Monday, August 22, 2016

Booknotes: Braxton Bragg

New Arrival:
Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy
by Earl J. Hess (UNC Press, 2016).

History has not been kind to Braxton Bragg, to put it mildly. I've never held a copy of newspaperman Don Carlos Seitz's 1924 biography Braxton Bragg: General of the Confederacy, but the story goes that historian Grady McWhiney found Bragg so distasteful that he couldn't finish his own attempt at a biography, leaving the second volume to Judith Lee Hallock to complete. Readers tend to share the same dismissively negative opinion of the general's Civil War career. The McWhiney-Hallock biography was the standard treatment for a long time, but a much more recent effort, Samuel Martin's General Braxton Bragg, C.S.A. (2011), finally attempted to restore some balance to the equation (how well it did this, I cannot say firsthand). Earl Hess's new book also seeks to establish a more evenhanded picture of the man and the general. Braxton Bragg "analyzes Bragg's many campaigns and battles, he also emphasizes how his contemporaries viewed his successes and failures and how these reactions affected Bragg both personally and professionally. The testimony and opinions of other members of the Confederate army—including Bragg's superiors, his fellow generals, and his subordinates—reveal how the general became a symbol for the larger military failures that undid the Confederacy." Previously, Hess offered some hints to his approach in the Stones River essay he contributed to the 2015 anthology Border Wars: The Civil War in Tennessee and Kentucky, and I am looking forward to reading the full exploration of his ideas in this book.

1 comment:

  1. I read this book in galley to review it for Civil War News (it appears in the current issue). Hess' study is outstanding, and I highly recommend it. My review is also on Amazon (with a few minor editorial changes.)

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