Murfreesboro Murfreesboro — Which Side won?

Belfoured

Sergeant Major
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Aug 3, 2019
Rhea! I was reading "Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man in the Confederacy" and Hess mentions that Bragg attacked instead of finding good defensive ground to await Rosecrans. You know the terrain in Middle Tennessee. Would Bragg have been better off to find that defensive position? Them Hollers back up in thar may be good places to hide but a bad place to be trapped.

By the way. The book did not change my opinion of old "cute and cutely" Bragg.
But you have to admit that Hess did a nice job of trying to be as objective as possible about a guy who has 150 years of bad reputation. I will say this much - it would be interesting to see how, say, Lee or Grant would have dealt with a crowd that included Hardee, Polk, Cheatham, Breckinridge, etc, with Joe Johnston and Bory lurking around. In hockey terms that's not a great dressing room.
 
Last edited:

David Moore

Sergeant Major
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Location
Washington, DC
I think that I have already answered that question.
See you don’t? Just as you have no links that others can view on the papers you mention at the Huntington Library. It seems you have access to things not many are aware of yet you choose not to share them so others can access and judge them. Not very nice ( or scholarly.)
 

edfranksphd

Private
Joined
Aug 30, 2019
Bragg had the worst luck and it was called George Thomas. What Bragg's troops did on the first day was astounding. A surprise almost as great as Shiloh. The Union line was nearly folded back on itself. A smashing success....except Thomas convinced the others in a war council that night to stay put and not get the heck out. Then Bragg became his own worst enemy and threw away a few thousand men on a futile attack two days later, so he withdrew. The Union army was fortunate to have survived. (That's how I see it.)

The aftermath? Bragg pulled back to a defensive position. Nobody pursued him. Then Rosecrans pulled back to his base. Nobody pursued him. That sounds like a draw if there ever was one. Strategically, I'd actually give the nod to the CSA as the battle halted the Union move out of Nashville and battered the USA army so badly it didn't move out again for about six months.
You are right, IMHO. Even making the attack was a brilliant maneuver by Bragg and they nearly crushed the larger yankee army, and only failed b/c Breck on the right was, shall we say, not as enthusiastic as he should have been, if he was sober. The fact that the battle kept the yanks at bay for another 6 months is crucial to deciding who won. Bragg won, but b/c of later fiscoes, I think his earlier career was rewritten by the historians. He is still one of the most unfairly and underrated generals of the entire ACW, methinks.
 

edfranksphd

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Aug 30, 2019
To your point, my favorite passage in Grant's Memoirs has always been this one regarding his attack on an enemy encampment in 1861:

"As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris’s camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept right on.
When we reached a point from which the valley below was in full view, I halted. The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before, but it was one I never forgot afterwards. From that event to the close of the war I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his."
There is no insight as remarkable as that which comes with hindsight, don't u think, Mr Grant?!
 

Will Carry

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The Tar Heel State.
But you have to admit that Hess did a nice job of trying to be as objective as possible about a guy who has 150 years of bad reputation. I will say this much - it would be interesting to see how, say, Lee or Grant would have dealt with a crowd that included Hardee, Polk, Cheatham, Breckinridge, etc, with Joe Johnston and Bory lurking around. In hockey terms that's not a great dressing room.
I am a big fan of Hess. Bragg has always fascinated me. He came so close so many times. He was such a troubled man.
 

Georgia Sixth

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Location
Texas
Bragg won, but b/c of later fiscoes, I think his earlier career was rewritten by the historians. He is still one of the most unfairly and underrated generals of the entire ACW, methinks.
So true. Historians, quite aware that the CSA lost the war, continually focus on the anti-Bragg cabal within the officer corps, while rarely writing about the pro-Bragg group. To be honest, I totally understand Jeff Davis' attraction to Bragg. This was the officer who assumed near corps-level command on his own during the chaos of the fighting at Shiloh. He kept up the pressure on the wing where A.S. Johnston wanted to apply the most pressure, and it was Bragg who was trying to make one last push to take Pittsburg Landing at the end of the day. The generals ranking him were noticeable in their comparative lack of initiative or vigor. Then he came up with the Kentucky incursion, which reversed much of the reverses of the spring campaign and took the strategic initiative back for several months. Then the surprise attack at Murfreesboro, then the trap to destroy Rosecrans that his subordinates bungled. It seems Polk's insubordination on the first day at Chickamauga, starting the assault hours behind schedule, seemed to finally make Bragg snap. His ignoring Longstreet that night was totally out of character. The poor defensive lines on Missionary Ridge were inexplicable. That nobody saw the problem is astounding. I have come to regard much of the confederate general staff as grossly unprofessional, the result, I think, of so many of the generals coming from the planter aristocracy, wealthy men accustomed to getting their way, quick to take insult at perceived slights or disrespect, ready to do pretty much anything to get back at those who failed to appreciate them as they felt they deserved. Really toxic, a perfect stew for what resulted -- back biting, quarreling clicks, insubordination and destructive politicking. Bragg definitely had his faults, most stemming from his own personality. Today, the historians focus on the downside to the point they cannot see his value at all. In a way, Bragg was the "orange man bad" of the civil war. The caricature became the narrative.
 

Belfoured

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
So true. Historians, quite aware that the CSA lost the war, continually focus on the anti-Bragg cabal within the officer corps, while rarely writing about the pro-Bragg group. To be honest, I totally understand Jeff Davis' attraction to Bragg. This was the officer who assumed near corps-level command on his own during the chaos of the fighting at Shiloh. He kept up the pressure on the wing where A.S. Johnston wanted to apply the most pressure, and it was Bragg who was trying to make one last push to take Pittsburg Landing at the end of the day. The generals ranking him were noticeable in their comparative lack of initiative or vigor. Then he came up with the Kentucky incursion, which reversed much of the reverses of the spring campaign and took the strategic initiative back for several months. Then the surprise attack at Murfreesboro, then the trap to destroy Rosecrans that his subordinates bungled. It seems Polk's insubordination on the first day at Chickamauga, starting the assault hours behind schedule, seemed to finally make Bragg snap. His ignoring Longstreet that night was totally out of character. The poor defensive lines on Missionary Ridge were inexplicable. That nobody saw the problem is astounding. I have come to regard much of the confederate general staff as grossly unprofessional, the result, I think, of so many of the generals coming from the planter aristocracy, wealthy men accustomed to getting their way, quick to take insult at perceived slights or disrespect, ready to do pretty much anything to get back at those who failed to appreciate them as they felt they deserved. Really toxic, a perfect stew for what resulted -- back biting, quarreling clicks, insubordination and destructive politicking. Bragg definitely had his faults, most stemming from his own personality. Today, the historians focus on the downside to the point they cannot see his value at all. In a way, Bragg was the "orange man bad" of the civil war. The caricature became the narrative.
Some good points. Too many people look at Perryville, for example, and bash Bragg. Meanwhile, they ignore the results of Davis's failure to actually force Kirby Smith to cooperate, instead just giving guidance on that issue, which led to Smith more or less operating independently of Bragg - an obvious problem. In addition, and as already noted, saddling somebody with a group of subordinats that included the likes of Polk, Hardee, and Breckinridge was not conducive to success. No question that Bragg's own character deficits played a part but the other non-Bragg elements tend to get de-emphasized.
 

wausaubob

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Denver, CO
Per T. Harry Williams, in an early 1865 cabinet meeting, President Lincoln recounted a number of Union victories including Stones River. Grant interjected “Stones River was not a victory.” Lincoln replied “On that we will have to disagree.”

Who was right?
President Lincoln had a very low bar as to what he considered a victory. Because a blood bath so grim that neither belligerent could follow up on the result was just attrition. I suppose compared to Fredericksburg it was considered a victory. Strange to think that Murfreesboro was considered a victory compared to Vicksburg and Chattanooga, which had already happened by late in the war.
But still to occur, Five Forks, final breakthrough at Petersburg, Sailors Creek, and the almost bloodless victory of position at Appomattox. But the topic does reveal that many people in the US equated high casualties with hard fighting and determination. It was not a view shared by combat commanders who had decidedly seen enough of such things.
 

wausaubob

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The real victories: Mobile Bay, Weldon Railroad, Jonesboro, Winchester III and the follow up, and finally the combined arms victory at Fort Fisher. President Lincoln, if he said what was attributed to him, revealed his lack of understanding that a victory had to have some strategic result.
 

Georgia Sixth

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Location
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Some good points. Too many people look at Perryville, for example, and bash Bragg. Meanwhile, they ignore the results of Davis's failure to actually force Kirby Smith to cooperate, instead just giving guidance on that issue, which led to Smith more or less operating independently of Bragg - an obvious problem. In addition, and as already noted, saddling somebody with a group of subordinats that included the likes of Polk, Hardee, and Breckinridge was not conducive to success. No question that Bragg's own character deficits played a part but the other non-Bragg elements tend to get de-emphasized.
I've actually found Shelby Foote's accounts of the episodes involving Bragg to be quite balanced. He brings out so many points that most others overlook, and that's where I've learned most of this. You're dead on about the impossible situation with Smith in Kentucky. Foote does a good job of describing this too. A totally messed up command situation.
 

David Moore

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Location
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President Lincoln had a very low bar as to what he considered a victory. Because a blood bath so grim that neither belligerent could follow up on the result was just attrition. I suppose compared to Fredericksburg it was considered a victory. Strange to think that Murfreesboro was considered a victory compared to Vicksburg and Chattanooga, which had already happened by late in the war.
But still to occur, Five Forks, final breakthrough at Petersburg, Sailors Creek, and the almost bloodless victory of position at Appomattox. But the topic does reveal that many people in the US equated high casualties with hard fighting and determination. It was not a view shared by combat commanders who had decidedly seen enough of such things.
An important aspect of Dyomes River is when it happened. After Fredericksburg, Sherman’s repulse at Chickasaw Bayou and Grant’s supply depot being destroyed at Holly Springs. It also was fought on the eve of the day the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. Also interesting is that Lincoln said he had a dream the night before the battle. A reoccurring dream that usually came before somethimg important usually a victory. He also said he had it the night before he told this story which was the night before he was assassinated. Lincoln calling it a victory is what Grant objected to and is where Gideon Welles, whose diary is the source for this, noticed Grant’s jealous nature.
 

edfranksphd

Private
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So true. Historians, quite aware that the CSA lost the war, continually focus on the anti-Bragg cabal within the officer corps, while rarely writing about the pro-Bragg group. To be honest, I totally understand Jeff Davis' attraction to Bragg. This was the officer who assumed near corps-level command on his own during the chaos of the fighting at Shiloh. He kept up the pressure on the wing where A.S. Johnston wanted to apply the most pressure, and it was Bragg who was trying to make one last push to take Pittsburg Landing at the end of the day. The generals ranking him were noticeable in their comparative lack of initiative or vigor. Then he came up with the Kentucky incursion, which reversed much of the reverses of the spring campaign and took the strategic initiative back for several months. Then the surprise attack at Murfreesboro, then the trap to destroy Rosecrans that his subordinates bungled. It seems Polk's insubordination on the first day at Chickamauga, starting the assault hours behind schedule, seemed to finally make Bragg snap. His ignoring Longstreet that night was totally out of character. The poor defensive lines on Missionary Ridge were inexplicable. That nobody saw the problem is astounding. I have come to regard much of the confederate general staff as grossly unprofessional, the result, I think, of so many of the generals coming from the planter aristocracy, wealthy men accustomed to getting their way, quick to take insult at perceived slights or disrespect, ready to do pretty much anything to get back at those who failed to appreciate them as they felt they deserved. Really toxic, a perfect stew for what resulted -- back biting, quarreling clicks, insubordination and destructive politicking. Bragg definitely had his faults, most stemming from his own personality. Today, the historians focus on the downside to the point they cannot see his value at all. In a way, Bragg was the "orange man bad" of the civil war. The caricature became the narrative.
Brilliant apologia for Bragg, IMHO. You took the words right out of my mind, thus sparing me the same task. : )
 

edfranksphd

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I am a big fan of Hess. Bragg has always fascinated me. He came so close so many times. He was such a troubled man.
Hess did do a good job a treating Bragg in an unbiased manner, at least compared to anyone since Seitz of 1924, but Hess left quite a few important events and sources unexplored or perhaps edited out of the book, so that an even more complete and balanced history of Bragg still remains to be written, IMHO.
 

David Moore

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Location
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An important aspect of Stones. River is when it happened. After Fredericksburg, Sherman’s repulse at Chickasaw Bayou and Grant’s supply depot being destroyed at Holly Springs. It also was fought on the eve of the day the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. Also interesting is that Lincoln said he had a dream the night before the battle. A reoccurring dream that usually came before somethimg important usually a victory. He also said he had it the night before he told this story which was the night before he was assassinated. Lincoln calling it a victory is what Grant objected to and is where Gideon Welles, whose diary is the source for this, noticed Grant’s jealous nature.
 

Georgia Sixth

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According to Foote's telling of the battle, one of Rosecrans' aides said the council of war after the first day of fighting was absolutely gloomy. I interpret this to mean that rather than thinking they'd achieved a victory, they felt their backs were against the wall. After that council, Rosecrans rode out to see if a retreat route was possible. He spoked some fires out beyond his lines and erroneously concluded that his way back to Nashville was being cut off. Such was the luck of Braxton Bragg.

Now, David, what any of this has to do with your post about Lincoln's dreams, I don't know. Maybe other than to say that Grant wasn't alone in his assessment. Hope I haven't written something irrelevant to your post, which was quite interesting. I am aware that Lincoln insisted Stone's River was a victory, and I've always thought this was more a political assessment, as he felt he could only issue the Proclamation Emancipation in the wake of some military good news.
 

uaskme

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Rosecrans is 40 miles closer to Atlanta. Bragg has given up KY and a large portion of the Nashville Basin. This area produced a large portion of Pork and other groceries. Bragg‘s next move will lose all of it. AOT will suffer greatly for this. Bragg will ask for more Commissary's. Nothrop will tell Bragg to go back and take KY.
 

David Moore

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Joined
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Location
Washington, DC
According to Foote's telling of the battle, one of Rosecrans' aides said the council of war after the first day of fighting was absolutely gloomy. I interpret this to mean that rather than thinking they'd achieved a victory, they felt their backs were against the wall. After that council, Rosecrans rode out to see if a retreat route was possible. He spoked some fires out beyond his lines and erroneously concluded that his way back to Nashville was being cut off. Such was the luck of Braxton Bragg.

Now, David, what any of this has to do with your post about Lincoln's dreams, I don't know. Maybe other than to say that Grant wasn't alone in his assessment. Hope I haven't written something irrelevant to your post, which was quite interesting. I am aware that Lincoln insisted Stone's River was a victory, and I've always thought this was more a political assessment, as he felt he could only issue the Proclamation Emancipation in the wake of some military good news.
Ultimately the CW was a political war. A political realignment was in the future and opportunities abounded for political gain.
Lincoln had a bad 1862 and a particularly bad December. Grant and Sherman didn’t help. There was also the concern that the British Parliament in its next meeting would recognize the Confederacy. The Emancipation Proclamation date was already set. Obviously it was on Lincoln’s mind. That Stones River was considered a victory in early 1863 is really beyond dispute. I discuss all this in my book.
Problem with Foote is that there is no documentation. He himself said he was writing a narrative not scholarly history.
 

wausaubob

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Ultimately the CW was a political war. A political realignment was in the future and opportunities abounded for political gain.
Lincoln had a bad 1862 and a particularly bad December. Grant and Sherman didn’t help. There was also the concern that the British Parliament in its next meeting would recognize the Confederacy. The Emancipation Proclamation date was already set. Obviously it was on Lincoln’s mind. That Stones River was considered a victory in early 1863 is really beyond dispute. I discuss all this in my book.
Problem with Foote is that there is no documentation. He himself said he was writing a narrative not scholarly history.
Which implies that Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, and Spotsylvania must have been considered victories too. It provides a cogent explanation for why the US Civil War was a blood bath.
Mobile Bay, Fort Fisher, Five Forks, Winchester III and its follow up, maybe those were actual victories.
 

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