Discussion on Bragg and Artillery
Professor Ernest Butner (Irish)
During the 1840's there were some very fine artillery commanders in the U.S. Army. They were: Captain Samuel Ringgold, Captain Randolph Ridgely, and Lieutenant Braxton Bragg. There were others but these were the top guns as it were. There was an extreme amount of competition between all of these artillery over-achievers. There was competition concerning every facet of training and parades.
All of the artillery officers were very good, probably the best of the three arms of the military. There weren't many engineers, and there were quite a few infantry and dragoon officers, but artillery was considered the best, by most of the West Point graduates. All of the above mentioned names were known through out the army. All were known in different ways, but all were given considerable respect.
When the army was consolidated for possibly the first time since maybe ever but at least since the War of 1812, at Corpus Christi, there was a great deal of drill and training. Ridgely and Ringgold were very well liked by their men, both were incredibly capable. Bragg on the other hand, was hated by his men. Nothing satisfied him, not one thing!
His men trained day and night. He trained them when they were exhausted, on bad days as well as good days. He trained them on Sundays, which brought out some wrath from superiors. His troops couldn't polish the leather or brass well enough to satisfy him. They could never unlimber quick enough. They could never hit the target well enough or enough times in a given amount of time.
One night, as the battery was relaxing, one of Bragg's men rolled a lit shell under Bragg's bunk in an attempt to frag their commander. The fuse burned out, but not without Bragg noticing it. He called his men together, and decided that if they couldn't light a simple fuse then they needed more training, and so they trained the rest of the night.
None of his commanders liked him personally. He was never endearing to anyone, and hated most. Had a special dislike for P.G.T. Beauregard, both were from the same state, I believe Louisiana. When Scott moved to Mexico to replace Taylor following the Battle of Monterrey, most of Taylor's men were sent to Scott's army. Strangely enough, Scott did not want Bragg and left him with Taylor. Neither did he want Davis, and there was definitely some hard feelings between Taylor and Davis. So both remained with Taylor's depleted army.
Taylor's army was caught in a depleted way by Santa Anna's army near Buena Vista. Santa Anna had more than a three to one advantage over Taylor. Taylor placed himself on a plateau with really no means of retreat, nearly 4,000 men. Santa Anna had nearly 20,000. In the first attack, Santa Anna was determined to find out where Taylor's artillery was at. He thought it was in the centre. He had no realization that the flying artillery could move to any portion of the battle very quickly, although many generals had already found that out at Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Matamoros, and Monterrey. To make a long story short. Every attack that Santa Anna made, he found Bragg, Bragg's artillery, and a hard hitting infantry support from Mississippi commanded by Jeff Davis.
The Battle of Buena Vista propelled Taylor into the President's mansion. It made both Bragg and Davis icons in the military.
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