On this day in 1817, Confederate General Braxton Bragg is born in Warrenton, North Carolina. Bragg commanded the Army of Tennessee for 17 months, leading them to several defeats and losing most of the state of Tennessee to the Yankees.
Bragg graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1837, and went on to fight in the Seminole War of the 1830s and the Mexican War in 1846 and 1847. In Mexico, he earned three promotions but also survived two assassination attempts by soldiers in his command. Bragg was temperamental and acerbic, a capable soldier but a difficult personality. These character flaws would later badly damage the Confederate war effort.
When the Civil War began, Bragg was appointed commander of the Gulf Coast defenses but soon promoted to major general and attached to General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Army of Tennessee. Bragg fought bravely at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862, leading attacks while having two horses shot out from under him. When Johnston was killed during the battle, Bragg became second in command to Pierre G. T. Beauregard. After Beauregard was forced to relinquish his command for health reasons, Confederate President Jefferson Davis turned to Bragg.
Bragg’s record as army commander was dismal. He marched northward in the fall of 1862 to regain Kentucky, but was turned back at the Battle of Perryville in October. On New Year’s Eve, Bragg clashed with the army of Union General William Rosecrans at the Battle of Stones River, Tennessee. They fought to a standstill, but Bragg was forced to retreat and leave the Union in control of central Tennessee. In the summer of 1863, Rosecrans outmaneuvered Bragg, backing the Confederates entirely out of the state. Only at Chickamauga, Georgia, in September did Bragg finally win a battle, but the victory came in spite of Bragg’s leadership rather than because of it.
Bragg followed up his victory by pinning the Yankees in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Union forces, now led by General Ulysses S. Grant, broke the siege in November and nearly destroyed Bragg’s army. Bragg was finished, having now alienated most of his generals and lost the confidence of his soldiers. He resigned his command and went to Richmond, Virginia,to be a military advisor to President Davis. Bragg fled southward with Davis at the end of the war but both men were captured in Georgia. Bragg was soon released, andworked as an engineer and a railroad executive before his death in 1876.