Cursory sketch of the campaigns of General Bragg.

By Major E. T. Sykes.

The army at Dalton.

The Army of Tennessee fell back and went into winter quarters at Dalton, Georgia, forty miles distant from Chattanooga, and where the Georgia State road connects with the East Tennessee railroad.1 Soon after, General Bragg, appreciating his relations to [2] the service, and feeling that a portion of his troops were dissatisfied with and disposed to criticise his military operations, to allay all apprehensions, patriotically requested the President to relieve him from the command of that army whose fortunes he had followed and whose fate he had shared through the trying vicissitudes of more than two years of active operations. His request was granted and Lieutenant-General Hardee temporarily placed in command, in a short time to be replaced by General Joseph E. Johnston. But the President, knowing General Bragg's abilities and appreciating them, was not disposed so summarily to dispense with his services, and hence immediately called him to Richmond in the capacity of military adviser. Thus ended the connection of General Bragg with the Army of the West, or, as then more properly termed, the ‘Army of Northern Georgia.’

General Bragg relieved of command and Susequent visit to the army.

He never, subsequent to that time, made but one visit to his old and to him cherished command, and then to find it sadly changed—a visit pregnant with the issues of its life or death and involving the very existence of the Confederacy. It was at or about the time of the removal of General Johnston from, and the substitution of the ‘bravest [3] of the brave,’ the gallant J. B. Hood, to the command of the army with the rank of General.

General Hood Commanding army of Northern Georgia.

Hood was offered a sacrifice on the shrine of his country, and be it said to his glory and honor that, knowing it, he, for his country's good, unhesitatingly accepted its consequences. On his assumption of the command of the army, if I recollect correctly, it did not aggregate, including every arm of the service, but little in excess of twenty-five thousand effective men, and yet with that number he was willing, from a sense of patriotic duty, to compromise his bright and brilliant military record with the masses, who were ignorant of the situation, the most if not all of whom were his admirers, and to the ability of his little army, to give battle to the overwhelming odds under Sherman, for the one last lingering hope of holding Atlanta, the key to the Confederacy.

And, though failing in the end, gallantly did he redeem his responsible pledge. The venture was hazardous in the extreme, and it required brave officers to meet the emergency. 'Twas then that the brave and chivalric Stephen D. Lee, who merited the high compliments of President Davis, paid him before the Legislature of Mississippi the year previous, was called to the command of Hood's corps, and our equally gallant and intrepid Jacob H. Sharp and others, tried and true men, were promoted to the rank of general officers, in which capacity their military skill was more urgently needed and their valuable services could at the same time be rewarded The battles of the 22d and 28th of July, 1864, around Atlanta, and at Jonesboroa on the 31st August following, attested the wisdom of these appointments. And although we were not successful in the immediate results of the battlefield, we showed to the haughty enemy that all chivalry was not buried in the grave of Charlemagne, but some, at least, remained to adorn the brow and make resplendent the character of the Southern officer and soldier. That character to-day of the Southerner which makes him respected abroad and by his enemies, and the latter is by every hellish device endeavoring to destroy and render ignoble, is as surely the result of her sons' bravery upon the field of battle as that the needle points unerringly to the pole. They may endeavor to crush out the last spark of patriotism in the breasts of her fellow-braves, but never, as long as she has sons and daughters worthy of their proud lineage, can our enemies succeed, but from each fell blow we [4] and our children will rebound, Phoenix-like, to assert our equality. Her children, whether at home or wandering abroad, will remember with fondness the land of their nativity, and, remembering, cherish the cenotaphs erected to commemorate the deathless valor of the Confederate soldier, be he officer or be he private, who fell battling for her rights, and revere the tottering steps of the old man who in years to come will tell in nursery tales to his anxiously listening offspring of the hardships he endured and the dangers he braved in behalf of his country's honor. And none more than the one of whom I am immediately speaking can truthfully and proudly relate them of himself.

The writer will never forget the remark made by Hood the night after he crossed the Chattahoochie and had established headquarters with General W. H. Jackson, commanding the cavalry of his army, and on whose staff the writer at that time was A. A. General. It was a dark and rainy night, and when the courier came up and reported that the last of the army had crossed and the pontoons had been taken up, Hood remarked to the circle of officers present: ‘I once more feel glorious; I am north of the Chattahoochie.’ Then we lay down for the night, to resume on the next morning in good earnest the march into Tennessee which terminated so disastrously at Nashville.


In conclusion of this sketch, which is written purely from recollection, and partly from memoranda made at the time, I deem it not amiss to say in justification of General Bragg's discipline that it was simply the misfortune of the Confederacy that she had so few officers like him to carry out and enforce her laws, and thereby render her arms what they should have been, efficient and perfect.

Captious critics, the most of whom were in the rear, could not appreciate the vital importance of discipline in an army, nor did they stop to reflect that the very laws the operations of which they so much condemned were enacted by their Congressmen chosen by their suffrages, and some of whom, strange to say, united in the clamor. Like the President, Bragg was, in one sense of the term, an executive officer, and the law of Congress making it a death penalty to run cotton through the lines had by him, as a good and true officer, to be rigidly enforced, regardless of its propriety in the abstract.

When caught in the act the accused was given the benefit of a trial before a court-martial, and if found guilty, and the proceedings in [5] other respects being regular, he invariably received the punishment awarded.

The pithy maxim of Talleyrand, ‘nothing succeeds like success,’ is a vulgar and ofttimes an erroneous criterion.

Concede the applicability of such a test to the relative valor, generalship and military character of the Northern and Southern armies, during the war, and we ‘exalt the soldiers of the North above all precedent and consign the unequalled valor of the Southern soldiery to reproach, instead of the deathless fame which shall survive them. To such a judgment every battle-field of the war gives emphatic and indignant contradiction.’

Time, the great arbiter of us all, is as sure to give Bragg rank among the first Generals of the late war and triumphantly vindicate his discipline, as that it will dissipate the twilight haze which yet ‘obscures the grand effort of patriotism’ of which he was a prominent helmsman. With a devotion which shrank from no sacrifice and quailed before no peril, he buckled around him the armor of the right and wielding the shield of Achilles, which the inferior Greek was unable to lift, despite overwhelming numbers of the enemy, furnished by his example the strongest evidence of his belief in the correctness and justice of the cause he espoused.

1 Extract from a letter of General Bragg to the writer, dated February 8th, 1873:

‘In our retreat from Missionary Ridge, the enemy could make but a feeble pursuit, for want of artillery horses (Grant's report). At the mountain gorge near Ringgold, I believed he could be successfully repulsed, and the army quickly withdrawn. General Cleburn, one of the best and truest soldiers in our cause, was placed at that point in command of the rear guard. Late at night, hours after all the army was at rest, my information being all in, I called for a reliable confidential staff officer, and gave him verbal directions to ride immediately to Cleburn, about three (3) miles in my rear, at this mountain gorge, and give him my positive orders to hold his position up to a named hour the next day, and if attacked, to defend the pass at every hazard. The message was delivered at Cleburn's camp fire. He heard it with surprise and expressed his apprehension that it would result in the loss of his command, as his information differed from mine, and he believed the enemy would turn his position and cut him off. “But,” said he, true soldier as he was, “I always obey orders, and only ask as a protection, in case of disaster, that you put the order in writing.” This was done as soon as materials could be found, and the staff officer returned and reported the result of his mission. He had not reached me, however, before the attack, in front, as I expected, was made. Cleburn gallantly met it, defeated the enemy under Hooker, drove him back, and then quietly followed the army without further molestation. Mark the difference in conduct and results. A good soldier, by obedience, without substituting his own crude notions, defeats the enemy and saves an army from disaster. And mark the credit he gets for it. The Confederate Congress passed a vote of thanks to the gallant Cleburn and his command for saving Bragg's army. Not to this day has it ever been known that he did it in obedience to orders and against his judgment, which does not detract from, but adds to his fame. Captain Samuel A. Harris, Assistant Adjutant-General, of Montgomery, Alabama, was the officer who delivered the order. He is now an Episcopal clergyman, with the largest congregation in New Orleans, and has recently repeated the whole matter to me as distinctly as if it had occurred yesterday.’

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