Greatest Generals



  • I think the topic should be broadened (probably not a word) to commanders in general, not simply generals. In which case, Id throw support towards a relatively obscure South Vietnamese Colonel during the Vietnam war (before, during, and after the US got involved) named Colonel Truong. He was, by General Schwarzkopf’s description (and he is also a great commander) a military genius, absolutely brilliant. In the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley he executed a nearly flawless maneuver in homage to Hannibal, boxing the enemy in, and halting its retreat, then decimating it with artillery barrages. To add to this excellent maneuvering, his tactical planning was flawless, as was his interpretation of the enemy. He predicted the first (I think Batallion, could be wrong) would make contact at 0800, and that they should then move the other into place, where they would make contact at 1100. both were correct, he was intuitive in knowing the enemys movements, and planning accordingly. This and a few other descriptions were all Ive encountered about him, but Im sure there were other examples.



  • @TG:

    Themistocles… yes, we can’t forget about him. Probably the greatest Athenian general next to the Great One (though Themistocles was navy-army - a rare two in one). As for Eurybiades, can you share a little more about him? I don’t know that much about him. 🙂

    If you’re talking about Alexander, he was Macedonian. 😉



  • That is true, though scholars say Themistocles wasn’t either. 😉



  • Gen. George B. McClellan :lol: :lol:

    Cultures which have persevered each had their great general(s) or the cultures would not have flourished.

    You have mentioned quite a range. I would agree that they all have their good points. I would however question the documentation of armies of a million men in ancient China. I gotta check that out.

    Each successive generation had new weapons or territories that often affected the generals command styles. The Roman legions had a hard time fighting in their accustomed styles in the forests of Bavaria. Also recall that at the start of the American Civil War rifles(or were they mostly muskets) were only efffective out to a range of about 75 yards. However, by the latter part of the war many units had rifles that had an effective range of 600 yards!!

    In effect, you are trying to compare generals(Sun Tzu v R. E. Lee) as you would baseball players(Babe Ruth v Hank Aaron.) Don’t do it!

    That said, my simple votes are …
    Nathan Bedford Forrest(Uneducated, started the Civil War as a private, but ended it as a general.)
    Ghengis Khan
    Sun Tzu(Great book!)
    Robert E. Lee(Mexican War , Civil War and I believe he he helped caputure John Brown or some other nutcase. You realize he held a superior force at bay for years, though it was partly due to idiots like McClellan.)
    George S. Patton
    (Cow Cow and
    Saladdressing
    are okay, I guess.) 😄

    You know, the Mongols would have ruled Asia and Europe if it weren’t for one cultural fact. When their leader died all armies were summoned home to help choose the new leader! At one point they were in control of half of Europe and…you guessed it!

    They had a great tactic. They rode up to a walled city and said, “If you surrender and submit you will all live. If you do not we will kill everyone and burn your city to the ground.” Those that surrendered lived. Those that did not were a funeral pyre for the next city to see as evidence that the Mongols were a people of their word.



  • …efffective out to a range of about 75 yards

    I’d take this up to 225 yards, just because my 3-band Enfield that I use was made in 1853 (12 years before the war of northern aggression started).

    Gen. George B. McClellan

    Good general. The Yankees loved Big Mac. Great on defense but terrible on the offense.

    You have mentioned quite a range. I would agree that they all have their good points. I would however question the documentation of armies of a million men in ancient China. I gotta check that out.

    Hahaha… it over a millennium and a half to match those numbers again, my friend. 😉

    In effect, you are trying to compare generals(Sun Tzu v R. E. Lee) as you would baseball players(Babe Ruth v Hank Aaron.) Don’t do it!

    How so? Great leadership is great leadership - no matter the period.



  • How so? Great leadership is great leadership - no matter the period.

    So far as the troops go, yes. But a change in weapons affects a change in tactics. For example, how would Caesar fare if he commanded a modern infantry division against Napoleon, who had equal forces? Or give Patton a few hundred phalanxes and match him against Alexander? Just because they did well in their particular period is no reason to say that they would do well in a different time.


  • Moderator

    Alright you get 4 time periods for generals:
    classical:Ancient to 250 AD
    Meidival: 250 AD-1700 AD
    Imperialist: 1700 AD-1920 AD
    Modern: 1920 AD- NOW



  • I think that a great general would thrive, no matter what time period. if you simply transplanted them, they would obviously take time to acclimate to the new weapons and tactics, but if they are worth their salt, they should be effective in the end. That said, you should also take things into account, such as what they commanded. A commander in chief, or the equivalent, who commands all the forces in that theater is distinct (or should be) from, say, a tank commander.



  • @TG:

    …efffective out to a range of about 75 yards

    I’d take this up to 225 yards, just because my 3-band Enfield that I use was made in 1853 (12 years before the war of northern aggression started).

    Gen. George B. McClellan

    Good general. The Yankees loved Big Mac. Great on defense but terrible on the offense.

    (MCCLELLAN) A good defender who almost defended the Union into defeat. Lincoln was fed up with him, more than once if I do recall.

    (ENFIELD) The Enfield was not standard issue at the start of the war for all units(North and especially not South as, if I remember correctly it was manufactured in Yankee territory.)

    All units had to train/skirmish for a while before being proficient with the weapons they were issued.
    Besides, hitting a moving target is harder than hitting a grazing deer.

    But we must all remember that skimishers(spead out) were usually firing at a wall of men, other skimishers or a set implacement, so there’s a lot of room for argument. Except on one count…most wounds were not intantly fatal as the injured outnumber the dead on a regular basis.



  • (MCCLELLAN) A good defender who almost defended the Union into defeat. Lincoln was fed up with him, more than once if I do recall.

    He was overly cautious, though during the Seven Days Campaign, he made Lee suffer more causalities than he did.

    The Enfield was not standard issue at the start of the war for all units(North and especially not South as, if I remember correctly it was manufactured in Yankee territory.)

    Are you sure about this? The only other rifle that was mass produced at the beginning of the war was the 1855 Springfield, which had similar range.



  • Grant won because he didn’t care about the lives of his men.



  • @Yanny:

    Grant won because he didn’t care about the lives of his men.

    I wouldn’t say it in that manner, it’s just that he understood the fact that he had the men to simply grind the South down through attrition. He may not have been a great tactician, however the fact remains that after he took charge the Union began winning battles.



  • And they were also dieing at twice or three times the rate of Confederate Troops.



  • Teej,
    Maybe the North had a good supply. However, I just read The Gray Fox by Davis. In it he mentions that some Confederate states ordered pikes for their units(1861).

    Yanny,
    You use what you have to win. Evidence shows that many times in history a weaker force has defeated a superior force simply by attacking first.

    NOTE: I am surprised that no one mentioned NBF before me. I think a previous poster had in discussions long ago. I think a lot of great lesser generals are often overlooked though. Some lesser generals, and even colonels, would have blossomed had these wars mentioned dragged on another year or two.



  • A good general doesn’t throw away lives. A good general finds a way to win the battle at the least possible cost to his men.

    General Robert E. Lee was an infinately better general than Grant ever was. If Grant was truely a great general, he wouldn’t of had to throw hundreds of thousands of Union lives to the meatgrinder.



  • Yanny, and I say this with the utmost respect for both you, and the rules of the forum. Shut Up. You do not know what you are talking about. It is easy to sit here and pick apart what Generals did, and criticize every little maneuvar (I know, I know, I do it to, but indulge me), but there are a few things to take into account:

    1. hindsight is 20/20
    2. this happened over 100 years ago
    3. you are a civilian with no military training
    4. you have no tactical training
    5. i dont care what books you may have read, you are not a tactician
    6. tactics on paper and tactics in the field are two different things
    7. logistics comes into play
    8. humanity comes into play
    9. politics comes into play
    10. morale comes into play

    the reality is, Grant did the best job he could, with the situation he had. “a good general” wins wars. a great general does so without a massive loss of life. grant was a good general. lee was a good general who suffered the misfortune of not having any good support (i.e. nation, army, personnel, etc). you can argue that the north was in a strong enough position to win with anybody, but it is not so. a lesser general would have lost, especially facing such an implacable enemy as General Lee, an excellent tactician and leader. Grant, a lesser general, still managed to defeat him. He is (was) a good general.


  • Moderator

    @Janus1:

    Yanny, and I say this with the utmost respect for both you, and the rules of the forum. Shut Up. You do not know what you are talking about. It is easy to sit here and pick apart what Generals did, and criticize every little maneuvar (I know, I know, I do it to, but indulge me), but there are a few things to take into account:

    1. hindsight is 20/20
    2. this happened over 100 years ago
    3. you are a civilian with no military training
    4. you have no tactical training
    5. i dont care what books you may have read, you are not a tactician
    6. tactics on paper and tactics in the field are two different things
    7. logistics comes into play
    8. humanity comes into play
    9. politics comes into play
    10. morale comes into play

    the reality is, Grant did the best job he could, with the situation he had. “a good general” wins wars. a great general does so without a massive loss of life. grant was a good general. lee was a good general who suffered the misfortune of not having any good support (i.e. nation, army, personnel, etc). you can argue that the north was in a strong enough position to win with anybody, but it is not so. a lesser general would have lost, especially facing such an implacable enemy as General Lee, an excellent tactician and leader. Grant, a lesser general, still managed to defeat him. He is (was) a good general.

    oh…then you have military training :-? …you are a tactician :roll: ?.. you are humane 😉 ??? j/k… I have to agree with you the north is always painted as bad military wise and they one by just a bare margin but then how do we get the name sherman on a tank… btw I honestly think I’m a tactician because if i was ever stuck in a military operation I know my mind would think, “how many bullets vehicle’s, tanks, weapons, and cans of soup can I get to my men.” most “men” :roll: in my opinion can probably do some form of leadership, in a war nd have a skill he will be remebered for if he sets his mind to it. So don’t slam Yanny YOU DON’T KNOW!!!



  • oh…then you have military training …you are a tactician ?

    Notice the disclaimer in the first paragraph of the post? maybe you didnt. basically, it acknowledges that im being hypocritical in a way here, and asks you to ignore that, and indulge me for a moment. no, i do not have military training, nor am i a tactitian. but, i have not (that i can remember, correct me if im wrong) sat here and posted about how a general was bad. which, imo, no one here is really qualified to do, beyond agree with an accepted opinion of a general who is acknowledged to be bad.

    you are humane ??? j/k…

    by my standards, yes. by yours, maybe not.

    most “men” in my opinion can probably do some form of leadership, in a war nd have a skill he will be remebered for if he sets his mind to it.

    perhaps. naturally, there are the rare occurrences of generals who show natual talent from birth (or more likely when they become a leader), however, i doubt whether the vast majority of people have sufficient skill as a general that they could win a battle, much less a war. there are many more intricacies (sp?) then our feeble little minds could handle 😉 . generals typically go through West Point or ROTC, unless they show natural talent for the leadership, followed by years of battlefield experience (the good ones), and follow up leadership and tactics schools (im not sure of the names, but i could find them if i have to).

    So don’t slam Yanny YOU DON’T KNOW!!!

    Dont know what exactly? but i have a feeling i dont, like you and i said. my point is, nobody here knows.

    wrt not slamming yanny, i can and will if i so choose, and like i said, it was done with the utmost respect and regard ( 😄 )



  • @El:

    You use what you have to win. Evidence shows that many times in history a weaker force has defeated a superior force simply by attacking first.

    Evidence also shows that many times in history a weaker force has defeated a stronger force simply by going defensive.



  • Falk, El Jefe, im not agreeing or disagreeing with either of you, but id like to see what examples each of you can provide.



  • Janus us in the exact same position I am in, we go to the same school.

    Tell me, Why does General Grant deserve to be on the list of the best generals of all time?

    I’ve already listed why he doesn’t deserve to be.



  • The oldest one:
    Sparta vs Persia, 480 BC
    Battle at the Thermopyles (sp?)

    later example, of luring the enemy into an attack
    British vs. French, 1415 AD
    Battle of Agincourt

    Another one:
    The battles in the trenches in WWI, between 1915 and 1917.



  • General Grant does not deserve to be on the list of greatest generals of all time, neither does Lee imo. my point is they are both good generals. the greatest generals of all time, imo, include alexander the great, hannibal, etc.



  • Some random responses:

    btw I honestly think I’m a tactician because if i was ever stuck in a military operation I know my mind would think, “how many bullets vehicle’s, tanks, weapons, and cans of soup can I get to my men.”

    Technically, that makes you a logistician, not a tactician, and also it would depend on where you are at in said operation. 😉

    generals typically go through West Point or ROTC, unless they show natural talent for the leadership, followed by years of battlefield experience (the good ones), and follow up leadership and tactics schools (im not sure of the names, but i could find them if i have to).

    This is mostly correct. All generals, being officers, must go through either what you mentioned or OCS. The schools are also a necessity to advance that high, and battlefield experience would help if they can get it.*

    later example, of luring the enemy into an attack
    British vs. French, 1415 AD
    Battle of Agincourt

    Was this actually planned by England? I thought the French insistence on attacking made the British stand and defend, and they happened to have an excellent location to fight at.

    *This is only applicable to the US army. 😉



  • Jan…
    First, I did not say U. S. Grant was a great general(see my list above on this page.) So your “utmost respect for both” of us does not apply here. Unless, of course, you are referring to more than one of Yanny’s multiple personalities….Oh, that’s my excuse! So it cannot be multi-Yannys to whom you refer.

    Second, your argument would have been more acceptable without the “Shut Up.”

    Third, SHUT…UP!!

    Notice the socially acceptable manner in which the third point was made. The pause between the two words emphasizes the friendly manner in which the speaker is letting the listener know ‘I cannot believe you said that.’ The volume shown by the capital letters indicates ‘I don’t believe it!’ Most importantly the two exclamation marks demark a definte terminus is recommended for the listeners inane remarks. :roll: 😉


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