Saturday, May 22, 2010

A new Bragg biography

Someone is finally taking another stab at a Braxton Bragg biography. He's always struck me as an officer truly equal parts sinner and sinned against, and some modern historians are coming around to giving credit to the general as an able strategist. General Braxton Bragg, C.S.A. is scheduled for a winter release by McFarland. I am unfamiliar with the author, Samuel J. Martin, and his prior work, biographies of generals Judson Kilpatrick, Matthew C. Butler and Richard S. Ewell, so I don't know what to expect. I do seem to recall a rather negative review of the Ewell biography in one of the Civil War magazines, the writer finding Pfanz's tome much the better of the two.

Speaking of BB bios, has anyone read Don Seitz's Braxton Bragg: General of the Confederacy (1924)?

10 comments:

  1. Based solely on what I've heard about the other three books - particularly the Kilpatrick bio - I don't expect much.

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  2. Chris EvansMay 22, 2010

    I wish a heavier hitter than Martin would tackle this important subject. The author and the price don't scream must buy to me.

    I have never read Seitz's book on Bragg but always come across references to it in Western Theater books. McWhiney is really my first point of reference on a Bragg biography.

    Too bad James I. Robertson, Jr. has never tackled Bragg in a full blown biography because his 30 page essay-'Braxton Bragg: The Lonely Patriot'- in the book 'Leaders of the Lost Cause: New Perspectives on the Confederate High Command' is fair and relatively sympathetic without overlooking Bragg's many flaws.

    Thanks,
    Chris

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  3. Too bad if the author is not worthy, for Bragg is badly in need of a new biography that portrays him as something other than a caricature. I'd nominate Steven Woodworth, whose writings suggest that a balanced analysis would find a number of positives.

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  4. Same here, Chris. I frequently come across Seitz in the footnotes.

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  5. AnonymousMay 24, 2010

    Drew,

    I have read part of Sietz - as it pertains to Chickamauga. I found it to be lacking in a lot of detail.

    A new Bragg bio is badly needed. The existing McWhiney/Hallock was is quite disjointed, with Vol I (McWhiney) taking a much more negative tone than Vol II, (Hallock)

    But this new work seems to be coming with faint praise...

    Dave Powell

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  6. AnonymousMay 24, 2010

    Hello Drew and other readers

    I've not read the Seitz biography and I would think it is quite rare? I agree with some earlier comments, Bragg certainly needs an even-handed biography.

    I've not read any of this author's other biographies. I'm also not familar with this publisher.

    I believe this is the publisher that generally doesn't have any jackets on their books? I believe this publisher usually has a pictorial hardbound edition? It also seems that the books they publish are pricey.

    What are your general thoughts on the titles already published by McFarland? Which are your favorites?

    Looking forward to some of your upcoming reviews.

    Regards
    Don Hallstrom

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  7. A glitch caused Dave Powell's comment to be lost so I am reposting it:

    "Drew,

    I have read part of Sietz - as it pertains to Chickamauga. I found it to be lacking in a lot of detail.

    A new Bragg bio is badly needed. The existing McWhiney/Hallock was is quite disjointed, with Vol I (McWhiney) taking a much more negative tone than Vol II, (Hallock)

    But this new work seems to be coming with faint praise...

    Dave Powell"

    Thanks, Dave.

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  8. Don,
    Yes, I don't know of any McF Civil War books that have jackets. These days, they seem to be moving toward paperbacks more and more. I liken them to White Mane, in the wide spectrum of quality and subject matter. I do like many of them. If you do a search using the white Google box in the sidebar (the Blogger search box in the upper left is very unreliable) you can find a number of reviews.

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  9. Chris EvansMay 25, 2010

    From what I could find on the web Seitz apparently favorable toward Bragg in his biography.

    I'll still never understand why McWhiney never finished his Bragg bio. I know about the old canard about McWhiney not being able to stand Bragg any longer but I find more and more that that charming anecdote doesn't wash when authors can do 1000 page biographies on subjects like Hitler or Stalin.

    Chris

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  10. The Ewell biography was an embarrassment. Without a publisher's disclaimer saying that Martin has since become a historian, it's all but impossible for me not to dismiss the Bragg book out of hand, the same way I would immediately dismiss a biography by Bowers. He forfeited the benefit of the doubt.

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