Most Overrated General

Mar 2019
106
Victoria, Australia
#1
There are many generals that have gathered renown as military geniuses or great commanders. Some like Hannibal, Tiberius and Belisarius easily come to mind as having rightly deserved such praise. But what are some generals in your opinion which have a much over-rated fame or 'greatness' as commanders?

Personally, I think Wellington falls in this category. His battles does not show military ability on the same level as that of Napoleon or his comtemporaries. Whilst he did certainly have good ideas , I don't think they are enough to make him "one of the great".

I also think that the next person I am going to nominate may well anger a lot of people. But I think Julius Gaius Caesar to fall in this "overrated" category. His only brilliant military victory that I can think of was Alesia. The rest were great victories, but not tactically or stragically mind-blowingly good. Also, a lot of the accounts of his victories come almost entirely from his own writing which were all extremely politically motivated and loaded and cannot truly be accounted for their accuracy.

Do you agree or do you have another nomination for "great" generals that are renowned and famous as such that don't rightly deserve it?

To note, I am talking about their strategic or tactical prowess on the battlefield, their success overall, in that battle or otherwise is not part of their criteria.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,354
#2
Napoleon. while great not near as great as many think. Gets a pass for Russia in 1812. One of the biggest diasters in military history. Which was solely Napoleon's fault. Was fortuanate to have many advantages, better reformed and organised army (he helped but most of that predated Napoloen) , better commanders (not his doing eitehr, the Amry of itlay was pre Napoloen and the French Leadership got worse not better under Napoloen), very indept opposing Generals (he generally faced some of the great nauces of the age, abnd despite that masisve porpganda nad popularly belief to contray normally had the numbers firmly on his side.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,354
#4
Personally, I think Wellington falls in this category. His battles does not show military ability on the same level as that of Napoleon or his comtemporaries. Whilst he did certainly have good ideas , I don't think they are enough to make him "one of the great".
There is a degree of hype around Wellington but he was very good. He's certinaly clealry in the top few commanders of the peried. He made more mistakes than the hype says. Question makrs over his halding of artillery/cavalry (never had that much but his niether did seem to show much with them) and perhpas large armies (just did not have chance

Overatied is the gap between rating (but whose, populalr history?) and reality (again a value judgment) it's eye of the beholder on both.
 
Feb 2019
805
Serbia
#5
Personally, I think Wellington falls in this category. His battles does not show military ability on the same level as that of Napoleon or his comtemporaries. Whilst he did certainly have good ideas , I don't think they are enough to make him "one of the great".
Wellington's ability is usually exaggerated and his popularity as a legendary, invincible hero in Britain doesn't help with that. However I feel that your reasoning is pretty weak. Tactically he usually wasn't too flashy but his defensive tactics were pretty good. His offensives were a bit weaker but still impressive. (see Assaye and Salamanca.) Strategically I would say he was one of the greatest in his time, some of his campaigns like Massena's Invasion of Portugal and Torres Vedras are in my opinion mindblowing. The fact that he never* lost a battle also has to be taken into consideration. Much of his reputation is derived as ''the Hero of Waterloo.'' Waterloo was far from his finest but even then he was able. One of his major strategic blunders was the failure to destroy Soult's army at the closing months of the Peninsular War, he won all the battles (Tolouse?) but failed to actually destroy Soult. Battles alone don't make a great general, they play a part but there is far more to it including strategy, morale etc.

* Sieges and skirmishes are not battles and I do not count them for his. There is a case to be made for Redinha.


To answer the OP: Kutuzov. I find he gets much of the credit for Borodino and the victory in the Invasion of Russia that should go primarily to de Tolly. Out of the Russian generals de Tolly was the superior strategist and organiser while Bagration was better tactically.
The fact that he also had many blunders yet never had a truly great, decisive, mindblowing victory (I do not find Berezina as a great, impressive victory.) on the level of Napoleon, Wellington and even Archduke Charles cements my view that he is far from the greatest general of the era.

Another case can be made for Frederick the Great and pretty much everything Prussian ever but I won't get into that now.
 
Likes: macon

macon

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
4,019
Slovenia, EU
#6
Kutuzov is a fine choice for an overrated general in my opinion. How good were lesser Russian generals: Miloradovich, Dokhturov, Wittgenstein, Bennigsen, Platov, Raevsky?

Caesar being overrated is a joke. He was fighting all possible enemies with all possible army setups, he was most often outnumbered, his logistic accomplishments were astonishing and he was brilliantly innovative. He also defeated other Romans, also his number one subordinate of Gaulish wars. In my opinion Julius is a GOAT.
 
Feb 2019
805
Serbia
#7
Kutuzov is a fine choice for an overrated general in my opinion. How good were lesser Russian generals: Miloradovich, Dokhturov, Wittgenstein, Bennigsen, Platov, Raevsky?
Miloradovich was pretty good I would say, Wittgenstein was decent as a lesser commander but I find he wasn't too good at commanding larger armies. Benningsen was not a lesser general, he held major commands and had many blunders, he was not terrible per say but he was far from good. I can't comment on the others. I find Eugene of Wuerttemberg to be the greatest Russian lesser general and possibly THE greatest lesser general of the coalition.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,354
#8
Kutuzov is a fine choice for an overrated general in my opinion. How good were lesser Russian generals: Miloradovich, Dokhturov, Wittgenstein, Bennigsen, Platov, Raevsky?

Caesar being overrated is a joke. He was fighting all possible enemies with all possible army setups, he was most often outnumbered, his logistic accomplishments were astonishing and he was brilliantly innovative. He also defeated other Romans, also his number one subordinate of Gaulish wars. In my opinion Julius is a GOAT.

Kutuzov may have been a decent general in his early career of which I only know the barest outlines. But 1805/1812 I see very little to like in term sof strategic and tactical abiity. Cunning politically, and certiblay knew how to motivate the typical Russian solider. I was aged and perhaps not in the soundest condition. But very overated IMHO compared to his general popular history reputation.

Miloradovich, an excellant rearguard/advance guard commander, good division commander.
Dokhturov - competent, division commander,
Wittegenstaien - very good as a independent corps commander in 1812, completely out of his depth as an army commander, just really disorganization his forcrs, rather than organised, just not the administrative and organizational ability to command moderate army,
Bennigsen - okish, strageicaly bold, tactical timind, he did fight Napoloen to a draw at Eylau. An arch intriguer.
Platov - very good charismatic commander of cossacks. not really sur ehe really ocmmanded otehr troops much (odd squadron of hussars and jagers attached to mostly cossack force)
 
Likes: macon
Nov 2010
7,666
Cornwall
#9
Wellington's ability is usually exaggerated and his popularity as a legendary, invincible hero in Britain doesn't help with that. However I feel that your reasoning is pretty weak. Tactically he usually wasn't too flashy but his defensive tactics were pretty good. His offensives were a bit weaker but still impressive. (see Assaye and Salamanca.) Strategically I would say he was one of the greatest in his time, some of his campaigns like Massena's Invasion of Portugal and Torres Vedras are in my opinion mindblowing. The fact that he never* lost a battle also has to be taken into consideration. Much of his reputation is derived as ''the Hero of Waterloo.'' Waterloo was far from his finest but even then he was able. One of his major strategic blunders was the failure to destroy Soult's army at the closing months of the Peninsular War, he won all the battles (Tolouse?) but failed to actually destroy Soult. Battles alone don't make a great general, they play a part but there is far more to it including strategy, morale etc.

.
I like that analysis. Simple 'he wasn't any good really' arguments are just stupid but that has some reason to it.

There's an analogy with modern football. Wellington is the guy who wins the league by making sure he never loses. The most boring nil nil draws he will do without any shame and will knock over the easy targets, gaining enough points to win the league.

Another manager may get more spectacular wins but also indulges in spectacular defeats and strategic sillness - in Napoleon's case ending up in St Helena instead of at the head of an empire. British folks may equate Napoleon to Kevin Keegan at Newcastle in the 90s.

On Soult - how to destroy a clever fox that keeps slipping away? Not easy to bring to battle someone playing an entirely retreating game. Of course Toulouse took place after the surrender, unfortunately.

Is it not true that at an embassy ball somewhere around 1830/1/2 Soult felt a hand on his shoulder from behind? There was Wellington saying "Aha - caught you at last"
 

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