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Old May 27th, 2013, 01:20 PM   #1

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Worst General in History


Who throughout the course of history has proved himself (or herself) to be so completely incompetent as to deserve this title?
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Old May 27th, 2013, 01:23 PM   #2

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The Roman generals at Cannae would probably be good candidates.
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Old May 27th, 2013, 01:23 PM   #3

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One good candidate

[ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Vere_Ferrers_Townshend]Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

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Old May 27th, 2013, 02:09 PM   #4

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I would have chosen General Elphinstone who led the british withdrawal from Afghanistan in the first Anglo-Afghan war.
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Old May 27th, 2013, 02:30 PM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam-Nary View Post
The Roman generals at Cannae would probably be good candidates.
That's a bit harsh - Paullus had won (albeit likely not a very difficult campaign) against the Illyrians in 219 BC, and Varro had skillfully skirmished with Hannibal previously, beating off attacks on his marching column, and he showed he had good leadership skills and strategic vision after Cannae. It's a little harsh to judge them too poorly for Cannae, as no Roman general had commanded so many men, of which half were likely green, and the army had little time to work together - they used the infantry to the normal Roman strength which had proven to work against Hannibal at the Trebia.

I'd put my vote in for Elphinstone - though I haven't read a real history book on it, Flashman makes for a good substitute - it was a bloody mess!!!

Last edited by markdienekes; May 27th, 2013 at 02:33 PM.
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Old May 27th, 2013, 02:50 PM   #6

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Originally Posted by markdienekes View Post
That's a bit harsh - Paullus had won (albeit likely not a very difficult campaign) against the Illyrians in 219 BC, and Varro had skillfully skirmished with Hannibal previously, beating off attacks on his marching column, and he showed he had good leadership skills and strategic vision after Cannae. It's a little harsh to judge them too poorly for Cannae, as no Roman general had commanded so many men, of which half were likely green, and the army had little time to work together - they used the infantry to the normal Roman strength which had proven to work against Hannibal at the Trebia.

I'd put my vote in for Elphinstone - though I haven't read a real history book on it, Flashman makes for a good substitute - it was a bloody mess!!!
But Hannibal's formation was an obvious trap. And the tactics that had largely worked against Hannibal in Italy had been ones that avoided attacking Hannibal's army, but preying on what meager supply lines that he had, and wearing down the army in a series of small engagements...

One of Rome's Generals favored a continuation of these Fabian tactics at Cannae and exhausting Hannibal's forces. The other favored a more direct approach, which had given Rome exactly zero real successes previously. Hannibal recognized the lack of coordination with regard to strategy and caught on to the fact that the two Roman commanders were trading over all command of the army in alternating days. He thus directed his army to move closer on the days that the more aggressive general was in command to entice him into attacking the Carthaginian army...

The result was that the Roman army charged into an obvious trap and was practically slaughtered in its entirety, despite outnumbering Hannibal in the battle, which in many ways mirrored Rome's previous defeats against Hannibal... a trap is laid, the aggressive Roman commander charges into it without thinking, the Roman army is slaughtered and Hannibal continues his invasion.

Because of that, Varro and Paullus are good candidates. There may have been some generals that were worse, but the failure at Cannae is a good candidate.
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Old May 27th, 2013, 02:52 PM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarshallBudyonny View Post
I would have chosen General Elphinstone who led the british withdrawal from Afghanistan in the first Anglo-Afghan war.
Quote:
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I'd put my vote in for Elphinstone - though I haven't read a real history book on it, Flashman makes for a good substitute - it was a bloody mess!!!
He was definitely one of the worst. Im tired of reiterating Duke of Cumberland et al on this list, so i'll add three other incompetent British generals:

James Abercrombie
Launches a suicidal attack on fort Ticonderoga, during the seven years war, when he had opportunites to outflank, use high ground for artillery and a host of other options. Result: Bloodbath for British forces.

John Whitelocke
Leader of the ridiculous invasion of Argentina - Buenos Aires to be exact - and allows the militia to reform after he gained initial success. Gets himself trapped inside the city, with a hostile popuation, and commences in urban warfare which he can't win. Result: Surrender of British forces, with the loss of about 3,000 of his 10,000 men. Nearly a third of his forces.

Sir Charles MacCarthy.
Another incompetent, who splits is involved with the colonial campaign against the Ashanti. Breaks his force - unneccesarily - into four parts, with him having the smallest (400 men I think). Comes against a force of nearly 10,000 Ashanti, and tries to scare them away by playing "god save the king". Fails to do that, fails to get ammunition in time and gets butchered and cannibalised, along with most of his contingent.
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Old May 27th, 2013, 02:58 PM   #8

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But Hannibal's formation was an obvious trap. And the tactics that had largely worked against Hannibal in Italy had been ones that avoided attacking Hannibal's army, but preying on what meager supply lines that he had, and wearing down the army in a series of small engagements...
It's not as bad as people make out. I don't think there was an obvious trap either, because the inversion was not done until engagement of forces had taken place.

During the battle of Trasimene, 10,000 legionairres escaped through Hannibal's centre. Varro knew this, and he used thatknowledge to convince himself that it was misfortune, rather than Roman arms that failed. Essentially he had the right idea. He was on favourable ground to Romans, and the weight of a concerted attack, could not be stopped. Too much momentum. Essentially, he wanted to use the Roman strengths. Unfortunately, he underestimated Hannibal, as he already realised this is what the Romans may try and do, and he set his trap accordingly.
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Old May 27th, 2013, 04:30 PM   #9
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Admiral Lord Fisher.
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Old May 27th, 2013, 04:43 PM   #10

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In a way, I'd say this is a hard one to answer. It's unfair to judge a general for his conduct in one battle when its possible that he fought multiple, even dozens of battles in his career. And even those who made disastrous mistakes in one battle were usually either killed or removed from command as a result.

Two commonly-maligned generals are Varus and Ambrose Burnside; the former one of Augustus' generals, the latter a Union general of the American Civil War. Varus is notorious for losing three Roman legions in the Teutoberg Wald. Burnside is infamous for effectively ordering his army to commit suicide, several brigades at a time, at Fredericksburg in 1862.

And yet, Varus had had a successful military career before his German posting; he quashed a Jewish revolt that broke out after the death of Herod the Great. Burnside, likewise, was a largely successful officer - so long as he wasn't in the Virginia Theater.
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