Best Collection of Military Talent in One Army at One Time

Oct 2016
888
Merryland
#1
to parallel the discussion on the talent on Napoleon's staff
what army/time had the best collection of talent?

I nominate the US Army in the Mexican War
future Generals Robert E Lee, U.S. Grant; McClellan, Longstreet, Sherman, Stonewall, Beaureguard, Meade, etc etc.

and their leader Winfield Scott was no minor military figure either
 
Mar 2016
457
Australia
#3
Alexander the Great's army (where even a lowly secretary rose to be a great warlord and conqueror)
The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic army
The German army in both World Wars
 
Dec 2013
34
Finland
#4
How do you define talent? Is it a) natural ability or b) something that is influenced by general education level/military training? If a), then the most talented armies are probably the numerically largest ones assuming somewhat average distribution... if b), one has to put a) in context. E.g. USSR and USA had the largest armed forces in WWII but the general/military education in USSR was at lower level than USA - which would mean US armed forces in WWII had the most talent during the period, perhaps of all time.

A case could also be made for modern armies, which a numerically large and professional. The level of education/training is much higher and more specialized than in previous times. Modern armies, even WWII armies, are much less individualistic to the public than pre-1900's armies with much bigger engineer corps and other stuff, but that does not mean they have less talent than previous historical armies. It might be the opposite. Anonymity is also an issue with historical armies, as we do not have a lot of information about them - e.g. Parthians and the Inca conquered a lot, but there is no detailed knowledge about their officer corps and achievements.

Talent could also be discussed in relation to army size (which army had the most talent in relation to its size), but this is pretty difficult issue. E.g. Alexander the Great's army had a lot of famous commanders, who all were professional soldiers, but as armies opposing them were much less professional, was their success due to "talent" (a) or due to higher degree of professionalism (training and experience - or are these included in definition of talent)? Or were the native americans the most talented as they fought against "alien" foe with superior resources and still achieved some successes?

OTOH If a particular army at a particular time offered good opportunities it probably attracted a fair share of talent (a or b). Alexander's army, Sassanid army, Arab armies, Tsenghis Khan's mongols, Swedish armies of 1600's and 1700's, army of Nader Shah, French revolutionary army etc. are all probable examples of concentrations of military talent. One thing is also that the more modern the societies become, the less attractive are the military opportunities for general success in life for individuals - thus older armies might include more talent (in relation to their size). Which had "the best collection" is relative and probably not measurable in any case.
 
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pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,074
#5
What about Revolutionary France?
Davout
Lannes
Massena
Soult
And Napoleon of course.
Plus people like Ney, Murat etc.
Murat was a Military idiot not fit to command a regiment.
Ney and Lannes great Division commanders, Ney totally unsuited to higher command was promted beyond his competence, Lannes who knows, but each level up different skills are needed.
 
Sep 2016
753
Georgia
#6
Alexander the Great's army had a lot of famous commanders, who all were professional soldiers, but as armies opposing them were much less professional, was their success due to "talent" (a) or due to higher degree of professionalism (training and experience - or are these included in definition of talent)?
Eumenes was not a professional soldier.

About what commanders of Alexander are you taking about ? About what opponents are you talking about ? Have you studied battles and campaigns of Alexander ? Do you think there was no talent at all ? Have you ever studied Diadochi campaigns ? Have you ever studied Antigonus vs Eumenes campaigns ? Do you think there was no talent displayed by Antigonus or Eumenes in their maneuvers ?
Swedish armies of 1600's and 1700's,
Why do you mention only Swedish armies ? What about French ? Louis XIV probably had the greatest amount of talent during his reign than any other leader at that time.

France had Turenne, Conde, Vauban, Luxembourg, Duquesne, Tourville, Catinat, Vendome, Boufflers, Berwick and Villars.
France also had Michel Le Tellier and Marquis de Louvois ( son of Le Tellier ). They were instrumental in organizing French army into the powerhouse that it became.

Let's not forget Jean-Baptiste Colbert as well. He created powerful French fleet that could rival English and Dutch.

I would actually say, that France in 17th century was superior to France in the beginning of 19th century in terms of talent.
 
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Jul 2018
249
London
#7
Is this kind of discussion really useful? It is difficult to judge in isolation and compare different eras. What made a good general in antiquity is different from what is required now so it is really an apple and oranges comparison, to me.
More interesting would be, like in the thread Roman vs Prussians, draw parallels and differences among the military commanders of various periods..
 
Dec 2013
34
Finland
#8
Eumenes was not a professional soldier.

About what commanders of Alexander are you taking about ? About what opponents are you talking about ? Have you studied battles and campaigns of Alexander ? Do you think there was no talent at all ? Have you ever studied Diadochi campaigns ? Have you ever studied Antigonus vs Eumenes campaigns ? Do you think there was no talent displayed by Antigonus or Eumenes in their maneuvers ?
Eumenes was also not a commander in Alexander's army... he become a commander after Alexander's death if I recall correctly. I used the term "Alexander's army" to refer the actual thing, but I admit this might have been a bit vague. This army's opponents were mostly Greeks and Persians (Thracians, Indians etc.). I left the Diadochi wars out as they were a totally different affair (and the army was no longer "Alexander's army").

The problem with this whole discussion is that it is too broad... as I tried to imply in my first post when discussing about the problems associated with this whole "talent" thing. Army of Alexander of course had so-called talent, but whether this was really exceptional compared to other armies of other periods is not really measurable. As the OP was about "Best collection of talent", US armed forces had 236,826 officers in 2018 according to wikipedia - this is more than the size of the whole army of Alexander that invaded Persia... being an officer does not necessarily indicate talent, but it is statistically very likely that these officer corps include more talent than selection of Alexander's generals (Alexander included).

Why do you mention only Swedish armies ? What about French ? Louis XIV probably had the greatest amount of talent during his reign than any other leader at that time.
Reason bolded in the quote from my original message:

"Alexander's army, Sassanid army, Arab armies, Tsenghis Khan's mongols, Swedish armies of 1600's and 1700's, army of Nader Shah, French revolutionary army etc. are all probable examples..."
 
Sep 2016
753
Georgia
#9
Eumenes was also not a commander in Alexander's army... he become a commander after Alexander's death if I recall correctly.
Eumenes became commander at the end of Alexander's campaigns actually. Plutarch tells us that Alexander started to give him military tasks and independent command. So, not after Alexander's death.

I also still want to know about what military commanders of Alexander you are talking about. Give me more names.
This army's opponents were mostly Greeks and Persians (Thracians, Indians etc.). I left the Diadochi wars out as they were a totally different affair (and the army was no longer "Alexander's army").
Don't worry, I know Alexander's opponents very well.
Army of Alexander of course had so-called talent, but whether this was really exceptional compared to other armies of other periods is not really measurable... but it is statistically very likely that these officer corps include more talent than selection of Alexander's generals (Alexander included).
There was good post by Tokugawa Ieyasu when discussing Napoleon and Schwarzenberg :
,, The usually prudent military commander would not risk for full-scale advance or offensive easily under such circumstance. That made the difference between the "military genius" Napoleon Bonaparte and the "military mediocre" Schwarzenberg in the AD 1814 French Campaign. The former resorted on decisive manuoever for striking a psychological blow upon the opponents in the "fog of war" though which also caused much uncertainty to him, the latter was always too timid to advance without fully securing the line of communication with the rear or the other allied troops in fear of being battered in isolation

In comparison, Schwarzenberg just "followed the tempo and dance" raised by Napoleon ...

In comparison with that Schwarzenberg who was always so indecisive and inactive, you'll understand the stark contrast between a "great military commander" and a "mediocre military commander".

"Mediocre military commander" isn't equivalent to incompetence, just have too much tendency to follow the "common sense" in planning and preparation restrained by logistical or psychological pressure. "Great military commander" meant those who could always shatter the rigid framework of "convenient moves" and prefer to do anything what the opponent could not guess with farsightedness, courage and vision. "

Those qualities of , Great military commander '' Alexander showed in Battle of Gaugamela, for example. When he had vey high chance of suffering defeat from Persians.

Once any of modern American military commanders show something comparable to this in really critical situation, than you can call them more talented.

Swedish armies of 1600's and 1700's
But you still decided to mention Swedish of that period and not French. It's probably historical bias you have.
 
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Likes: macon
Jul 2018
427
Hong Kong
#10
Rarely known : The Finnish army in the Winter War (1939-40)

There're many outstanding Finnish generals in this disproportionate war. They taught the Soviet a lesson what's the meaning of guerilla and mobile warfare in the northern frozen ground mixed with forested area.

In the legendary Dual Battle of Suomussalmi-Raate Road, two entire Soviet divisions plus one Soviet tank brigade (numbered 45,000-50,000 in total) were utterly defeated by the much smaller Finnish army (only 11,500 in total) consisted of only three regiments and two battalions. It was the "Finnish version of Austerlitz" ! The Finnish commander was called Hjalmar Siilasvuo, who was very shrewd in military command.

There're numerous remarkable Finnish victory in other battles as well, though not so dazzling as Suomussalmi. Just check the wikipedia.
The overall quality of the Finnish military officers was really impressive.
 
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