Saturday, July 21, 2012

July 22, 1862 (Wednesday): Bragg Talks Strategy

General Braxton Bragg

TUPELO, July 22, 1862.
   MY DEAR GENERAL: As I am changing entirely, under altered circumstances, the plan of operations here, I submit to you what I propose and beg your candid criticism, and in view of the cordial and sincere relations we have ever maintanined, I trust to your compliance. I am moving the Army of the Mississippi, 34,000 effectives, to East Tennessee to join with Smith's 20,000 and take the offensive. My reasons are: Smith is so weak as to give me great uneasiness for the safety of his line, to lose which would be a great disaster. They refuse to aid him from the east or south and put the whole responsibility on me. To aid him at all from here necessarily renders me too weak for the offensive against Halleck, with at least 60,000 strongly intrtenched in my front. With the country between us reduced almost to a desert by two armies and a drought of two months, neither of us could advance in the absence of rail transportation. It seemed to me then I was reduced to the defensive altogether or to the move I am making. By throwing my cavalry forward toward Grand Junction and Tuscumbia the impression is created that I am advancing on both places and they are drawing in to meet me. The Memphis and Charleston road has been kept cut, so they have no use of it and have at length given it up. Before they can know my movement I shall be in front of Buell at Chattanooga, and by cutting off his transportation may have him in a tight place. Van Dorn will be able to hold his own with about 20,000 on the Mississippi. Price stays here with 16,000. Thus you have my plan. I leave to- morrow for Mobile, thence to Chattanooga. Our cavalry is paving the way for me in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky. Crittenden is quite a prize, and the whole affair in proportion to numbers more brilliant than the grand battles where strategy seems to have been the staple production on both sides; and if I am any judge the enemy beat us at it. We may congratulate ourselves that McClellan was satisfgied with changing his base, for it occurs to my obtuse mind that a bold stroke at Richmond, while we were hunting for him, would have ruined us. The papers seem to be groping in the dark as to the reasons which influenced the change here, and attributing motives to each of us never entertained by either. Fortunately we know each other too well and have this cause too much at heart to be influenced by these things.*
    Hoping for your restoration and return, truly yours,


*For reply, see VOL. XVI, Part I, p. 711.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 2, Page 331.

An interesting letter.  Bragg had a reputation for being ill tempered, but here displays a remarkable good will in his relations to Beauregard, who he has replaced in command.  Perhaps in seeing the newspaper stories he alludes to he believed Beauregard could have been offended and moved to head off any ill will between the two.  It is a good description of why he moved his army east and contains an element not sufficiently noted, that is the effect of drought upon Bragg's plan of campaign.  It was difficult in best of times to leave an army stationary for an extended period for fear of depleting resources in the vacinity.  A drought made matters that much worse.  Finally, it appears Bragg gives me credit to McClellan's ineptitude for saving Richmond than to Lee for attacking.

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