Friday, July 27, 2012

Hallock, Bragg, Longstreet & Forrest

I am 104/273 through Judith Hallock's Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat, Volume II. I read up through Hallock's account of Chickamauga and Bragg's subsequent controversies with his chief lieutenants. I was appalled at her treatment of Longstreet. Oh yes, I had encountered "Lost Cause" writers before but I didn't expect a historian writing a book on Bragg in 1991 to be one. For example, Cozzens (in his History of Chickamauga) describes Longstreet's penetration of Rosecrans right wing and of his racing back to Bragg to request additional troops so he could pursue that portion of the army which was fleeing before him. Bragg, Cozzens reports, didn't believe Longstreet and only wanted to talk about Polk's refusing to obey orders.

Hallock, tellingly tells us that previous historians have mistakenly relied upon Longstreet which automatically makes Longstreet's account false. Of course one would have to rely upon Longstreet because he was the one whose troops routed Rosecrans right wing. Who else would be asking Bragg for troops . . . but wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Hallock tells us that it was Bragg's "brilliant" order which caused the routing of Rosecrans right wing. Oh, yes, Longstreet did okay in following orders but that was all.

As to why Bragg didn't permit pursuit of the fleeing Federals? Well that was because it wasn't known that the whole Federal Army had left the field until the next morning. She even sites Longstreet saying that he expected to encounter Federal troops in the morning, therefore what he said about pursuit must be wrong. But he never said he routed the whole federal army, just the right wing and it was that right wing, those fleeing troops which Hallock doesn't mention but can hardly deny that Longstreet wanted to pursue.

Hallock sort of alludes to this with a gratuitous (assuming she has successfully demolished the traditional view that Longstreet routed the Federals Right Wing on his own volition and wanted to pursue it) conclusion that everyone in Bragg's army was too worn out to engage in any pursuit.

I was so disappointed in what I was reading from Hallock that I checked to see if she had written anything else thinking this book might have been so denigrated (except by David Powell who seems to have found inspiration in Hallock), but no, she wrote a book on Longstreet. Eight people wrote reviews of Hallock's book on Longstreet. All eight gave her book the worst possible rating. One person called it "Lost Cause Propaganda," which is what I would expect based on the way she treated Longstreet in her book on Bragg.

She also takes a nontraditional view about the confrontation between Forrest and Bragg in which Forrest insults Bragg in order to force him to approve his transfer. I read of this confrontation in several books, but she says the source of that story is not to be believed. She says Bragg got rid of Forrest because he wasn't doing a good job. He was after all merely a partisan raider.

I wonder what Grady McWhiney, who was too nauseated to finished his projected Volume II but instead turned the project over to his graduate student Judith Hallock. On the back cover of Hallock's book he writes "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 . . . depicts Bragg with warts and all and thereby achieves what every biographer hopes to accomplish -- a good understanding of her subject."

Was McWhiney being disingenuous? Probably not. Hallock wouldn't agree that Bragg failed as a field commander because of anything he didn't do but because his troops wouldn't obey him. But Hallock would reword that slightly to say he failed as a field commander because he couldn't command his chief lieutenants; which is a failure. A general has to have the respect and obedience of his lieutenants and any General who doesn't have it can be said to fail . . . I recall that John Bell Hood was given last minute responsibility for Franklin and didn't get wholehearted support from his lieutenants. I am tempted to excuse Hood but not Bragg, but only because Bragg had a lot more time to shape his army than Hood did.

Hallock does describe all the "warts." I must admit that, and she doesn't pretty all of them up -- but she does pretty up enough of them to make me reach for the Alka Seltzer.

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