Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated Man of the Confederacy by Earl J. Hess is a book that attempts to paint a more accurate picture of a man that, up to this time, may not have been fairly judged by historians and students of the Civil War.
The audio book, which this review is based, has a listening time at approximately 14 and a half hours. The reader, Jonathan Yen, speaks in a clear manner and with a good pace. I think he does a good job, overall, reading this narrative. Some may find Mr. Yen’s use of an accent while reading quotations a bit off putting, but it is not something that would disqualify this book from being placed on anyone’s reading list.
The book itself is described as a “compelling biography” which I believe requires a note. This is not a complete biography, as the focus of this book is mainly on Bragg and his actions during the Civil War. Bragg’s life prior to and after the war is covered briefly, but the focus of the book is Bragg during wartime.
This work covers Bragg’s military career in detail, and the focus really begins before the battle of Shiloh. From Shiloh to the end of the war, there are chapters dedicated to each campaign in which Bragg participated. They detail what happened, why Bragg may have chosen the course of action that he did, and evidence as to why he may or may not have been correct in his choice. I found very interesting Mr. Hess’s continual referencing to other Bragg biographers, giving evidence as to why their conclusions may have been correct or incorrect as a means of presenting Bragg in a more informed light. Many examples of Bragg’s actions are detailed as well as the dispelling of a few myths about actions in which Bragg faced accusations but never actually took. There are also instances where Bragg is compared to Lee, and the conclusions may surprise the reader. Overall, I believe that this book tells a more complete and fair evaluation of Bragg the general, and will offset what seems to be the popular opinion.
This was a book that I chose because I wanted to listen to something different than what I had been listening to previously, and am really glad that I did. There was nothing about the book that I would negatively mark, as the story was told in a manner that was easy and enjoyable to follow.
I would place this book on the Must Read list for any student of the Civil War in general, and the Western Theater in particular.
Final Grade: A