Friday, July 20, 2012

Bragg’s failed personality

Bragg had several ailments, some of which nagged him all the time and others incapacitated him. One can't blame Bragg for having those ailments but one can blame him for continuing as general in command of an army. Cozzens on page 5 of This Terrible Sound writes, "Bragg never wavered in his attention to duty, even though chronic ill health was gradually but unmistakably breaking him. Years earlier, as a lieutenant chasing Seminoles in the miasmal swamps of Florida, Bragg had had to come to terms with his unusual susceptibility to disease. While nearly everyone in that campaign suffered from the sun, insects, and fevers, Bragg was unusually hard hit, especially for a young man of twenty-one. After eight months in Florida his health gave out completely, and he was sent home to recover. From then on he suffered from one ailment or another, dyspepsia, dysentery, and chronic headaches all plagued him -- often striking in concert, and always most pronounced when he was under stress or despondent, as had been most of the time since taking command of the Army of Tennessee. His biographer [Grady McWhiney] has speculated that Bragg's ailments were partly psychosomatic. Whatever the cause they had taken a dramatic toll. Although just forty-six, Bragg looked years older."

Also, he had feuds going with just about all his lieutenants. When other writers I've read dwell upon the failure of someone to support Bragg they have these lieutenants in mind and not his cavalry. Also, these "other writers" won't say that all of these recalcitrant lieutenants were wrong.

On page 3-4 of This Terrible Sound, Cozzens writes, ". . . Polk had little Christian charity where Braxton Bragg was concerned. In his eyes Bragg was 'a poor, feeble-minded, irresolute man of violent passions . . . uncertain of the soundness of his conclusions and therefore timid in their executions.' Polk sought Bragg's removal not because he coveted his command -- he actually advocated replacing Bragg with Joseph E. Johnston -- but simply because he judged him incompetent, 'weakling, without the qualities requisite for his station.'

". . . William Hardee . . . urged Bragg's removal because he believed the army had lost faith in his generalship. Generals Patrick Cleburne and St. John Liddell quietly supported the anti-Bragg movement for the same reasons. Others, of whom Tennessean Benjamin Franklin Cheatham was the most notable, held personal grudges against Bragg that stemmed from the commanding general's unfortunate penchant for seeking scapegoats * in the wake of defeat.

In Cheatham's case, Bragg had good cause. Bragg censured him for being drunk at Stones River, which he evidently was, and blamed the faulty execution of the Confederate attack on the first day of the battle in part on Cheatham's intoxication. All too often, however, Bragg's accusations were baseless. Certainly this was the case when he held John C. Breckinridge accountable for the failure of the climactic attack on the second day at Stones River, which, though made by Breckinridge's division, had been faulty in its conception by Bragg.

"Breckinridge and fellow Kentuckian William Preston were estranged from Bragg for other, equally personal reasons as well. Both resented Bragg's undisguised contempt for the Kentucky soldiers in his army, whom Bragg's troubled mind somehow held to blame for the collapse of his invasion of their home state. Also, both were related to Joseph E. Johnston. They resented the favoritism Davis showed in retaining his friend Bragg in command while shelving Johnston, with whom the president did not get along, and they directed their anger at Bragg."

* On page 5 Cozzens writes "Without a doubt, the certainty that Bragg would be hunting for scapegoats should the day be lost made his subordinates reluctant to take the initiative. And where oral orders from Lee often sufficed in the Army of Northern Virginia, Bragg's generals insisted on getting everything in writing, no matter how much time might be lost in the process."

Here we see three reasons for failure (Bragg's illness, his feuds with his lieutenants and his propensity for assigning scapegoats for his failures) all of which "may" be more important than any "failure in the saddle." I have run across those three reasons for failure in several books so either the authors of those books overlooked Powell's "failure in the saddle" or they they chose not to take the position that he does about them.

No comments: