperamentally unsuited for command is in line with the Earl Hess biography, which tries hard to give him fair and even-handed appraisal.

And to be clear Braxton Bragg was by no means the only general with the talent but not the temperament to command an army.
Oh, dear God, give me strength. Earl Hess may be an incontrovertible source regarding whether Bragg was "temperamentally" suited to be a general, but many felt differently at the time, including Jeff Davis and other generals under his command. In addition, Sietz wrote the most comprehensive and thoroughly researched bio of Bragg in 1924, and, while not giving Bragg rave reviews as a commander, did give him credit for many of the hard battle he fought, everyone of which he was usually well outnumbered by the enemy. I saw Hess's book, and was struck by how many important modern analysis he did NOT refer to in his study. Too bad, as it would have been a good time for Bragg to get a comprehensive, and thereby fair, assessment of his contribution to the war effort. Longstreet apologists need to take a long look at vol 2 (author: Judith Lee Hallock PhD) of Bragg's bio which was finished about 40 yrs after vol 1 was by McWhinney. In vol 2 Longstreeet's behavior at Brown's Ferry, Wauhatchie, and Knoxville constitute a mountain of evidence as to just how "unsuitable" HE was to be a general at any level, let alone a corps commander! He sandbagged Bragg, much like many have suggested that he sandbagged Lee at Gettysburg. Over and out.
 

edfranksphd

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I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your assessments of Confederate officers, but it must also be noted that the supreme leadership starting with Davis, lacked any consistent and reliable strategic plan to attain independence. Leaving strategic decisions for the most part in the hands of individual commanders who were concerned with their own fiefdoms, and misreading the Union's determination to put down the rebellion would not ensure a winning hand.
Davis did NOT leave strategic decisions in the hands of commanders; he DID have a reliable strategic plan for winning the war, which was to not LOSE the war. He didn't invade the North, the North invaded the South. Davis knew, just like Hanoi knew, the key to winning was to simply outlast Northern public opinion, and given our success in most wars since Korea, I'd say relying on the US to lose it's resolve eventually is a pretty darn good strategy, sadly.
 

Irishtom29

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Location
Kent, Washington
Davis knew, just like Hanoi knew, the key to winning was to simply outlast Northern public opinion, and given our success in most wars since Korea, I'd say relying on the US to lose it's resolve eventually is a pretty darn good strategy, sadly.

Well there's a difference in fighting wars of national survival at home and wars fought far away with no direct national interest. We lost wars overseas and nothing in my day to day life changed, not a damned thing. That tells me the war wasn't worth winning and thus not fighting.
 

edfranksphd

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Aug 30, 2019
Well there's a difference in fighting wars of national survival at home and wars fought far away with no direct national interest. We lost wars overseas and nothing in my day to day life changed, not a damned thing. That tells me the war wasn't worth winning and thus not fighting.
National survival? For God's sakes, how would losing the CSA affect the ⅔ of the US population that lived in the North. They'd have gone on just fine. They were no more at risk from the CSA that we were from the NVA in Vietnam. (Actually, I mighta been more worried about the NVA then helping to spread communism all over SE Asia, which is pretty much what they did, & then what that might mean for global communism down the road. Back in 1970, the USSR was an existential risk to the entire West, not just the US. The CSA was never such a risk to the Union per se.
 

Joshism

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Location
Jupiter, FL
Longstreeet's behavior at Brown's Ferry, Wauhatchie, and Knoxville constitute a mountain of evidence as to just how "unsuitable" HE was to be a general at any level, let alone a corps commander! He sandbagged Bragg, much like many have suggested that he sandbagged Lee at Gettysburg.

On that I kind of agree. I think Longstreet is overrated and his performance in TN scuttled his chances of promotion beyond corps commander (or at least it should have; his wounding may have rendered it a moot question).

I saw Hess's book, and was struck by how many important modern analysis he did NOT refer to in his study.

Such as?

Back in 1970, the USSR was an existential risk to the entire West, not just the US. The CSA was never such a risk to the Union per se.

The CSA was an existential threat to the USA. If any state could be allowed to unilaterally secede then every state was allowed to unilaterally secede. Especially since the secession was in response to a free and fair election, it would mark the death knell of the republic.
 
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Lost Cause

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Sep 19, 2014
He doesn't have much competition when you think about it.

Albert Johnston: in over his head, put bad subordinates in places where they did a lot of harm, lost KY, lost Nashville, bungled the execution of Shiloh, got himself killed in battle.

Joe Johnston: good strategy, bad tactics, never won after Bull Run.

The Union had its own issues, but laying it out like this I'm starting to see why the Confederates lost.
The cards were stacked against against A. Johnston before the onset of his taking command. Kentucky had already joined the Union, scattered Confederate forces were limited, several generals were politically appointed, and he had to defend significant areas of the South. As far as Shiloh, “the execution of Shiloh” resulted in bungling on both sides. The war was in its infancy stage.

When you stated J. Johnston never won after Bull Run, are you referencing battles or campaigns?

Several Union generals had quite a few issues, extending the war especially in the east, IMO.
 

wausaubob

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Denver, CO
Compared to Gettysburg, the four division advance on Missionary Ridge was conducted by soldiers who had not been marching for several days, and whose diets had been improving for the last few weeks. Since they conducted a successful operation on the 23rd, they had good reasons to anticipate success and ending all limitations on their logistical support. The advance had a good chance of success, so it involved worthwhile risks.
Because it was four divisions, the soldiers could see that they were well supported. The flank divisions of Baird and Johnson were not threatened, so the main divisions that reached the ridge, those of Sheridan and Woods, were supported.
Unlike Gettysburg, at Chattanooga, there was no artillery in the position in front of the ridge. The guns there would have probably been captured, and there was at least some chance they could be evacuated from the top of the ridge. That meant the attackers did not face any close range canister, and they did not have substantial losses when the Confederates gave up the rifle pits.
The Confederate position at the base of the ridge was too heavy to be just a picket line, which could filter back to the main line on well designated routes. But it had no artillery, it wasn't heavy enough to withstand a full assault. The Confederates fired off their rifles and retreated. That mean the US suffered minor casualties and did not have thousands of prisoners to round up and take to the rear.
That left the full weight of the four divisions to advance up the ridge.
The Confederates had no reserve, which no one on the US side could have guessed. The reserve was already confronting Sherman and holding the connection between the right and the center. Not only was there no reserve, but Breckinridge was pulling regiments out of the line to try and cover Rossville. Unlike Gettysburg, the Confederate line at Chattanooga could not be reinforced, and instead was stretched even further by the Osterhaus, Cruft, and Geary advance.
Since Hooker's command had made it to Rossville, the attack that Thomas rightly feared would lead to a disaster, with his divisions tumbling back down the ridge, had to happen that afternoon. When Hooker was in place, it was mandatory to not allow Bragg to confront Hooker first and then reform the next day against Thomas' four divisions.
Unlike Gettysburg, at Chattanooga, Grant, Thomas and Granger had an excellent view of the action on the ridge. It was an unusual situation in which the commanders had an amphitheater view of the action. Some angry words may been exchanged, as what was supposed to be a holding attack became a full assault.
Grant and Thomas were surprised to see such a weak response from the Confederates. But Granger was right there, so his staff knew where to find him and sent out the messages to go ahead and go up the ridge and force Bragg to further react. It seems as if not even gunsmoke obscured the view. That meant that Grant, Thomas and Granger were able to react in real time. Had the attack gone poorly, they could withdrawn it without major casualties. But as the attack did expose weakness in the center and left, they were able to order everyone to push on.
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Years ago on my first visit to Lookout Mt. I was in the gift shop and overheard a conversation between the ranger behind the counter and a man with his young son. They were asking about Bragg and the attack up the mountain. I broke in to comment that the artillery was improperly positioned and could not shoot at the attacking Federals. Also making it even more egregious was the fact that Bragg was by profession an artillerist.

The Ranger consulted a book behind the counter and exclaimed that I was correct, Bragg was an artillerist.

A few weeks ago I set out on a 3 week trip to SF. The first week I spent visiting CW sites in Tenn, Ky, Mo, and Miss.--Stones River, Perryville and found to my surprise that in every single battle where Bragg was present, Confederate artillery was either misused or not used.
 

edfranksphd

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Aug 30, 2019
Years ago on my first visit to Lookout Mt. I was in the gift shop and overheard a conversation between the ranger behind the counter and a man with his young son. They were asking about Bragg and the attack up the mountain. I broke in to comment that the artillery was improperly positioned and could not shoot at the attacking Federals. Also making it even more egregious was the fact that Bragg was by profession an artillerist.

The Ranger consulted a book behind the counter and exclaimed that I was correct, Bragg was an artillerist.

A few weeks ago I set out on a 3 week trip to SF. The first week I spent visiting CW sites in Tenn, Ky, Mo, and Miss.--Stones River, Perryville and found to my surprise that in every single battle where Bragg was present, Confederate artillery was either misused or not used.
Bragg was a major general (at least) in charge of 65000+ men from Wauhatchie to Missionary Ridge to Knoxville and south to Dalton. Leadbetter was Chief Engineer. I'm under the impression that while Bragg is the go-to person to blame for everything that goes wrong, most experts nevertheless do blame Leadbetter for the fiasco at Missionary Ridge AND at Knoxville's Ft Sanders as well (where Leadbetter was detached by Bragg to "help" Longstreet w/artillery placement and where Leadbetter sadly persuaded Longstreet that attacking Ft Sanders had the best chance of success, which delayed that assault by an additional week or so). Bragg graduated near top (5th of 50) of his class, performed heroically at Buena Vista in command of artillery ("give 'em more grape Mr Bragg"), so it seems incoherent to conclude he was suddenly struck incompetent when it came to his specialty? And, btw, at Missionary, it wasn't just the artillery improperly placed, but the entire army in that area, at the geographic crest, not the military crest. Again, given all the duties of a Maj Gen, I'm not sure he can be fairly blamed for the "crest" error. And don't forget, the Union charge at that point was not ordered but a spontaneous outburst by the troops themselves in response to finding themselves stuck in an fix where retreat would likely be more deadly than continued assault?! Grant got lucky, as everything he planned went haywire but he won anyway! Union Gen Smith (?), said as much about the entire affair in Battles and Leaders 20 yrs later..
 

Wizard of Cozz

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Bragg was a major general (at least) in charge of 65000+ men from Wauhatchie to Missionary Ridge to Knoxville and south to Dalton. Leadbetter was Chief Engineer. I'm under the impression that while Bragg is the go-to person to blame for everything that goes wrong, most experts nevertheless do blame Leadbetter for the fiasco at Missionary Ridge AND at Knoxville's Ft Sanders as well (where Leadbetter was detached by Bragg to "help" Longstreet w/artillery placement and where Leadbetter sadly persuaded Longstreet that attacking Ft Sanders had the best chance of success, which delayed that assault by an additional week or so). Bragg graduated near top (5th of 50) of his class, performed heroically at Buena Vista in command of artillery ("give 'em more grape Mr Bragg"), so it seems incoherent to conclude he was suddenly struck incompetent when it came to his specialty? And, btw, at Missionary, it wasn't just the artillery improperly placed, but the entire army in that area, at the geographic crest, not the military crest. Again, given all the duties of a Maj Gen, I'm not sure he can be fairly blamed for the "crest" error. And don't forget, the Union charge at that point was not ordered but a spontaneous outburst by the troops themselves in response to finding themselves stuck in an fix where retreat would likely be more deadly than continued assault?! Grant got lucky, as everything he planned went haywire but he won anyway! Union Gen Smith (?), said as much about the entire affair in Battles and Leaders 20 yrs later..
Major General??? Bragg was a full General unless I'm misreading you somehow.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
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Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The US troops were stationary at Gettysburg. The US artillery at Gettysburg was stationary and well positioned. The US troops at Gettysburg wanted to fight there.
The US troops at Chickamauga had been moving, and the last movement involved erroneous directions. The terrain and vegetation at Chickamauga made it a big rifle shooting match. The Confederate advance succeeded against the portion of the US force that shifted at the last opportunity, but stalled against the stationary position held by Thomas.
The entire Confederate position at Chattanooga was shifting and being realigned after adverse events on 11/23 and 11/24. The result was similar to the result at Chickamauga. Gaps opened on the Confederate left and Breckinridge tried to cover those gaps. He did not have enough regiments to accomplish that.
The biggest flaw in the Confederate line at Chattanooga was leaving such a heavy line at the bottom of the ridge. Either put everyone below the ridge and take your chances, or put everyone on top of the ridge and let them support each other.The soldiers in front of the ridge reacted as if they thought they were a sacrifice line. They did not do much fighting and their mad scramble up the ridge was highly demoralizing.
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Bragg was a major general (at least) in charge of 65000+ men from Wauhatchie to Missionary Ridge to Knoxville and south to Dalton. Leadbetter was Chief Engineer. I'm under the impression that while Bragg is the go-to person to blame for everything that goes wrong, most experts nevertheless do blame Leadbetter for the fiasco at Missionary Ridge AND at Knoxville's Ft Sanders as well (where Leadbetter was detached by Bragg to "help" Longstreet w/artillery placement and where Leadbetter sadly persuaded Longstreet that attacking Ft Sanders had the best chance of success, which delayed that assault by an additional week or so). Bragg graduated near top (5th of 50) of his class, performed heroically at Buena Vista in command of artillery ("give 'em more grape Mr Bragg"), so it seems incoherent to conclude he was suddenly struck incompetent when it came to his specialty? And, btw, at Missionary, it wasn't just the artillery improperly placed, but the entire army in that area, at the geographic crest, not the military crest. Again, given all the duties of a Maj Gen, I'm not sure he can be fairly blamed for the "crest" error. And don't forget, the Union charge at that point was not ordered but a spontaneous outburst by the troops themselves in response to finding themselves stuck in an fix where retreat would likely be more deadly than continued assault?! Grant got lucky, as everything he planned went haywire but he won anyway! Union Gen Smith (?), said as much about the entire affair in Battles and Leaders 20 yrs later..
I agree wholeheartely that the duties of a CinC are many. In most cases when a battle occurs it is a spontaneous thing and the general has to assume that his subordinates have done their basic duties. Lookout Mt is a very different scenario. The Confederate position had been in place for months. There is no way that Bragg would not have noticed his artillery misplacement in that amount of time.

Last month I went on extended vacation eventually going from Augusta Ga to San Francisco. The first part of my trip I meandered through Tenn, Ky, Mo and Miss. visiting battlefields. I believe that in every single battlefield I've visited where Bragg was in charge that I've come across some reference to his failure to properly use his artillery.
 

edfranksphd

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Joined
Aug 30, 2019
Major General??? Bragg was a full General unless I'm misreading you somehow.
That's why I said "at least " above, b/c I wasn't sure if he was a full general, or a lt general, but i knew he was at least a maj gen. Does it really matter? He was in charge. I assume we can agree on that?
 
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