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Braxton Bragg

By John T. Marck

Born in Warrenton, North Carolina on March 22, 1817, Braxton Bragg, by the age of twenty, graduated fifth in the class at West Point.

Rising to the rank of lieutenant general during the Mexican War, he left military service in 1856 to become a Louisiana planter. When the Civil War began, he was appointed a brigadier general in the Confederate army and was placed in command of the Pensacola-Mobile area. Within a year, he was promoted to major general and served under General Albert Sidney Johnston, commanding a corps at the Battle of Shiloh and the Siege of Corinth. By the summer of 1862, President Jefferson Davis, also a friend, promoted Bragg to the rank of full general and placed him in command of the Army of Tennessee.

From this point to war's end, Bragg's military leadership and success was quite dismay, although he started out well. Near summer's end in 1862, Bragg, thought his wit and skill, was successful in outflanking the Union forces in Tennessee, enabling him to invade Kentucky. However, then the Union forces defeated him at the Battle of Perryville, forcing him back into Tennessee. Next, Bragg, in late December 1862 and early January 1863, attacked Union General William Rosecrans and his army at Stone's River, and was heavily defeated. That September, Rosecrans met Bragg again when he outmaneuvered Bragg out of Chattanooga. However, a few days later, Bragg counterattacked Rosecrans and was able to drive his army back into Chattanooga. Bragg then made a major mistake by not following this victory up, and wasted the chance to defeat Rosecrans. Because of his mistakes, and especially as a result of Chattanooga, Bragg's popularity suffered, most of the generals under Jefferson Davis urged him to relieve Bragg of command. Still in command in November, Bragg suffered an embarrassing and overwhelming defeat at Missionary Ridge. Shortly after, Bragg resigned his command.

Jefferson Davis, still a friend of Bragg's, and desiring to pacify his remorse, made him chief of staff. Near war's end, following the promotion of Robert E. Lee as the commanding general of all Confederate armies, Bragg was given a division command under General Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee, whereby Bragg shared in the Battle of Bentonville.

Although Bragg exhibited talent in organization and strategy, these abilities were overshadowed by his defects in intellect. His military career thus was filled with errors, many wasted opportunities, pointless massacres, and ultimately, disasters.

Braxton Bragg died in Galveston, Texas on September 27, 1876.

Copyright 1993-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.