Grant vs Wellington vs Scipio

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  • Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington

    Votes: 11 42.3%
  • Hiram Ulysses Grant

    Votes: 5 19.2%
  • Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus

    Votes: 10 38.5%

  • Total voters
    26

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,983
*sighs* It’s not sitting well with me that Wellington is ahead of both Scipio and Grant (I personally believe both are superior) and so I’m awfully tempted to summon Lord Oda.

To put it short, I believe those other 2 accomplished more on their own and that their own operations were more decisive for their cause than Wellington’s were. They also took fewer needless risks.
Isnt that just favouring circumstances over ability?
 
Mar 2018
981
UK
Scipio, Wellington, Grant

Scipio won a war that had put Rome on its knees. He often did so without full state backing, such at Zama. From what I know about him, he excelled at the Strategic, Operational and Tactical levels. Wellington simply doesn't have the same achievements. The Iberian war was not the main front, and - had he lost Waterloo - Napoleon would have been defeated by the allies a few months later anyway. I also don't buy the arguments that he had limited resources. Britain was rich and man-for-man his army was much better trained that his opponents. As for Grant, he was simply the best of a bad bunch. The ACW appears to have been badly run by all sides almost all the time. If you could put the military leadership of a European power in charge of the union forces I imagine the war would have been won in half the time.
 
Feb 2019
1,156
Serbia
their own and that their own operations were more decisive for their cause than Wellington’s were.
I don't necessarily agree. I think Wellington's campaigns in India and the Peninsular War were quite decisive for his cause in both the British conquest of India and the Napoleonic Wars. I find what Wellington did far more impressive because while Grant managed ''all armies'' he had those ''all armies'' and complete control of the army of a country that had over 3 times the population and an overwhelming economic advantage over its enemy. Wellington had Britain's largest and effectively the only real field army but faced a much more formidable enemy in the First French Empire. He couldn't afford to lose battles or take high casualties while Grant could and did even when having the advantage over his opponent. Carthage fought a war they couldn't win and Scipio had the command of an army that could afford to lose, Wellington didn't.

Wellington faced political opposition at home and had to manage an international army, which is never easy. He managed to beat multiple French armies and win against all odds for 6 years in Iberia. In India he managed to establish a stable order, conquer a huge amount of territory and display some of his most brilliant performances at battles such as Assaye.

None of this is to say that Grant and Scipio weren't good. They were. But on Grant I think that he was a great strategist but an average tactician, even when he faced Lee with twice the numbers in the Overland Campaign he took high casualties and while he did manage to sap Lee's army and push him from the Rapidan river to The James river I find that his rather underwhelming tactical performance disqualifies him. Scipio is comparable to Wellington in many ways, just as Wellington triumphed over Napoleon and ushered in the British imperial century Scipio triumphed over Hannibal and established Rome as a dominant power. I just think that what Wellington did was more impressive though I could certainly understand if someone would argue for Scipio.
 
Mar 2018
981
UK
@Mastersonmcvoidson: I basically agree with everything, but one point: that Wellington couldn't afford to lose an army while Scipio could.

What would have happened had Wellington got the British army annihilated in Waterloo? Would Britain just remain defenceless? No, their would be grumbling in Parliament but, eventually, they'd raise a new army. I'm sure that before Cannae, Rome thought that this was the last army they could possibly levy for this war. But they lost it and, eventually, raised new ones. I don't see how Britain would be any different. A state can, and must, keep replacing lost armies until it no longer has the man-power or wealth to do so. Britain was nowhere near this breaking point in the Napoleonic wars, it chose to have a small and highly professional army, that doesn't mean it was the only thing it was capable of. By the end of second Punic war however, Rome basically was at breaking point. It's why they didn't try to take Carthage itself and why they didn't press home their advantage in Macedonia afterwards.
 

nuclearguy165

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
4,865
Ohio, USA
I don't necessarily agree. I think Wellington's campaigns in India and the Peninsular War were quite decisive for his cause in both the British conquest of India and the Napoleonic Wars. I find what Wellington did far more impressive because while Grant managed ''all armies'' he had those ''all armies'' and complete control of the army of a country that had over 3 times the population and an overwhelming economic advantage over its enemy. Wellington had Britain's largest and effectively the only real field army but faced a much more formidable enemy in the First French Empire. He couldn't afford to lose battles or take high casualties while Grant could and did even when having the advantage over his opponent. Carthage fought a war they couldn't win and Scipio had the command of an army that could afford to lose, Wellington didn't.

Wellington faced political opposition at home and had to manage an international army, which is never easy. He managed to beat multiple French armies and win against all odds for 6 years in Iberia. In India he managed to establish a stable order, conquer a huge amount of territory and display some of his most brilliant performances at battles such as Assaye.

None of this is to say that Grant and Scipio weren't good. They were. But on Grant I think that he was a great strategist but an average tactician, even when he faced Lee with twice the numbers in the Overland Campaign he took high casualties and while he did manage to sap Lee's army and push him from the Rapidan river to The James river I find that his rather underwhelming tactical performance disqualifies him. Scipio is comparable to Wellington in many ways, just as Wellington triumphed over Napoleon and ushered in the British imperial century Scipio triumphed over Hannibal and established Rome as a dominant power. I just think that what Wellington did was more impressive though I could certainly understand if someone would argue for Scipio.
It really depends on how much importance one puts on tactics. I personally don’t put a ton of importance on it, and less than I place upon larger strategy.

Yes, Grant did have complete control, but only in 1864-65. Before then, he was only one among several Union generals, and his operations in the western theater were far successful than anyone else’s. He did not have much of a numerical advantage at all in those campaigns in 1862-63. Also, due to the advantageous for the defense nature of warfare in the ACW period (due to the combination of the lack of aerial warfare with rifled firearms, which nullified the tactical advantages of cavalry in general, as well as the offensive capabilities of 12 pounder artillery) strong numerical advantages didn’t mean as much during that time than in others. That should really be a qualifying factor to look at when looking at ACW tactics and tacticians. In this, Grant was invariably forced on the tactical offensive, and that was a much harder position to be in in this period than it was in Wellington’s. Managing huge forces is no small task either. Moreover, study the Vicksburg campaign in detail and tell me that it is less impressive than anything Wellington did on an operational level, with all of the terrain and logistics issues Grant faced.

When it comes to decisiveness, I think it is fair to say that the existence of Spanish armies in being plus the withdrawals of French forces from Spain for the more important theaters in 1812 and 1813 were just as responsible for allied success in Spain as was anything Wellington did. His decision to march through Extramadura instead of La Mancha in 1809 was foolish and the best he managed to achieve that campaign was an indecisive battle at Talavera. The Oporto campaign earlier that year was good but that was about it. 1810 was fine. 1811 was better than most of 1809, but it was still completely indecisive tactical victories. Fuentes de Onoro was a minor affair compared to the real fight at Albuera. The campaign achieved nothing and he was back in Portugal at the end of the year, with no objectives secured.

In 1812, he achieved a brilliant tactical victory at Salamanca but then overstretched himself with his communications open to Soult later in the year. He seemed more concerned with political objectives in Madrid and Burgos than in dealing with the remnants of Marmont/Clausel’s army or in dealing with Soult that year, just in general. The result, he just ended up back in Portugal, with practically nothing to show for it strategically besides Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz (much bloodier but a lot less strategically than the former).

1813 was an excellent year for Wellington, and he seems to have learned from some of the operational and logistics errors he made in previous years. This carried on into 1814 all the way until the indecisiveness of the Toulouse operations, where he was more or less bottled up and his gains very limited. The only other caveat worth adding with all of this that he benefited from further French withdrawals from Spain. Still, almost all of these operations were brilliant.

Still, before 1813-14, what about Wellington’s operations (besides battle tactics) was truly exceptional or up to the level of the average operations conducted by Scipio and Grant. Considering his father and uncle’s fatal failures, Scipio’s success was hardly predetermined.

As for 1803 in India, I don’t really see how the nature of the opposition was really that much different from Kutuzov facing the Ottomans in 1811-12. In both cases, the Maratha and Ottoman opposition was a small core of decent enough professional infantry and artillery forces, but which were still largely composed of rather ineffective feudal levies.

Finally, moving on to 1815, I really don’t see how Wellington in Belgium was nearly as good as Scipio in Africa in 203-02 BCE. In the first half of the campaign, he made plenty more strategic mistakes than Scipio ever did. He did, with plenty of help from Blucher, recover sufficiently well in the second half and he deserves laudits there, but it was still an uneven campaign in a lot of ways. It’s hard to say the same for Scipio in Africa. Admittedly, Massinissa served closed to the same role for Scipio at Zamia that Blucher did for Wellington at Waterloo, but that’s a bit besides the point.
 

nuclearguy165

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
4,865
Ohio, USA
Isnt that just favouring circumstances over ability?
Not always. Scipio in Iberia and Grant in the Vicksburg campaign faced very similarly difficult circumstances as Wellington did in Spain and, I believe, achieved even more for it. Due to the weaponry involved, Grant faced more difficult tactical circumstances than the other 2.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,983
Not always. Scipio in Iberia and Grant in the Vicksburg campaign faced very similarly difficult circumstances as Wellington did in Spain and, I believe, achieved even more for it. Due to the weaponry involved, Grant faced more difficult tactical circumstances than the other 2.
My piont was that weather General A or General B "achived more" is CAN (but not nessiacily) largely a product of circumstances.

My View is a Genral career reveals character and ability and compare that rather than comparing the histrocial performance in terms of achievement and circumstances (though they are not unrelated)

Just because say Alexander achieved more and wa smore decisive than Hannibal does not alone woithout exmination make Alexander the better comander.

Yes I'm quibbling about process.

As for Grant and Scipio I feel I just don;t have enough knowledge to make a meaningful comment.
 
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pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,983
In 1812, he achieved a brilliant tactical victory at Salamanca but then overstretched himself with his communications open to Soult later in the year. He seemed more concerned with political objectives in Madrid and Burgos than in dealing with the remnants of Marmont/Clausel’s army or in dealing with Soult that year, just in general. The result, he just ended up back in Portugal, with practically nothing to show for it strategically besides Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz (much bloodier but a lot less strategically than the former).
Aside from the French abandoning Andalusia.
 
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nuclearguy165

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
4,865
Ohio, USA
My piont was that weather General A or General B "achived more" is CAN (but not nessiacily) largely a product of circumstances.

My View is a Genral career reveals character and ability and compare that rather than comparing the histrocial performance in terms of achievement and circumstances (though they are not unrelated)

Just because say Alexander achieved more and wa smore decisive than Hannibal does not alone woithout exmination make Alexander the better comander.

Yes I'm quibbling about process.

As for Grant and Scipio I feel I just don;t have enough knowledge to make a meaningful comment.
Fair enough. I can't dispute when you put it like that.
 
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Kotromanic

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
5,090
Iowa USA
Isnt that just favouring circumstances over ability?
Wouldn't the largest "frozen accident" of circumstances regarding any of their reputations be that Wellington ended the career of the person in all modern history that is supported by the most effective army of propagandists and hagiographers?

If I understood early Roman history better than I do, I might not have made that statement by the way...