Braxton Bragg: The most hated man in the Confederacy


History has not been kind to Confederate General Braxton Bragg.

Braxton Bragg

His reputation, sullied during the Civil War, has suffered ever since. The most-hated man of the Confederacy was blamed for lost battles and branded as a chief cause of Confederate defeat. Considered a tyrant who callously executed his own soldiers, often for seemingly trivial causes, he was the victim of many a false story

Rather than causing Rebel defeat, Bragg was actually the most able commander of the Army of Tennessee, but
he worked under a wide variety of problems typical of most
high-ranking Southern commanders. Many of his colleagues and
soldiers continued to believe in his leadership despite the many
controversies surrounding his troubled Civil War career.

Come join us on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, as Dr. Earl Hess breaks away from the prevailing historiography to portray Bragg in a more balanced way, as a man with unusual talent that was recognized by many including
his chief supporter, Confederate president Jefferson Davis.


Dr. Earl J. Hess has been a student of Civil War history since
he was a teenager, growing up in rural Missouri.

He completed his B.A. and M.A. degrees in History at Southeast
Missouri State University. His Ph.D. in American Studies,
with a concentration in History, was awarded by Purdue
University in 1986. He has taught at a number of institutions,
including the University of Georgia, Texas Tech University,
and the University of Arkansas.

Since 1989, he has been at Lincoln Memorial University, in Harrogate, Tennessee, where he is Associate Professor of History, past director of the
History Program, and holds the Stewart McClelland Chair.

Dr. Hess has published more than twenty books, over thirty
articles, and more than a hundred book reviews for academic
history journals. His book, Braxton Bragg: The Most Hated
Man of the Confederacy, the subject of his June presentation
(University of North Carolina Press, 2016), won the Richard Barksdale Harwell Book Award, Atlanta Civil War Round Table, in 2017.

Monthly Civil War Information Packets – How to get one

Each month, 100 packets of Civil War information are donated to the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable.

There are two ways to get a copy. (1) Be one of the first 100 people arriving at the monthly meeting or (2) pick up a packet left on a table after the meeting.

On the average only 80% of the packets are taken home. The remainder are available for anyone wanting a packet but didn’t get one initially. During the over 75 months that groups of packets have been donated to KCWRT and handed out to members, there has never been a month when all of the packets were taken home.

After everyone that wants a copy gets one, the remaining packets are collected and become part of future handouts for guests.

Ft. Dickerson spring clean-up report

The Civil War Trust sponsors an annual work day at multiple Civil War sites. Here in Knoxville the KCWRT has for many years partnered with the City of Knoxville Parks & Recreation Department to preserve historic Fort Dickerson, and to promote public visitation and appreciation of this unique location, which was an

integral part of Union defenses during the siege of Knoxville in November, 1863. Our initial Spring Clean-Up on April 7 was canceled due to weather, and rescheduled for April 28, which turned out to be a lovely day.

Director of Preservation Eric Wayland arranged for the City to furnish a Bobcat for lifting mulch for the paths, and 15-20 Police Scouts donated their Saturday morning to spread the mulch. Cannons and interpretive signs were cleaned, debris removed, and other odd jobs performed by several volunteers, including Eric’s daughter Kelly and her family, and KCWRT members Jim Doncaster, Dick Heisser, Dennis
Urban, Stan Sech, Tom Wright, Jerry Patterson, Melanie and Miranda Goldstine, and John Burkhart.

Thanks to the efforts of the City of Knoxville Maintenance Department, increased patrols by the Knoxville Police Department, and the new entry and hiking and bicycle trails, visitation has increased significantly. Our Roundtable has made a significant contribution. Fort Dickerson Park is definitely worth a visit.

Dinner reservations revisited

At our monthly meeting on May 8, we paid for 102 diners. Unfortunately, we had only 82 reservations, so we had to set up an additional table and barely had enough food. Of the 102 who ate dinner, 72 were members, and 30 were guests. We also had 24 members and 6 guests who attended the lecture. A large crowd is wonderful, and if we could reliably count on 90 for dinner, we could routinely reserve both halves
of the building and never be cramped.

1. Join us for dinner.
2. Call 671-9001 before 12 noon on the Monday before the meeting and make a reservation.
3. Do not sit at a table if you are not eating.
4. Do not sit in a chair away from the table if you are eating.
Bearden Banquet Hall counts heads at tables and diners in chairs, and charges us accordingly. The Board tries keep dinner costs low, and so there is little margin. Losing money is not fiscally responsible. We want our meetings to be both attended and affordable. Please help.

President’s message: Never dull or boring

“And what is so rare as a day in June?”—-James Russell Lowell, 1848

As my year as President draws to a close, a small amount of retrospection is appropriate. It’s been an educational year, usually interesting, sometimes aggravating, but never dull nor boring. I appreciate the opportunity to serve, and am especially grateful for the chance to work with some truly generous people who give freely of their time, talent, and financial support to make our club and community better. I won’t name names, because not only would I omit someone, but also because none of them seem to do what they do in hopes of public recognition or adulation.

We are, of course, an organization of volunteers, and have been since 1983. Many of our members contribute additional financial support beyond basic dues, which allows us to do more than just publish a monthly newsletter and have dinner meetings with outstanding speakers. Board members keep the wheels turning, and volunteers support our preservation efforts at Fort Dickerson, Living History Weekend in
October, and the East Tennessee History Fair in August. Many of our members are re-enactors and speakers at schools, museums, churches, civic clubs, and other
organizations. All of this, and more, supports our mission of “promoting the knowledge, commemoration, and preservation of our American Civil War heritage.”
June is the first month of summer. The days are long and warm, and it’s a good time to visit historic sites, or just to read a good book. Our semimonthly Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 5, at Bearden Public Library. Meetings are always open to Roundtable members, but due to a long agenda, this month we’ll begin at 5 pm instead of the usual 6 pm. This will be the farewell meeting for John Stegner, who filled two offices this year, and Laura Reagan, who has been on the Board for the past 18 years. Joining the Board on July 1 will be Melanie Goldstine, Sheila Burchfield, and Tim Vane. Some current Board members will assume new duties, and Jack Spiceland will serve as our next President. I look forward to this coming year of excellent leadership from Jack and your Board.

John Burkhart

“The past is prologue.”—-William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

Editor’s Note:
It was with deep sadness that we learned of the passing of long time friend and
KCWRT member Dr. Robert H. Greer. Bob served on the Board as Treasurer for
many years and will be sorely missed. He was a great man and a great friend.
The family asks that any donations be made to Remote Area Medical Foundation,
2200 Stock Creek Blvd., Rockford, Tenn., 37853, or to the Robert H. Greer
Scholarship Fund at The McCallie School, 500 Dodds Ave., Chattanooga, Tenn.,


Sultana Association reunion, Selma, AL, April 27-29, 2018

–Norman Shaw

The 31st annual reunion of Sultana descendants and friends will be held this coming April 27th and 28th in Selma, AL. Selma is only about 12 miles from the now abandoned town of Cahaba, once the state capital, where about 3,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned in an abandoned cotton warehouse. About 1,200 of these men ended up on the Sultana steamboat, along with

about the same number from Andersonville Prison, that was transporting them home when it blew up on the Mississippi River about 2 a.m. on April 27, 1865, about seven miles above Memphis.

This continues to be the worst maritime disaster in American history with about 1,200 lives lost, mostly former Union POWs crammed on the Sultana at Vicksburg, MS, a few days earlier.

For more information about the 2018 reunion, contact
Norman Shaw at Everyone is welcome!

If you are planning to attend the KCWRT, make a reservation

At the regular monthly meeting on March 13 we had 74 diners but only 52 reservations. The folks at Bearden Banquet Hall had to scramble but were able to prepare enough food. There were 24 people who came for the lecture, yielding a grand total of 98 persons who shared the evening. Since no one had reserved the other half of the hall, BBH graciously allowed us to use both sides, and we weren’t cramped for space….this time.

In order to guarantee the use of the full facility in advance, BBH requires that we pay for 90 dinners. The Board has debated this issue repeatedly and at length, and also our reservation process. There is essentially no cushion in our current charge for dinner, which of course includes use of the building, microphone, projection screen, display tables, and United States flag. In other words, we pay BBH almost 100% of what we charge members and guests.

Ideally everyone would call and make a dinner reservation, the phone system would work flawlessly, and we would have at least 90 diners at each meeting so that we could have the full room and not be crowded. As announced at the start of every meeting, one of our purposes is the promotion of knowledge of our Civil War heritage, and visitors and the general public are always welcome. In the end, our problems would be greatly reduced if members consistently extended the courtesy of calling in ahead for a dinner reservation.

So…..please join us often and always. Make a reservation, come for dinner, and enjoy our speaker. And share ideas for improvement with your Board members.

35 years of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable

During the winter of 1982-83 a few folks discovered that they had a common interest in the American Civil War, and discussed forming a club “for knowledge, commemoration, and preservation of our Civil War heritage” which remains our purpose today. In April 1983 club leader Norman Shaw published Volume I Number 1 of “The Scout’s Report”. It was three pages, typed and copied, folded and mailed. Today’s newsletter is eight pages, full-color, multiple font sizes, and includes artwork and photographs.

Originally Round Table was two words. After incorporation, it became a single word. The club began regular meetings in April 1983, and met from 7:30-9:00 pm in an activities room at Middlebrook Pike United Methodist Church. Dinner was not served. Members took turns presenting programs of interest. Now of course we meet for dinner, and our speakers are renowned experts, both local and national.

In 1983 dues were $10 per person, and have only increased to the current $25 per year. There were ten charter members, and three of those are still members: Walt Corey, Jim Doncaster, and Norman Shaw. One of the club’s goals was to have 50 members by the end of the first year. By the end of the first month there were 33, including Jim Tumblin, and the initial benchmark was easily met. Today we have 240 members, the most in our history.

The original members adopted Fort Dickerson as a preservation and interpretation project. Over the next 35 years KCWRT members have invested hundreds of work hours and thousands of dollars in this community resource and historic treasure. Three replica artillery pieces and multiple interpretive signs have been placed, and we organize and host an annual Living History Weekend.

The past 35 years have seen much growth in the club and much service to members and community. It behooves all of us to continue to build on this legacy.

President’s message: April 2018

“April is the cruelest month”…..T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland, 1922

It’s been almost a century since this poem was written, but there is truth in the poet’s assertion. April can be warm….or cold. Flowers can bloom, then be covered with snow. Trees can bud, then be nipped by a sudden frost.

Brian McKnight, who presented our program on March 13, noted that April 1865 was a mixed blessing for soldiers. True, almost all organized warfare ceased, so the risk of dying in uniform significantly decreased. The soldiers wanted to go home, and immediately at that. But many had hundreds of miles to travel, and especially in the South buildings had been destroyed and infrastructure, such as it was to start with, wrecked. So they walked. But then there were no seeds or draft animals, and it was past planting season. This guaranteed hunger if not starvation in the winter to come.

As students of the Civil War and members of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable, April has special interest for us. The general public accepts the month as the beginning and end of the conflict, Fort Sumter and Appomattox. The deadline for applications for the annual Dot Kelly Preservation Award is April 2. On April 7 Roundtable members will participate in our annual Spring Clean-Up at Fort Dickerson. A slate of officers who have generously volunteered to serve our club next year will be officially announced at the April 10 meeting. Ken Burns, whose 1990 documentary movie The Civil War rekindled America’s interest in this watershed period of history, will speak at The Tennessee Theatre on April 17. And at 2 pm on April 29, Dr. Joan Markel will lecture on “Soldiers and Civilians,” her final topic for this year, at McClung Museum on the University of Tennessee campus.

Of course the centerpiece of April for the Roundtable is our monthly dinner meeting on April 10. Our special guest and speaker will be the inimitable Dr. James “Bud” Robertson, who is certainly one of the premier historians and lecturers of the Civil War. Also on April 10 we’ll celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the founding of our club, complete with cake, costumed living history interpreters, and other special events.

Elsewhere in this newsletter are more details about these events, plus our continuing problem with dinner reservations. Please review them.

John Burkhart, President


Acclaimed Civil War scholar Bud Robinson to address ‘The Turning Point of the Civil War’

Anyone who has studied the Civil War for any length of time has an opinion about when the fortunes of war shifted, and the fate of the Southern Confederacy was indelibly sealed.

Some argue that the battle of Antietam and the subsequent issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation was the beginning of the end. Others who favor the “Great Man” theory of history suggest that Chancellorsville and the loss of Jackson tipped the scales inexorably in favor of the Union.

Gettysburg apologists point to the Copse of Trees and the “Highwater Mark” monument there, arguing that Southern hopes and dreams never recovered after July 3rd, 1863.

No, say the Western Theater proponents; the Confederacy’s downward slide began a day later than that, on the fourth of July to be exact, when Pemberton surrendered to Grant at Vicksburg and the Mississippi once again flowed “unvexed to the sea”.

Come join us on April 10 as renowned historian Bud Robertson enters the fray to share his thoughts on when the turning point of the Civil War occurred. This is one you’re not going to want to miss!


One of the most distinguished names in Civil War history, Dr. James I “Bud” Robertson served as Executive Director of the U.S. Civil War Centennial Commission in the 1960s and worked with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in commemorating the war’s 100th anniversary. He then taught 44 years at Virginia Tech, where his upper division course on the Civil War era attracted 300 or more students per semester and made it the largest class of its kind in the nation. At his retirement in 2011, the University named him Alumni Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History.

Dr. Robertson holds a Ph.D. degree from Emory University and honorary doctorates from Randolph-Macon College and Shenandoah University.

He was a charter member (by Senate appointment) of Virginia’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and was actively engaged in the state’s sesquicentennial observances.

The Danville, Virginia native is the author or editor of more than 25 books including biographies of Gens. Robert E. Lee and A. P. Hill, several works on the common soldiers, and three studies written for young readers. His massive biography of Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson won eight national awards and was used as the basis for the characterization of Jackson in the Ted Turner/Warner Bros. mega-movie, “Gods and Generals,” a film for which he served as chief historical consultant.

More recently, Dr. Robertson’s popular book, The Untold Civil War was published by the National Geographic Society in 2011 followed by The Diary of a Southern Refugee in 2013. After the Civil War: The Heroes, Villains, Soldiers, and Civilians Who Changed America is his latest book. Published by the National Geographic Society, it was released in 2015. His newly completed book on Robert E. Lee will be released later this year.

The recipient of every major award given in Civil War history, and a lecturer of national acclaim, Dr. Robertson is probably more in demand as a speaker than anyone else in the field of Civil War studies.