Saturday, April 25, 2009

Braxton Bragg and Drunken Generals

Bragg Names names in an 1873 letter:

Mobile, 8th February, 73. Major E. T. Sykes

Columbus, Miss.


It isIn writing you thus fully and freely I rely on you to use my facts only, not my comments—they are private and could not be made public—It would do more harm than good, and I should again have to meet a howl of parasites "who crook the pregnant hinges of the knee, that thrift may follow fawning." It would be said these are some of Bragg's prejudives. I acknowledge myself prejudiced. I always was prejudiced against every species of dishonest knavery and treacherous selfishness. due to the gallant army of which you were a member, that its history should not be left entirely to the ignorant and the prejudiced; and I rejoice to sec so worthy a soldier a representative young man, who cannot be suspected of partiality, coming to the task. It will afford me pleasure to aid you, not only with facts within my knowledge, but with documentary evidence, of which I have a large quantity, preserved from the general wreck.


I would add much more, but should exhaust your patience. Whiskey was a great element in our disasters. In the battle of Murfreesboro, Cheatham was so drunk on the field all the first day, that a staff officer had to hold him on his horse. After the army reached Tullahoma, I directed Genl. Polk, his Corps Commander, to notify him that I knew of his conduct, and only overlooked it in consideration of other meritorious services—Polk reported to me that he had done so, that Cheatham acknowledged the charge, expressed deep contrition, and pledged himself never to repeat the offense. Imagine my surprise at reading Genl. Polk's report of that battle some weeks after, to find that he commended Cheatham's conduct on that field above all others in his corps.

At Missionary Ridge, Brcckenridge, as gallant and true a man as ever lived, was overcome in the same way, whilst in the active command of a corps, and was really unfit for duty, one of the many causes of our disaster. At night he came into my office, a little depot hut at Chickamauga station, where I sat up all night giving orders, soon sank down on the floor, dead drunk, and was so in the morning. I sent for the commander of the Rear Guard, Brig. Genl. Gist, of S. C., and told him not to leave Genl. B—and if necessary, to put him in a wagon and haul him off. But under no circumstances to allow him to give an order. At Dalton I relieved Genl. B of his command and he acknowledged the justice of it, but said it was the deepest mortification of his life. In France or Germany either of the men I have named, would have been shot in six hours. With us they pass for great heroes.

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