By Tyler Howat
General Braxton Bragg is almost universally said to be the most controversial officer of the Army of the Confederate States of America (CSA), known for his combative nature, short temper, and fastidious attention to military precision-which made it difficult for him to work well with those around him.
Braxton Bragg was born on March 17, 1822 in Warrenton, North Carolina and throughout his young life he did his best to become a part of the upper tier of southern society, though was never truly accepted, regardless of the fact that his father was a rather prosperous carpenter. Some theorize that this rejection early in life may have contributed to his abrasive personality.
His older brother, Thomas, would eventually go on to be the Attorney General of the Confederate States.
Early Military Career
After graduating fifth in his class from West Point in 1837, Bragg was directed to Florida to participate in the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) as a second lieutenant in the 3rd United States Artillery. Following the resolution of the conflict in Florida, Bragg served under General Zachary Taylor in Texas during the Mexican-American War, where he set himself apart during the battles at Monterey and Buena Vista for his "prompt and fearless conduct" and quickly rose through the ranks (http://ngeorgia.com/ang/Braxton_Bragg). By the time Bragg resigned his commission in 1856 he was a lieutenant colonel and decided to run a plantation in Louisiana, and also worked as a commissioner of the public works of Louisiana from 1859 to 1861, though he still remained a member of the Louisiana Militia through the outbreak of the Civil War.
In 1861, when hostile feelings between the states fully transitioned into war, Bragg was commissioned by the newly appointed President of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis as a brigadier general. Bragg again quickly rose in rank, attaining promotions to major and lieutenant general while stationed in Pensacola, Florida and ultimately was placed in command of the Department of West Florida and Alabama.
Bragg was transferred to Corinth, Mississippi, commanding the Army of Mississippi in order to ready the Confederate troops there for the upcoming conflicts. He then marched his troops to Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee and participated in the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1861), earning another promotion to full general on April 6 after the death of General Johnston. Due to illness, General P.G.T Beauregard resigned from the Confederate military and Bragg replaced him and took on the command of the Army of Tennessee.
In August of 1862, Bragg led the Army of Tennessee from Mississippi to Tennessee to coordinate with Lt. General Edmund Kirby Smith in an invasion into Kentucky in hopes of luring Major General Don Carlos Buell across the Ohio River. In the Battle of Munfordville (September 14-17, 1862), Bragg's command captured 4,000 Union troops. After installing a Confederate governor of Kentucky on October 4, 1862, he ordered a wing of his army to Perryville (October 8, 1862) and defeated Buell's Army of Ohio, winning the single battle tactically, though resulting in an overall strategic defeat for the invasion of Kentucky. Bragg was forced to withdraw back to Tennessee following the battle, in the face of a harsh winter with few supplies and a considerable loss of troops. This decision, as well as others, was received unfavorably by many of his senior officers, who then appealed for his transfer. Nothing officially came of this insubordination, though the succeeding lack of morale was surely detrimental to Bragg's army.
Bragg ushered in 1863 with battle in Murfreesboro, Tennessee called the Battle of Stones River (December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863). General Buell's replacement, William Rosencrans, was ordered to move aggressively against a waiting Bragg, who had just lost 7500 troops sent to Vicksburg. Bragg moved farther south and into Georgia, eventually pursued by Rosencrans and his Army of the Cumberland. They met again for one of the decisive Union defeats of the Civil War on September 18-20, 1863 at Chickamauga in Georgia, causing Rosencrans to retreat back into Tennessee. Once again, however, many of Bragg's officers felt he did not press his advantage following such a great victory, and made further noise against him, causing some of them to be transferred or demoted. Bragg then lay siege to the city of Chattanooga, to which Rosencrans' army withdrew.
General Ulysses S. Grant marched his forces to Chattanooga, replaced Rosencrans and reinforced the Union Army besieged there. This led to the Battle of Chattanooga (really the 3rd Battle of Chattanooga, though it is the most famous), from November 23-25, 1863. This battle was a crucial victory for the Union Army, as it was the final defeat of Bragg's army. Bragg was relieved of his command and sent to Virginia to serve as a military advisor and Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate Army to CSA President Jefferson Davis in early 1864.
In the fall of 1864, Bragg was given a command in North Carolina in an attempt to stop General Sherman's seemingly unstoppable march. He was defeated at several points, and never regained respect or glory.
Post Civil War
After the surrender at Appomattox, Bragg worked as an engineer and railroad inspector in Alabama and Texas. He finally died in Galveston, Texas on September 27, 1876.
Little Known Facts: Bragg served with George Gordon Meade in the 3rd US Artillery in Florida during the Seminole Wars.
Bragg also served with Colonel Jefferson Davis under General Taylor during the Mexican-American War, and was the target of assassins for his courage.
Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina is named in honor of General Braxton Bragg.
- McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States), Oxford University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-19-503863-0.
- McWhiney, Grady, Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat, Volume 1-Field Command, Columbia University Press, 1969, ISBN 0-231-02881-4.
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