Braxton Bragg was born in 1817 in Warrenton, North Carolina, and received his early education there. In 1833, he entered West Point, and was graduated four years later as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Artillery. He served in the Seminole War before joining General Zachary Taylor's army in its Texas and Mexican War campaigns. Distinguishing himself at Buena Vista, Bragg was brevetted lieutenant colonel.
In 1856, Bragg resigned from the army, purchased a plantation in Louisiana, and became involved in designing the state's drainage and levee system. Secession and the outbreak of the Civil War returned Bragg to military life, as he was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He was assigned to command the coast between Pensacola and Mobile.
Beginning in 1862, having became a major general, Bragg moved his operations northward, seeing action in the Tennessee and Kentucky theaters. Though he fought with great energy, he earned a reputation for failing to follow through on initial gains. By the fall of 1863, Bragg had been forced out of his positions and into the mountains of Tennessee, but he turned the tables on his pursuers with a notable victory at Chickamauga. Once again, however, he chose to lay siege to his enemy at Chattanooga instead of remaining on the offensive. As a result, he was attacked by Union forces led by General Ulysses Grant and forced to retreat from Chattanooga to Dalton, Georgia. There, on December 2, 1863, he surrendered command of his army to General Joseph E. Johnston.
After leaving his command, Bragg was nominally in charge of the Confederate capital, Richmond, but his real responsibility was to serve as adviser to President Jefferson Davis. He accompanied Davis in his flight from Richmond, and was captured on May 9, 1865. After the war, he practiced as a civil engineer in the Gulf South, serving, for example, as commissioner of public works in Alabama for four years. He died in Galveston, Texas, in 1876.