Braxton Bragg was born in 1817 in North Carolina to a wealthy planter. When Bragg was a teenager, his father managed to arrange his enrollment in the U.S. Military Acad-
"[Bragg] loved to crush the spirit of his men. The more of a hang-dog look they had about them, the better was General Bragg pleased. Not a single soldier in the whole army ever loved or respected him."
Soldier Sam Watkins
Braxton Bragg. (Courtesy of Corbis Corporation.)
emy at West Point, the nation's premier military school. He entered West Point at the age of sixteen and established himself as a top cadet. He graduated in 1837, ranking fifth in a class of fifty students.
After graduating from West Point, Bragg entered the U.S. Army. He became known as an intelligent and efficient officer, but also gained a reputation for being argumentative and stubborn. One of his first military assignments took him to Florida, where he fought in the Seminole Wars (1835-42). This clash between the U.S. government and the Seminole Indians eventually pushed the tribe out of Florida and onto reservations in Oklahoma. In the late 1840s, Bragg served with great distinction in the Mexican War (1846-48), a struggle between Mexico and the United States over possession of the vast territories in the American West. In 1848, U.S. military victories forced Mexico to give up its claims on California, New Mexico, and other lands in the West in exchange for $15 million.
In 1849, Bragg returned to the eastern United States and married Eliza Brooks Ellis, the daughter of a wealthy Louisiana plantation owner. He remained in the military until 1856, when he resigned at the rank of lieutenant colonel. He then settled in his wife's home state of Louisiana and became a wealthy planter himself.
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