Teaching through our historic sites


Braxton Bragg (1817-1876)

Braxton Bragg was born on March 22, 1817 in Warrenton, North Carolina. His brother was future Confederate attorney general Thomas Bragg. He graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1837 and was appointed 2nd lieutenant in the 3rd US Artillery. He served in the Second Seminole War in Florida and the Mexican War. He was promoted to captain in June 1846, and earned brevet promotions as high as lieutenant colonel. Because he was a strict disciplinarian, he was not always popular with his troops, as evidenced by two assassination attempts carried out against him in 1847.

Bragg resigned from the army in January 1856 and became a sugar planter in Louisiana. He was also Commissioner of Public Works for the state and served as a colonel in the state militia. Upon Louisiana's secession from the Union, Bragg was promoted to major general of the militia.

When the Louisiana state forces were taken into the Confederacy, Bragg was appointed brigadier general and placed in command of the Department of West Florida. He was promoted to major general on September 12, 1861 and took command of the Army of Pensacola. After commanding a corps at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862 Bragg was promoted to general, one of only seven Confederate officers to attain that rank. He initially commanded the Army of Mississippi and, by June 1862, took over command of the Army of Tennessee. He coordinated an invasion of Kentucky (August-October 1862) before withdrawing back into Tennessee. His army suffered a defeat at the Battle of Stones River (December 31, 1862 – January 2, 1863). Bragg came under increasing pressure from disgruntled subordinates, but remained in command.

On September 19-20, 1863 Bragg led the Confederates to their biggest victory in the western theater at the Battle of Chickamauga. However, he earned continued criticism from his subordinates for not following up on the victory and routing the Union forces who regrouped at Chattanooga. On November 24, 1863, the reinforced Union army reversed Bragg's earlier success with a resounding victory at the Battle of Chattanooga. Finally, Confederate president Jefferson Davis replaced Bragg as commander of the Army of Tennessee with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. Bragg was called to Richmond to serve as military advisor for the president in February 1864.

Later in 1864, Bragg returned to the field, commanding the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia, the defenses of Augusta, Georgia, the defenses of Savannah, Georgia, and finally the defenses of Charleston, South Carolina. In January 1865, he returned to coastal North Carolina to take command of the defenses of Wilmington. Very few people in the South continued to have confidence in Bragg. Even the Richmond Enquirer newspaper ran a headline, "General Bragg is going to Wilmington. Goodbye Wilmington." By late February 1865, that headline had become a reality. Bragg had witnessed the fall of Fort Fisher and Fort Anderson, and he evacuated the remaining Confederate forces in the Cape Fear prior to the arrival of Union forces in Wilmington. For the remainder of the war, Bragg served as a corps commander in the Army of Tennessee under General Johnston. He was present for the Battle of Wyse Fork (March 8-10, 1865) and the Battle of Bentonville (March 19-21, 1865). He eventually fled with President Davis and his cabinet members after Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865.

After the war, Bragg returned to Louisiana and became superintendent of the water works for New Orleans. Later he became chief engineer for the State of Alabama, before moving to Texas to work as a railroad inspector. He died in Galveston, Texas on September 27, 1876.

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