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Of the eight men who reached the rank of full general in the Confederate army Braxton Bragg was certainly the most controversial.

McWhiney intended this work – first published in 1969 – to be the first of two volumes covering the life of the Confederacy’s most problematic general. This reprint edition is issued along with Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat, Volume II by Judith Lee Hallock. McWhiney’s work carries Bragg through the defeat at Murfreesboro in January 1863, and Hallock’s book continues through the staff appointment in Richmond and Bragg’s final days as a private citizen.

What makes the set especially interesting is that McWhiney’s book is far more critical of Bragg than is Hallock’s. What may be at work here is the fact that for the first two years of the war the South was triumphant however, by fighting an exclusively defensive war and allowing the industrialized north time to produce the munitions – and even the men through immigration – the tide inevitably turned.  Irrespective of how talented their generals were, or how principled their leadership was, or even how correct their position was they were finally no match for the industrial north.

You must remember that when South Carolina forced the surrender of Fort Sumter the only union casualty was the result of a faulty cannon fired in salute at the lowering of the Flag. In every other case garrison’s, armories and other “federal” facilities were simply turned over to legitimate state militias under the legitimate command of the state govenors. By the time the South realized that the union was going to conduct a war to the knife it was too late and men like Bragg were left fighting what amounted to a rear guard action while the politicians sought peace with a man that one of the leading abolitionists, Wendell Phillips, characterized by saying, “he is a huckster in politics; a first-rate second-rate man,” which falls far short of his predecessor’s, Franklin Pierce’s, judgement, “To the extent of his limited ability and narrow intelligence the willing instrument [of the abolitionists] for all the woe which [has] thus far been brought upon the country and for all the degradation, all the atrocity, all the desolation and ruin.”

McWhiney may have the perfect name for a historian published by Columbia and Hallack’s may be the more enlightening volume.

Braxton Bragg and Confederate defeat – Volume I    Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, c 1991 Grady McWhiney Generals Confederate States of America Biography, Bragg, Braxton, 1817-1876 Hardcover. 2 v. : ill. ; 23 cm. Reprint with new pref. and new maps. Originally published: New York : Columbia University Press, 1969.  Tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  G/G

Born in 1817 in North Carolina, Bragg ranked high in the graduating class of 1837 at West Point. He served with distinction in both the Seminole War and the Mexican War. Just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, Bragg was promoted to major general. In June 1862 Bragg was named Commander of the Army of Tennessee, the principal Confederate force in the West, and was described by Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin as “the greatest General.”

Yet less than two years later Bragg was the South’s most discredited commander. Much of this criticism was justified, for he had done as much as any Confederate general to lose the war. Under his direction the army fought four major campaigns before retreating from Kentucky through Tennessee to Georgia. The army’s failures were Bragg’s failures, and after his defeat at Chattanooga in November 1863 Bragg was relieved of field command.

Instead of retirement to the obscurity most people believed he so richly deserved, Bragg received a remarkable promotion: he went to Richmond as President Davis’s military adviser.

Braxton Bragg and Confederate defeat – Volume II    Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, c 1991 Judith Lee Hallock Generals Confederate States of America Biography, Bragg, Braxton, 1817-1876 Hardcover. 2 v. : ill. ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references and indexes. Tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  G/G   

In summer 1863, Confederate General Braxton Bragg was commander of the Army of Tennessee., still reeling from its defeat in January at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Failing to establish a strong defensive position at either Tullahoma or Chattanooga, Bragg saw the heartland of the South gradually slip away from him. Victory at Chickamauga Creek in September – Bragg’s last military success – was followed by disaster at Missionary Ridge and, shortly thereafter, his removal from army command.

Within three months, however, President Jefferson Davis had restored Bragg to active military involvement, naming him military adviser for the Confederacy. Here, finally, Bragg’s skills as an administrator and organizer bore fruit – as did his penchant for provoking quarrels and disunity within the military establishment. Reassigned to field command in late 1864, Bragg concluded his army service with defeats at Wilmington and Bentonville, North Carolina.            The prevailing view of Bragg’s is a false one. Rather, he was a valuable asset to the Confederacy, a talented organizer whose gifts were misused by the nation he served. For the first time, Bragg’s tenure in Richmond is examined carefully and evaluated. Contrary to the common view that Bragg was nothing more than a sycophant to President Davis, this study shows that he and Davis often disagreed on policy. Much of Bragg’s present reputation among civil war scholars is based upon how contemporaries viewed him. Despite Bragg’s determined devotion to the Confederacy, his frailties have shaped the literature to such an extent that his real accomplishments have been distorted or ignored. In this study the author has tried, as General Joseph E. Johnston once advised, to “have a little charity for Bragg.”

Judith Lee Hallock draws a balanced picture of Bragg and of his important role in the Confederacy beginning in 1863. Her volume continues and completes the biography of Bragg published in Volume I by Grady McWhiney in 1969. Along with the military details, the author provides a full accounting of Bragg’s fractious relationships with other members of the military, a critical factor in this period for the entire Confederate command. This sympathetic biography of Bragg gives valuable insight into the workings of the Confederacy in the last two years of its struggle for independence.


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