Friday, July 20, 2012

Two more reasons for failure

On page 201 of Lee's Maverick General, Daniel Harvey Hill, Hal Bridges writes, "Distrust of Bragg was rife among the generals of his army.

"There was ample reason for it. Bragg had his share of personal bravery, patriotism, and organizational ability, but these strengths were vitiated by serious weaknesses. He was, as his chief of staff, General William W. Mackall, confided to his wife, a vacillating commander who had trouble deciding when and where to move his troops. Hill thought his wavering attitude stemmed largely from inadequate knowledge of the enemy. Unlike Lee, Bragg seemed to have no well-organized system of independent scouts, but to get his information about Federal movements chiefly from his cavalry, which had difficulty penetrating the enemy's infantry-supported cavalry screen."

The second reason, also from Bridges' book on D. H. Hill, is Bragg's unclear orders. "They were likely to be ambiguous, and were sometimes 'impossible,' as Hill termed those which could not be carried out because they ignored the physical realities of the military situation. Worse yet, when Bragg blundered he was prone to look for a scapegoat to bear the blame.

"The result of all this was a paralysis of initiative in the high command. Bragg's generals obeyed his orders with extreme caution, because if they acted and then found the orders impossible to execute, or for some other reason failed to attain success, they might be pilloried. Their professional instinct for survival kept them thinking as much about protecting their reputation as about striking the enemy."

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