Saturday, March 19, 2016

A new Bragg bio from Earl Hess

I had surmised that Earl Hess's recent article reassessing Bragg's generalship at Stones River in Border Wars: The Civil War in Tennessee and Kentucky presaged the release of his own already anticipated full study of that battle. Turns out instead that he's finished a biography of that gentle soul.  Braxton Bragg: The Best-Hated Man of the Confederacy is scheduled for publication later this year by UNC Press (the publisher doesn't have a book page up yet to confirm but I am guessing, given the heading of Hess's recent talks and the later audio version's title, that the print title given at the destination linked to above is temporarily incorrect).


  1. Good, I think Hess will write what will be to date (and by far) the best Bragg bio.

    I have long believed Bragg was better than his record indicates. David Powell's Chickamauga research and resulting campaign trilogy, coupled with his "Failure in the Saddle" book, cemented this belief in hard facts. Had Bragg been been able to match his military abilities to more suitable personality/leadership traits, who knows what he could have accomplished. Unfortunately for the South, he could not harness his generals to act in tandem to do what the army needed done. Certainly he had outstanding troops, and many outstanding lieutenants.

    So I look forward to this book.

    1. I am definitely up for a new biography. I did get a copy of Martin's book a few years ago but didn't get to it (either due to time or first impressions turned me away, don't recall which).

    2. This should be interesting. Biography seems to be a new realm for Hess. I'd expect that it will be slanted towards a military analysis, which would be just fine since I think we are thoroughly versed in Bragg's personality and his poisonous dealings with his subordinates.

    3. John,
      I think so, too. If the article is any indication of the kind of analysis that will be employed throughout, then he definitely has something interesting to say.

  2. From amazon:

    "As a leading Confederate general, Braxton Bragg (1817 76) earned a reputation for incompetence, for wantonly shooting his own soldiers, and for losing battles. This public image established him not only as a scapegoat for the South's military failures but also as the chief whipping boy of the Confederacy. The strongly negative opinions of Bragg's contemporaries have continued to color assessments of the general's military career and character by generations of historians. Rather than take these assessments at face value, Earl J. Hess's biography offers a much more balanced account of Bragg, the man and the officer. While Hess 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. By connecting the general's personal life to his military career, Hess positions Bragg as a figure saddled with unwarranted infamy and humanizes him as a flawed yet misunderstood figure in Civil War history."

    Sounds promising. Can't wait...


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