Braxton Bragg, a native of North Carolina, used the house as his headquarters from March thru May of 1862.
Bragg was an 1837 graduate of West Point and served in the U.S. Army until 1856 when he resigned his commission to become a Louisiana planter. When the war broke out he was appointed a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States. He served on the gulf coast and was promoted once again, to major general. In the wake of Confederate setbacks at fort Henry and Fort Donelson, Bragg was summoned to Corinth with twelve regiments to reinforce the Army of the Mississippi under General Albert S. Johnston; he arrived in the city on February 28.
Bragg took up his duties as Johnston’s chief-of-staff as well as commander of the army’s 2nd Corps. Initially he planned to live a spartan life like his men but was having trouble bringing his tents up from Pensacola. He wrote to General Beauregard, “Can your quartermaster secure me a place to cover my head as my tents are all behind.” What Gen. Beauregard’s quartermaster did was set up residence for Bragg in William Simonton’s Verandah House.
One of Bragg’s first actions as chief-of-staff was to curb the habit of his soldiers visiting the drinking establishments and ordered all of the “grog-shops and drinking saloons” to be closed up. He also sent out a General Order admonishing the men for their poor behavior against the local citizenry. “With a degree of mortification and humiliation he has never before felt, the major-general commanding has to denounce the acts of pillage, plunder, and destruction of the private property of our own citizens by a portion of the troops of this command, which bring disgrace upon our arms, and, if not checked, will assuredly entail disaster upon our cause. Men capable of such acts may swell our numbers, but will never add strength to our armies. They would do less harm serving in the ranks of the enemy.” Bragg was a strict disciplinarian and soon his troops were the finest (and most well behaved) in Johnston’s army.
As chief-of-staff, General Bragg was in Johnston’s inner circle of advisers. Bragg new that Johnston had decided to attack Grant’s army at Pittsburg Landing before Grant could be joined by Gen. Buell’s Army of the Ohio. It would take but a single order to send the Confederate army northward.
In the late hours of April 2, 1862, Col. Thomas Jordan, Johnston’s adjutant general, arrived with a telegram which led the Confederate high command to believe the meeting of the Union armies was imminent. Jordan accompanied Johston on the short walk from the Rose Cottage on Fillmore Street to Bragg’s HQ at the Verandah House.
Jordan told how, “We found that General Bragg had already gone to bed, but he received us in dishabille.”
Which is a Victorian way of saying Bragg took the meeting in his night shirt.
After a short discussion Johnston resolved to trust the “iron dice” of battle and he made the fateful decision that now was the time to attack Grant’s army in Tennessee.
There you have it, the big decision that led to the Battle of Shiloh was made in Bragg’s bedroom in the Verandah House.
“Thereupon, I turned to a table in General Bragg’s chamber,” wrote Jordan, “and wrote a circular order to the three corps commanders directing that each should hold his corps under arms by 6 A.M.”
Bragg continued to use the house as his HQ after the defeat at Shiloh and in mid-April he got a room mate of sorts when he shared the home with Major General Earl Van Dorn. Van Dorn was the commander of the Army of the West, newly arrived from Arkansas.
Braxton Bragg’s association with the Verandah House came to an end on the evening of May 29/30 when The Confederate army abandoned Corinth and the important railroad junction to the advancing Union armies.
Jordan, Thomas “Notes of a Confederate Staff Officer at Shiloh,” Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 1.
Parson, Thomas E. “Telegram’s journey helped spark Shiloh.” Daily Corinthian, February 9, 2014.
War of the Rebellion – Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume 10.
Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue