Of the eight men who reached the rank of full general in the Confederate army Braxton Bragg was the most controversial. The North Carolinian West Pointer (1837) had earned a prewar reputation for strict discipline as well as a literal adherence to regulations. At one time, the story goes, he actually had a written dispute with himself while serving in the dual capacity of company commander and post quartermaster. His pre-Civil War career was highly distinguished. After seeing action against the Seminoles, he went on to win three brevets in the Mexican War, in which his battery of “flying artillery” revolutionized, in many respects, the battlefield use of that arm. In 1856 he resigned his captaincy-he was a lieutenant colonel by brevet-in the 3rd Artillery and became a Louisiana planter.
Initially commanding in Louisiana, he was later in charge of the operations against Fort Pickens in Pensacola Harbor. Ordered to northern Mississippi in early 1862, he briefly commanded the forces gathering there for the attack on Grant at Shiloh. During the battle itself he directed a corps and was later rewarded with promotion to full general. As such he relieved Beauregard when he went on sick leave and was then given permanent command in the West.
Having served during the Corinth siege, he led the army into Kentucky and commanded at Perryville, where he employed only a portion of his force. On the last day of 1862 he launched a vicious attack on the Union left at Murfreesboro but failed to carry through his success on the following days. Withdrawing from the area, he was driven into Georgia during Rosecrans’ Tullahoma Campaign and subsequent operations.
In September he won the one major Confederate victory in the West, at Chickamauga, but failed to follow up his success. Instead he laid siege to the Union army in Chattanooga and merely waited for Grant to break through his lines. In the meantime he had been engaged in a series of disputes with his subordinates especially Leonidas Polk, James Longstreet, and William J. Hardee that severely injured the effectiveness of the Army of Tennessee. Several top officers left the army for other fields, and Longstreet and Simon B. Buckner were dispatched into East Tennessee. With the army thus weakened, Bragg was routed at Chattanooga and was shortly removed from command. Almost immediately he was appointed as an advisor to Jefferson Davis, his staunch supporter, and maintained an office in Richmond.
Ineffective in the position of quasi- commander in chief, he was dispatched to North Carolina in the waning days of the war. The forces under his command remained inactive during the second attack on Fort Fisher, allowing it to fall. When Joseph E. Johnston assumed command of all forces in North Carolina on March 6, 1865, Bragg was soon relegated to supervision of Hoke’s division from his old department. In that capacity he surrendered near Durham Station. For a time after the war he served as Alabama’s chief engineer and then settled in Galveston, Texas where he died September 27, 1876, while walking down the street with a friend. He is buried in Mobile, Alabama. He was the brother of Confederate Attorney General Thomas Bragg.
- Colonel, Louisiana Militia (early 1861)
- Major General, Louisiana Militia (early 1861)
- Commanding Department of Louisiana (February 22 – March 1861)
- Brigadier general, CSA (March 7, 1861)
- Commanding Pensacola, Florida (March 11 – October 29, 1861)
- Major General, CSA (September 12, 1861)
- Commanding Department of Alabama and West Florida (October 14, 1861 February 28, 1862)
- Commanding Army of Pensacola (October 29 – December 22, 1861)
- Commanding Army of the Mississippi (March 6-17, May 7 – July 5, August 15 – September 28 and November 7 – 20, 1862)
- Commanding 2nd Corps, Army of the Mississippi (March 29 – June 30, 1862)
- General, CSA (April 12, 1862, to rank from the 6th)
- Commanding Department (June 17 – October 24, 1862 and November 3, 1862 July 25, 1863)
- Commanding Army of Tennessee (November 20, 1862 -December 2, 1863)
- Commanding Department of Tennessee (August 6 – December 2, 1863, except briefly in August)
- Commanding Department of North Carolina (November 27, 1864 -April 9, 1865, but under Joseph E. Johnston from March 6, 1865)
- Supervising Hoke’s Division, Hardee’s Corps, Army of Tennessee (April 9 – 26, 1865)