Most Overrated General

May 2018
646
Michigan
#31
The british Army was very small, losses coul dnot be replaced easily and Wellington stop by step built a very effective army by not throwing men away, getting better egnerally year by year.. Napoleon's Grand Armee peaked in 1805.
This is key: the political reality was that if Wellington suffered defeat a significant pitched battle, political support would dry up back home (at least before Fall 1812).

Wellington could not take the risks Napoleon did: in Iberia, he was always outnumbered in the theater of operations. The Spanish Army was of marginal use, and probably less useful than the guerillas.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,475
#32
Robert E. Lee.

He is often elevated to the status of being the greatest general in American military history by people who sympathize with the Confederacy either because of regional affiliation or political ideology, or maybe just because they like an underdog, but he wasn't even the greatest general of his own war. He is second to Grant, and rated purely as a strategist inferior to Sherman as well.

That isn't to say that Lee was a bad general. He was very good, just not as good as he is sometimes made out to be. Lee's run of success - impressive though it was - was relatively short-lived, achieved against a string of Union opponents who weren't very good, and limited only to the strategic defensive. Lee's two offensives into the Union were dismal failures that came about in large measure from blunders made by Lee himself. Additionally once Lee came across good commanders in the form of Meade and Grant, success evaporated. The Confederacy died just one year after Grant came East and the killing blow was delivered when Lee was compelled to surrender at Appomattox.

Stonewall Jackson is highly overrated as well and for similar reasons. His record is actually quite mixed. While he could be brilliant in command, he could be awful as well (see the Seven Days).

On the Union side, Phil Sheridan is overrated.

So is Joshua Chamberlain thanks to the film Gettysburg. While he was a good officer who was incredibly brave, his significance to the Battle of Gettysburg is somewhat overblown due to impressions made from that movie. Little Round Top is the most visited corner of the battlefield today. Culp's Hill, on the other side of the battle...the least visited.

Yet George Sears Greene's men on Culp's Hill were holding a much more vital section of the field, against much greater odds than Chamberlain's men on the 2nd Day (Chamberlain's command also wasn't the only unit involved in the defense of LRT), and Scottish-born Col. David Ireland did everything that Chamberlain is now famous for, leading bayonet charges of his own, just on the other end of the field. Had the Confederates succeeded at LRT they couldn't have held it, while success at Culp's Hill on the 2nd Day would have compelled a Union retreat.

The difference is that Chamberlain was a very good writer, Greene never wrote a memoir, David Ireland didn't survive the war to write one, and Chamberlain's memoir led to Michael Shaara making him a central character in The Killer Angels, the novel on which the film Gettysburg was based. Greater fame does not however equate to greater skill.

To demonstrate how Chamberlain's reputation is somewhat overblown as a consequence of a novel & Hollywood film, in the tourist trap gift shops in Gettysburg one can now find Chamberlain bobbleheads and all sorts of junk with his likeness, and almost nothing with Meade's...the guy who actually commanded the Union army and won the battle.
 
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pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,663
#33
This is key: the political reality was that if Wellington suffered defeat a significant pitched battle, political support would dry up back home (at least before Fall 1812).

Wellington could not take the risks Napoleon did: in Iberia, he was always outnumbered in the theater of operations. The Spanish Army was of marginal use, and probably less useful than the guerillas.
I would not under estimate the contibution of the spanish army and the guerilla, both consumed a lot of French resources. Teh spanish were diffacult allies, unreilable , and often badly led by very unreliable Generals, which made them quite diffacult for Wellington to work with. However all that said thay made a huge contrbution which was abolsutely vital to Wellington that Kept the French from being able to concentrate their supuroir force and crush Wellington. The Sopanish were able to substain their efforts and consistenly sap and drain French resoucres despite suffering quote a lot of defeats. It was not in many ways a very good army, but it substained itself in the fight, regrouped, and again made itself a pest of the French. The Spanish Army efforts were as important if nt more so than the British Army in the pensisular war, thre is a tendency to ficus of teh British efforts for various reasons. But teh Spanish army for all it's faults contributed very much to the eventual defeat the French. But Wellinton coul dnot trust or rely in them to provide effreticve co-opertaion and met sepecific promises and troops supporting in the feild , supplies etc. But with that let's not miniimizse or ignore there huge contribution.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,663
#37
Yeah, Napoleon's successful campaigns against various European coalitions prove that he was an average strategist, right?
So ALL winning Generals MUST be good strategists. Bad Logic.

Napoleon's successful campaigns tended to be when the opposition offered a decisive battle of his terms early and he was able to quickly defeat the opposing armies.
When campaigns were not quickly resolved he tended to struggle.

Generally the strategic planning and thought of the opposing coalition armies was really really poor.

Napoleon often did understand concentration of force, striking quickly in the decisive threatre. His strategic moves were not without some good.
 
Likes: frogsofwar
May 2018
646
Michigan
#38
I would not under estimate the contibution of the spanish army and the guerilla, both consumed a lot of French resources. Teh spanish were diffacult allies, unreilable , and often badly led by very unreliable Generals, which made them quite diffacult for Wellington to work with. However all that said thay made a huge contrbution which was abolsutely vital to Wellington that Kept the French from being able to concentrate their supuroir force and crush Wellington. The Sopanish were able to substain their efforts and consistenly sap and drain French resoucres despite suffering quote a lot of defeats. It was not in many ways a very good army, but it substained itself in the fight, regrouped, and again made itself a pest of the French. The Spanish Army efforts were as important if nt more so than the British Army in the pensisular war, thre is a tendency to ficus of teh British efforts for various reasons. But teh Spanish army for all it's faults contributed very much to the eventual defeat the French. But Wellinton coul dnot trust or rely in them to provide effreticve co-opertaion and met sepecific promises and troops supporting in the feild , supplies etc. But with that let's not miniimizse or ignore there huge contribution.

By no means was the Spanish Army useless, but its uses didn't involve going toe-to-toe with the French Army. Nor can one underestimate the contributions of the guerillas. It is something of a miracle that Wellington managed to win in Spain, and few great generals possessed enough diplomatic skill to deal with the Spanish Army: in 1805, Britain and Spain were at war. Britain and Spain had been at war far more times than they had been allies in the previous hundred years. But in less than 10 years after 1805, Wellington was commander in chief of the Spanish Army. He knew the Spanish Army had its qualities and uses, but was also very realistic about their shortcomings.
 
Jul 2017
2,261
Australia
#39
So ALL winning Generals MUST be good strategists. Bad Logic.

Napoleon's successful campaigns tended to be when the opposition offered a decisive battle of his terms early and he was able to quickly defeat the opposing armies.
When campaigns were not quickly resolved he tended to struggle.

Generally the strategic planning and thought of the opposing coalition armies was really really poor.

Napoleon often did understand concentration of force, striking quickly in the decisive threatre. His strategic moves were not without some good.
Well, no. But I guess it depends on how you define strategy. A lot of your reasoning is somewhat off. I mean, the Persians of Alexander's day were quite weak operationally and tactically (though I give them a hell of a lot more credit than most), but that doesn't mean Alexander wasn't a good strategist for exploiting that.

Furthermore, Napoleon understood the military system of the day, and developed a way of exploiting it by flipping the paradigm of warfare from attrition to decision.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,663
#40
Well, no. But I guess it depends on how you define strategy. A lot of your reasoning is somewhat off. I mean, the Persians of Alexander's day were quite weak operationally and tactically (though I give them a hell of a lot more credit than most), but that doesn't mean Alexander wasn't a good strategist for exploiting that.

Furthermore, Napoleon understood the military system of the day, and developed a way of exploiting it by flipping the paradigm of warfare from attrition to decision.
Performance is alays related to context. The Prussian and Austrian Amries of the repoublican/Napoloenic period were poor , badly lead armies in the main. The Strategic planning of the coliation in 1805/1806 was particularly woeful. You have to analyse the perofmance rather than simply say teh winner must be better at all things.

Take the 1806 cmapaign. The Prussian advance towards Napoleon away from their Russian ally ensured that they would fight alone.
both armies stumbled into meeting engagements. The French won because they had better troops and Generals. As a strategist Napoleon contributed nothing.


When did Napoleon have this understanding of the miliatry systemn of the day? When and how did he acquire it? And how did he flip the paradigm?

Frederick the Great was trying to do wage battles of decision, Surovov was trying to wage battles of decision. generals seeking battles of decision existing in the recenet past and concurrently. with Napoleon. Napoloen also over estiated what was achieviable later when the opposition reformed their armies and armies got larger and more resilinet. If Napoleon understood what was going on why was his judgment often errorness in chnaged circumstance. Did Napoleon have a context of his amry, his styles, his opponets which was favorued him ealry, and when circumstances changed he results got a lot worse. Was it circumstances which dleivered him his raelry record or his undertanding. Personally I think thiere a little of column A and Column B.

The Generals of the French revolution were risk takers, agressive, because (a) failure or timidity often had a price (b) the levee en masse supplied a ready replacement system to large degree and the French could afford losses much more than the opposition.

Did Napoleon understand strategic context, when to attack, when to defend when to retreat? When is concentration of force too much?
 

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