WNC Civil War Roundtable

H. F. Robinson Auditorium, Western Carolina University
1 University Way, Cullowhee
Marcia Woosley
Apr 10, 2017
7:00 PM


Monday, April 10, Chickamauga-Chattanooga NMP Park Ranger W. Lee White will explore the career of the irascible Braxton Bragg.   White, who spoke before the WNCCWRT in January 2015, returns this time to give context to the fitful Southern military command structure in the Western Theater, assessing causes and consequences of the Army of the Tennessee during the early stages of the war.   Those wishing to join speaker White for dinner may do so at Bogart’s in Sylva at 5 pm.  Late comers can catch up with the Round Table at the HF Robinson Auditorium on the campus of Western Carolina in Cullowhee at 6:30 for a light refreshment-social with White’s presentation to begin shortly after 7pm.

A native of Georgia, White’s expertise is in the Western Theater, and it is only natural that Gen. Braxton Bragg would become a part of White’s wheelhouse on the round table and symposium circuit.  However, earning his keep, White is faced with the tough task of making one of the South’s reviled personalities, if not sympathetic at least historically significant.  Also, as a member of the Emerging Civil War group, White has written or contributed three published works.  His first released in 2013, Bushwhacking on a Grand Scale: The Battle of Chickamauga, as part of the ECW blog’s series.  The release of another offering, Let Us Die Like Men: The Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864 by him and the ECW is scheduled for October of this year.  He also edited Great Things Are Expected of Us: The Letters of Colonel C. Irvine Walker, 10th South Carolina Infantry CSA.

To the topic at hand, Braxton Bragg, a native of North Carolina, was born in 1817 in Warrenton.  Attending USMA at West Point, Bragg graduated fifth in the Class of 1837.  It was the lasting relationships developed during the Mexican-American War that would foretell the political alliances in the Confederate command structure less than twenty years later.  Bragg’s 3rd Artillery which provided support to then Col. Jefferson Davis’ Mississippi Rifles at the Battle of Buena Vista.

Joining the Confederate Army, Bragg would serve with distinction as a corps commander at Shiloh.  The reorganization of the Confederate command (due to Gen. Albert S. Johnston’s death) of the Western Theater, would make Bragg commander of the then Army of Mississippi (eventually Army of Tennessee) in the summer of 1862.  All throughout his career he had the reputation of rigid disciplinarian, inflexibility, blame-shifting, and quarrelsome. Avoiding psycho-history, he simply did not get along nor “play well with others.”

It was in the autumn of ’62 when embarking on the joint operation (the Heartland Offensive) with Kirby Smith and his Army of East Tennessee that Bragg’s character flaws were no longer just his but were to become intertwined with his command’s morale and hampered the Southern war effort.  The campaign dissolved into a poorly coordinated, ill-timed series of inconsequential battles, save the strategic draw at Perryville (October, 1862), which culminated in a withdrawal back to Tennessee. And this was only the beginning …

Canvassing recent historiography on the Confederate’s seventh highest-ranking general does not necessarily exonerate Braxton Bragg, but examines more closely the role of his sub-ordinates and that of the political leadership in Richmond for the command debacle in the West.  Those not familiar with White’s previous work, be it tours or his insightful presentations, will enjoy his mastery of the subject along with his genial down-home delivery.

See you for dinner May 10 at 5:00 pm at Sylva Bogart’s.  The Round Table will then enjoy a social at 6:30 pm at H. F. Robinson Auditorium on the campus of Western Carolina University, followed by White’s discussion of how Gen. Braxton Bragg’s personality affected The War in late 1862.  Come join us.

For info    call  Paul Turner  at 828-648-2488