The Art of Command in the Civil War

By Steven E. Woodworth | Go to book overview

7 / Braxton Bragg and the Tullahoma Campaign

STEVEN E. WOODWORTH

For the Confederacy, May and June 1863 were the best of times and the worst of times. They saw both dramatic victory and dismal defeat. At the beginning of May, a large, powerful, well-equipped and -supplied Fed­ eral army advanced, turned its opposing Confederate army--and was roundly defeated and driven back in disgrace. At the end of June, another large, powerful, well-equipped and--supplied Federal army advanced, turned its opposing Confederate army--and without fighting a major bat­ tle sent the gray-clad defenders reeling back some eighty miles and almost out of the state they were supposed to defend. The May advance, of course, was that of Joseph Hooker's Army of the Potomac in Virginia; its defeat was the Battle of Chancellorsville, perhaps Robert E. Lee's finest hour as a commander. The June advance was that of William S. Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland in Middle Tennessee; its result was what has become known as the Tullahoma campaign--definitely not Braxton Bragg's finest hour as a commander.

The essay that follows is not a tale of two commanders or of two cam­ paigns. The reason for mentioning the Chancellorsville campaign is to demonstrate by way of contrast that something about the Tullahoma cam­ paign requires explanation. Why was its result so dramatically different from what happened in Virginia six weeks earlier? True, this question could be dismissed simply by saying that Braxton Bragg was no Robert E. Lee, and certainly no one can dispute that fact. Nor was Bragg's Army of Tennessee the same as Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. But the differ­ ences between the two commanders and their subordinates are neither as obvious nor as simple as mere issues of good strategy and tactics or the lack thereof. The differences lie far more in less tangible factors, and Bragg's ex­

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