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Ozzy

Bragg's Memoirs

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Along with George H. Thomas and Henry Halleck, Braxton Bragg is one of the Civil War leaders whose memoirs -- and raisons d'Etat -- I would most like to read. Many are the reasons given why General Bragg never got around to those musings; and this post suggests one more possibility, and it involves a man named Kinloch Falconer.

An 1860 graduate of the University of Mississippi, Kinloch Falconer joined the 9th Mississippi as a Private and accompanied his regiment to Pensacola, Florida in March 1861, and became part of Braxton Bragg's force there, occupying the former U.S. Navy Yard and all the pre-war fortifications... except Fort Pickens. The key to control of access to Pensacola Bay, Fort Pickens was a thorn in the side of General Bragg (who ordered Colonel Chalmers to attempt a night raid against that facility 8/9 October 1861.) A month later, on November 22nd a gunnery duel erupted, pitting Confederate batteries at Fort Barrancas and Fort McRee against Union-held Fort Pickens and a squadron of Federal warships in the Gulf of Mexico. Because the guns at Pickens and Barrancas were not designed to fire all the way across at each other -- about three miles -- neither of these forts suffered much damage.

Fort McRee (sometimes spelled Fort McRae) was another matter: only one mile from fort Pickens, on the opposite spit of land controlling the entrance to Pensacola Bay, Fort McRee was the most exposed of the Confederate positions. And it was just outside that wing-shaped fort that the 9th Mississippi was dug in, assigned to guns designed to prevent a landing by Federal troops. (The 10th Mississippi, under command of Colonel J.B. Villepigue, operated the big guns inside Fort McRee.) Over the course of 36 hours, the entire vicinity of Fort McRee was blasted by guns from Fort Pickens and warships USS Richmond and USS Niagara. Fort McRee was reduced to a smoldering ruin; but Colonel Villepigue's spirited defense of the position won acclaim from Braxton Bragg, and he was promoted to Brigadier General. Kinloch Falconer -- who had spent time clerking for General Bragg -- came to the notice of newly-minted General Villepigue, and was assigned as his Assistant Adjutant General.

The 9th Mississippi left Florida in early 1862, and went on to fight alongside the 10th Mississippi at Shiloh. But Kinloch Falconer did not accompany his regiment; instead, he was promoted to Captain and followed General Villepigue to his new assignment: defense of Fort Pillow, on the Mississippi River. That position was evacuated just before the fall of Memphis (in June 1862) and John B. Villepigue (alumnus of The Citadel and 1854 graduate of West Point) next found himself assigned as Brigade commander (in Lovell's Division) Earl Van Dorn's Army of West Tennessee. Wounded during the October 3-5 Battle of Second Corinth, Villepigue succumbed to his wounds in November. And Captain Falconer found himself re-assigned to General Braxton Bragg, for whom he worked as AAG until early 1865... when he was again re-assigned, this time to the Staff of General Joseph E. Johnston. (When Johnston accepted terms offered by William Tecumseh Sherman on April 26th 1865 it was Major Falconer's signature that appeared on the Surrender Document.)

Kinloch Falconer's war was over, but his usefulness was not. It was known that the AAG to several general officers had kept meticulous records -- and a diary -- during his years of service to the Confederacy. (One element of his diary, for the year 1865, is on file at Vanderbilt University at Nashville.) In the years after the war, General J.E. Johnston frequently contacted Falconer for precise details IRT Operations conducted during the War of the Rebellion. Braxton Bragg, too, contacted Falconer in 1870 with many questions IRT Bragg's military operations (which may indicate that Bragg was contemplating writing his memoirs, before his untimely death in 1876.) Kinloch Falconer, himself, met an untimely death in 1878. Then serving as Secretary of State for Mississippi, while on a visit to seriously ill relatives at Holly Springs he succumbed to the Yellow Fever epidemic then raging. His papers are now on file with the University of Mississippi.

Ozzy

 

References:  http://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/civil_war/id/2108/rec/8  Bragg's 1870 query to Falconer

http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/UF/00/08/56/93/00002/00067jc.pdf   Falconer's involvement with Johnston's surrender 1865

http://clio.lib.olemiss.edu/cdm/search/searchterm/Kinloch Falconer Collection/mode/exact/page/1  Kinloch Falconer Collection

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bordenave_Villepigue   General J. B. Villepigue at wikipedia

 

N.B.  Thanks to David (Ole Miss) for providing access to the Kinloch Falconer Collection.

 

 

 

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Presented next is A Memoir of the Life and Public Service of Joseph E. Johnston, edited by Bradley T. Johnston, and published by B.H. Woodward & Co. of Baltimore a few months after General Johnston's death in 1891. For information on Battle of Shiloh, see page 88; for Johnston's favorable impression of U.S. Grant, see page 105; for a less-than-flattering view of W.T. Sherman, refer to pages 121-3. (Albert Sidney Johnston is mentioned only once or twice, and only out of necessity... which gives its own impression-by-omission, probably due to the fact that Joseph Johnston believed himself "robbed of seniority." But the seniority "complaint" is covered in detail.

http://archive.org/stream/memoiroflifeandp00johniala#page/n3/mode/2up   Joseph E. Johnston at archive.org

The main reason attention is directed towards this memoir is due to the fact Joseph E. Johnston began gathering information from Kinloch Falconer in 1867 (several communications between Johnston and Falconer on file at University of Mississippi.) And the memoir was not published until 24 years later. Perhaps this is due some "understanding" that the memoir would not be published until after General Johnston's death; but with Bradley T. Johnston recorded as "editor," it seems to indicate some final touches were necessary prior to publication; perhaps the memoir had to be finished, or put into its final form.

Returning to Braxton Bragg: from his first known contact with Kinloch Falconer after the war, only six years elapsed before General Bragg's sudden death. Perhaps Bragg had collected a bit of information with intent to write his memoirs, but found the project too daunting. Maybe he was still in process of organizing notes, but did not see any reason to expedite the project (so an unfinished manuscript is filed away... somewhere.) Or perhaps -- and this is my favored likelihood -- Braxton Bragg found it impossible to square his recollection with the record as witnessed by others, and in a fit of rage tossed everything into a fire: burned it up, so later historians (you and me) will have to decide "how effective he was as a man, an officer and a leader."

Any thoughts?

Ozzy

 

 

 

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At the conclusion of the Battle of Shiloh, Braxton Bragg had an unbroken string of successes behind him:

  • noteworthy service during the Mexican War: mentioned in despatches by General Zachary Taylor;
  • capture of Baton Rouge Arsenal in January 1861;
  • bloody nose given to Union at night raid of Santa Rosa Island October 8/9 1861;
  • kept Union forces at bay during the gunnery duel at Pensacola November 22-23 1861;
  • expeditiously relocated his Army of the Gulf to Corinth in March 1862;

Following on the Battle of Shiloh (which was perceived by the South for weeks afterwards as a Confederate victory) Braxton Bragg was promoted to full General. (On the Union side, only William Tecumseh Sherman gained promotion, to Major General, of the participating Federal division commanders.) PGT Beauregard was elevated -- by default -- to Command of the Army of Mississippi, but Bragg soon had that position, too (after Beauregard departed for a health spa in June 1862 following the evacuation of Corinth.) In fact, Bragg's rising star did not begin its descent until his actions following the Battle of Perryville in October 1862.

My point: in the years afterwards, Braxton Bragg must have studied his Civil War record -- remarkable through 1862 -- and wondered "How did it go so wrong?"

Ozzy

 

 

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On 2/15/2017 at 4:57 AM, Ozzy said:

Presented next is A Memoir of the Life and Public Service of Joseph E. Johnston, edited by Bradley T. Johnston, and published by B.H. Woodward & Co. of Baltimore a few months after General Johnston's death in 1891. For information on Battle of Shiloh, see page 88; for Johnston's favorable impression of U.S. Grant, see page 105; for a less-than-flattering view of W.T. Sherman, refer to pages 121-3. (Albert Sidney Johnston is mentioned only once or twice, and only out of necessity... which gives its own impression-by-omission, probably due to the fact that Joseph Johnston believed himself "robbed of seniority." But the seniority "complaint" is covered in detail.

http://archive.org/stream/memoiroflifeandp00johniala#page/n3/mode/2up   Joseph E. Johnston at archive.org

The main reason attention is directed towards this memoir is due to the fact Joseph E. Johnston began gathering information from Kinloch Falconer in 1867 (several communications between Johnston and Falconer on file at University of Mississippi.) And the memoir was not published until 24 years later. Perhaps this is due some "understanding" that the memoir would not be published until after General Johnston's death; but with Bradley T. Johnston recorded as "editor," it seems to indicate some final touches were necessary prior to publication; perhaps the memoir had to be finished, or put into its final form.

Returning to Braxton Bragg: from his first known contact with Kinloch Falconer after the war, only six years elapsed before General Bragg's sudden death. Perhaps Bragg had collected a bit of information with intent to write his memoirs, but found the project too daunting. Maybe he was still in process of organizing notes, but did not see any reason to expedite the project (so an unfinished manuscript is filed away... somewhere.) Or perhaps -- and this is my favored likelihood -- Braxton Bragg found it impossible to square his recollection with the record as witnessed by others, and in a fit of rage tossed everything into a fire: burned it up, so later historians (you and me) will have to decide "how effective he was as a man, an officer and a leader."

Any thoughts?

Ozzy

 

 

 

I can see that vision of Bragg's rage so vividly!

 

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Johnston's Memoir does not mention Shiloh (or Pittsburg Landing) that I can find. A highly stylized pictorial sketch titled "Battle of Shiloh" can be found between pages 88 and 89, but the battle is not mentioned in the text. The Memoir mentions Sherman 212 times and depicts him twice, Grant gets 91 mentions. Since Sherman was Johnston's nemesis, his vilification is not surprising. The Memoir does not name or credit Falconer, though it does reference both Sherman's and Grant's Memoirs. Thanks bringing Johnston's book to my attention.

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Rbn3

Thanks for taking a look at Joseph E. Johnston's Memoir and providing your impressions. I added the link primarily to provide comparison of two different Confederate Generals, who made use of the same source of information (Kinloch Falconer, presumably to write their memoirs) with different results. Also, the reflections of General Johnston help flesh out Grant and Sherman (two significant players at Shiloh) while "ignoring" Albert Sidney Johnston (another significant participant at Shiloh)... except for that sketch on page 88, which appears to depict a force of Confederate soldiers struggling determinably up-slope towards a strongly defended Federal position... with a prone figure clutching his chest at the right of the image (which I took to represent the fallen General A.S. Johnston.) Joseph Johnston's bitterness at being "slighted" by loss of seniority (to Albert Sidney Johnston, among others) may have hardened his impression of A.S. Johnston to the point where this less-than-flattering image is presented, without other description, depicting Shiloh and its lost potential.

Just my impression...

Ozzy

Reference:  http://archive.org/stream/memoiroflifeandp00johniala#page/88/mode/2up   Battle of Shiloh sketch, page 88

 

 

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Mona

Thanks for your comment IRT Braxton Bragg and his unwritten memoirs. I attempted to award your post with a "Like," but the SDG software is no longer allowing me to do that.

All the best

Ozzy

N.B.   All features on SDG site appear to be functioning (22FEB2017).

 

 

Edited by Ozzy
SDG site features update

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Update of Braxton Bragg primary sources

If an autobiography is not available, the next best thing is a diary; or letters; or telegrams... The University of North Carolina Library, Louis Round Wilson Special Collection possesses eleven items that are of interest to students of the Battle of Shiloh. And -- good news -- all eleven items have been digitized, so are readily available via your home computer.

In the Braxton Bragg Papers, these items are of greatest interest:

  • 18 MAR 1862 Telegram from Bragg to Thomas Jordan, sent from Corinth (IRT messenger on his way "with books")
  • 19 MAR 1862 Telegram from Bragg to Beauregard, sent from Corinth (IRT cavalry in vicinity of Purdy)
  • 3 APR 1862  Telegram from SAM Wood to Bragg, sent from Iuka (IRT Union gunboat movement up the Tennessee River)
  • 27 APR 1864  Telegram from Bragg to Beauregard, sent from Richmond (Unknown subject -- written in code)
  • several pre-Civil War letters are included in this collection.

At  http://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/00079/#folder_1#1  scroll down, then click on the telegram or letter desired (telegrams begin with item No.13 and letters begin with item No.3). Use controls at top of each box to expand details, or advance to next item.

Cheers (and Thanks to UNC for making these items available)

Ozzy

 

 

 

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