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Old May 17th, 2010, 06:08 AM   #31

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Re: Who were the best/worst Civil War generals?


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It seems we have been already here and I still can't see why should I change my original choice for the "best": Robert E Lee. His merits and limitations had been extensively debated all along several threads.

The "worst" is simply unanswerable; just too many candidates.
Sylla, it really is getting scary how much we're agreeing lately. I think I should start a General MacArthur thread so we can get back to debating.

I think you can run down the roster of Union commanders and come up with several candidates for "worst" Civil War General.
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Old May 17th, 2010, 06:27 AM   #32

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Re: Who were the best/worst Civil War generals?


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Originally Posted by leakbrewergator View Post
Sylla, it really is getting scary how much we're agreeing lately. I think I should start a General MacArthur thread so we can get back to debating.

I think you can run down the roster of Union commanders and come up with several candidates for "worst" Civil War General.
The South also had their share of losers. Hood and Bragg come to mind.
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Old May 17th, 2010, 06:24 PM   #33

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Re: Who were the best/worst Civil War generals?


Jackson's Valley Campaign was a text-book case of using the terrain to one's advantage. Using the terrain is very important.
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Old May 17th, 2010, 09:57 PM   #34

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Re: Who were the best/worst Civil War generals?


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Jackson's Valley Campaign was a text-book case of using the terrain to one's advantage. Using the terrain is very important.
Nobody can dispute the merits of Jackson's campaign in the Shenandoah Valley (and equally it is hard to overlook the glaring flaws - Jackson was a truly brilliant strategist in his own way, but an absolutely lousy tactician at times) or of what passed for his military genius as a whole. But personally I agree with the analysis that he had far too many flaws to be counted amongst the truly great - Grant, Sherman, Lee, etc. Thanks to his ability to inspire the soldiers under him to heroic feats of endurance, his acute topographical sense, and his willingness to attempt to mislead the enemy, he was capable of achieving devastating (for the enemy) results in a limited theatre, but that was as high as his talents went. He had no concept of strategy beyond the immediate, and his personality was singularly unsuited for working with others. He was at the end of the day a very limited sort of general who was of excellent use in the right situations, but other than that was in no way the superior of men like Lee - who was by almost any reasonable measure the best general produced by the South during the war.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 12:56 PM   #35

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Re: Who were the best/worst Civil War generals?


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The South also had their share of losers. Hood and Bragg come to mind.
With Hood I'd say it depends, he was a brilliant commander at the corps and divison level. He was however, as history demonstrates with other commanders, promoted beyond his ability. As illustrated with the destruction of the Army of Tennessee at the Battle of Franklin in 1864.
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Old June 5th, 2010, 09:57 AM   #36

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Re: Who were the best/worst Civil War generals?


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My firm opinion at the moment:

Best:

1: Ulysses S. Grant
2: William T. Sherman
3: Robert E. Lee

In that order.

Worst: George B. McClellan still takes it out for me by a long shot. The irony is that he was actually quite an intelligent man with an excellent understanding of the military system and a charismatic brand of leadership that inspired his soldiers with a great sense of loyalty to him (which did not however prevent them from voting overwhelmingly in favor of Lincoln in 1864). The problem was the he was temperamentally (some even theorize psychologically) unsuited to actually do anything constructive with the army that he built, and he was terrible at working with equals or superiors, especially civilian ones.

The statement that he did more damage to the Union cause than even Robert E. Lee might be something of an exagerration. But not much of an exagerration.
I agree 100%.
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Old June 5th, 2010, 10:02 AM   #37
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Re: Who were the best/worst Civil War generals?


Poor George McClellan would have made an excellent staff officer. It is too bad that we didn't know what to with those at the time. Perhaps he should have been in the Prussian army.
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Old June 6th, 2010, 03:42 AM   #38

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Re: Who were the best/worst Civil War generals?


There were calls for Lincoln to do just that as the public was finally starting to catch on to the fact that there was nothing Napoleonic at all about the "young Napoleon". Those who made such calls pointed out that although even a number of great McClellan supporters were forced to admit that their hero's battlefield performance was dismal, largely due to his temperamental deficiencies (a Republican congressman was not so kind, openly calling McClellan a coward), he posessed a great understanding of the military system and would do a superb job if Lincoln were to bring him back to Washington D.C. to help coordinate the war effort. Lincoln responded with a diplomatic but nonetheless emphatic no. In my opinion this was absolutely the correct choice for him to make. Whether little Mac would have made a good staff officer or no, Lincoln already had those in abundance. McClellan had proven again and again that he was impossible to work with, and furthermore was politically impossible. Whatever talents the man might have posessed, his appointment was just not going to fly, not least because half Lincoln's cabinet would probably have resigned in protest.
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Old July 15th, 2010, 10:50 AM   #39

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Re: Who were the best/worst Civil War generals?


For best general, judging by the results he achieved, Id say W.T. Sherman. With his movements from Atlanta to North Carolina he showed the population of the south, not just the solders, in a way they could not help but understand that the cause was lost. And this with far less loss of live on both sides than the toe to toe slugging match of Grant vs. Lee.
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Old July 28th, 2010, 06:22 AM   #40
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Re: Who were the best/worst Civil War generals?


One General that could be placed in both categories is Hood. He started out as a great leader and general, but losing an arm and leg at Gettysburg and Chicamauga changed him, perhaps his judgement was impaired by pain killing drugs. His performance after relieving Johnston of command in Atlanta was abysmal. He ordered troops to their slaughter in the various battles of Atlanta as well as Franklin, Tn. Poor generalship.

As for the Best, I feel that Cleburne was a terrific general.
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