Braxton Bragg Bio-Sketch
QUICK FACTS (BB)
Name: Braxton Bragg
Rank: Full General
Education: U. S. Military Academy
Birth Date: March 22, 1817
Birth Place: Warrenton, NC
Death Date: September 27, 1876
Death Place: Galveston, Texas
Braxton Bragg, born March 22, 1817 to Thomas and Margaret Bragg was one of six sons. He grew up in Warrenton, NC where his father was a carpenter. With his family being lower class, Thomas Bragg had to save up to send Braxton to the Warrenton Male Academy. This private facility was one of the premier schools in the state. Thomas Bragg wanted his son, Braxton, to be a soldier, and had his older brother, John, a state legislator, secure Senator Willie P. Mangum’s appointment of Braxton to the U. S. Military Academy. Therefore, at the age of 16, Braxton Bragg enrolled in the U. S. Military Academy. Bragg performed well at West Point, receiving few demerits, and achieving academic success. In the class of 1837, Braxton Bragg placed fifth out of one hundred and fifty. Upon graduation, he received commission as Second Lieutenant in the 3rd U. S. Artillery.
Bragg served in the Second Seminole War in Florida as a commissary officer. Getting sick, Bragg blamed the tropical climate of Florida and sought a medical transfer. This transfer sent Bragg to recruiting duty in Philadelphia. However, he was received orders back to Florida as a company commander and assumed command of Fort Marion. In this role, he labored for the improved conditions for his men, and was labeled “disputatious”
Braxton Bragg, a strict disciplinarian, followed policy and regulations to the letter. He later survived two assassination attempts on his life in 1847. In one, the attackers exploded a twelve-pound ball under his cot. Bragg, who was unscathed, never brought charges against anyone for the attacks.
In 1844, Bragg testified in front of a Congressional Panel despite orders from General Winfield Scott not to. Arrest and confinement at Fort Monroe, VA resulted. In the trial, Bragg led his own defense, which turned into a condemnation of Scott. Found guilty, Bragg received a reprimand and suspension at half pay for two months. This being a relatively mild punishment, Bragg continued to criticize his superiors.
March 1, 1845 found Bragg and his artillery company ordered to the aid of General Zachary Taylor in the defense of Texas from attack by Mexico. Lieutenant Bragg received promotion to captain in June of 1846. Leading his artillery, he gained the professional admiration of many men in Taylor’s command. Implementing new tactics of light artillery gained Bragg the respect of Taylor. In the Battle of Buena Vista in February 1847, Bragg gained national recognition for placing his artillery in a gap in the line and repelling a larger Mexican force that was attacking Colonel Jefferson Davis’s Mississippi Rifles. The admiration that Bragg gained from the future U. S. Secretary of War and President of the Confederacy remained in his memory.
Upon his return to the United States, Braxton Bragg met and married Eliza B. Ellis in 1849. The Army life sent them to serve at many outposts in Indian Territory and Texas, which were unsuitable for the young married couple. Wanting to move his artillery battery from the frontier, Bragg took leave and went to Washington to speak with Secretary of War Davis. This action would not lead to the moving of the battery, so, on December 31, 1855 Braxton Bragg resigned from the Army.
Bragg and his wife moved to Thibodaux, LA and set up a sugar cane plantation. He utilized 105 slaves in his operation there. His stern disciplinary and efficiency traits led to quick profits. Bragg was worried about the division the nation was starting to develop. He did not believe in secession.
Before the Civil War, Bragg received appointment as a Colonel of the Louisiana Militia. Governor Moore tasked him with developing a 5,000-man army in 1860. In January 1861, Bragg led 500 volunteers in the capture of the Federal arsenal in Baton Rouge. The Louisiana Secession Convention established a state army to aid in its defense. Bragg, tapped to lead this army, received appointment to Major General. His command received transfer to the Confederate Army in March of 1861 with him receiving a brigadier general commission and command of the West Florida Department. Upon his promotion in September 1861 to major general, Bragg became commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department by order of President Davis. Bragg declined this command and it fell to Edmund Kirby Smith. Bragg recommended that Davis combine his troops with those in Tennessee for a more concentrated force. Davis agreed and Braxton Bragg, with 10,000 men, traveled to Corinth, Tennessee to join Albert Sydney Johnston there. He led a corps under Johnston and served as Chief of Staff. With the death of Johnston, P. G. T. Beauregard assumed command, and Bragg was his second in command. The Union troops pushed the Confederates back to Corinth.
Bragg was promoted by order of Jefferson Davis to full general, dating from April 6, 1862. Bragg was the sixth man appointed to this rank and only one more promoted after Bragg received his appointment. This promotion left Bragg in command of the Western Department. Leading this Department, Bragg joined with Edmund Kirby Smith in a movement in Tennessee and Western Kentucky culminating at the Battle of Perryville where his men fought Union forces under Don Carlos Buell. Bragg pulled his men back despite the requests of Smith to continue to fight and press their advantage. Bragg’s Army took up positions around Nashville. During this period, he received orders to go to Richmond to answer complaints from his subordinates who were calling for his replacement. Jefferson Davis ultimately ordered Bragg back to command the army which he moved to Murfreesboro, TN. The complaints by his subordinates led to problems for Bragg during the remainder of the war.
December 31, 1862 found Bragg’s men in the Battle of Stones River. This engagement pitted the Army of the Cumberland against Bragg’s men. On January 2, 1863, Bragg ordered an attack against the Union troops whom they had pushed back two days prior. The well-entrenched Union men fought gallantly and caused Bragg’s Army to fall back due to severe winter weather and a lack of progress. Two of his corps commanders, Hardee and Polk, recommended he withdraw his forces to Tullahoma, TN. Bragg heeded this advice and withdrew from battle.
Several of Bragg’s commanders again voiced their displeasure to Jefferson Davis in regards to the handling by Bragg of his army in Kentucky and Stones River. Joseph Johnston investigated the concerns with hopes by Jefferson Davis that he would assume command. However, upon his arrival he found Bragg’s Army of Tennessee well equipped and well disciplined. Johnston refused to take command of the Army. Davis ordered Bragg to Richmond, however, due to his wife’s illness there was a delay in the carrying out of this order. By the time Bragg went to Richmond, Johnston was unable to take command due to his injuries sustained at Seven Pines.
Bragg and his army remained at Tullahoma and entrenched the area making it a strong defensive position. In June of 1863, Rosecrans flanked Bragg’s Army and forced it back across the Tennessee River. In July of 1863, Simon Buckner’s command of 17,000 men joined the Army of Tennessee’s 52,000 men. This also brought another subordinate who did not like Bragg. Hardee received a transfer to Mississippi and Lt. General Daniel Harvey Hill received assignment as his replacement. Bragg remained cautious of Rosecrans’s Army and eventually gave up the City of Chattanooga on September 8, 1863.
General Braxton Bragg led his Army of Tennessee into Northern Georgia. He continued to be bothered with insubordinate officers. D. H. Hill and Major General Hindman refused to attack a Federal column and then, Polk refused to attack without reinforcements. The Army of Rosecrans took these delays and consolidated.
Rosecrans pursued Bragg into Georgia before Bragg turned on him and attacked at, what would be known as, the Battle of Chickamauga. The Army of Tennessee, reinforced by Lt. General Longstreet with two divisions from Virginia, and two more divisions from Mississippi, was ready for battle. After a fierce battle between the Army of the Cumberland and the reinforced Army of Tennessee, Rosecrans had to retreat with both sides suffering heavy loses. This action was the best Western Theater victory of the Confederacy. However, it did not accomplish its goal of crushing Rosecrans and cutting him off from Chattanooga. It was a stubborn defense by General Thomas and his men. It saved the Army of the Cumberland as it retreated to Chattanooga.
Bragg laid siege to the Army of the Cumberland in Chattanooga. While doing this, he also began to do battle with the subordinates that he believed failed him in the campaign. Bragg suspended Polk and Hindman for their insubordination. In early October, D. H. Hill lost his command, due to an attempted mutiny by other officers against Bragg.
In this time, numerous generals expressed their displeasure with Bragg’s command and lack of following up the victory at Chickamauga. Lt. General Longstreet wrote the Secretary of War requesting the removal of Bragg. Numerous other generals in command of corps and divisions signed a petition for his removal from command. Jefferson Davis traveled to the Army to stem the tide and investigate the complaints. The conclusion of his investigation led to Bragg offering a resignation; however, Davis left him in command and denounced his other officers.
Longstreet’s departure to Knoxville weakened Bragg’s Army. Bragg attacked the Union forces at the Battle of Chattanooga. At the Battle of Lookout Mountain, his army was routed by a frontal assault. This action caused the Army of Tennessee to retreat to Dalton, GA. Bragg offered his resignation on November 29, 1864. Davis immediately accepted it much to the chagrin of Braxton Bragg.
General Braxton Bragg received a reassignment as President Davis’s Military Advisor. In this position, he improved the conscription process and supply systems. He also took over command of prisons and hospitals in the Confederacy. While in Richmond, he quarreled with many other prominent officers and officials. However, Robert E. Lee was the exception, as Bragg would not quarrel with Lee, noting that both were close with President Davis and both remained very polite and cordial to each other.
In May of 1864, Bragg received the task of improving the defenses of Richmond along with P. G. T. Beauregard. Davis consulted with Bragg on who should command the Army of Tennessee with his thoughts of replacing Johnston with Hardee. Bragg did not want to see Hardee appointed to command and recommended Lt. General John Bell Hood. Davis accepted Bragg’s recommendation and General Hood received command of the Army of Tennessee.
Bragg received orders to go to Wilmington, NC to command the defenses there. At the request of General Robert E. Lee, Bragg became commander of the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. With Sherman’s March to the Sea under way, Davis ordered Bragg to defend Savannah, then Charleston before returning to Wilmington in 1865. He was present for the first attack on Fort Fisher, which was successfully repelled. In the second attack on Fort Fisher, Bragg’s actions were not highly regarded. He believed Fort Fisher impenetrable due to the first attack being repelled and did not support it with reinforcements in time for it to hold.
Braxton Bragg would begin to see his Confederate military career fall around him. In February, he was relieved as Davis’s Military Advisor with General Lee as General-in-Chief of all forces. Then, further upsetting Bragg was the return of Joseph E. Johnston to command the Army of Tennessee’s remnants in South Carolina and Georgia, and John Breckenridge’s appointment as Secretary of War. He requested a transfer but President Davis could not authorize it due to political concerns from the Trans-Mississippi area. In effect, he would lead a corps under General Johnston for the Carolina’s Campaign. Bragg saw some success scoring a minor victory at Kinston, NC before being defeated with Johnston at Bentonville, NC. With the fall of Richmond on April 2, he met up with President Davis and attended the final Confederate Cabinet Meeting. Upon the close of this meeting, Bragg rode with part of his staff west. They would be capture and paroled on May 1 in Georgia.
Braxton Bragg and Elise lost their sugar cane plantation in 1862 by occupation of the Federal Army. In 1867, he became Superintendent of the New Orleans waterworks. He lost this position to a black man when the Re-constructionist Party came to power. In 1869, Jefferson Davis offered him a job selling insurance for the Carolina Life Insurance Company. He worked for four months in this position before becoming frustrated with low pay and dissatisfaction. He drifted into the town of Mobile, AL and worked briefly as an engineer there before quarreling with numerous top officials. He moved to Texas and became Chief Engineer for the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad. Due to a disagreement over his wages, railroad officials removed him after only a year. He remained in Texas as an Inspector of Railroads. He died in Galveston, TX while walking down the street. His remains rest in Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, AL.