My List of the Greatest Commanders in History

Feb 2019
804
Serbia
Well, Borodino was certainly a hard fought battle. However, it was thanks to officers and bravery of Russian soldiers. Barclay also played more active role during the battle than Kutuzov. Not to mention, that Napoleon didn't let his Imperial Guard of 20 000 men to participate in battle.
And this is why I don't count Borodino, I consider Kutuzov's subordinates to have done most of the work.

Though Kutuzov achieved victories against Ottomans.
I don't find that impressive considering that the Ottomans were weak opponents and Kutuzov didn't do anything brilliant in my opinion.
 
Feb 2019
804
Serbia
What? Slavoj Zizek? Nah I'm just kidding, these names are insane though.
If Žižek was a general maybe we really would be ''Living in the End Times''. :)

Speaking a Slavic language kind of helps with the names.

So you want Zivojin Misic? Should I still get rid of Radomir Putnik?
Yes, I do. On Putnik the choice s up to you.

Why Armando Diaz? Not that familiar with the Italian Theater.
When compared to Cadorna any general seems good, but Diaz achieved some impressive victories at the Piave and Vitorrio Veneto.

Louis Franchet d'Esperey I've been looking at. He took over the Balkan Theater in 1918. But speaking of which what about Maurice Sarrail? Any good?
Sarrail was alright, though he was dismissed in September 1917 when d'Esperey took command, not in 1918. Sarrail did alright but didn't manage to achieve a breakthrough and was far from the best.


One subordinate which keeps popping up was Henri Gouraud, thoughts on him?
He was quite good, though he didn't hold too major a command. He lost his arm at Galipoli and displayed some excellent defence at the 2nd Battle of the Marne.

Before I forget, any WW1 naval commanders?
Aside from the ones already mentioned maybe Maximilian von Spee. He achieved a victory over the British but was ultimately defeated and went down with his flagship at the Falklands. There were not many good naval commanders in WWI because there was only really 1 major battle: Jutland.
 
Jan 2015
5,574
Ontario, Canada
Yes, I do. On Putnik the choice s up to you.

Sarrail was alright, though he was dismissed in September 1917 when d'Esperey took command, not in 1918. Sarrail did alright but didn't manage to achieve a breakthrough and was far from the best.

He was quite good, though he didn't hold too major a command. He lost his arm at Galipoli and displayed some excellent defence at the 2nd Battle of the Marne.

Aside from the ones already mentioned maybe Maximilian von Spee. He achieved a victory over the British but was ultimately defeated and went down with his flagship at the Falklands. There were not many good naval commanders in WWI because there was only really 1 major battle: Jutland.
I really want to know what you think though, with regards to Putnik being included or not. I feel like he could be for his role in the Balkan Wars and in WW1. Even if his contribution was not as major in WW1.

Sarrail was also very controversial because of his Socialist Liberal views. In his role as Joffre's subordinate his performance was less than stellar, probably not awful though. In the Salonika Front his performance was also fairly mixed. I do wonder if the reason Sarrail was around for so long was because of his political supports and perhaps he might have actually been an incompetent. But then if that were the only reason why did Joffre promote him to Army command in the first place? There seems to have been more systematic problems within the French army than merely one or two bad generals. It is interesting that Castelnau had a low regard of Sarrail, Joffre promoted him in the first place but considered him ineffective, where as Rocques seemed to dislike him but did not ask for his removal. Granted I do think he did alright in 1914 and much of 1915, with some misgiving for various reasons. I think Sarrail's best campaign might have been putting down the Syrian Revolt years after the War.

For his roles as a colonial general in Africa and Syria, as well as his command of the 4th Army and his defense at 2nd Marne... I would gladly include Henri Gouraud.

Somewhat related, what are your thoughts on Joffre?

As for the naval commanders even if there were no massive naval engagements there were still various different kinds of naval operations.
 
Nov 2011
4,766
Ohio, USA
And this is why I don't count Borodino, I consider Kutuzov's subordinates to have done most of the work.




I don't find that impressive considering that the Ottomans were weak opponents and Kutuzov didn't do anything brilliant in my opinion.


I will say, that Dominic Lieven does make some fairly sound arguments for Kutuzov in Russia Against Napoleon.

His victory over the Ottomans at least seemed more conclusive than the efforts of previous Russian commanders in the theater. He basically forced the main Turkish Danube army to surrender by besieging their camp and sending part of his army over the Danube to defeat relief forces. You are right though that stuff like this was immensely helped by the extreme relative weaknesses of the Ottomans at the tactical and organizational levels. There was also a considerable deal of diplomacy involved, so it wasn't all just a military matter. This might explain why the Ottomans gave up so little as part of the peace, which was greatly helped by Russia's need to send their Danube army against the impending Napoleonic invasion.

I don't think he can be blamed for the French escape at the Berezina, which I would lay much more at the feet of Wittgenstein, Chichagov, and a junior commander named Chaplitz, whose failure to defend a key defile was borderline insubordinate to Chichagov. The main Russian army was almost as exhausted as the French at this point and they would have been wrecked if they had tried to speed ahead to the Berezina to catch Napoleon. Where I believe Kutuzov was much more blame-worthy was at Krasnyi, where he flubbed such a golden opportunity to trap Napoleon's forces that I practically have to believe it was intentional.

His retreat into Moravia was reasonably well-done but he ultimately failed to make himself heard over the Tsar's counsel when it came to Austerlitz, where he intervened ineffectively.

I don't really know of any of his defeats in 1813. He died just before Napoleon's main forces made contact with the Coalition forces, and other than that, the Duchy of Warsaw was overrun, along with Silesia, much of Saxony, as well as the liberation of Berlin. Of course, I don't credit Kutuzov with almost any of this, but rather subordinates like Wittgenstein and Chernyshev.

All told though, I pretty much agree with you. To me, Kutuzov was average, at best. I see no reason for Lord Oda to include him on this list. There would indeed probably be just as much, if not more, reason to include Bennigsen, Bagration, and Wittgenstein, who were at least much better tacticians. Kutuzov was supposed to have been a vibrant officer in his youth, but by 1805 and onwards he was more of just a charismatic courtier who happened to hold military rank and authority than he was a military commander.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2015
5,574
Ontario, Canada
At the end of April Napoleon outmaneuvered Kutuzov in eastern Saxony. So basically Kutuzov died not a week before the Battle of Lutzen. So under Kutuzov's tenure the Coalition only really achieved two minor victories: Luneburg and Mockern, and he had little to no involvement with either of them. He took a huge backseat during the Sixth Coalition while still retaining his command and planning major offensives. His staff basically planned the offensive that was halted at Lutzen only a couple days after his death.

I guess it would frame Kutuzov in this way. There is a lot about Kutuzov not being responsible for Austerlitz or Berezina etc. But what are arguments that are directly in support of Kutuzov? Basically he carried out a withdrawal into Moravia, defeated the Turks at Rousse and Slobozia and then sort of won the Borodino-Moscow campaign and French retreat. But if you think about it he was defeated at Borodino, lost Moscow and basically just let the weather and terrain do the work of wearing down the French. Not really taking a direct role save for a few engagements at Tarutino and Maloyaroslavets. The Russians completely dropped the ball at Krasnoi and Berezina. The other thing that stands out is how much of the credit for 1812 goes to other people. Barclay began the strategy of retreating and using scorched earth. I can't remember if it was Barclay or Bagration who began the "people's war". But basically it was Bagration who had already laid out the strategy which Kutuzov was said to have thought up.
 
Likes: nuclearguy165
Nov 2011
4,766
Ohio, USA
At the end of April Napoleon outmaneuvered Kutuzov in eastern Saxony. So basically Kutuzov died not a week before the Battle of Lutzen. So under Kutuzov's tenure the Coalition only really achieved two minor victories: Luneburg and Mockern, and he had little to no involvement with either of them. He took a huge backseat during the Sixth Coalition while still retaining his command and planning major offensives. His staff basically planned the offensive that was halted at Lutzen only a couple days after his death.

I guess it would frame Kutuzov in this way. There is a lot about Kutuzov not being responsible for Austerlitz or Berezina etc. But what are arguments that are directly in support of Kutuzov? Basically he carried out a withdrawal into Moravia, defeated the Turks at Rousse and Slobozia and then sort of won the Borodino-Moscow campaign and French retreat. But if you think about it he was defeated at Borodino, lost Moscow and basically just let the weather and terrain do the work of wearing down the French. Not really taking a direct role save for a few engagements at Tarutino and Maloyaroslavets. The Russians completely dropped the ball at Krasnoi and Berezina. The other thing that stands out is how much of the credit for 1812 goes to other people. Barclay began the strategy of retreating and using scorched earth. I can't remember if it was Barclay or Bagration who began the "people's war". But basically it was Bagration who had already laid out the strategy which Kutuzov was said to have thought up.
I should say 'defenses' for some areas of Kutuzov's conduct rather than arguments for him in the affirmative.

I agree with pretty much all of what you said. Although, I am also pretty sure that Kutuzov himself never made it beyond Bunzlau, in Silesia, which means he was almost completely uninvolved in Saxony. The only thing worth adding is just that I think one can describe only describe Kutuzov as simply a sensible leader rather than a particularly skillful military professional or anything like that. Aside from 1811, he is just one of those who knows more what not to do rather than what to do, although he did really screw up tactically at Borodino, so he has that distinct negative.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2015
5,574
Ontario, Canada
I can't remember correctly but I seem to recall Kutuzov actually moving into Saxony. Afterwards he gave field command to a Prussian or Russian subordinate and personally withdrew to Silesia. Not sure if he actually made it far into Saxony before he personally withdrew. I think at the time Kutuzov was more interested in making plans with his staff than issuing field commands. In that way he was probably more similar to Eisenhower, maybe overall but I mean specifically in 1813.
 
Likes: nuclearguy165
I will say, that Dominic Lieven does make some fairly sound arguments for Kutuzov in Russia Against Napoleon.
I've heard that Lieven primarily covers the Russian perspective, though I've not read the book.

His victory over the Ottomans at least seemed more conclusive than the efforts of previous Russian commanders in the theater. He basically forced the main Turkish Danube army to surrender by besieging their camp and sending part of his army over the Danube to defeat relief forces. You are right though that stuff like this was immensely helped by the extreme relative weaknesses of the Ottomans at the tactical and organizational levels. There was also a considerable deal of diplomacy involved, so it wasn't all just a military matter. This might explain why the Ottomans gave up so little as part of the peace, which was greatly helped by Russia's need to send their Danube army against the impending Napoleonic invasion.
I agree, however when looking at Kutuzov's artificial reputation of some form of a military genius and the greatest Russian general this victory doesn't come anywhere near that standard. I believe it was his greatest victory and that his maneouvre over the Danube was fairly well done, but not really that impressive when considering what he was fighting and far from some operational masterpiece of an alleged military genius.

I don't think he can be blamed for the French escape at the Berezina, which I would lay much more at the feet of Wittgenstein, Chichagov, and a junior commander named Chaplitz, whose failure to defend a key defile was borderline insubordinate to Chichagov. The main Russian army was almost as exhausted as the French at this point and they would have been wrecked if they had tried to speed ahead to the Berezina to catch Napoleon. Where I believe Kutuzov was much more blame-worthy was at Krasnyi, where he flubbed such a golden opportunity to trap Napoleon's forces that I practically have to believe it was intentional.
Interesting view. I forgot about Chaplitz and Kutuzov's slip at Krasnyi. However I don't believe that the Russian army couldn't catch the French if they were faster and if not destroy the French army at least reduce it to almost nothing. The French suffered heavy casualties but were not destroyed and I believe that Kutuzov could've moved faster.

His retreat into Moravia was reasonably well-done but he ultimately failed to make himself heard over the Tsar's counsel when it came to Austerlitz, where he intervened ineffectively.
I agree, however my argument for Moravia is similar to the above about Kutuzov's campaign against the Turks. It was reasonably well done but nothing brilliant and I think below something like Archduke Charles' retreat from Italy.

I don't really know of any of his defeats in 1813. He died just before Napoleon's main forces made contact with the Coalition forces, and other than that, the Duchy of Warsaw was overrun, along with Silesia, much of Saxony, as well as the liberation of Berlin. Of course, I don't credit Kutuzov with almost any of this, but rather subordinates like Wittgenstein and Chernyshev.
Lord O already said it, Kutuzov was outmanoeuvred in Saxony but I don't know if any failure or success in that period can be assigned to him personally so this can be ignored altogether.


All told though, I pretty much agree with you. To me, Kutuzov was average, at best. I see no reason for Lord Oda to include him on this list. There would indeed probably be just as much, if not more, reason to include Bennigsen, Bagration, and Wittgenstein, who were at least much better tacticians. Kutuzov was supposed to have been a vibrant officer in his youth, but by 1805 and onwards he was more of just a charismatic courtier who happened to hold military rank and authority than he was a military commander.
Agreed. However my problem with Kutuzov is that he's paraded as some brilliant commander that crushed Napoleon and saved Russia. I don't know why he has this reputation or why it's assigned to him specifically when there are other, more believable candidates for this image such as De Tolly. I see him as average at best with his high points being the retreat through Moravia and his actions against the Turks, which I have already said I don't find all that impressive. In everything else he was average at best and considerably below average at worst.
 
Likes: nuclearguy165

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,392
Republika Srpska
I don't know why he has this reputation or why it's assigned to him specifically when there are other, more believable candidates for this image such as De Tolly.
Likely because he was an ethnic Russian and so could be used as a symbol of the struggle of the Russian people in defence of the Russian homeland.
 

Similar History Discussions