Friday, November 28, 2008

A Step Forward And A Step Back

I have recently been reading Martin Dugard's The Training Ground: Grant, Lee, Sherman, and Davis in the Mexican War, 1846-1848. Of course I eagerly went to see how many familar faces I could come across, including Captain Bragg. Well, we get a little bit of good, and the same old bad. In regard to Bragg, Dugard says, "The North Carolinian was a tyrant, despised by his troops for his fanaticicism about discipline and protocol. He had finished fifth in the West Point class of 1837, which had graduated more than a dozen future generals-a startling figure, given that it comprised just fifty men. Bragg was lean like a knife's blade, tall, with iron gray eyes, great bushy eyebrows, and a sharp, unshaven chin whose point was accentuated by whiskers extending down both sides of his face to the jawbone. He was prone to depression, hypochondria, boils, and chronic diarrhea. Strangely, despite all this, women found him to be extremely charming. Bragg could display a sly sense of homor to those he pursued. Among his men, however, such attributes might be spoken of but were never witnessed...Bragg's character was potentially assailable, but his ability and intellect were not. Actually, he was something of a military genius. Bragg's specialty was artillery...Bragg was adept at mobilizing and firing all of these weapons. Yet his favorite was the six pounder...,the smallest cannon in the modern American military arsenal."
Sadly it seems the author relied to heavily on Civil War writings about Bragg, without checking them. Although Bragg's health was never great, the list of maladies he lists come from the 1860s, not the 1840s. Also, the opinion of Bragg as a tyrant comes more from post Civil War writings. Bragg was more a problem with superiors than his men, of course there is the story of the "fragging", but no one ever checks the story out, to see that the soldier that tried that had tried to desert and had been punished by Bragg, if he had been such a tyrant, the soldier would have been executed. However, it is at least refreshing to see Bragg being given some credit for his ability, particularly in artillery. So you have to take the good with the bad.

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