Civil War Confederate General Braxton Bragg (March 22, 1817 - September 27, 1876) was a career United States Army officer, and then a general in the Confederate States Army - a principal commander in the Western Theater of the American Civil War and later the military adviser to the Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Bragg, a native of North Carolina, was educated at West Point and became an artillery officer. He served in Florida and then received three brevet promotions for distinguished service in the Mexican-American War, most notably the Battle of Buena Vista. He established a reputation as a strict disciplinarian, but also as a junior officer willing to publicly argue with and criticize his superior officers, including those at the highest levels of the Army. After a series of posts in the Indian Territory, he resigned from the U.S. Army in 1856 to become a sugar plantation owner in Louisiana.
During the Civil War, Bragg trained soldiers in the Gulf Coast region. He was a corps commander at the Battle of Shiloh and subsequently was named to command the Army of Mississippi (later known as the Army of Tennessee). He and Edmund Kirby Smith attempted an invasion of Kentucky in 1862, but Bragg retreated following the inconclusive Battle of Perryville in October. In December, he fought another inconclusive battle at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the Battle of Stones River, but once again withdrew his army. In 1863, he fought a series of battles against Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans and the Union Army of the Cumberland. In June, he was outmaneuvered in the Tullahoma Campaign and retreated into Chattanooga. In September, he was forced to evacuate Chattanooga, but counterattacked Rosecrans and defeated him at the Battle of Chickamauga, the bloodiest battle in the Western Theater, and the only major Confederate victory therein. In November, Bragg's army was routed in turn by Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the Battles for Chattanooga.
Throughout these campaigns, Bragg fought almost as bitterly against some of his uncooperative subordinates as he did against the enemy, and they made multiple attempts to have him replaced as army commander. The defeat at Chattanooga was the last straw and Bragg was recalled in early 1864 to Richmond, where he became the military adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Near the end of the war, he defended Wilmington, North Carolina, and served as a corps commander in the Carolinas Campaign. After the war Bragg worked as the superintendent of the New Orleans waterworks, a supervisor of harbor improvements at Mobile, Alabama, and as a railroad engineer and inspector in Texas.
After Rosecrans had consolidated his gains and secured his hold on Chattanooga, he began moving his army into northern Georgia in pursuit of Bragg. Bragg continued to suffer from the conduct of his subordinates, who were not attentive to his orders. On September 10, Maj. Gens. Thomas C. Hindman and D.H. Hill refused to attack, as ordered, an outnumbered Federal column at McLemore's Cove (the Battle of Davis's Cross Roads). On September 13, Bragg ordered Leonidas Polk to attack Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Crittenden's corps, but Polk ignored the orders and demanded more troops, insisting that it was he who was about to be attacked. Rosecrans used the time lost in these delays to concentrate his scattered forces. Finally, on September 19–20, 1863, Bragg, reinforced by two divisions from Mississippi, one division and several brigades from the Department of East Tennessee, and two divisions under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet from Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, turned on the pursuing Rosecrans in northeastern Georgia and at high cost defeated him at the Battle of Chickamauga, the greatest Confederate victory in the Western Theater during the war. It was not a complete victory, however. Bragg's objective was to cut off Rosecrans from Chattanooga and destroy his army. Instead, following a partial rout of the Union army by Longstreet's wing, a stout defense by Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas allowed Rosecrans and almost all of his army to escape.
After the battle, Rosecrans's Army of the Cumberland retreated to Chattanooga, where Bragg laid siege to the city. He began to wage a battle against the subordinates he resented for failing him in the campaign - Hindman for his lack of action in McLemore's Cove, and Polk for delaying the morning attack Bragg ordered on September 20. On September 29, Bragg suspended both officers from their commands. In early October, an attempted mutiny of Bragg's subordinates resulted in D.H. Hill being relieved from his command. Longstreet was dispatched with his corps to the Knoxville Campaign against Ambrose Burnside, seriously weakening Bragg's army at Chattanooga.
Some of Bragg's subordinate generals were frustrated at what they perceived to be his lack of willingness to exploit the victory by pursuing the Union army toward Chattanooga and destroying it. Polk in particular was outraged at being relieved of command. The dissidents, including many of the division and corps commanders, met in secret and prepared a petition to the president. Although the author of the petition is not known, historians suspect it was Simon Buckner, whose signature was first on the list. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet wrote to the Secretary of War with the prediction that "nothing but the hand of God can save us or help us as long as we have our present commander." Cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest, dissatisfied after a long association with Bragg, and bitter about his failure to pursue the defeated Union forces after Chickamauga, refused to serve under him again. He told Bragg to his face, "You have played the part of a damned scoundrel. ... If you ever again try to interfere with me or cross my path it will be at the peril of your life." With the Army of Tennessee literally on the verge of mutiny, Jefferson Davis reluctantly traveled to Chattanooga to personally assess the situation and to try to stem the tide of dissent in the army. Although Bragg offered to resign to resolve the crisis, Davis eventually decided to leave Bragg in command, denounced the other generals, and termed their complaints "shafts of malice".