Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy

Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy

Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy

Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy

Synopsis

As a leading Confederate general, Braxton Bragg (1817-1876) earned a reputation for incompetence, for wantonly shooting his own soldiers, and for losing battles. This public image established him not only as a scapegoat for the South's military failures but also as the chief whipping boy of the Confederacy. The strongly negative opinions of Bragg's contemporaries have continued to color assessments of the general's military career and character by generations of historians. Rather than take these assessments at face value, Earl J. Hess's biography offers a much more balanced account of Bragg, the man and the officer.

While Hess analyzes Bragg's many campaigns and battles, he also emphasizes how his contemporaries viewed his successes and failures and how these reactions affected Bragg both personally and professionally. The testimony and opinions of other members of the Confederate army--including Bragg's superiors, his fellow generals, and his subordinates--reveal how the general became a symbol for the larger military failures that undid the Confederacy. By connecting the general's personal life to his military career, Hess positions Bragg as a figure saddled with unwarranted infamy and humanizes him as a flawed yet misunderstood figure in Civil War history.

Excerpt

Braxton Bragg has always been a controversial figure of the Civil War. His contemporaries began the process of making him into a hero, a fool, a bloodthirsty disciplinarian, and an old-fashioned scapegoat, all wrapped up in one package. Historians have tended to do similar things, followed by a legion of Civil War enthusiasts who seem to delight in making of Bragg the Confederacy’s chief whipping boy.

It is not easy to gain a proper perspective on Bragg because of these kaleidoscopic views of his personality and generalship. His image has been warped and tainted by them. One need only mention his name at a Civil War round table meeting to bring a guffaw from someone who will make a snide comment about the general. Nearly everyone has a negative view of Bragg, and yet he remains one of the most popular figures of the Civil War. Even those who think poorly of his war career are fascinated by it, and almost any group of Civil War students or historians will engage in a heated discussion about his impact on the course of the conflict.

This book is an effort to understand many things about Bragg the man and the Civil War general. To understand the man, it delves into his personality, his family life, and his views of Southern culture when slavery was at its height and most of the South fought a desperate war for independence. Bragg fully embraced that war because he had come to embrace the plantation culture that he thought was at the heart of the Southern independence movement. Bragg’s career as a Confederate general is probed deeply, including the many controversies surrounding his handling of Confederate troops in the field. the connections between Bragg’s personal life and his military career are explored as well. the deep and intense controversies about his generalship unfortunately have had the effect of dehumanizing Bragg. He has become almost a cardboard figure among Civil War enthusiasts and even among some professional historians.

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