Great military leaders surrounded by average/incompetent colleagues

Feb 2019
191
Thrace
#1
What examples do we have in history? Say nation A is involved in a conflict and General X wins all the battles he personally leads but the other generals of country A fail constantly.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,643
Dispargum
#2
Napoleon tended to promote officers who were good at following his orders but who could not be trusted with independent command. There were exceptions. Davout comes to mind. But far too often, when Napoleon was not present his marshalls failed.
 
Feb 2019
307
Serbia
#3
Archduke Charles in 1796-97 is a good example.

The French were advancing on Vienna from 2 directions: From northern Italy under Napoleon and over the Rhine through Germany under Jourdan and Moreau. Napoleon fought in Italy and had many successes such as Rivoli and Arcole, crushing the Austrian armies. Charles launched a brilliant counter offensive against the French on the Rhine, beating Jourdan and then Moreau. He forced the French armies to retreat all the way back to the Rhine and saved Vienna from the French advance. However Napoleon was marching from Italy. After his victory Charles was sent to Italy but the damage had already been done and he was outmatched and outnumbered by Napoleon. Charles fought (And lost.) a few minor engagements but managed to conduct a skillful retreat and save his army from complete destruction. Despite his victories and ability Charles was not able to stop Napoleon and in 1797 the latter came a few kilometers from Vienna when Austria surrendered.

Charles did all he could and with the situation he was in it was a miracle that he not only defeated 2 French armies but also managed to not get destroyed when he was outnumbered and outmatched. If anything he managed to reduce the damage done and deprive the French of a complete and utter victory. If the Austrians in Italy managed to hold Napoleon or at least keep their armies in tact Charles might've been able to win in Italy and if not win the war at least hold the French for a little longer.

At Wagram in 1809 he was close to victory and inflicted high casualties on Napoleon, the casualties on both sides were horrific. IIRC Napoleon lost 39.000 men while Charles lost 41.000. Charles blamed his defeat on the incompetence and late arrival of his Brother John who was supposed to reinforce him. John lost the battle of Raab a few days before Wagram, getting his reinforcement force heavily damaged and allowing Prince Eugene de Beauharnais to link up with Napoleon. If John managed to win, or at least not lose as hard at Raab and arrived at time for Wagarm the Austrians might've won the battle.
 
Likes: macon
Jan 2015
3,244
Front Lines of the Pig War
#5
Monty was not well served by some of his compatriots, especially in Market Garden.

The commander of the 1st Allied Airborne army, Lt. Gen Brereton, was described by Omar Bradley as being "marginally competant". :confused:

He was also described as having a "party loving streak, (and) more interested in living in the biggest French chateau".

With that kind of leadership, is it really any surprise that his airborne plan was so flawed?
 
Jul 2016
8,661
USA
#6
Monty was not well served by some of his compatriots, especially in Market Garden.

The commander of the 1st Allied Airborne army, Lt. Gen Brereton, was described by Omar Bradley as being "marginally competant". :confused:

He was also described as having a "party loving streak, (and) more interested in living in the biggest French chateau".

With that kind of leadership, is it really any surprise that his airborne plan was so flawed?
Don't forget Browning, who was also largely responsible for the debacle.
 
Jan 2015
3,244
Front Lines of the Pig War
#7
Don't forget Browning, who was also largely responsible for the debacle.
Yeah, I'm not a big fan of Browning, however "largely responsible" is an overstatement.

The inept planning for the drop zones, the refusal to consider a 2nd lift on the first day and the goofy idea to drop midday instead of early morning was Brereton, and Maj. Gen Paul Williams.
So Brereton rightly takes the biggest slice of blame, with a generous portion doled out to Browning.

Did anybody think to check and test out the damn radios? Or the crystals? :mad:

Browning's use of 38 gliders to bring in his HQ was less than helpful (to put it mildly)

Ideally, the 1st Allied Airborne should have been led by Gale & Ridgeway (in either order)
 
Nov 2010
7,513
Cornwall
#9
Napoleon tended to promote officers who were good at following his orders but who could not be trusted with independent command. There were exceptions. Davout comes to mind. But far too often, when Napoleon was not present his marshalls failed.
Suchet, Lannes, Soult, Massena before those lines!! Napoleon's criteria were mysterious. 'Lucky' obviously but the Marshalls were divided almost exactly into 3 - old soldiers, new post revolutionary soldiers and Bonapartists (I think that was the 3 anyway!!)

Quite a lot were capable to an extent but it's when you get to the real big armies it gets messy
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,666
#10
Napoleon tended to promote officers who were good at following his orders but who could not be trusted with independent command. There were exceptions. Davout comes to mind. But far too often, when Napoleon was not present his marshalls failed.
There is also that he set them up to fail to some extenet. They were not resourced as Napoleon was or given unified command. Napoloen never clarified the line of command and encouraged squabbling, and precedence battles which he never resolved deliberately. It's style of command/organization that requires arbitration/favour of the central figure who by not establishing clear lines and spoheres of action, makes himself necessarily and vital to functioning of the machine.

But should also be remembered that as the armies go up the responsibilities increase as does teh skill set. The skills as brigade commander needs is difference from a corps commander, the Amry commander needs diferent skills from the corps commander. One may be an excellent division commander by the lack of one key skill can make that same commander a terrible corps commander and a completely hopless army commander.

Ney could lead an rearguard, excellant divsion commander. He lack of focus and tendency to get suked into what was in front of him made him a very poor army commander.
Wittgenstein a good independent coprs commander, but his lack of organizational skills, (in fact his negative disorganization effect) crippled his functioning as an Amry commander.
 
Last edited:

Similar History Discussions