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View Poll Results: Who was the greatest general in American military history?
George Washington 13 21.67%
Nathaniel Greene 3 5.00%
Winfield Scott 13 21.67%
Zachary Taylor 1 1.67%
Ulysses S. Grant 22 36.67%
Robert E. Lee 16 26.67%
William T. Sherman 3 5.00%
John J. Pershing 2 3.33%
Douglas MacArthur 5 8.33%
George C. Marshall 10 16.67%
Dwight D. Eisenhower 13 21.67%
Omar Bradley 5 8.33%
George S. Patton 4 6.67%
Matthew Ridgway 6 10.00%
Other 3 5.00%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 60. You may not vote on this poll

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Old July 15th, 2017, 08:38 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Sam-Nary View Post
I voted based on the potential to claim the spot...

Though if it was only to be one, I'd tend to lean in Eisenhower's direction. It wasn't so much about his military planning but in his ability to hold the Western Allies together.

Coalitions don't always function well. And you can see that in WWI in that France and Britain rarely fought together in a way that was easily coordinated. Joffre had to get the British government to order Sir John French even fight on the Marne in 1914 and more often than not the cooperation between the two was more to keep their attacks in a way that they didn't attack in such ways their lines didn't pull themselves apart.

Napoleon was famous for commenting on liking facing coalitions because they didn't agree necessarily and he could then pick them apart one by one...

So, clearly, keeping a coalition together and focused isn't easy. And the Western Allies had plenty of factors and egos that weren't going to be easily sated. There was Patton, there was Montgomery, and there was De Gaulle... ALL with their own ideas of glory and strategy. Dealing with ALL of them would require a great deal of diplomacy that other possible greatest American generals didn't necessarily have. Marshall and MacArthur really didn't and I'd tend to think that Scott wouldn't have been able to handle a similar situation. The one possible would be Grant... but I would hold Eisenhower's ability to hold the Allies together and focused on a single goal as the prime reason. As he he DID deal with a situation that most other generals couldn't have coordinated...
Eisenhower was part pencil pusher and part politician, he was not a real general in any way.

And the allies could not even coordinate their bombing strategy let alone work in concert. Good thing for them about russia or they would have been obliterated on landing.
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Old July 15th, 2017, 09:17 PM   #22

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Eisenhower was part pencil pusher and part politician, he was not a real general in any way.
He wasn't any grand theorist or super brilliant field commander, but in a way he didn't HAVE to be. In the positions he served in, being a "pencil pusher and part politician" was of greater benefit to keeping the Western Allies together and thus not letting things pull them apart.

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And the allies could not even coordinate their bombing strategy let alone work in concert. Good thing for them about russia or they would have been obliterated on landing.
This is laughable.

The Allies couldn't work in concert? Even with all the rivalries that went on over the course of the war, working in concert proved to be something they were quite able to manage... And while there were many debates over how to handle things, Eisenhower as Supreme Commander kept the ultimate focus on Germany and kept things balanced. And when there were debates, Eisenhower handled things that ultimately built consensus and support behind the general idea...

And in the end, this principle served to keep things balanced. Call it "pencil pushing" if you will, but it's how the war on the Western Front in WW2 was won.
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Old July 16th, 2017, 12:30 PM   #23

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My votes went to Ulysses S. Grant, Winfield Scott, and George C. Marshall.

Grant is probably the most versatile of the names on the list; where some like Patton or MacArthur were primarily theater or field commanders and other likes Eisenhower or Marshall had to run overall war efforts, Grant had to wear all of those hats. He was the most successful Union army commander in the field prior to his 1864 promotion. During that time, aside from being successful operationally, he had to coordinate closely with the navy, deal with thorny political issues involving slavery and how to deal with occupied Confederate territory and disloyal citizens, work with a difficult, suspicious and questionably capable superior in Henry Halleck, deal with doubts originating from Washington itself about his fitness to command, and wrestle with difficult subordinates (William Rosecrans) and outright disloyal ones (John McClernand).

Despite all that, he's the leading Union commander by 1864, and in the supreme commander role, waging war across the continent on a scale that no US general had to deal with before, and still dealing with the difficult politics that helped destroy his predecessors, he successfully brought the war to its conclusion, while simultaneously still partially fulfilling the role of a field commander, and successfully, in the end, as he removed Lee's army from the war by outmaneuvering Lee and trapping him in Petersburg, while giving the overall Union war effort the guiding direction it had sorely lacked to that point.

Winfield Scott is the giant of early US military history, with all due respect to George Washington. Scott shaped the course of the US military between the War of 1812 and the Civil War, and his campaigns in Mexico were superb examples of his military skills in the field. Many of the Civil War's future leaders learned key parts of their craft from him.

George Marshall was both a great soldier and a great statesman, and earned his title of the organizer of victory. Overseeing and arranging the expansion of the US military and putting key men in place to lead it may have been "pencil pushing," as someone put it, but it was crucial work, and he did it. His post-war work is if anything, even more laudable.
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Old July 16th, 2017, 01:29 PM   #24

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nothing bad to say about Washington

Grant underrated imho. Vicksburg campaign was superb.

Marse Robert was amazing.

I read a Civil War history years ago that concluded that Stonewall was the best General of the war for either side. otherwise I think you got all the candidates listed.
good job, nice thread.
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Old July 16th, 2017, 01:36 PM   #25

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I picked 4:

Ulysses S. Grant

George Washington

Douglas MacArthur

Winfield Scott
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Old July 16th, 2017, 01:39 PM   #26

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Interesting to note that Pershing and Taylor are the only ones not to receive votes thus far.
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Old July 16th, 2017, 01:44 PM   #27

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From a foreigner's perspective I'd go with Grant. Apart from his battles and strategy he is also the first "modern" or "democratic" general. Ie he got all kinds of officers forced onto him, but I don't think he ever got into an argument about it. He also seemed to have kept a good eye on how certain actions may impact the government politically.

The other would be Eisenhower, without whom I may have learned German or Russian as a first language.
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Old July 18th, 2017, 06:29 AM   #28

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Viperlord View Post
Interesting to note that Pershing and Taylor are the only ones not to receive votes thus far.
my .02...

Pershing got pub as a 'leader', just like the local football coach gets pub, but I don't know how much actual generalling he did. don't think chasing Pancho around the desert counts for much.
IIRC he insisted on keeping the USA forces together instead of handing them out to the Brit and French armies, so he gets credit for that. WWI wasn't much of a general's war really.

Zachary Taylor fought and won some good battles against Mexico but I think overshadowed by Scott's campaigns.
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Old July 18th, 2017, 08:35 PM   #29

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Quote:
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Pershing got pub as a 'leader', just like the local football coach gets pub, but I don't know how much actual generalling he did. don't think chasing Pancho around the desert counts for much.
IIRC he insisted on keeping the USA forces together instead of handing them out to the Brit and French armies, so he gets credit for that. WWI wasn't much of a general's war really.
WWI was very much a general's war. Just because the war was not the massed armored warfare seen a generation later or the classic Napoleonic infantry battles of the century prior does not mean it wasn't a "general's war."

The issue in the First World War is really one in which the generals needed to adapt to the weapons that had been introduced since each participant's last war. Artillery had gotten better, smokeless powder had been invented, the use of machine guns was fully integrated into European armies... but yet many of the European powers still looked on warfare in a very... Napoleonic lens. Shoot, many of the French troops in 1914 would not look out of place with their fathers/grandfathers in the Franco-Prussian War. But in 1914, these industrial powers used all their weapons on each other and the resulting carnage rapidly turned to stalemate and created a system where all sides were at a loss on how to resume the war of motion...

And it was really a tough lesson. We often see a lot of criticism of men like Haig, Falkenhayn, Joffre, and others as being callous with men's lives and killing millions to gain a few yards of ground, but we need to remember that dealing with modern weapons was something that wouldn't be easy and I've wager that you could take any great general from the past, be it Lee and Grant in the US, Napoleon I in France, Wellington in Britain, or Blucher in Germany and put them in command of the armies in WWI and you would not have seen the rapid resumption of the war of movement.

And while I wouldn't say that Pershing was a bad general, I'd tend to argue that he really arrived too late to be a crucial figure in determining Allied operations and his push to keep the American army as an American army would also mean that its operations would not get any of the sort of help from the experienced British and French and thus leading to a situation where America found in 1918 in which its army fought using tactics that the French and British had abandoned in late 1915 to early 1916. Had the Germans not been short of men and bullets by 1918... the Meuse Argonne Offensive would have probably been far bloodier for the US than it was in history.
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Old July 19th, 2017, 03:20 AM   #30

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I voted for Washington. I know it sounds like a cliche, but you cannot underestimate the importance of what Washington accomplished under the circumstances. The British Empire had exponentially more resources than Washington did. He may not have won many battles, but he inspired and he managed the war to the point of victory. He was thoroughly the underdog. With the exception of Lee (who would be my second choice), no other general on this list came in as an underdog, something to consider.
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