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.

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.

KCWRT speaker update: Brian McKnight to speak in place of Gordon Rhea

Gordon Rhea, our scheduled speaker for Tuesday, March 13th, is not only a
renowned Civil War author and historian, he is also a US attorney of note. In
his capacity as attorney, he has been ordered by a judge to appear in her
courtroom this week thus making his appearance with us impossible.

To the rescue is our old friend Brian McKnight, historian, author, tour guide, and
professor at University at Virginia – Wise.  His topic will be the subject of his
current research and next book:  Simon Bolivar Buckner.

Brian McKnight is Professor of History and a Founding Director of the Center for
Appalachian Studies at University of Virginia-Wise. He is a specialist in contested
and coerced loyalties and is the author of Contested Borderland: The Civil War in
Appalachian Kentucky and Virginia, which won the James I. Robertson Literary
Award, and Confederate Outlaw: Champ Ferguson and the Civil War in
Appalachia, which won the Tennessee Library Award for best book in Tennessee
history. His most recent book is titled “We Fight For Peace”: The Story of
Twenty-Three American Soldiers, Prisoners of War, and Turncoats in the Korean
War. His other writings have been featured in the New York Times and his work
on Korean War prisoners of war was profiled in the New Yorker.  Brian is
currently at work on a volume of writings on guerrilla warfare in the Civil War and
is coauthoring with Gary Robert Matthews a biography of Confederate General
Simon Bolivar Buckner. Brian grew up in Virginia’s westernmost county and
received his undergraduate degree from UVa-Wise and his Ph.D. from Mississippi
State University.  When he is not teaching or researching, he is usually on his farm
planting fruit trees, building fences, and keeping bees.


Simon Bolivar Buckner

Simon Bolivar Buckner Sr. graduated from the United States Military Academy
with the class of 1844.  He served during the Mexican-American War, during
which he fought at the battles of Churubusco, where he was wounded, as well as
Contreras, Churubusco, and Molino del Rey.  After the war, he briefly taught at
West Point, and served in the west before resigning from the military in 1855.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Buckner was the adjutant general of the
Kentucky State Guard, and after declining a commission of brigadier general in the
Union Army, accepted a commission of brigadier general in the Confederate Army
on September 14, 1861.

After joining the army, Buckner was sent by General
Albert Sidney Johnston to be one of the brigadier generals in charge of defending
Fort Donelson, an important fortification built along the Cumberland River.
Forces under General Ulysses S. Grant were able to force Buckner and several
other generals in the fort to accept an “unconditional surrender” that helped bring
fame to Grant.  Buckner was imprisoned until August 15, 1862, when he was
exchanged for Union general George A. McCall.  After his release from prison, he
returned to the Confederate Army where he served under General Braxton Bragg at
the Battle of Perryville, and helped fortify Mobile, Alabama until April of 1863.
He was then transferred to the Department of East Tennessee and directed an
infantry corps at the Battle of Chickamauga, and then under General James
Longstreet during the Siege of Knoxville.  On September 20, 1864, he was
promoted to lieutenant general, and became the Chief of Staff under General Kirby
Smith, until the army surrendered in 1865.

After the war, Buckner lived in New Orleans, since he was not permitted to reside
in Kentucky for three years.  He returned to Kentucky in 1868, and was elected
governor of Kentucky in 1887, where he served until 1891.

Missionary Ridge battlefield tour set for March 17

Please join us on Saturday, March 17th, 2018, as we tour the battlefield and learn more about Missionary Ridge, the Chattanooga Campaign and the men who fought in it. We are pleased to have return as our guide, Jim Ogden, Chief Historian at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. This tour will start at 9 a.m. In Chattanooga and end about 5. The tour will proceed, rain or shine. We have two options for getting to Chattanooga: people can drive directly at a future designated location or carpool by meeting up and departing from the large Walmart parking lot at Turkey Creek near Chick-fil-A at 7 a.m.

This will be the KCWRT’s third trip with Jim Ogden covering different portions of the Battle of Chattanooga. The first tour covered Sherman’s army’s approach and eventual attack against Cleburne’s men on the northern portion of Missionary Ridge at Tunnel Hill. The second tour was at the opposite end on the Union line covering the Battle of Lookout Mountain, where recently arrived soldiers from the XI and XII Corps of the Army of the Potomac under Gen. Hooker clashed with Confederate soldiers from Cheatham and Stevenson’s Divisions of the Army of Tennessee. This coming March 17th we will tour the central portion of Missionary Ridge.

After the defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga the prior September, the Army of the Cumberland needed a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of the Federal High Command. General Grant and his staff observed the attack on Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863, from a position on Orchard Knob just outside the city of Chattanooga. In order to take pressure off Sherman’s stalled attacks at Tunnel Hill against Confederate troops under the command of Gen. Patrick Cleburne, Grant ordered Gen. Thomas to move the Army of the Cumberland forward to take the Confederate rifle pits at the base of Missionary Ridge. However, after reaching the rifle pits, the Union soldiers without orders spontaneously charged up Missionary Ridge breaking the center of the Confederate line and forcing Bragg’s Army to withdraw from Chattanooga, thereby lifting the siege.

For some good reading on the Battle of Chattanooga and the actions on Missionary Ridge, see Blue and Gray Magazine’s 2013, #6, issue written by the late Wiley Sword; “The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battle for Chattanooga”, by Peter Cozzens; or visit the Civil War Trust’s web page, which has extensive information on the battle and some of the people who fought it in.

If you plan to go on the Missionary Ridge tour and have not yet notified us, please email Neil Williams at or Norman Shaw at so we can add your names to the list.

—by Neil J. Williams and Norman C. Shaw

KCWRT to celebrate 35th year in April

Thirty-five years ago, a few dedicated men and women gathered together to form the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable. The challenges and obstacles which they faced in the beginning were many and it is only through their efforts and hard work that the KCWRT came to occupy the special and successful place in Knoxville history that it enjoys today.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the formation of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable and we would like to invite each and every one of you to join us in recognizing and honoring our organization’s 35 anniversary. Please come and help us celebrate our 35th anniversary in a special way. The celebration will be held at out monthly Roundtable meeting on April10, 2018.

We will kick off this celebratory evening by featuring the honorable George Lane as Master of Ceremonies. George will be raffling off t-shirts, pens, and Civil War books and we will also have a special Anniversary cake to commemorate the occasion. A large assortment of Civil War and World War II books will also be offered for sale at the meeting at a discounted price.

If you are running out of room at home for your own collection of history books, please consider donating some of them to the Roundtable, so that we can offer them for sale at our April Meeting.

Remember, the annual membership dues charged by the Roundtable only cover a small percentage of our administrative costs and we heavily depend on alternative sources of revenue to help us offset expenses.

Please plan to come in “period” costume if you have one, as we look forward to hearing Dr. James “Bud” Robertson, Historian, College Professor and Author, speak to our membership on “The Eastern and Western Military Theaters: Which Was Most Important?”

We look forward to seeing all of you there.


As a part of the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable’s 35th Anniversary Celebration, the organization is offering for sale a huge collection of Civil War and World War II books at its monthly meeting on April10, 2018. The books cover a wide variety of subjects and should be of major interest to the true history buff.

For used books, these steeply discounted books offer the best prices in town and should afford the reader countless hours of entertainment and enjoyment from the comfort of the nearest arm chair. If you are looking for a super deal on books from the Civil War and World War II eras of history, then you will not want to miss out on this fantastic opportunity to replenish and add to your own private library. The tables in the Bearden Banquet Hall will be literally groaning with the amazing arsenal of donated books for you to peruse. Please plan to come early and be prepared to marvel at the amazing treasures that will be there waiting for you!

Jack Spiceland

Update: Spring cleanup of Ft. Dickerson postponed until Saturday, April 28, 2018 9AM-12 PM

UPDATE: The annual Ft. Dickerson spring cleanup has been postponed until Saturday, April 28. See below


The Civil War Preservation Trust sponsors an annual Park Day at Fort Dickerson.

Volunteers clean up after winter and prepare Civil War sites for increased public visitation and usage during the warmer months. Director of Preservation Eric Wayland has scheduled a work day at Fort Dickerson for the morning of Saturday April 28.

Mark your calendars, and join fellow Roundtable members for a few hours of making our community better. Snacks and t-shirts available. Bring your lawn tools. Police Scouts will be spreading mulch.