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Braxton Bragg Letter

Identifier: MSS-4174

Scope and Contents

The collection contains one letter written in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1853, from Braxton Bragg to his wife in Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. He is apparently there as part of a courts martial and is writing from the courtroom during one of the trials. He complains that the Judge Advocate is "the slowest and most inefficient Judge Advocate I have ever had the misfortune to be bored by, and to render the case more annoying he is as lazy as he is slow." He also passes on a "sovreign (sic) remedy for chronic chills" for someone named Russ. He ends the letter by describing how he had called on the wife of a first lieutenant and had been asked to wait on the porch until she could "get ready." Upon learning that she only had one room to serve as parlor, dining room, bedroom, and nursery, Bragg tells his wife "This is her first experience, and when she is as well off as we are she will be able to appreciate it."


  • 1853 June 3


Biographical / Historical

Braxton Bragg, son of Thomas and Margaret Crosland Bragg, was born on March 22, 1817, in Warrenton, North Carolina. One of six sons, his father decided on a military career for him and was eventually able to obtain a nomination to the United States Military Academy at West Point (Bragg's oldest brother was a state legislator). Bragg excelled in his studies, graduating fifth of fifty cadets in the class of 1837. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Third U. S. Artillery.

Bragg service in the Second Seminole War in Florida, and earned a reputation for being "disputatious," even with senior officers. After Florida, the Third Artillery was relocated to Fort Moultrie in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1843. While at Fort Moultrie, Bragg wrote a series of nine articles (published in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1844 and 1845) attacking Army administrative policies and officers. These articles brought him to the attention of New York Democratic Representative James A. Clinton who called Bragg to testify before the House Committee on Public Expenditures. General Winfield Scott, a political opponent of Clinton's (and ironically, one of those Bragg lambasted in the articles) ordered him not to testify. Bragg was arrested and court-martialed for disobedience to orders and disrespect toward his superior officers. He was found guilty but only received an official reprimand from the Secretary of War and two month suspension at half pay, which did not stop him from criticizing his superiors in the future.

It was during the Mexican-American War in 1846-1847, that Bragg earned national fame. During the Battle of Buena Vista, he moved his artillery into a gap in the line and helped to repulse a numerically superior Mexican attack. On a trip to New Orleans, Bragg visited Evergreen Plantation in Thibodaux, Louisiana. There he met Eliza (Elise) Brooks Ellis, daughter of a wealthy sugar plantation owner; they married on June 7, 1849.

Bragg served on several frontier posts (including Fort Gibson and Fort Washita), but the primative conditions proved to be unsuitable for the couple. After an unsuccessful appeal to then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to reassign his artillery battery away from frontier duty, Bragg resigned from the Army in January 1856, and the couple returned to Louisiana where they bought a sugar plantation.

Though he opposed the concept of secession, he was appointed to the Louisiana military board, charged with creating a 5,000-man army. He and his various commands saw action in the battles of Shiloh, Perryville, Stones River, Tullahoma, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Fort Fisher, and Bentonville. After the fall of Richmond on April 2, 1865, Bragg, who had been headquartered at Raleigh, North Carolina, caught up with Jefferson Davis and the remnants of the Confederate government near Abbeville, South Carolina, on May 1. He helped convince Davis that the Confederate cause was lost. Bragg fled west with a small group of his staff; they were captured and paroled in Monticello, Georgia, on May 9, 1865.

Bragg and his wife had lost their home in Louisiana in late 1862 when it was confiscated by the Federal Army. They moved in with one of Bragg's brothers, but moved to New Orleans in 1867, when he became the superintendent of the New Orleans waterworks. When the Reconstructionists came to power, they replaced Bragg with a former slave. After a few months as an agent for Jefferson Davis' Carolina Life Insurance Company, he was employed by the city of Mobile, Alabama, to improve the river, harbor, and bay. Leaving that job, the couple moved to Texas in 1871, where in 1874, he was appointed to the chief engineer of the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railway. Within a year, he fell out with the board of directors and resigned.

Bragg died in Galveston, Texas, in September 27, 1876, at the age of 59, most likely from a stroke. He is buried in Mobile, Alabama.


0.01 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Letter written by Bragg from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to his wife.


Purchased from Hughes Books, 2016


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Processed by

Martha Bace, 2016



Guide to the Braxton Bragg Letter
April 2016
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Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266