Sunday, October 4, 2009

Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat Volume II

by Judith Lee Hallock

From the publisher:
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.

Judith Lee Hallock is a teacher in Centrereach, New York.

From the critics:
“Hallock has undertaken the difficult task of explaining a complex, sick, cantankerous, and unpopular Confederate general who failed as a field commander yet became military adviser to President Jefferson Davis. Her biography is especially satisfying because, without being overly sympathetic or critical, she makes Bragg not into a hero but into an understandable person. She is neither too hard nor too easy on him, but she gives Bragg his due. . . .She depicts him with warts and all and thereby achieves what every biographer hopes to accomplish – a good understanding of her subject.” – Grady McWhiney, Texas Christian University

“It is well-written, judicious, and based on sound and wide-ranging research. Wisely, she has not written a polemic in excuse, nor does she allege competencies beyond Bragg’s scope. Rather, she acknowledges his inadequacies, agrees with most poor assessments, and yet portrays his flawed character sympathetically – a real achievement!” – Frank E. Vandiver, Texas A & M University

This is the first paperback edition of a previously published hardback.