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[Sketch of Corinth Mississippi by Adolph Metzner, on file with Library of Congress.]

The following Letter of 20 March 1862 from Braxton Bragg to wife Eliza is of interest due the following:

  • Bragg reveals the lack of discipline discovered upon his arrival in Corinth;
  • "draconian measures" put in place by Major General Bragg to instill discipline at Corinth;
  • discusses feeble health of General Beauregard (who is still at Jackson Tennessee, attempting recuperation)
  • reveals pre-planning stage, before General Johnston arrives (and before decision taken on "what is to come in April.")

Corinth, Miss. 20th March

My dear Wife,

     By a hasty note from Bethel Station I announced my sudden departure for this place. Since that time I have had no time to write. Everything was in disorder and confusion here, troops arriving in large numbers without supplies, and greatly disorganized by hasty and badly conducted arrangements. Weather bad, and no accommodation, even for the sick. The [Tishomingo] Hotel a perfect pandemonium, thousands of hungry men standing against the barred door, ready to rush in and sweep the tables, regardless of sentinels or officers. Even the kitchen was not safe, meals were seized from off the fires, and the life of the hotel keeper threatened for expostulating. Poor Mr. Lea -- you remember him as the Steward at the Sweet Springs -- said he was over-matched for once. No promise of a fashionable (3 o'clock) dinner would appease the hungry multitude -- but all is now changed. With Gladden in command, and the La. regiments to charge bayonets, the swine are driven back, and the town is quiet and peaceable.

     It is most difficult to see what is to be our future. The enemy is threatening both flanks. At Island No.10, which is now our highest point up the river, we hold with heavy guns. But the pressure is very great against it, and the evacuation of New Madrid exposes us to be cut off from below. We have another strong position still lower, near Randolph Tenn, but not yet in good condition. My heavy guns from Pensacola are going there, and some of my old troops are there, but they need good commanders. The name of the place is unfortunate -- Fort Pillow. If we can keep them back on the Mississippi, I shall not despair at all of our losses elsewhere. We are to a great extent, however, reduced to the Fabian Policy. Our troops and our supplies are so limited and so disorganized that effective operations are out of the question unless we can have a little time to restore tone and confidence.

     My forces united to Genl Ruggles are here, about 22.000. Polk's and Johnston's are coming in hourly and taking position on my right and left. Your advice in your letter of the 12th is fully adopted in my own of today, organizing my command. All Tennesseans are scattered among better men in small squads, so that we can hold them in observation. I never realized the full correctness of your appreciation of them, until now. A general order, of which I enclose a copy, was predicated on their infamous proceedings, and I am glad to say had its effect. No plundering has taken place since. It is my fixed purpose to execute the first one caught in such acts. But the order, itself, and the arrest of a Colonel, have produced a very wholesome reform. Genl Beauregard has re-published the order to the whole Army, and ordered its observance.

     Towson was several days with the fair ladies at Jackson, and had every opportunity of seeing their merits and deficiencies, though ladies ought not to have the latter. Suffice it to say neither will please him. He has not said a word, but I will answer for him -- it is unnecessary to set forth objections.  

     Robert and Mr. [Fader] are still with me. Bob will never do much with the Army, as he cannot stand the hardships -- exposure of any kind, or the inequality of camp life soon disables him. And we are far from being comfortable here. But still, for several days it was very hard to live at all.

     Genl Beauregard is still in Jackson, but proposes coming here in a few days. His health is still very feeble, and as long as he is distressed and worried, as he has been, he cannot improve. Every interview with Genl Polk [shunts] him back a week. But for my arrival here to aid him, I do not believe he would soon be living.

     His appeal for plantation bells was somewhat on the order of the "Under the enemy's guns at Castroville [Texas]" -- sensational. We have more guns now than instructed men to serve them. And metal in New Orleans for many more.

     May God protect and preserve you,

     Your Husband

     Braxton Bragg


[Handwritten original  http://repository.duke.edu/dc/braggbraxtonpapers-000846347/secst0300  at Duke University Library, Braxton Bragg Papers, items 52 - 55.]

Thanks to Duke University for making this letter available online.



References:   http://www.loc.gov/item/2017646911/  Tishomingo Hotel sketch by Adolph Metzner (1862) at Library of Congress. 

http://archive.org/stream/earlysettlersind00sowe#page/n593/mode/2up/search/Castroville  resource provided for explanation of Castorville Texas.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Fabian+policy  definition of Fabian Policy.





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A Fabian policy is essentially a scorched earth policy - destroying any supplies that might succor an enemy as you fall back and refuse him battle.  It was named for Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, surnamed Cunctator (280 BC - 203 BC).  

According to the all-knowing Wikipedia


The Fabian strategy is a military strategy where pitched battles and frontal assaults are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employing this strategy harasses its enemy through skirmishes to cause attrition, disrupt supply and affect morale. Employment of this strategy implies that the side adopting this strategy believes time is on its side, but it may also be adopted when no feasible alternative strategy can be devised.


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Thanks to Transylvania for providing the answer to Mona's question.

Another "item of interest" mentioned in the Letter of 20 MAR 1862 in para.3 is the order concocted by Major General Bragg (issued under signature of his AAG George Garner) and re-issued by General Beauregard (under signature of AAG Thomas Jordan):

image.png  [from OR 10 part 2 page 338.]


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  • 11 months later...

Of more importance to the Battle of Shiloh is the observation of General Bragg as to the condition of the Confederate Army concentrating in Corinth. Bragg was appalled at the supply situation and the discipline of the troops. He called them, "a mob" and not an Army. He was ordered to get them some training and to do his best to prepare them for Battle. Their weapons were inferior. They had plenty of cannons, but not enough trained crews to man them. A point to make for the Battle of Shiloh-- Johnston went in on a hope and a prayer that surprise and the bayonet would win the day. Braxton Bragg agreed with that after what he witnessed. Not saying the Southerners were not brave or worthy, just that they were thrown into Battle with little formal training and a lack of needed supplies-- Class A firearms one of them...

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The dozens of letters exchanged by Elisa and Braxton Bragg are instructive for revealing observations and interpretation of events taking place during the War of the Rebellion, in real time. One of the best letters is that of 29 MAR 1862 from Braxton Bragg to Elisa (for providing more details of activities in and around Corinth.) This letter is available at SDG, filed under "Retreat from Kentucky."

As regards General Braxton Bragg's observations, it must be remembered that Bragg had been in Pensacola since March 1861 training an Army that eventually numbered 18,000 and he was rightfully proud of that highly trained and disciplined Army. He sent the best of that force (approximately 10,000 men) north to take part in Beauregard's and Johnston's Grand Scheme; and by virtue of comparison, Bragg was not impressed with the other Rebel "soldiers" he encountered. And he described those others as "a mob."

Of course, if one recognizes which elements of the Army of the Mississippi advanced the farthest on Sunday 6 April 1862, Bragg appears to have had sound foundation to his bias.

[Other Letters between Elisa and Braxton Bragg, and communications between General Bragg and Confederate officials accessible via SDG Topic, "Bragg's Memoirs" and filed under "Campfire." ]


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