Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: General Braxton Bragg, C.S.A. by Samuel J. Martin

I won this book from LibraryThing and although it has taken a long time to read it, I'm very pleased with it. Enough so that I will keep it.

It looks like a textbook, 10 x 7 inches, no dust cover, shiny hard cover with a portrait of Bragg on the front, and small print with occasional illustrations inside. Minor quibble: it could have used better proof-reading and the battleground maps are hand-drawn and not very helpful.

Confederate General Bragg was a controversial man. He was abrupt, didn't take crticism or even suggestions well, and in general was difficult to get along with. He could even be cruel, but he honestly cared about his men and they knew it. In fact, he always established his headquarters well back from the front lines because after seeing the men bleeding and dying at Shiloh, hearing the screams amid the chaos of battle, he simply couldn't stand to watch it again.

As I read this book, I was amazed that anyone could win the Civil War. Obviously, someone had to win, but with officers regularly disobeying orders, and foot soldiers going AWOL, no wonder Bragg was criticized so much for mismanagement of battles. He also had enemies who were plotting against him, such as Gen. Pope (an Episcopalian Bishop), Patrick Cleburne, Joe Johnston, and many others. Fortunately, Bragg and Pres. Jefferson Davis were old friends. More than once Davis saved Bragg from going down in flames. Many of the C.S.A. officers were veterans of the Mexican War, as was Bragg, and some of the hard feelings stemmed from that war.

This author set out to give an unbiased defense of Bragg. He didn't entirely succeed because his admiration for the man does define the text. He does include Bragg's many faults though, and the reader ends up with admiration for Bragg despite his faults. The end of his life at only 59 years of age comes after a period of time when he was unable to find work. He and his devoted wife suffered much in the aftermath of the war, even living in what had been slave quarters on his brother's farm for some time. It was a sad end for an honorable man who sacrificed everything for what he thought was a just cause.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading about CWA generals, but I probably couldn't handle the small print any more!