Chickamauga 150 Countdown: Grant on Bragg
By Ron Fritze
During the Civil War and for years after, Grant was known for keeping his opinions about the war to himself. After he left the presidency that changed and Grant started to reminisce. In 1877 he went on a world tour with John Russell Young as the reporter who accompanied him. Over the course of months, Grant started to provide recollections of the Civil War which Young eagerly included in his newspaper columns and a later book. Then toward the end of his life, Grant was financially ruined by dishonest “friends” and needed to leave his family some money. So he wrote his famous memoirs that were completed shortly before his death. They sold well and are a classic of American writing. In Young’s book and his own memoirs, Grant revealed some telling anecdotes about Braxton Bragg as a man and a soldier. Here they are for your enjoyment. Are there any Bragg fans left out there?
“Braxton Bragg had a great reputation in the South. Bragg was the most contentious of men, and there was a story in Mexico that he put every one in arrest under him, and then put himself in arrest.”
John Russell Young, Around the World with General Grant. Abridged, edited, and introduced by Michael Fellman. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), p. 262.
“Bragg was a remarkably intelligent and well-informed man, professionally and otherwise. He was also thoroughly upright. But he was possessed of an irascible temper, and was naturally disputatious. A man of the highest moral character and most correct habits, yet in the old army he was in frequent trouble. As a subordinate he was always on the lookout to catch his commanding officer infringing his prerogatives; as a post commander he was equally vigilant to detect the slightest neglect, even of the most trivial order.
I have heard in the old army an anecdote very characteristic of Bragg. On one occasion, when stationed at a post of several companies commanded by a field officer, he was himself commanding one of the companies and at the same time acting as post quartermaster and commissary. He was first lieutenant at the time, but his captain was detached on other duty. As commander of the company he made a requisition upon the quartermaster—himself—for something he wanted. As quartermaster he declined to fill the requisition, and endorsed on the back of it his reasons for doing so. As company commander he responded to this, urging that his requisition called for nothing but what he was entitled to, and that it was the duty of the quartermaster to fill it. As quartermaster he still persisted that he was right. In this consideration of affairs Bragg referred the whole matter to the commanding officer of the post. The latter, when he saw the nature of the matter referred exclaimed: ‘My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarrelling with yourself.’”
Ulysses S. Grant, Memoirs and Selected Letters (New York: Library of America, 1990), pp. 449-450.