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Old October 29th, 2016, 05:29 AM   #11

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Greatest generals in history is too big a question IMO. How can you compare the tactics of a general from antiquity (when there were no firearms) to the generals of the American Civil War? It takes a whole different skill set to be a good general in antiquity than what it takes to be a good general in the American Civil War. What about Air Force generals?

This is so subjective that anyone would disagree with choices of anyone's list, so of course, I disagree with some of your list. A lot of the generals on your list are people I have never even heard of.

Here is my list of the top ten generals from antiquity:

1. Alexander the Great
2. Gengis Khan
3. Julius Caesar
4. Hannibal
5. Scipio Africanus
6. Khalid ibn al-Walid
7. Trajan
8. Thutmose III
9. Quintus Sertorius
10. Attila the Hun

I find it strange that neither Trajan nor Attila the Hun has made anyone's list yet. I'm surprised Constantine made the OP's list at all.

Here's my list of the top ten generals since the advent of firearms:

1. Napoleon
2. The Duke of Wellington
3. Frederick the Great
4. Ulysses S. Grant
5. Georgy Zhukov
6. Erich von Mannstein
7. John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough
8. Gustavus Adolphus
9. Heinz Guderian
10. Winfield Scott

I give Robert E. Lee a pass due to Lee's weakness with strategy. After the Battle of Chancellorsville, Lee should have sent troops to relieve Vicksburg and refrained from invading PA. Saving Vicksburg would have had a better long term effect on the war. Why shouldn't Lee have both sent troops to relieve Vicksburg AND invaded PA with the rest of the ANV? The ANV would have been too small an army to invade PA. With the ANV so small with troops sent to relieve Vicksburg, the ANV would need to stay in VA where the ANV could fight with the advantages of fighting on the defensive and entrenchments.

Last edited by grey fox; October 29th, 2016 at 05:46 AM.
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Old October 29th, 2016, 05:46 AM   #12
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Napoleon made far too many mistakes to be top 5 material. On a battlefield he was a genius, but a good general is about winning campaigns, not just individual battles.

Wellington is a good example of someone who, whilst not spectacular with his tactics on any given day (although he did have his moments) could manage men and materials to wage successful campaigns.

Does that make Wellington a better general? Well if I were a common soldier, I would much rather be in Arthur's army as I know that (wherever possible) I would be relatively well fed and supplied and not at risk of having my life thrown away in a reckless adventure in Spain,Russia or Egypt for the sole purpose of the glorification of my commander.

Like certain other generals that are often lauded, sometimes this is partly because of their charisma or personality (eg Rommel, Napoleon, Caesar) . We have to remember that Caesar often was the one who was responsible for the reports of his own battles, so of course they usually showed him in a very favourable light. I'm not saying that he wasn't a good general - obviously he was - but it needs to be taken into consideration.
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Old October 29th, 2016, 06:40 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by grey fox View Post
Greatest generals in history is too big a question IMO. How can you compare the tactics of a general from antiquity (when there were no firearms) to the generals of the American Civil War? It takes a whole different skill set to be a good general in antiquity than what it takes to be a good general in the American Civil War. What about Air Force generals?

This is so subjective that anyone would disagree with choices of anyone's list, so of course, I disagree with some of your list. A lot of the generals on your list are people I have never even heard of.

Here is my list of the top ten generals from antiquity:

1. Alexander the Great
2. Gengis Khan
3. Julius Caesar
4. Hannibal
5. Scipio Africanus
6. Khalid ibn al-Walid
7. Trajan
8. Thutmose III
9. Quintus Sertorius
10. Attila the Hun

I find it strange that neither Trajan nor Attila the Hun has made anyone's list yet. I'm surprised Constantine made the OP's list at all.

Here's my list of the top ten generals since the advent of firearms:

1. Napoleon
2. The Duke of Wellington
3. Frederick the Great
4. Ulysses S. Grant
5. Georgy Zhukov
6. Erich von Mannstein
7. John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough
8. Gustavus Adolphus
9. Heinz Guderian
10. Winfield Scott

I give Robert E. Lee a pass due to Lee's weakness with strategy. After the Battle of Chancellorsville, Lee should have sent troops to relieve Vicksburg and refrained from invading PA. Saving Vicksburg would have had a better long term effect on the war. Why shouldn't Lee have both sent troops to relieve Vicksburg AND invaded PA with the rest of the ANV? The ANV would have been too small an army to invade PA. With the ANV so small with troops sent to relieve Vicksburg, the ANV would need to stay in VA where the ANV could fight with the advantages of fighting on the defensive and entrenchments.
Bai Qi is the greatest of antiquity. If you don't believe it consider scale of his operations and consequences of his victories. That guy is actually a military maker of Han nation. His legacy is lasting until today, other's not.

Any list which does not have him in top 10 is not serious.

Thutmose 3 is a semi legendary king and data about him is a mythology. We don't even know how big was his personal involvement in his campaigns. You can add Assurbanipal, Sargon II, Sargon of Akkad and few others (some Hettite), their conquests were greater.

There is also not much known about Attila but his a$$ being beaten by Aetius drops him a lot from any such list.

Your firearms generals are also not much. Where is the greatest of Russians Suvorov and where is Eugene of Savoy? Change Zhukov with Suvorov and forget unimportant Scott.
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Old October 29th, 2016, 06:46 AM   #14

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Originally Posted by RomesFinest View Post
Scipio was not only undefeated but he was instrumental in advancing the tactical abilities of the Roman infantry by using maneuver and the maniples in individual units acting in concert towards the same goal. He also showed an excellent understanding of grand strategy as shown by his eagerness to take the war to Africa and to gain valuable Numidian allies.
Taking the war to Africa was the standard Roman strategy which had only been upset by Hannibal's invasion of Italy. A little extra credit because there was some push back on his desire, but this was always the intention of the Romans. Seeking the Numidians as allies is also standard practice for the Romans, Carthaginians and everyone else as looking for allies among the locals of the area is something we always find. Good marks for Scipio for these efforts, of course, but probably too far to suggest he had a special insight on these matters.
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Old October 29th, 2016, 06:55 AM   #15

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Originally Posted by paranoid marvin View Post
Napoleon made far too many mistakes to be top 5 material. On a battlefield he was a genius, but a good general is about winning campaigns, not just individual battles.
Certainly he also won many campaigns.
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Does that make Wellington a better general? Well if I were a common soldier, I would much rather be in Arthur's army as I know that (wherever possible) I would be relatively well fed and supplied and not at risk of having my life thrown away in a reckless adventure in Spain,Russia or Egypt for the sole purpose of the glorification of my commander.
None of these wars were really fought for that reason and I'd at least like to see the sources which claim that. There is room for disagreement with the decision making, but glory was a side benefit, not the reason they were fought. The invasion of Egypt was Talleyrand's idea to start, I believe and had support.

Quote:
Like certain other generals that are often lauded, sometimes this is partly because of their charisma or personality (eg Rommel, Napoleon, Caesar) . We have to remember that Caesar often was the one who was responsible for the reports of his own battles, so of course they usually showed him in a very favourable light. I'm not saying that he wasn't a good general - obviously he was - but it needs to be taken into consideration.
It was perhaps possible for Caesar to play with the numbers sometimes and to some extent, but likely too far to suggest he could have just recorded anything he wanted to without opposition. It's also true that he portrayed himself in a favorite light, but like with the numbers, there were other people who may have called him on falsehoods if any were too glaring.
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Old October 29th, 2016, 07:45 AM   #16
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Napoleon did not have to fight in Spain, Russia or Egypt. He saw himself as an Alexander type figure,and in order to emulate his hero he needed to win as much territory in as little time as possible. There won't be any primary sources from Napoleons side, as everything he did he claimed was 'for the glory of France' - conveniently this also enhanced his own glory. But if you look at other sources, most saw Bony as a war-monger. He crowned himself emperor, he had statues and portraits of himself as a messiah-like figure. Everything we know of Napoleon (in my opinion) show him as someone interested in making his name in the history books, which is why I see the campaigns in Russia, Egypt and Spain (amongst others) as being more about himself than for tactical reasons.
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Old October 29th, 2016, 08:12 AM   #17

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Good list. The only things I would change, if it were up to me:

-Switch the places of Napoleon and Caesar (IMO, the former made too many disastrous mistakes to be better than the latter, who never lost a campaign).

-Switch the places of Khalid and Marlborough (both undefeated, but the details on former are hazy, and the latter fought more formidable opponents).

-Switch the places of Grant and Lee (the former out-maneuvered the latter in 1864).

-Swap out Erwin Rommel (who isn't top 100 material IMO due to a poor conception of strategy), and put Gebhard von Blucher in his place.

-Switch the places of Winfield Scott and Stonewall Jackson (the former was always good, while the latter had a few fairly poor performances)

-Switch Ahmad Shah Durrani and Bajirao (the former kicked the crap out of the Marathas anyhow, even if it wasn't Bajirao himself)

-Personal preference would probably have me switching the places of Timur and Nader Shah, but I don't really have any objective measure for that.
Ahmed Shah Abdali ( not Ahmed Shah Durrani ) was the Emir of Kabul who had attacked India at that time i.e.1760 C.E. He was able to defeat the Marathas in the 3rd battle of Panipat in January 1761 only because his successful manoeuvring had brought his well supplied army between the Marathas and their supply sources in Delhi and nearby areas. The Marathas were in trouble also because they had a large number of camp followers and women and children who had to be fed. Yet till the afternoon of the day the battle had gone very much in favour of the Marathas. Their artillery had cut swathes in the Afghan army and Ahmed Shah having panicked sent the camels carrying his queens on the way to Lahore. This caused some hot headed cavalrymen in the Maratha army to ride into the Afghans causing their own artillery fire to stop.Then Vishwasrao Peshwa, the young heir apparent was killed by a sharpshooter causing immense panic and eventual defeat of the Marathas. No need to rate Ahmed Shah a better general than Bajirao -I on the basis of a single battle . Bajirao -I fought and won many more battles and skirmishes in difficult circumstances. Abdali was simply luckier.

Last edited by rvsakhadeo; October 29th, 2016 at 09:03 AM.
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Old October 29th, 2016, 02:11 PM   #18

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Originally Posted by paranoid marvin View Post
Napoleon did not have to fight in Spain, Russia or Egypt. He saw himself as an Alexander type figure,and in order to emulate his hero he needed to win as much territory in as little time as possible. There won't be any primary sources from Napoleons side, as everything he did he claimed was 'for the glory of France' - conveniently this also enhanced his own glory. But if you look at other sources, most saw Bony as a war-monger. He crowned himself emperor, he had statues and portraits of himself as a messiah-like figure. Everything we know of Napoleon (in my opinion) show him as someone interested in making his name in the history books, which is why I see the campaigns in Russia, Egypt and Spain (amongst others) as being more about himself than for tactical reasons.
I did not ask for a primary, I asked for a source. You've included no evidence in your post that these wars were launched for glory. That doesn't say they weren't mistakes, but that wasn't the actual reason. I don't see the use in your claim when it is simple enough to find Napoleon's reasoning even withput relying on propaganda. There is plenty to criticize in the facts without inventing.
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Old October 29th, 2016, 03:50 PM   #19

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He was more consistent in his role than Jackson was and his reputation is less boosted by political credit as Jackson's has with the Lost Cause. His failures I would also credit in part to Napoleon as his general was supposed to be sent with more resources and freedom than he actually got. I do not know the specifics of how much that influenced him, but I take it into account. Jackson doesn't actually seem to have been Lee's best subordinate and while he has the Valley campaign, that shines over the rest of his career more than is reasonable.

I'm not sure his record is much worse than Charles, but that's unfair, considering relatively independent command vs subordinate command. My comments about Massena, and to a lesser degree Pyrrhus, have as much to do with the men in front as the man himself.

Speaking of Charles, I see an updated list has him down much lower
"140 Jean Lannes
141 Xiang Yu
142 Pyrrhus of Epirus
143 Harpagus
144 Archduke Charles of Austria"
Perhaps. I think the issue with Massena was that he wasn't given any kind of supreme authority in Spain relative to the other French commanders there, and of course, that was Napoleon's fault, especially considering Massena was the best French general who ever served in Spain. I wouldn't blame Massena much for it, but it was still a failure, though not as bad as Jackson's failure during the Seven Days.

Speaking of Jackson, he was actually one of the few commanders better at independent command than he was as a subordinate, and even here, he was mostly very good aside from the Seven Days, and one of Lee's best, with only that one time really holding him down. As far as Lee's subordinates go, only Longstreet was better, IMO, and Massena still has to compete against the likes of Davout and Lannes. The main reason I prefer Jackson is simply because I find his independent best to be better than Massena's.
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Old October 29th, 2016, 03:56 PM   #20

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Originally Posted by rvsakhadeo View Post
Ahmed Shah Abdali ( not Ahmed Shah Durrani ) was the Emir of Kabul who had attacked India at that time i.e.1760 C.E. He was able to defeat the Marathas in the 3rd battle of Panipat in January 1761 only because his successful manoeuvring had brought his well supplied army between the Marathas and their supply sources in Delhi and nearby areas. The Marathas were in trouble also because they had a large number of camp followers and women and children who had to be fed. Yet till the afternoon of the day the battle had gone very much in favour of the Marathas. Their artillery had cut swathes in the Afghan army and Ahmed Shah having panicked sent the camels carrying his queens on the way to Lahore. This caused some hot headed cavalrymen in the Maratha army to ride into the Afghans causing their own artillery fire to stop.Then Vishwasrao Peshwa, the young heir apparent was killed by a sharpshooter causing immense panic and eventual defeat of the Marathas. No need to rate Ahmed Shah a better general than Bajirao -I on the basis of a single battle . Bajirao -I fought and won many more battles and skirmishes in difficult circumstances. Abdali was simply luckier.
Fair enough. I wasn't really being serious with that one comparison anyway, as I wasn't even sure Bajirao I was the same one who was defeated at Panipat in the first place. If he was though, then I would think Abdali deserves some points for maneuvering well, and Bajirao loses some points for not keeping better control of his cavalry.
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