A Bragg Supporter…

I recently picked up a new book, edited by my friend Lee White – Ranger at Chickamauga – of the letters of C. Irvine Walker of the 10th South Carolina Infantry and of Brigadier General Arthur M. Manigault’s Staff. The letters are great.

Walker struggles to be eternally optimistic, no easy task in the Army of Tennessee. He is also a Bragg supporter, defending Bragg to the home folks (including his fiance – now there’s a topic for a lover’s quarrel: Braxton Bragg!) even after Perryville, Stone’s River, and Tullahoma. He does seem a bit down after Tullahoma.

However, Chickamauga provided a bit of (short-lived) redemption. In his letter of October 5th, C. Irvine wrote: “I am exceedingly glad to see that you and the rest of the world have begun to believe that Genl. Bragg is a General. (Modern MTV Translation: I got yer Bragg right here, B***H!) Alas, Missionary Ridge, just a few short weeks later, would end that euphoria, though from what I have read so far, Walker maintained his loyalty to Bragg well past the end of the war.

There is one other tidbit that touches on range and tactics. In January, 1863, a few days after Murfreesboro, the 10th had a clash with the 15th PA cavalry. The 10th was haphazardly armed, and included several companies carrying old .69 caliber smoothbore muskets converted to percussion. Walker noted their range – 100 yards – allowed the Yankee pickets to close with impunity. One night the regiment replaced those pickets with companies carrying rifled arms -Enfields, from the context, with a range of 500 yards according to Walker – and ambushed the over-bold Federals.

The letters are outstanding. If you want a look inside the Army of Tennessee, pick up a copy. Below are a couple of links that might help…

http://bullyforbragg.blogspot.com/2009/02/great-things-are-expected-of-us.html

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/1572336633/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books

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12 Responses to “A Bragg Supporter…”

  1. Dean Essig Says:

    Wow Dave, you really have gone over to the darkside.

    Lee can’t tie his own shoes (at Gettysburg, at least) and Bragg is starting to look like a regular guy. Not to mention all those “Adventures of Braxton Bragg” CWB games…

    What is this world coming to?

    You need to produce a published article on a reassessment of Braxton Bragg to give a wider audience a chance to get some of the insights you are digging up.

  2. Lee White Says:

    Dave, Thanks for the kind words. Irvine definately has a unique view of the world, and keeps that optomistic view past the point of rational thought.

  3. Dave Powell Says:

    Well, they are not all my insights – there are a small group of Bragg fans in the world…

    My book on Confederate Cavalry in the Chickamauga Campaign will try and cast some light on some of the difficulties Bragg faced, but will also highlight a number of instances where his problems were of his own making.

    And I am still of the opinion that any game with Bragg in it needs an “anybody but Bragg’ optional rule:)

  4. Dave Powell Says:

    Lee,

    I should mention that the letters are nicely edited, too – informative without being intrusive. A real find. Now for that Cleburne diary…

  5. Dean Essig Says:

    Excellent… have any ETA on the Cav book? Love to see how your view of Bragg has evolved… I seem to recall you once reading a book on Bragg and told me that “guys write books like this because they like the guy or want to destroy them… this guy tried to like Bragg, but part-way through just ripped out his hair and gave up… he really was that bad” or something like that.

  6. Dave Powell Says:

    Dean,

    With luck, the Cav book will be out by the end of the year, assuming I can get all the loose ends wound up.

    You are thinking of a famous quote in ACW historiography. In 1969 Gr4ady McWhiney published Volume I of a projected two volume bio on Bragg. The rumor is that after Volume I, he was so depressed by his association with the man that he never did volume II. In 1991, one of his Grad Students, Judith Lee Hallock, finished Volume II.

    I have heard that McWhiney alwyas denied the rumor, but I will say that there is a marked difference in tone between volumes I and II. McWhiney had few good things to say about ol’ Braxton.

  7. Bin Wang Says:

    Hello Sir

    I stumbled upon your website while reading Cozzens’ “This Terrible Sound.” My main interest is in Federal regimental histories and have just recently switched over to reading some battle histories by the likes of Cozzens and Rhea. I am amazed by the detail and exactness of your contribution, well done!

    My understanding was that it wasn’t so much a matter of Bragg being a poor general than a matter of severe discord within his army’s chain of command. The Army of the Cumberland may have had a share of poor generals, but there was at least a good level of cohesion and unity that Polk, Hardee, D.H. Hill and Bragg never had. The Army of the Cumberland is probably the most underrated army of the war; much more stand-up fighting was done at Stones River, Chickamauga, Franklin and Nashville than before Vicksburg or along the march to Savannah. That Bragg had to go up against Thomas certainly doesn’t contribute to his reputation, esp. with difficult subordinates.

    P.S. — Have you thought about doing a post about Heg and the 15th WI, one of the more unique Federal regiments comprised of Norwegians from the upper midwest. After being cut up at Stones River, they took under 200 into Chickmauga in J.C. Davis’ division, Heg commanding the brigade, and against suffered horribly, with Heg killed. I think the unit was pulled out of front line battle for the duration of the way, split into companies to guard various outposts and supply routes, and mustered out piece-meal at war’s end, a sad ending for the Norwegians.

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Bin,

      It is important to remember that one of a commander’s primary missions is to create an effective team. Washington, for example, was hardly the best tactician or strategist in the Revolution, but he did forge a loyal and effective team. Bragg’s greatest failing was that he could not do this.

      I know Heg and his Norwegians well. I do intend to post on them. The regiment did fight again, all through the Atlanta campaign, but did not go on to Savannah. Heg has several statues around the globe, including two in Wisconsin (one by the state capital, and one in a park outside of Racine) and a third in his ancestral home in Norway – perhaps the only statue to a Union General that far north. I have managed to visit the two statues in Wisconsin, but not the one in Norway…

  8. Bin Wang Says:

    Indeed Dave, one of the best things about the Army of the Cumberland was that its leadership generally worked well together, even if McCook and Crittenden weren’t the best generals in the world.

    Although I lived in Norway for 2 years, I don’t believe I saw the Heg statue either, it was in Lier in Buskerud.

    W. Ager’s volume on the 15th WI is a nice find if you can get your hands on it. Regiments numbered “15” seemed to have all performed well with the Army of the Cumberland, see 15th KY, 15th MO, 15th WI, etc.

    Oh and I see you’re in Chicago; I went to HS in Libertyville. 🙂

  9. Chris Evans Says:

    I’m not a Bragg ‘fan’ really but I can see that he has gotten sometimes a raw deal in Civil War circles. I have really toyed around with doing a complete biography of him that would try to go further and be more colorful than McWhiney was. I have said before that if people can do bios on Hitler and Stalin that they could certainly do a complete bio on Bragg. I know he was certainly not the most likable man but I do find him a real character. I think a comprehensive book on him could really add to the study of the prewar army, the politics and strategy of the Army of Tennessee, and his strange working relationship with Jefferson Davis.
    Thanks,
    Chris

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Chris, Bragg could use a new biography. McWheney’s part of that bio dates from 1969, while Judith Lee Hallock’s volume II was written in 1991 – hardly new anymore. A ‘revisionist’ take on Bragg would be useful. He is hard man to like, however.

  10. Chris Evans Says:

    I agree. He really was a grouch most of the time. It’s almost comical ,if it wasn’t so tragic, how Leonidas Polk would really get under Bragg’s skin. It seems to me that Bragg’s health problems led at least to some of his strange behavior. I’ve wanted to visit where Bragg is buried at Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, Al. That is a pretty historic Civil War cemetery akin to the ones in New Orleans.
    Chris

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