View Full Version : Who are History's 10 greatest military leaders ?


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LightSpectra
Feb 21, 2009, 11:17 AM
Why do people think Saladin was an excellent military commander? He lost every major battle of the Third Crusade. Richard was called back to England so they negotiated a compromise regarding Jerusalem. He was a noble man but not in the best of history.

Icaria909
Feb 21, 2009, 03:22 PM
Personally, I think the top three are alexander the great, Napolean (only behind alexander because he ultimately loses at waterloo), Rommel (only third because he lot the african campaign, although that was hitler's fault for not supplying him with enough munitions and supplies to effectively fight in egypt).

Cheezy the Wiz
Feb 21, 2009, 06:33 PM
Why do people think Saladin was an excellent military commander? He lost every major battle of the Third Crusade. Richard was called back to England so they negotiated a compromise regarding Jerusalem. He was a noble man but not in the best of history.

Maybe because he participated in more wars than the Third Crusade? And AFAIK he only fought a few battles with Richard, and only lost at Arsuf. Richard failed at taking Jerusalem.

vogtmurr
Feb 21, 2009, 07:16 PM
Though Saladin also failed to prevent the capture of Acre, after a drawn siege that presented a great opportunity to end the Third Crusade right then and there. Anyway, Saladin and Richard are often presented as equals, both worthy of respect, but in my books Richard rates a little higher.

vogtmurr
Feb 21, 2009, 10:08 PM
Alexander's ..... makes me think that his victories were down to having a well-organised and drilled army against an inferior one.

[Ceasar] smashed Gauls then led his experienced and skilled troops into an army that was less so, because he'd just spent ages killing gauls. His units were the best every time and so he won. Admittedly, some of that was down to his 'field training' them and ability to keep them in line.

There may be some truth to this, but it wasn't as easy as all that. How did they get that way ? Philip also deserves big recognition - his untimely death may have prevented him from becoming the legend, but I'm also reminded of his own words: "My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedonia is too small for you." Alexander's handling of the situation in a defile surrounded by Illyrians, some of the best close order fighting men of the day, did not happen spontaneously by his army. Alexander always showed up where he was least expected, right in the face of a skittish Darius, or at a crossing upriver. He placed himself at great personal risk, and wound up achieving enormous victories at the least possible cost to his own. He acted as if he believed he was the distant grandson of Achilles. Caesar faced down too many stronger opponents - the army and him worked together very well. There have been many examples cited but you seem unaware or unimpressed. More than once, a large Roman army had been destroyed by Gauls, even after the 2nd Punic War. Could either of their armies, have ever dreamed the fortunes their careers would take ? If nothing else Caesar and Alexander deserve recognition for their driving ambition that took them there. This put it rather well I think:

Perhaps you've heard that wonderful quote from Alexander? "I do not fear an army of lion led by a a sheep. I do fear an army of sheep led by a lion." Both men must have been astute commanders if only by the fact that their capable soldiers won. ...... But it was not these things that made Bonaparte or Alexandros great, it was their ability to improvise on the battlefield, to anticipate the moves of the enemy, and to use the advantages given to them by their men and tactics to their full effect to completely devastate and confound their enemies......

If the armies by themselves were so powerful, then it is the biggest tribute of all, that both Alexander and Caesar had earned their absolute confidence and loyalty (outside of a few ambitious subordinates). Enough to cross the Rubicon, or venture beyond the boundaries of a vast Asian Empire, before his men were smart enough to finally make him turn back.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Cheezy, though TBH I don't have the energy right now to excoriate Caesar's opponents as I normally would. :p
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Neither do I, honestly, but we do seem to enjoy having the oportunity to "defend" him. :)

I'm hoping to get to the Honorable Mentions List soon so Shaka and others get their recognition, but I'm not speculating that somehow he would have made a better general and administrator than Caesar.

vogtmurr
Feb 21, 2009, 10:12 PM
How about José de San Martín?
Didn't his army cross the world's most inhospitable terrain and then defeat an army larger than his?

Good name - working on the next list.

Flying Pig
Feb 22, 2009, 05:11 AM
I Amend Vercingetorix, on a bit of reading, to Epaminondas of Thebes - the man who destroyed Sparta.

Flying Pig
Feb 22, 2009, 05:16 AM
Keep saying that enough times and eventually it might come true.

This makes me think that you haven't read up much on the battles in which Alexandros engaged. Please indicate to me the lack of astute maneuver at the Battle of the Hydaspes, a masterpiece of both operational and tactical unit handling.

Which discounts the fact that many of Caesar's own men had been awarded to the Optimates by Pompey's subterfuge during his sojourn in Gaul, and that they were still vastly understrength in compensation. It just doesn't add up. Besides, a genial maneuver like the creation of the "fourth line" at Pharsalus is not the invention of a man who is not an able leader.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Battle_hydaspes_combined_at.gif

Looks like 'line up and go forward' to me, with a few modifications to compensate for he lack of enemy on one flank. While it shows tactical skill, it is hardly a masterpiece.

I dno not, at any point, say that Caesar and Alexander were incompetents, but that they are not among the greatest of leaders ever in over three thousand years of history. Nevertheeless, I don't think it a coincidence that Rome produced Scipio, Caesar, Pompey and Beliasarus and Greece produced Epaminondas, Iphikrates, Alexander and Leonidas while the only great French general was Napoleon.

negZero
Feb 22, 2009, 06:10 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Battle_hydaspes_combined_at.gif

Looks like 'line up and go forward' to me, with a few modifications to compensate for he lack of enemy on one flank. While it shows tactical skill, it is hardly a masterpiece.

I dno not, at any point, say that Caesar and Alexander were incompetents, but that they are not among the greatest of leaders ever in over three thousand years of history. Nevertheeless, I don't think it a coincidence that Rome produced Scipio, Caesar, Pompey and Beliasarus and Greece produced Epaminondas, Iphikrates, Alexander and Leonidas while the only great French general was Napoleon.

Note to those who don't know the battle, that pic is after Alexender crossed a river which was being defended Porus's men.

Dachs
Feb 22, 2009, 10:55 AM
Looks like 'line up and go forward' to me, with a few modifications to compensate for he lack of enemy on one flank. While it shows tactical skill, it is hardly a masterpiece.
Actually, this movement of cavalry is something not often managed in warfare, even in Antiquity when it arguably mattered more. It was considered a very great feat for Hannibal to do the exact same thing at the Battle of Cannae, because it's rather difficult to control your cavalry; Alexandros' generals, all of whom were impressively skilled generals in their own right, were sometimes able and sometimes unable (the "unable" referring to Antigonos at Paraitakene, though no fault of his own but instead due to the intransigence of his nominal allies...anyway it worked out for him in the end, but I digress) to execute this cavalry maneuver. When the Romans attempted a similar movement, at Zama in 202 BC(E), it took the Numidians hours to return to the battlefield, and Hannibal was nearly able to seize the victory in the infantry battle alone. Anyhow, the cavalry movement was actually pretty awesome, and the US Army War College diagram does not do it justice. And of course that's not mentioning the operational maneuver that took place before the battle started (a convenient omission, hmm?), in which, as has been mentioned, Alexandros successfully crossed the river against heavy opposition and while said river was torrentially swollen.

And if you think that an echeloned syntagma isn't all that great of a tactical innovation, why do you rate Epaminondas so highly? :rolleyes:
Nevertheeless, I don't think it a coincidence that Rome produced Scipio, Caesar, Pompey and Beliasarus and Greece produced Epaminondas, Iphikrates, Alexander and Leonidas while the only great French general was Napoleon.
Any list that mentions 'greatest Greco-Roman generals of Antiquity' that is missing Thrasyboulos, Demosthenes, Themistokles, Philippos II, Antigonos I, Eumenes, Seleukos, Philopoemon, Marcellus, Lucullus, Sulla, Constantius III, Stilicho, Claudius Gothicus, or Aurelian...well, that list is inadequate. (FWIW I also disagree with your characterization of Pompey and Leonidas but whatever.) Also, there were plenty of other great French generals. Maurice de Saxe, Henri IV, Claude de Villars, the Great Conde, the vicomte de Turenne to name a few off the top of my head...

Flying Pig
Feb 22, 2009, 11:52 AM
Actually, this movement of cavalry is something not often managed in warfare, even in Antiquity when it arguably mattered more. It was considered a very great feat for Hannibal to do the exact same thing at the Battle of Cannae, because it's rather difficult to control your cavalry; Alexandros' generals, all of whom were impressively skilled generals in their own right, were sometimes able and sometimes unable (the "unable" referring to Antigonos at Paraitakene, though no fault of his own but instead due to the intransigence of his nominal allies...anyway it worked out for him in the end, but I digress) to execute this cavalry maneuver. When the Romans attempted a similar movement, at Zama in 202 BC(E), it took the Numidians hours to return to the battlefield, and Hannibal was nearly able to seize the victory in the infantry battle alone. Anyhow, the cavalry movement was actually pretty awesome, and the US Army War College diagram does not do it justice. And of course that's not mentioning the operational maneuver that took place before the battle started (a convenient omission, hmm?), in which, as has been mentioned, Alexandros successfully crossed the river against heavy opposition and while said river was torrentially swollen.

And if you think that an echeloned syntagma isn't all that great of a tactical innovation, why do you rate Epaminondas so highly? :rolleyes:

Any list that mentions 'greatest Greco-Roman generals of Antiquity' that is missing Thrasyboulos, Demosthenes, Themistokles, Philippos II, Antigonos I, Eumenes, Seleukos, Philopoemon, Marcellus, Lucullus, Sulla, Constantius III, Stilicho, Claudius Gothicus, or Aurelian...well, that list is inadequate. (FWIW I also disagree with your characterization of Pompey and Leonidas but whatever.) Also, there were plenty of other great French generals. Maurice de Saxe, Henri IV, Claude de Villars, the Great Conde, the vicomte de Turenne to name a few off the top of my head...

Crossing a river notwithstanding, Alexander's move, my point is, is far from original being one of the most often-used manoevers ever (get fast stuff behind him) Hannibal, incidently, is my example for a great tactical move - he held two blocks so as to pincer the enemy. I am willing to aknowledge that the diagram does not shoe the whole picture, so it was probably a LOT more impressive than it looks - fair dos, that looks like a pretty good peice of leadership, but I fail to see how a man who ultimately did very little commanding (he threw himself into the fight with the first wave) can be considered truly great - prehaps it should be 'the Makedonian war machine under Alexandros?'

I credit Epaminondas because he came up with it. I is no measure of skill to copy someone else, but he invented the method of warfare which destroyed a nation devoted to war. Anyway, he tought Phillip II of Macedon, who taught Alexander...

Despite the number of French generals, you must surely see the point... *cough* 1940 *cough* Great armies produce great generals.

vogtmurr
Feb 22, 2009, 02:21 PM
Not sure what you're getting at - but it seems the only great generals are going to be the ones who won a lot of victories with a really poor army. Good luck ! That seems like a contradiction in terms.

Dachs
Feb 22, 2009, 02:47 PM
Crossing a river notwithstanding, Alexander's move, my point is, is far from original being one of the most often-used manoevers ever (get fast stuff behind him) Hannibal, incidently, is my example for a great tactical move - he held two blocks so as to pincer the enemy. I am willing to aknowledge that the diagram does not shoe the whole picture, so it was probably a LOT more impressive than it looks - fair dos, that looks like a pretty good peice of leadership, but I fail to see how a man who ultimately did very little commanding (he threw himself into the fight with the first wave) can be considered truly great - prehaps it should be 'the Makedonian war machine under Alexandros?'
Do you understand what the concept of a set-piece battle is? Do you know what pre-battle orders are? Have you any conception of the difficulty of executing this maneuver against elephants, which had barely ever been seen in combat before by classical Mediterranean warriors and generals? Is it really that hard for you to credit Alexandros, who defeated a largely unknown enemy with great advantages using a skilled operational maneuver to first reach a battle and then win that battle with another skilled maneuver. Seriously, what was wrong with the handling of the Hydaspes campaign and engagement? What made your proposed leaders so much better?
I credit Epaminondas because he came up with it. I is no measure of skill to copy someone else, but he invented the method of warfare which destroyed a nation devoted to war.
No, you're crediting the wrong man, then. Look at Pagondas. :rolleyes: Tactical developments generally can't be simply attributable to a single person, that's just silly.
Despite the number of French generals, you must surely see the point... *cough* 1940 *cough* Great armies produce great generals.
Oh noes, one defeat and apparently the country's entire military history up to that point is totally invalidated. :rolleyes:

Antilogic
Feb 22, 2009, 07:33 PM
Do you understand what the concept of a set-piece battle is? Do you know what pre-battle orders are? Have you any conception of the difficulty of executing this maneuver...

To expand: one thing that is distinctly lacking in many a modern person's understanding of ancient battles is the inability to simply radio orders and have instant compliance. Timing as well as communication were exceedingly difficult for commanders before the 20th century. Ancient commanders, and indeed all the way up into the 19th century, had to predict how an enemy would deploy on the battlefield and develop contingency plans that could be ordered with rather rudimentary signalling (such as horns or couriers to name a few out of the many).

kulade
Feb 22, 2009, 09:25 PM
1. Genghis Khan

2-9. 9 guys who remind me of Genghis Khan

vogtmurr
Feb 22, 2009, 10:00 PM
1. Genghis Khan

2-9. 9 guys who remind me of Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan doesn't make the top 10 in my opinion, Subutai does.

negZero
Feb 22, 2009, 10:15 PM
Genghis Khan doesn't make the top 10 in my opinion, Subutai does.

He reminds me of Genghis Khan
Sorry had to do that

vogtmurr
Feb 23, 2009, 12:56 PM
To expand: one thing that is distinctly lacking in many a modern person's understanding of ancient battles is the inability to simply radio orders and have instant compliance. Timing as well as communication were exceedingly difficult for commanders before the 20th century. Ancient commanders, and indeed all the way up into the 19th century, had to predict how an enemy would deploy on the battlefield and develop contingency plans that could be ordered with rather rudimentary signalling (such as horns or couriers to name a few out of the many).
YES - its not like everything fell neatly into place for these commanders, with their army prepositioned according to a bird's eye view map of the enemy's dispositions.

Flying Pig
Feb 23, 2009, 01:53 PM
Do you understand what the concept of a set-piece battle is? Do you know what pre-battle orders are? Have you any conception of the difficulty of executing this maneuver against elephants, which had barely ever been seen in combat before by classical Mediterranean warriors and generals? Is it really that hard for you to credit Alexandros, who defeated a largely unknown enemy with great advantages using a skilled operational maneuver to first reach a battle and then win that battle with another skilled maneuver. Seriously, what was wrong with the handling of the Hydaspes campaign and engagement? What made your proposed leaders so much better?


First of all, my experience of set-peice battles is that they genearlly aren't worth doing - if he lets you get him, then he knows something you don't in general. Anyway, no matter how good his orders are before the battle, he is akin to a grandmaster who plays chess by telling his mate to attack but keep the king safe - a good planner, but hardly worth all the credit for his victories.

Elephant in the ancient era is equal to a tank in the modern era, and although they are not fun to deal with it is very much possible and he probably knew what they were from his traves through Persia. Like I said, he was a good general, but I don't think he deserves all ofthe credit for what he did - as usual, that goes to the Captains and the seargeants ;). Remember also that it was enough to convince his army to go home, despite his orders, and it's not a good oficer who can't keep control over his men. As the Romans proved as Ascalum, Elephants aren't very bright and keep going in a basically straight line.

I think that the leaders I picked are both, like Alexander, great generals, but also great officers who could lead personally and did not need to rely on subordinates to excess.



No, you're crediting the wrong man, then. Look at Pagondas. :rolleyes: Tactical developments generally can't be simply attributable to a single person, that's just silly.


I'll happily substitute the 2 - never heard of him before


Oh noes, one defeat and apparently the country's entire military history up to that point is totally invalidated. :rolleyes:

Liten to the point, not the detail - I said that awesome armies tend to produce awesome leaders (admittedly, it may be the other way around)

vogtmurr
Feb 23, 2009, 03:15 PM
First of all, my experience of set-peice battles is that they genearlly aren't worth doing - if he lets you get him, then he knows something you don't in general. Anyway, no matter how good his orders are before the battle, he is akin to a grandmaster who plays chess by telling his mate to attack but keep the king safe - a good planner, but hardly worth all the credit for his victories.

Elephant in the ancient era is equal to a tank in the modern era, and although they are not fun to deal with it is very much possible and he probably knew what they were from his traves through Persia. Like I said, he was a good general, but I don't think he deserves all ofthe credit for what he did - as usual, that goes to the Captains and the seargeants ;). Remember also that it was enough to convince his army to go home, despite his orders, and it's not a good oficer who can't keep control over his men. As the Romans proved as Ascalum, Elephants aren't very bright and keep going in a basically straight line.

I think that the leaders I picked are both, like Alexander, great generals, but also great officers who could lead personally and did not need to rely on subordinates to excess.



I'll happily substitute the 2 - never heard of him before



Liten to the point, not the detail - I said that awesome armies tend to produce awesome leaders (admittedly, it may be the other way around)

It sounds as if you have had some personal experience - based on this and your post about the Falklands. Can you elaborate for us ?

Elephants were like tanks with tremendous shock value, but I wouldn't say they were stupid, they were just difficult to manage. As for reluctantly turning back, I won't deny Alexander had an obsessive nature - he wanted to reach the Ocean, in the proverbial sense. Rumours of the 3000 or more elephants and countless war chariots that the Mauryan Empire was likely to field against him if he went further, and the lopsided shape of his empire, so far from his power base, when the real threats to continuity lay much closer to home in the Mediterranean (Rome, Carthage, Celtia) was enough to convince even Alexander that discretion was the better part of valour.

Epaminondas also deserves credit btw, probably more so than Pelopidas and Pagondas in the overall scheme. I think the comment was about the particular maneuver itself, but Dachs is more qualified to comment on that.

Dachs
Feb 23, 2009, 03:50 PM
First of all, my experience of set-peice battles is that they genearlly aren't worth doing - if he lets you get him, then he knows something you don't in general.
Eh? Set-piece means that you preplan how it happens and have your troops work within the broad framework of that plan. Differing from a battle of encounter, or something like that.
Anyway, no matter how good his orders are before the battle, he is akin to a grandmaster who plays chess by telling his mate to attack but keep the king safe - a good planner, but hardly worth all the credit for his victories.
Alexandros hardly stayed behind the lines. How is that "keeping the king safe"? :p
Like I said, he was a good general, but I don't think he deserves all ofthe credit for what he did - as usual, that goes to the Captains and the seargeants ;). Remember also that it was enough to convince his army to go home, despite his orders, and it's not a good oficer who can't keep control over his men.
I think that that is more of a reflection of the consensual nature of the Makedonian feudal-military state than any reflection on Alexandros' leadership, and I have the evidence of the Wars of the Diadochoi to aid me. :p
As the Romans proved as Ascalum, Elephants aren't very bright and keep going in a basically straight line.
wut...that is not what elephants do...ever hear of the Battle of Paraitakene? Or, hell, Ipsos?
I think that the leaders I picked are both, like Alexander, great generals, but also great officers who could lead personally and did not need to rely on subordinates to excess.
Which two were those again?
I'll happily substitute the 2 - never heard of him before
My point was that crediting solely Epaminondas with the echeloned syntagma is silly because it had a predecessor in Pagondas' formation at Delion, and that it didn't play as great a role at Leuktra as it did during Alexandros' campaigns; at the Hydaspes the echeloned phalanx reached perhaps its apotheosis (one could argue for Paraitakene here too). Not giving Alexandros any credit at all for its use in a tactical instrument doesn't make much sense.
Liten to the point, not the detail - I said that awesome armies tend to produce awesome leaders (admittedly, it may be the other way around)
Given the second part of your statement, I don't understand the point you're trying to make and what it has to do with Alexandros.

vogtmurr
Feb 23, 2009, 10:02 PM
...Rumours of the 3000 or more elephants and countless war chariots that the Mauryan Empire was likely to field against him if he went further, ....

What ! Mauryan...? I meant Magadha Kingdom - Dachs how did you miss that ?

negZero
Feb 23, 2009, 10:54 PM
What ! Mauryan...? I meant Magadha Kingdom - Dachs how did you miss that ?

Magadha didn't exist during alexender the great time

vogtmurr
Feb 24, 2009, 12:35 AM
Magadha didn't exist during alexender the great time

Wikipedhia, under Maghada

In 326 BC, the army of Alexander the Great approached the boundaries of the Magadha. The army, exhausted and frightened at the prospect of facing another giant Indian army at the Ganges, mutinied at the Hyphasis (modern Beas) and refused to march further East. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, was persuaded that it was better to return and turned south, conquering his way down the Indus to the Ocean.

Had me going though for a minute :p

vogtmurr
Feb 24, 2009, 12:41 AM
No, he didn't. Chandragupta got the Indus valley and the Paropamisadai, but Baktria was very much still under Seleukid suzerainty. :D

by the way

In 321 BC, exiled general Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya dynasty after overthrowing the reigning Nanda king Dhana Nanda to establish the Maurya Empire. During this time, most of the subcontinent was united under a single government for the first time. Capitalising on the destabilization of northern India by the Persian and Greek incursions, the Mauryan empire under Chandragupta would not only conquer most of the Indian subcontinent, but also push its boundaries into Persia and Central Asia, conquering the Gandhara region. Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara, who expanded the kingdom over most of present day India, barring the extreme south and east.

Dachs
Feb 24, 2009, 01:24 AM
What ! Mauryan...? I meant Magadha Kingdom - Dachs how did you miss that ?
Didn't read your post because I wasn't arguing with you.
by the way

In 321 BC, exiled general Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya dynasty after overthrowing the reigning Nanda king Dhana Nanda to establish the Maurya Empire. During this time, most of the subcontinent was united under a single government for the first time. Capitalising on the destabilization of northern India by the Persian and Greek incursions, the Mauryan empire under Chandragupta would not only conquer most of the Indian subcontinent, but also push its boundaries into Persia and Central Asia, conquering the Gandhara region. Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara, who expanded the kingdom over most of present day India, barring the extreme south and east.
Gandhara is not beyond the Paropamisadai and it certainly isn't in Baktria. :)

Flying Pig
Feb 24, 2009, 11:15 AM
Eh? Set-piece means that you preplan how it happens and have your troops work within the broad framework of that plan. Differing from a battle of encounter, or something like that.
.

I dislike them immensly - they mean that man with gold on his uniform, in practice, tells his subordinates what to do and then they often get into a lot of troublr. Admittedly, the inherent scale of them amkes them effective, strategically speaking.


Alexandros hardly stayed behind the lines. How is that "keeping the king safe"? :p


I meant in concept - he can take a fair bit of the credit, but I don't hink he deserves it all.


The last one was an observation admitting the probability of error.

I think that that is more of a reflection of the consensual nature of the Makedonian feudal-military state than any reflection on Alexandros' leadership, and I have the evidence of the Wars of the Diadochoi to aid me. :p
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They obeyed the Daidochoi, no? I thought that they fought other Greeks without hesitation or pause.


wut...that is not what elephants do...ever hear of the Battle of Paraitakene? Or, hell, Ipsos?
.

OK, so elephants are not easy to beat, but it's still possible with the awesome army he would have had by then




Which two were those again?

.

The prior list I had a fair way back.



My point was that crediting solely Epaminondas with the echeloned syntagma is silly because it had a predecessor in Pagondas' formation at Delion, and that it didn't play as great a role at Leuktra as it did during Alexandros' campaigns; at the Hydaspes the echeloned phalanx reached perhaps its apotheosis (one could argue for Paraitakene here too). Not giving Alexandros any credit at all for its use in a tactical instrument doesn't make much sense.

Given the second part of your statement, I don't understand the point you're trying to make and what it has to do with Alexandros.

Actually, at leuctra it was almost singularly responsible for crumbling the Spartan line (British Army Officers are told at college that it is a perfect example of how to break a superior army)

I am in error, I realise -- I forget the Alexander was not a cadet and so had never been tought to do it. However, it must be acnowledged that whenever Greeks met persians before that time they had won massively (or in the case of Thermopylai, done far more damage than they suffered) so I think he had an inherent advantage in his campaign. The indians were similar in concept to the Persians but with elephants.

vogtmurr
Feb 24, 2009, 11:31 AM
Didn't read your post because I wasn't arguing with you.

Gandhara is not beyond the Paropamisadai and it certainly isn't in Baktria. :)

Asoka's Empire included all of Pakistan, nearly all of Afghanistan, and parts of eastern Iran, but admittedly part of ancient Baktria was beyond this in the Oxus valley region... never realized it was that far north on the doorstep of China. It must have been a pretty isolated outpost for a time. If it was Diodotus who first broke away from Seleucus II in 246 BC, then Asoka's sphere of influence was still at its greatest. Its easy not to make the distinction in these accounts between Baktria and the Greeks of NW India (and Indus Valley Region) who were absorbed in the Mauryan Empire, but showed their cultural resilience in the 50 years of decline after Asoka, because the Seleukids recovered this area for a time. It seemed to make sense that the Greco-Bactrians also inherited the Buddhist tradition from the Mauryan dynasty in India.
Anyway, I thought it was worthwhile to bring to your attention. Actually I'm learning more about Demetrios..

Dachs
Feb 24, 2009, 01:58 PM
I dislike them immensly - they mean that man with gold on his uniform, in practice, tells his subordinates what to do and then they often get into a lot of troublr. Admittedly, the inherent scale of them amkes them effective, strategically speaking.
I don't care about your personal opinions on the viability of set-piece engagements in general, especially when your objections to them are based on things that didn't happen at the Hydaspes, which is the topic.
I meant in concept - he can take a fair bit of the credit, but I don't hink he deserves it all.
Obviously he can't take all of the credit; the man didn't face down Porus' army all by himself. Nobody is going to claim otherwise. :rolleyes: But he formulated an excellent operational plan (which you have conveniently and repeatedly ignored in your statements on whether Alexandros was a skillful general) and came up with a winning series of maneuvers at the Hydaspes that succeeded against an tactically able and technically even opponent. His army did a great job in carrying it out. Woohoo for them. This thread is not to celebrate the abilities of the common fighting man throughout history, because IMHO that doesn't need recognition; I have spent most of my life around those common fighting men and have seen what they are capable of doing, and I have the highest respect for them for doing it. But what they can do has jack-all to do with Great Captains of History and brilliant military leaders.

And it certainly isn't "proving" that Alexandros wasn't a great general. You haven't touched upon the maneuvers at the Persian Gate, or the series of operations he carried out against the Sogdo-Baktrian resistance, or the Battles of Gaugamela and Issos.
They obeyed the Daidochoi, no? I thought that they fought other Greeks without hesitation or pause.
It took a while. At the Battle of the Hellespont in the initial phases of the First War of the Diadochoi, Eumenes and Krateros were unable to have their phalanxes engage because there was significant fear that the pikemen would refuse to fight their fellow Greek infantrymen out of the sense of esprit de corps Philippos and Alexandros instilled in them over the last fifty years. The engagement was limited to the Asiatic cavalry clashing on the wings, in which Eumenes was highly successful due to a combination of luck (Krateros was killed when he got trapped under his horse), personal skill in combat (cutting off the head of the enemy second in command, Neoptolemos), and tactical ability.

And even then, the army had a huge amount of say in what the Diadochoi could do, especially early on. The interaction between the infantry and the general-dominated cavalry at Babylon proved critical in the formation of the original settlement, and the wishes of the army were also instrumental in the assassination of Perdikas, the abandonment by Krateros of the Karchedon Plan, and the formulation of the agreement at Triparadeisos. It was the Argyraspidai who ended the legitimist campaign in Iran in 316 following the seizure of the baggage train, despite two tactical victories. It has been theorized that the Makedonian monarchy had a constitution of sorts, in which the members of the army had a critical role, even in the time of the Argeades.
The prior list I had a fair way back.
You've made a few different lists, and I'm unsure of which one you mean. Please restate it in less vague terms.
Actually, at leuctra it was almost singularly responsible for crumbling the Spartan line (British Army Officers are told at college that it is a perfect example of how to break a superior army)
At Leuktra, the main factor in the collapse of the Spartan army was the deep column of attack that Epaminondas formed. (You know, "one more push for me, guys" and all that.) The echeloned formation was almost a secondary consideration and allowed him to keep the rest of his army out of the way until the Spartan right wing had collapsed, allowing him to mop up effectively.
However, it must be acnowledged that whenever Greeks met persians before that time they had won massively (or in the case of Thermopylai, done far more damage than they suffered) so I think he had an inherent advantage in his campaign. The indians were similar in concept to the Persians but with elephants.
...

Have you any idea of the reformulation of the Persian military in the hundred and fifty years since the Persian Wars? Have you any concept of the dissimilarity between Indic and Persian systems of war? Are you now resorting to unfounded slanders against the viability of the Persian military fighting against Alexandros in the true style of "his opponents sucked so he must not have been that great of a leader 111111xclxcl"?
Asoka's Empire included all of Pakistan, nearly all of Afghanistan, and parts of eastern Iran, but admittedly part of ancient Baktria was beyond this in the Oxus valley region... never realized it was that far north on the doorstep of China. It must have been a pretty isolated outpost for a time. If it was Diodotus who first broke away from Seleucus II in 246 BC, then Asoka's sphere of influence was still at its greatest. Its easy not to make the distinction in these accounts between Baktria and the Greeks of NW India (and Indus Valley Region) who were absorbed in the Mauryan Empire, but showed their cultural resilience in the 50 years of decline after Asoka, because the Seleukids recovered this area for a time. It seemed to make sense that the Greco-Bactrians also inherited the Buddhist tradition from the Mauryan dynasty in India.
Anyway, I thought it was worthwhile to bring to your attention. Actually I'm learning more about Demetrios..
So you basically informed me of what I just told you. Thanks. :)

Flying Pig
Feb 25, 2009, 03:09 PM
A great plan, as I have said, does not make a great general, anymore than reading all the karate books in the world mkes a Karate champion.
I bow to your history on the second point :) I'm not an expert
IThe Leuktra point just re-states Epaminondas as a great commander because he could get his ametuer forces to fight and defeat the Spartans (who would probably, by their dress and drill, been really intimidating for the enemy.
Any list of my favourite generals is going to be out of date - for sexample I am notably improving my opinion of Alexander by the day
I don't say that his opponents sucked, but the casic match-up of the Persians and the Hellenes puts the Greeks at an advantage; the Persian core doctrine was mobility and fast, heavy power while the greeks focused on Hard, slow defenses (and with Alexander, awesome cavalry attack), which is a great counter to the whole Persian war machine.


Therefore, I say that:


Alexander was very skilled in the theory of warfare; most modern docttrine is based on some off his ideas
Alexander was really successful and no doubt had a huge impact on the world
However, I still do not give him all of the credit for his victories; that must go to whatever he had in place of Colonels which lead the larger tactical units; they were responsible for the actual victory. I remember the case of a Roman tribune against the Macedonians at the Dogs' Heads (I forget the Greek name) who lead his unit around the back of the Macedian phalanx. It is people like that who, when there ar such incidents, make the credit for the victory move away from the main commander at least slightly.


If you can refute any of the numbered points, please do so. If not; I am satisfied.

Dachs
Feb 25, 2009, 06:57 PM
1. A great plan, as I have said, does not make a great general, anymore than reading all the karate books in the world mkes a Karate champion.
Equatism. The two are totally dissimilar. Reading all of the karate books would be more akin to reading all of the works on military history and claiming that that makes a good general. By the same token, you're effectively denying that there is any such thing as a good general, because every commander of large formations in battle in history has had to work within the framework of some sort of plan.
2. The Leuktra point just re-states Epaminondas as a great commander because he could get his ametuer forces to fight and defeat the Spartans (who would probably, by their dress and drill, been really intimidating for the enemy.
Epaminondas was pretty good, yeah. I'm not disputing that he had a great deal of skill, and I think that he should be in the "honorable mention" list. But his greatness rests on the construction of a Theban hegemony that lasted less than a decade, with the foundation resting on his personal tactical ability, the results of two major engagements, and the army that he reformulated but which was unable to sustain anything remotely close to his political supremacy in Greece.

By contrast Alexandros already had a good deal of an army from which to start. Good for him; it wasn't as though the Theban was working in a vacuum either (with a solid Theban military tradition stretching back to the operations in the Peloponnesian and Korinthian wars, such as the celebrated Battle of Delion, and the army that won those engagements). Alexandros not only improved that army a great deal, he used it to extend hegemony over a vast new territory, bring down the largest empire in the world, and establish a new cultural sphere over the entire Middle East, which remained extant in various forms until the Arab conquest. And it was Alexandros' army which was the model for the Successor states that lasted for a good deal longer than anything Epaminondas did. I mean, this seems pretty clear-cut.
5. I don't say that his opponents sucked, but the casic match-up of the Persians and the Hellenes puts the Greeks at an advantage; the Persian core doctrine was mobility and fast, heavy power while the greeks focused on Hard, slow defenses (and with Alexander, awesome cavalry attack), which is a great counter to the whole Persian war machine.

That is a misrepresentation of the Makedonian system of war, actually. Alexandros' army's heavy infantry was actually meant to continue on the offensive, instead of stay on the defensive; the other ranks of the syntagma can't exert pressure on the enemy if they're just sitting there. If the phalangitai had simply stayed on the defensive at Gaugamela, Issos, or the Granikos, they would have been cut to pieces by the nizagan dual-purpose archer-spearmen that made up the preponderance of the average Persian army. And it is a misrepresentation of the Persian army as well, because it presumes that their cavalry was inherently inferior to Alexandros', when in fact it wasn't by any stretch. Iranian cavalry has always been some of the best in the world.
the Dogs' Heads (I forget the Greek name)
Kynoskephalai, for what it's worth. (Like Kynossema, during the Peloponnesian War, is the Dog's Tomb, for Hekube, who supposedly died there.)

Antilogic
Feb 25, 2009, 10:43 PM
Equatism. The two are totally dissimilar. Reading all of the karate books would be more akin to reading all of the works on military history and claiming that that makes a good general.

Oddly enough, that worked for a number of great generals in history. Wasn't Nathaniel Greene of the Continental Army during the American Revolution self-taught?

Dachs
Feb 26, 2009, 12:27 AM
Oddly enough, that worked for a number of great generals in history. Wasn't Nathaniel Greene of the Continental Army during the American Revolution self-taught?
Yeah, but there are plenty of dudes with book smarts who didn't do so great. The German Greater General Staff in the First World War come to mind, for example, as does Iulianus, who really ought to have known better than to invade Mesopotamia. So there's not a strict correlation, and while historical knowledge can certainly be helpful it won't take you all the way.

Antilogic
Feb 26, 2009, 09:30 AM
Frankly, there were a lot of Romans who should have known better than to fight in the East. It seemed as if the moment somebody became emperor (after Augustus), they turned their eyes eastwards. Rome just didn't have the appropriate kind of soldiers for campaigning in that theatre.

Dachs
Feb 26, 2009, 02:05 PM
Frankly, there were a lot of Romans who should have known better than to fight in the East. It seemed as if the moment somebody became emperor (after Augustus), they turned their eyes eastwards. Rome just didn't have the appropriate kind of soldiers for campaigning in that theatre.
Oh, they had plenty of successes and plenty of the right kind of soldier. (And the eastward focus, the 'Alexander-mystique', probably gets its start with Pompey, since Crassus and Antony both go out there later, and there are the series of engagements during the ill-studied Pahlavan invasion of the forties and thirties BC(E).) After all, Septimius Severus, Corbulo, and Traianus were able to score notable victories, as did Galerius and Mauricius later on; those successes can be said to both derive from geopolitical opportunism and from the admirable system of commissary the Romans were able to develop in the East from the late first century onward. And then of course there are the stunning events of the last Persian War...

vogtmurr
Feb 26, 2009, 08:05 PM
But his greatness rests on the construction of a Theban hegemony that lasted less than a decade, with the foundation resting on his personal tactical ability, the results of two major engagements, and the army that he reformulated but which was unable to sustain anything remotely close to his political supremacy in Greece.


His legacy would never compete with Alexander's, but in the context of a city-state surrounded by powerful scheming rivals, his victories were pretty startling.

Alexandros' army's heavy infantry was actually meant to continue on the offensive, instead of stay on the defensive; the other ranks of the syntagma can't exert pressure on the enemy if they're just sitting there. If the phalangitai had simply stayed on the defensive at Gaugamela, Issos, or the Granikos, they would have been cut to pieces by the nizagan dual-purpose archer-spearmen that made up the preponderance of the average Persian army. And it is a misrepresentation of the Persian army as well, because it presumes that their cavalry was inherently inferior to Alexandros', when in fact it wasn't by any stretch. Iranian cavalry has always been some of the best in the world.


Some of the elements that made up the Persian army seem capable enough in the right hands. Had Darius used these nizagan more effectively as skirmishers, and the more numerous Persian cavalry to encircle and destroy Alexander's cavalry...then they might have worn down the phalanx, but the general lack of heavier units was a problem. They needed a leader like Cyrus to integrate these elements.

Oh, they had plenty of successes and plenty of the right kind of soldier. (And the eastward focus, the 'Alexander-mystique', probably gets its start with Pompey, since Crassus and Antony both go out there later, and there are the series of engagements during the ill-studied Pahlavan invasion of the forties and thirties BC(E).) After all, Septimius Severus, Corbulo, and Traianus were able to score notable victories, as did Galerius and Mauricius later on; those successes can be said to both derive from geopolitical opportunism and from the admirable system of commissary the Romans were able to develop in the East from the late first century onward. And then of course there are the stunning events of the last Persian War...

When they could bring the Persians/Parthians to battle. But just as often, Roman legions met disaster against the armies of the east. Not the usual record of success they enjoyed. Lack of mobility against horse archers in that parched landscape, meant increasing reliance on auxillaries and a chain of fortress cities, which essentially put Rome on the defensive the majority of the time. Which Persian War is that ? Was it Byzantium that learned to fight fire with fire ?

So there's not a strict correlation, and while historical knowledge can certainly be helpful it won't take you all the way.

Reading history certainly doesn't make me think I'd be a great general, but if you had the opportunity to synthesize what you studied with operational experience, it could make you pretty awesome. I think Frederick the Great was one of those.

Dachs
Feb 27, 2009, 12:19 AM
His legacy would never compete with Alexander's, but in the context of a city-state surrounded by powerful scheming rivals, his victories were pretty startling.
Oh, absolutely. Like I said, I think Epaminondas was great. But rating him above Alexandros on such little evidence seems silly at best. I mean, there are plenty of other one-hit wonders in military history, and they probably shouldn't be on the list. Gaston de Foix comes to mind...
Some of the elements that made up the Persian army seem capable enough in the right hands. Had Darius used these nizagan more effectively as skirmishers, and the more numerous Persian cavalry to encircle and destroy Alexander's cavalry...then they might have worn down the phalanx, but the general lack of heavier units was a problem. They needed a leader like Cyrus to integrate these elements.
Cyrus would have done very well with the army, I think. He certainly had an interesting idea at Thymbra, for example. And it wasn't as though the Persians were totally bereft of heavier forces; one can cite their version of the Greek hoplite, the kardaka units of Persis and Susiana, as being reasonably heavily armed. They just didn't have enough of them, and those that they did have were modeled on a Greek style of war that had been in some ways superseded by the Makedonian phalangitai and syntagma.

But yeah, I generally agree with you there.
When they could bring the Persians/Parthians to battle. But just as often, Roman legions met disaster against the armies of the east. Not the usual record of success they enjoyed. Lack of mobility against horse archers in that parched landscape, meant increasing reliance on auxillaries and a chain of fortress cities, which essentially put Rome on the defensive the majority of the time.
Actually, I think that the fortresses were a natural product of a long-term relatively static border, which on the one hand was generated by Rome's inability to pierce the Atropatene or Mesopotamian fronts during the century following Carrhae, and on the other by the inherently strategically defensive nature of the Parthian cavalry levy. After awhile, the Romans had the time to construct major fortifications, which were echoed on a lesser scale by their Eastern opponents. And while Rome certainly had a mixed record against Parthia, by the 60s, when Corbulo fought his war, they certainly were generally getting the better of their enemies, and the Roman-Parthian wars are mostly a string of successes from then on - Traianus, Aurelius, Septimius...until Caracalla, of course, and his hiccup. Certainly those expeditions can't be considered primarily defensive. After the great Parthian invasion of the forties and thirties BC(E) was crushed by the very able commander Publius Ventidius Bassus, the Parthians overall did not have an offensive grand strategy in the west, being in general much more concerned with affairs to their east. Sassanid Persia, of course, is an entirely different story.
Which Persian War is that ? Was it Byzantium that learned to fight fire with fire ?
That would be the war of 602-28, that pitted for most of its duration Khosrau II against Herakleios. It was mostly a highly mobile war, being fought from Egypt to the Hellespont, and from the Caucasus to Isfahan, with a climax at the Battle of Nineveh on the ruins of that ancient city. The war ended with a shattering Persian defeat but with no actual territorial concessions demanded by Herakleios; I believe it was Gibbon who said that the Emperor 'did not want to enlarge the weakness of the empire'. It was conducted by the Eastern Roman Empire, which can be said to be 'Byzantine' first during this conflict.
Reading history certainly doesn't make me think I'd be a great general, but if you had the opportunity to synthesize what you studied with operational experience, it could make you pretty awesome.
Yeah, it could. :)
I think Frederick the Great was one of those.
Yes, after his escapade with Herr von Katte, Friedrich had a little over nine years of schooling in the military art and in statecraft, though was not a particularly good rider. At the site of his first battle, Mollwitz, he abandoned the field at Field Marshal von Schwerin's request, because the Prussian cavalry was vastly inferior to the Austrians and quickly overwhelmed, and there was a fear that the king would not be able to fend for himself. He rapidly got better at it, though. :p

civiijkw
Feb 27, 2009, 12:15 PM
Frankly, there were a lot of Romans who should have known better than to fight in the East. It seemed as if the moment somebody became emperor (after Augustus), they turned their eyes eastwards. Rome just didn't have the appropriate kind of soldiers for campaigning in that theatre.


You have to look at the directions the Romans could have gone and what they would have gotten. To the north are Scotland (no Scots yet) and Central Europe. To the south is the Sahara and Nubia. To the West is the Atlantic. That leaves the northeast and the east. Looking in all directions, the most obvious place to get provinces that can generate noticeable wealth would be the east.

I think it was John Dillenger who was asked why he robbed banks and responded by saying "that's where the money is".

BakingTheArt
Feb 28, 2009, 01:09 AM
I have neither the time nor the patience to read through this thread, so bear with me.

I think Pizarro belongs up there way more than Cortes. Cortes's entire invasion was based on a lucky fluke that the Aztecs thought he was a god, so the let him into the capital. He shot everyone. The end. Pizarro, though, was a pretty damn good commander. At Cajamarca, the emperor of the Incas was returning from claiming the throne at Quito, followed by his 80,000 troops, and arranges a meeting with Pizarro and his troops. After an incident involving the emperor throwing a bible on the ground, Pizarro attacks, killing thousands of Incan troops (With basically swords and daggers - the guns weren't practical) and taking the emperor.

However horrible he was, that was a pretty good battle for him

Antilogic
Feb 28, 2009, 01:51 AM
Oh, they had plenty of successes and plenty of the right kind of soldier. (And the eastward focus, the 'Alexander-mystique', probably gets its start with Pompey, since Crassus and Antony both go out there later, and there are the series of engagements during the ill-studied Pahlavan invasion of the forties and thirties BC(E).) After all, Septimius Severus, Corbulo, and Traianus were able to score notable victories, as did Galerius and Mauricius later on; those successes can be said to both derive from geopolitical opportunism and from the admirable system of commissary the Romans were able to develop in the East from the late first century onward. And then of course there are the stunning events of the last Persian War...

To my understanding, any early Roman campaign success was usually whittled away by the larger number of Eastern cavalry, which the Romans were lacking a good counter. Also, the terrain was a lot more desolate than Europe, which means less foraging food, and open, which means cavalry had a maneuvering advantage. The only leader that was successful in taking Mesopotamia was Trajan, and only for a couple years before the province was given back.

Is your last line a reference to the capture of the Roman Emperor and his skin hanging in the Sassinid Palace?


@civiijkl: They didn't need to conquer squat. Besides Dacia, which had some gold mines, the Romans had a good defensive position with the two rivers in Europe as well as the most populous and productive areas. Just because there are some dudes sitting in some sand over in the East doesn't mean you have to invade them. It was something more--those guys felt like they needed a conquest that could match the achievements of previous leaders. It was vanity.

Dachs
Feb 28, 2009, 02:05 AM
To my understanding, any early Roman campaign success was usually whittled away by the larger number of Eastern cavalry, which the Romans were lacking a good counter. Also, the terrain was a lot more desolate than Europe, which means less foraging food, and open, which means cavalry had a maneuvering advantage.
Right, to some extents, so far. Except the Romans still proved that they were able to win engagements: the aforementioned Ventidius Bassus scored some very able (and unsupported, due to the Triumviral turmoil going on back west) successes against the invading Parthians, who were led by Pakoros and the turncoat Labienus. Anyway, Rome showed that they were quite capable of coming up with counters to heavy cavalry even in the earlier stages of the Roman-Parthian Wars, though the nature of these is unknown to me personally (because IIRC Plutarch only says "yo Bassus won this battle and killed the commander and then he won another battle over here and killed the commander but yeah that's about all I feel like telling you because I suck at relating tactical detail cause I'm a frigging biographer").
The only leader that was successful in taking Mesopotamia was Trajan, and only for a couple years before the province was given back.
Yeah, and Romans still had major successes in winning under Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus (probably the most notable and longest-lasting victory), Galerius...
Is your last line a reference to the capture of the Roman Emperor and his skin hanging in the Sassinid Palace?
No. As previously mentioned, it is a reference to the total badassery that was the Emperor Herakleios.

Flying Pig
Feb 28, 2009, 10:51 AM
Sorry about the delay - just got back from an overnight stay in a rainy field in Wales...

Equatism. The two are totally dissimilar. Reading all of the karate books would be more akin to reading all of the works on military history and claiming that that makes a good general. By the same token, you're effectively denying that there is any such thing as a good general, because every commander of large formations in battle in history has had to work within the framework of some sort of plan.



I'm trying to draw a distinction between the 'professor of war' and the officer; you need to be both understanding of the theory of figting wars and able to motivate your men under fire. I don't think that Alexander can claim to have done the second, although he is a prime example of the first.



Epaminondas was pretty good, yeah. I'm not disputing that he had a great deal of skill, and I think that he should be in the "honorable mention" list. But his greatness rests on the construction of a Theban hegemony that lasted less than a decade, with the foundation resting on his personal tactical ability, the results of two major engagements, and the army that he reformulated but which was unable to sustain anything remotely close to his political supremacy in Greece.



Okay, but I still think that humbling Sparta deserves a fair recognition - anyone seen 300? Not that that's exactly a work of history, but the Greeks aren't too bad, considering. Remember; the only reason he lost was because of an invasion from Phillip II, who was a less successful (due to his murder) version of Alexander.



By contrast Alexandros already had a good deal of an army from which to start. Good for him; it wasn't as though the Theban was working in a vacuum either (with a solid Theban military tradition stretching back to the operations in the Peloponnesian and Korinthian wars, such as the celebrated Battle of Delion, and the army that won those engagements). Alexandros not only improved that army a great deal, he used it to extend hegemony over a vast new territory, bring down the largest empire in the world, and establish a new cultural sphere over the entire Middle East, which remained extant in various forms until the Arab conquest. And it was Alexandros' army which was the model for the Successor states that lasted for a good deal longer than anything Epaminondas did. I mean, this seems pretty clear-cut.



Alexander's was based on the Greek model with ancient Macedonian flavours, so I don't think either of them qualify as good militsry reformers - besides, Phillip invented the whole concept via Epaminondas' theories



That is a misrepresentation of the Makedonian system of war, actually. Alexandros' army's heavy infantry was actually meant to continue on the offensive, instead of stay on the defensive; the other ranks of the syntagma can't exert pressure on the enemy if they're just sitting there. If the phalangitai had simply stayed on the defensive at Gaugamela, Issos, or the Granikos, they would have been cut to pieces by the nizagan dual-purpose archer-spearmen that made up the preponderance of the average Persian army. And it is a misrepresentation of the Persian army as well, because it presumes that their cavalry was inherently inferior to Alexandros', when in fact it wasn't by any stretch. Iranian cavalry has always been some of the best in the world.



Alright, his Phalangitai were agressive troops but think about it: imagine making an assault in full armour in that sort of formation - realistically, they were moving hedgehogs; good for killing by attrition but by no means fast, mobile hunter-killer units.

Iranian cavalry was great, but Macedonian and Thessalaian cavalry was legendary. They were at least matched, and (if you've read Il Principe) the macedonians had a leadership advantage because the Persians were lead by slaves while the greeks had feudal 'knights' with innate confidence and will to win.

To be honest, I reckon it's really hard to compare leaders from completely different ages anyway. I mean, what would have hapened if Rommel met Caesar?

vogtmurr
Feb 28, 2009, 03:03 PM
I have neither the time nor the patience to read through this thread, so bear with me.

I think Pizarro belongs up there way more than Cortes. Cortes's entire invasion was based on a lucky fluke that the Aztecs thought he was a god, so the let him into the capital. He shot everyone. The end. Pizarro, though, was a pretty damn good commander. At Cajamarca, the emperor of the Incas was returning from claiming the throne at Quito, followed by his 80,000 troops, and arranges a meeting with Pizarro and his troops. After an incident involving the emperor throwing a bible on the ground, Pizarro attacks, killing thousands of Incan troops (With basically swords and daggers - the guns weren't practical) and taking the emperor.

However horrible he was, that was a pretty good battle for him

Thanks. Good to hear both sides of the story. It wasn't quite that easy for Cortes though. Once the Aztecs realized he wasn't they drove him out ('Le Noche Triste'), and their resistance was almost suicidal in the end.

Dachs
Feb 28, 2009, 03:28 PM
I'm trying to draw a distinction between the 'professor of war' and the officer; you need to be both understanding of the theory of figting wars and able to motivate your men under fire. I don't think that Alexander can claim to have done the second, although he is a prime example of the first.
Alexandros was in the thick of the fighting constantly, was wounded (once rather severely, at the Malli town), and his troops were sufficiently motivated by that, I think. They were motivated enough to march all across hell and gone for him, fighting battle after battle, even after Gaugamela when the Persian Empire theoretically lay open to conquest, and even after the famous rejection in the Punjab - having faced extremely heavy resistance, it's understandable if the army didn't want to go much further - they liked him enough to rescue him at Malli.
Okay, but I still think that humbling Sparta deserves a fair recognition - anyone seen 300? Not that that's exactly a work of history, but the Greeks aren't too bad, considering.
And sure, he should get some fair recognition. Sparta in 371 BC(E) was definitely not the Sparta of 480 BC(E).
Remember; the only reason he lost was because of an invasion from Phillip II, who was a less successful (due to his murder) version of Alexander.
No, the only reason Epaminondas "lost" was because he died at Mantineia. :crazyeye:
Alexander's was based on the Greek model with ancient Macedonian flavours, so I don't think either of them qualify as good militsry reformers - besides, Phillip invented the whole concept via Epaminondas' theories
Wait, I'm totally confused as to what you're saying here. Are you arguing with me or against me?
Alright, his Phalangitai were agressive troops but think about it: imagine making an assault in full armour in that sort of formation - realistically, they were moving hedgehogs; good for killing by attrition but by no means fast, mobile hunter-killer units.
They were plenty fast and mobile. Ever hear of the hypaspistai? While the phalangitai were comparatively slower, they still were fundamentally offensive. And I don't think that you can call what the argyraspidai did at Paraitakene and Gabiene "attrition". :p
Iranian cavalry was great, but Macedonian and Thessalaian cavalry was legendary. They were at least matched,
...yes, the Median cavalry and the hippeis Thessalikoi can probably be said to be roughly equivalent. Possibly.
and (if you've read Il Principe) the macedonians had a leadership advantage because the Persians were lead by slaves while the greeks had feudal 'knights' with innate confidence and will to win.
:lol::lol::lol::lol: The Persians weren't feudal?
To be honest, I reckon it's really hard to compare leaders from completely different ages anyway.
Yep.

vogtmurr
Feb 28, 2009, 03:32 PM
I'm trying to draw a distinction between the 'professor of war' and the officer; you need to be both understanding of the theory of figting wars and able to motivate your men under fire. I don't think that Alexander can claim to have done the second, although he is a prime example of the first.


Huh, I think its the opposite. As you pointed out the theory was instilled in the army by Philip. Alexander's goals and conduct could only have come from inspiration.


Alright, his Phalangitai were agressive troops but think about it: imagine making an assault in full armour in that sort of formation - realistically, they were moving hedgehogs; good for killing by attrition but by no means fast, mobile hunter-killer units.

Iranian cavalry was great, but Macedonian and Thessalaian cavalry was legendary. They were at least matched, and (if you've read Il Principe) the macedonians had a leadership advantage because the Persians were lead by slaves while the greeks had feudal 'knights' with innate confidence and will to win.

Some truth to the first statement, we commented earlier on it, but unless the Persian horde was willing to fight a guerilla war, they had to face the phalanx. I appreciate the gist of the second statement, but be careful, Persian and Sakae cavalry were by no means 'slave levies'.

To be honest, I reckon it's really hard to compare leaders from completely different ages anyway. I mean, what would have hapened if Rommel met Caesar?

I know, that's why I don't try to pit the leaders against eachother in a hypothetical contest. I assess their impact against their contemporaries. I mean, which common military standard do they both start with ? Genghis Khan vs. Napoleon, both with Roman Legions ? (ooh - I would give that one to Napoleon, hands down. Maybe both with triremes !) Its kinda like, Godzilla vs. Frankenstein, I dunno :lol:

btw, you may want to take a look at post #158 again. Your beloved Nelson made the list, for now.

vogtmurr
Feb 28, 2009, 04:10 PM
Right, to some extents, so far. Except the Romans still proved that they were able to win engagements: the aforementioned Ventidius Bassus scored some very able (and unsupported, due to the Triumviral turmoil going on back west) successes against the invading Parthians, who were led by Pakoros and the turncoat Labienus. Anyway, Rome showed that they were quite capable of coming up with counters to heavy cavalry even in the earlier stages of the Roman-Parthian Wars, though the nature of these is unknown to me personally (because IIRC Plutarch only says "yo Bassus won this battle and killed the commander and then he won another battle over here and killed the commander but yeah that's about all I feel like telling you because I suck at relating tactical detail cause I'm a frigging biographer").

Yeah, and Romans still had major successes in winning under Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus (probably the most notable and longest-lasting victory), Galerius...

No. As previously mentioned, it is a reference to the total badassery that was the Emperor Herakleios.

It was usually a major effort for Rome to take the war to Persia, but when they did, they often reversed the odds, although I can't say I know what numbers were involved. Its just that the contested territory was far from their center of power, whereas the Persians' was next door. As you alluded, the Sassanid Empire more often had the initiative, although again, Galerius smashed them ! How many times did a Roman army take a holiday in their capital ? How do you rate Julian the Apostate in this arena ?

btw I found it reasonable to add your beloved Heracleus to the list :)

Dachs
Feb 28, 2009, 04:26 PM
How many times did a Roman army take a holiday in their capital ?
I want to say either three or four. Depends on how long you extend the list, and whether the Byzantines count as 'Roman'.
How do you rate Julian the Apostate in this arena ?
Not particularly well; he should have taken Shapur's peace offers after the Battle of Ctesiphon IMHO. Dude overreached himself.
btw I found it reasonable to add your beloved Heracleus to the list :)
:) indeed.

pawpaw
Feb 28, 2009, 10:03 PM
Wellington lost only one engagement in his career (that I have heard of), and found a good way to defeat Napoleon's column tactic, which shattered his army.


After the war wellington was asked " Who the best general was"

He replied "the best past general, current general and best of all time was Napoleon"

pawpaw
Feb 28, 2009, 10:06 PM
Napoleons list of 7 greatest generals:

Eugene of Savoy
Alexander
Hannibal
Caesar
Gustavus Aldolpus
Turrenne
Fredrick the Great

Granted euro based and no after Nappy but we are arm chair generals and he was the real deal so he must know what he was talking about.

Masada
Feb 28, 2009, 10:16 PM
I'm surprised you let the whole Il Principe thing slide Dachs...

Dachs
Feb 28, 2009, 10:18 PM
I'm surprised you let the whole Il Principe thing slide Dachs...
Laziness, plus it would detract from pithiness. Believe it or not, I always liked his Discourses on Livy better anyway.

Masada
Feb 28, 2009, 10:29 PM
Thought you didn't like Livy :p

Dachs
Feb 28, 2009, 10:31 PM
Thought you didn't like Livy :p
It's a tractate on republicanism and warfare.

vogtmurr
Mar 01, 2009, 01:05 AM
Napoleons list of 7 greatest generals:

Eugene of Savoy
Alexander
Hannibal
Caesar
Gustavus Aldolpus
Turrenne
Fredrick the Great

Granted euro based and no after Nappy but we are arm chair generals and he was the real deal so he must know what he was talking about.

That's right. Wiki also says most later historians are to the consensus Eugene could not really be in the top seven. So happens he ended up #8 in my list :king: All the rest appear too except Turenne, only because this recommendation I believe to be recognition of the innate talent, not necessarily achievements, of the great Vicomte. Its similar to Hannibal praising Pyrrhus as the greatest general. My rating scale attempts to be more encompassing than that. Turenne I'm sure stands very high in the picture, in fact there is such a rich period of great European Generals 17th-19th centuries that it is almost mindblowing. No less than 5 are in the top ten or thereabouts. How did they 'keep all that up' and still manage to almost destroy eachother in two world wars ? :rolleyes:(facetiously, I think we know the answer). But their's is a different world than today. They can't all be in the short list but they will have a special place in the honorable mentions.

btw I have none after Nappy anyway

Flying Pig
Mar 01, 2009, 08:51 AM
Alexandros was in the thick of the fighting constantly, was wounded (once rather severely, at the Malli town), and his troops were sufficiently motivated by that, I think. They were motivated enough to march all across hell and gone for him, fighting battle after battle, even after Gaugamela when the Persian Empire theoretically lay open to conquest, and even after the famous rejection in the Punjab - having faced extremely heavy resistance, it's understandable if the army didn't want to go much further - they liked him enough to rescue him at Malli.


That's good, but it's a minimum - any unit should be prepared to obey its leader and dig him out of trouble; it's the mark of a great officer that his men fight better than usual to impress (or out of fear of) him.


And sure, he should get some fair recognition. Sparta in 371 BC(E) was definitely not the Sparta of 480 BC(E).


It probably still had the image - like the SAS today, it would have been quite a proposition to get your men fighting it.


No, the only reason Epaminondas "lost" was because he died at Mantineia. :crazyeye:


That was unclear - I meant his system of warfare. Wasn't he one f the main founders of combined-arms tactics, though? I thought of him as the one who used lights, heavies and horses together.


Wait, I'm totally confused as to what you're saying here. Are you arguing with me or against me?


You basically said that Epaminondas and Alexander were in the same position at the start, and so Epaminondas does not qualify as an influence, I think. What I was saying is that neither of them substantially and permenantly changed their country's military structure.



They were plenty fast and mobile. Ever hear of the hypaspistai? While the phalangitai were comparatively slower, they still were fundamentally offensive. And I don't think that you can call what the argyraspidai did at Paraitakene and Gabiene "attrition". :p



Hypaspistai were basically classical hoplites, and they are far from quick. What I mean is that even his aggressive infantry were not what we today would call assault troops, but sort of mobile walls that win because the enemy can't damage them, despite th fact that they have not as much killing power. That's the basic principle of the phalanx - as the Encyclopaedia Brittanica outlines, a close formation is defense at the expensse of attack, and an open orger is offenseat the expense of defense, which is why the legion was so awesome - it is both when it wants to be.



:lol::lol::lol::lol: The Persians weren't feudal?


They had feudalism yes, but I thought that the majority of their officers were high-ranking slaves as opposed to lords like the medieval european armies.

Dachs
Mar 01, 2009, 11:36 AM
That's good, but it's a minimum - any unit should be prepared to obey its leader and dig him out of trouble; it's the mark of a great officer that his men fight better than usual to impress (or out of fear of) him.
Redefinition of argument is True Scotsman. Whatever. You realize, of course, that it is impossible to quantify that?
It probably still had the image - like the SAS today, it would have been quite a proposition to get your men fighting it.
But unlike the SAS, the Spartan citizen body had undergone a drastic reduction in size and training quality already.
That was unclear - I meant his system of warfare. Wasn't he one f the main founders of combined-arms tactics, though? I thought of him as the one who used lights, heavies and horses together.
They'd been doing that for quite a long time. Look up Demosthenes in Aitolia, or even the previously mentioned Battle of Delion.
You basically said that Epaminondas and Alexander were in the same position at the start,
Strawman.
What I was saying is that neither of them substantially and permenantly changed their country's military structure.
And you'd be wrong. :)
Hypaspistai were basically classical hoplites, and they are far from quick.
The nimblest and most agile men of the infantry weren't 'quick'? Men equipped expressly to be fast moving and to provide a link between the main phalanx and the cavalry?
What I mean is that even his aggressive infantry were not what we today would call assault troops,
Agrianians and the pheraspidai were assault troops, if you want those. :)
but sort of mobile walls that win because the enemy can't damage them, despite th fact that they have not as much killing power. That's the basic principle of the phalanx - as the Encyclopaedia Brittanica outlines, a close formation is defense at the expensse of attack, and an open orger is offenseat the expense of defense, which is why the legion was so awesome - it is both when it wants to be.
Read accounts of the battles I've already indicated and tell me that the Battle of Gabiene, for example, didn't involve lots of killing power on the part of the phalangitai (in fact, the proportion of casualties Antigonos suffered there are far higher than most engagements for the classical period...his army was, to all intents and purposes, destroyed...).
They had feudalism yes, but I thought that the majority of their officers were high-ranking slaves as opposed to lords like the medieval european armies.
Bessus, going by the most famous example, was a satrap - a sort of combination between a governor and feudal lord. He could levy troops in his own name, but was required to aid his sovereign when ordered to do so. This goes for the Persian army at the Granikos - commanded by the Western Satraps - and at Issos and the Persian Gates. Anyway, that's a totally inaccurate view of the Persian Army.

Flying Pig
Mar 01, 2009, 01:11 PM
Redefinition of argument is True Scotsman. Whatever. You realize, of course, that it is impossible to quantify that?


First, I'm not a scot (must be the North rubbing off on me...)

Secondly, quanitfiablility is not important - you just know a great leader. Did you see that car advert a whil back about presence (if you ever need to prove you've got it, you never had it). Like sports captains, a really good leader just gets obedience and respect, which doesn't need a number next to it.


But unlike the SAS, the Spartan citizen body had undergone a drastic reduction in size and training quality already.


I mean that the reputation would stand and it would still have stood that it was 'a terrible thing to fight the Spartans.'


They'd been doing that for quite a long time. Look up Demosthenes in Aitolia, or even the previously mentioned Battle of Delion.


Retracted


Strawman.


Eh? Clarify, please, I have no idea what you're talking about


And you'd be wrong. :)


Same as above - I thouught that Alexander just used his father's model and Epaminondas had the traditionally Greek lineup]



The nimblest and most agile men of the infantry weren't 'quick'? Men equipped expressly to be fast moving and to provide a link between the main phalanx and the cavalry?



Nimblest does not mean nimble. It is impossible to run at what a tactician would consider speed for a long time in armour


Agrianians and the pheraspidai were assault troops, if you want those. :)


Still armoured heavily, but I see the point.



Read accounts of the battles I've already indicated and tell me that the Battle of Gabiene, for example, didn't involve lots of killing power on the part of the phalangitai (in fact, the proportion of casualties Antigonos suffered there are far higher than most engagements for the classical period...his army was, to all intents and purposes, destroyed...).


The casulites stemmed from the impossiblity of seriously damagins a phalanx - no pike-armed unit can claim to have 'killing power', by which I mean the ability to hurt stuff through aggression, like a machine gun or a cavalry unit.



Bessus, going by the most famous example, was a satrap - a sort of combination between a governor and feudal lord. He could levy troops in his own name, but was required to aid his sovereign when ordered to do so. This goes for the Persian army at the Granikos - commanded by the Western Satraps - and at Issos and the Persian Gates. Anyway, that's a totally inaccurate view of the Persian Army.

I would be interested to know how closely bonded to his lord a satrap was; whether he was a lord with lip-service to the king or a subordinate with a title. I alwats thought that the Granikos army was commanded by Memnon the Rhodian, a greek mercenary?

Dachs
Mar 01, 2009, 01:37 PM
Secondly, quanitfiablility is not important - you just know a great leader. Did you see that car advert a whil back about presence (if you ever need to prove you've got it, you never had it). Like sports captains, a really good leader just gets obedience and respect, which doesn't need a number next to it.
That's not really what I mean. Alexander inspired his men to go all the way the hell out into a desert so he could see if he was a god. He inspired his men to win battle after battle, seizing the entirety of the empire, and he inspired his men to keep going for quite a while after that. But it's kinda hard to compare how much somebody inspired his men to another somebody who also inspired his men, hmm?
I mean that the reputation would stand and it would still have stood that it was 'a terrible thing to fight the Spartans.'
Yeah, I know. Again, I'm not saying Epaminondas sucked. I think he was pretty pro; I, however, don't think he could displace Alexandros in the list. Which is, after all, the point of this argument.
Eh? Clarify, please, I have no idea what you're talking about
I hate giving out Wiki links (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man).
Same as above - I thouught that Alexander just used his father's model and Epaminondas had the traditionally Greek lineup]
Incorporating large elements of native troops, armed and armored in different ways, into the army was a rather important thing to do, which remained part of the Successor armies.
Nimblest does not mean nimble. It is impossible to run at what a tactician would consider speed for a long time in armour
Wait, so what's your point? Just because their speed might be lower than an unknown arbitrary limit you've set, means that they can't be agile, and by extension none of Alexandros' infantry moved at all rapidly, and thus the Makedonian tactical instrument simply was a hammer and an anvil, with the infantry a slow-moving behemoth?
The casulites stemmed from the impossiblity of seriously damagins a phalanx - no pike-armed unit can claim to have 'killing power', by which I mean the ability to hurt stuff through aggression, like a machine gun or a cavalry unit.
You didn't read about what I told you to read about, did you?
I would be interested to know how closely bonded to his lord a satrap was; whether he was a lord with lip-service to the king or a subordinate with a title.
Depends on where he was in the empire. Rather similar to feudal Europe: some lords paid naught but lip-service, while others were under a more firm control of the king.
I alwats thought that the Granikos army was commanded by Memnon the Rhodian, a greek mercenary?
Arsames, Spithridates, Niphrates, Pharnakes...

vogtmurr
Mar 01, 2009, 02:51 PM
I think Nelson is overestimated and shouldn't be on the list.
I personally would add Prince Eugene of Savoy, because of his succesfull military campaign in the Austrian-Turkish war. He was able to conquere the whole area from Vienna to Beograd. Furthermore he also should in other wars exellent qualities as a leader.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Eugene_of_Savoy

Hi.
Its been awhile and not sure if you're still monitoring. Objectively and subjectively I think Prinz Eugen makes the list, but so does Nelson. A lot of people said "he just knew British ships were better so took full advantage of that". A gross oversimplification, as another long debate has revealed; just because a great leader had the right tools, doesn't invalidate their brilliance, inspiration, risks, or legacy.

See post #158 for the latest list.:)

Flying Pig
Mar 02, 2009, 12:32 PM
That's not really what I mean. Alexander inspired his men to go all the way the hell out into a desert so he could see if he was a god. He inspired his men to win battle after battle, seizing the entirety of the empire, and he inspired his men to keep going for quite a while after that. But it's kinda hard to compare how much somebody inspired his men to another somebody who also inspired his men, hmm?


I see what you mean.. Put like that, he look as lot better, a bit like (smiles mischevously) General Montgomery in WWII - the troops never fought with him, but they loved him.


Yeah, I know. Again, I'm not saying Epaminondas sucked. I think he was pretty pro; I, however, don't think he could displace Alexandros in the list. Which is, after all, the point of this argument.


See above - maybe not, but on a list of the top 10 ancient generals, definitely he has a place.


I hate giving out Wiki links (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man).


I'm still not sure what you mean - can you please point out the error?


Incorporating large elements of native troops, armed and armored in different ways, into the army was a rather important thing to do, which remained part of the Successor armies.


Again a good point. Then again, many ancxient armies did the same (the Romans, just as an example)


Wait, so what's your point? Just because their speed might be lower than an unknown arbitrary limit you've set, means that they can't be agile, and by extension none of Alexandros' infantry moved at all rapidly, and thus the Makedonian tactical instrument simply was a hammer and an anvil, with the infantry a slow-moving behemoth?


What ws the average speed of an infantry unit in those days? If most people used lightly armoured assault infantry, then none of his army (save the auxiliaries) count for that.


You didn't read about what I told you to read about, did you?



I still hold the proposition - if I shoot at a machine-gunner, he's screwed. Nevertheless, he is still a more dangerous guy than a trooper, and therefore all of his value comes from 'killing power' as opposed to 'staying power'. However, it's not too hard to avoid getting killed by a man with an 8ft pike, but I can't hit him, and so all of his value is from 'staying power', the ability to rely on the relatively small chance that he will kill someone with his pike.


Depends on where he was in the empire. Rather similar to feudal Europe: some lords paid naught but lip-service, while others were under a more firm control of the king.


As shown by Mausalauos of Caria.


Arsames, Spithridates, Niphrates, Pharnakes...

I get the feeling that I have just incurred the wrath of a classicist... :eek:

Dachs
Mar 02, 2009, 02:47 PM
I see what you mean.. Put like that, he look as lot better, a bit like (smiles mischevously) General Montgomery in WWII - the troops never fought with him, but they loved him.
But they did fight with him, too. He was in the thick of it, all the time, with the cavalry...I just don't understand what you're trying to get. :p
I'm still not sure what you mean - can you please point out the error?
I didn't say that Epaminondas were in essentially the same position at the start. I said that there were comparisons. :dunno:
What ws the average speed of an infantry unit in those days? If most people used lightly armoured assault infantry, then none of his army (save the auxiliaries) count for that.
Depends; to be honest, I don't remember exact numbers. I'm not trying to say that his army was uniformly composed of fast-moving units anyway, or anything like that; but the hypaspistai were at least as maneuverable as the Roman legionaries, not to mention units like pheraspidai and the Agrianikoi pelekuphoroi; add to that the various arms of the psiloi and that's a large number of 'agile' infantry.
I still hold the proposition - if I shoot at a machine-gunner, he's screwed. Nevertheless, he is still a more dangerous guy than a trooper, and therefore all of his value comes from 'killing power' as opposed to 'staying power'. However, it's not too hard to avoid getting killed by a man with an 8ft pike, but I can't hit him, and so all of his value is from 'staying power', the ability to rely on the relatively small chance that he will kill someone with his pike.
That's the point of the formation. With that many pike points in front of them, the Makedonian syntagma is basically a meat grinder, capable of mincing anything in front of them. At Gabiene, Makedonian-style troops caused 5,000 casualties for 300 of their own in a very short time.
I get the feeling that I have just incurred the wrath of a classicist... :eek:
http://www.twcenter.net/forums/images/smilies/emot_vhappy.gif

vogtmurr
Mar 02, 2009, 10:28 PM
Longstreet may have been in charge but he opposed the assault, and was reluctant to put the troops in without some indication that the Union infantry/artillery were damaged by the bombardment. He knew however that it was an order from Lee so couldn't call the attack off. Its hard to see how launching it earlier in the day, or earlier in the bombardment would have had any more success. The attack was simply a bad idea and a slip in Lee's otherwise excellent record.

Back to Gettysburg; I've wondered about this. The impression I got from that superb 4 part Civil War documentary from the 90s (on PBS), was that while the Confederates vacillated over the attack, the Union had time to 'reload', bandage their wounds, and make some serious defensive preparations. They were beaten - I think Lee felt there was an opportunity before they dug in. Maybe he didn't make it clear but that was what he intended. The formal charge and its accompanying bombardment smacks too much of the attrition suffered on the western front in WWI. I forget the rest, so maybe they needed some preliminary bombardment, but whatever they could do, focus it and do it quickly. Maybe thats why a lot of boys reenact this one from time to time, just to see how it plays out !

Flying Pig
Mar 03, 2009, 01:37 PM
But they did fight with him, too. He was in the thick of it, all the time, with the cavalry...I just don't understand what you're trying to get. :p


He was not a 'field officer', who ensures that his unit is kept under his leadership in the battle while still ighting and directing; he was a planner who rushed ahead and s leftthe main battle to his subordinates. Nevertheless, his troops still felt inspired by him (possibly due to the fact that he was a god)


I didn't say that Epaminondas were in essentially the same position at the start. I said that there were comparisons. :dunno:


Apologies


Depends; to be honest, I don't remember exact numbers. I'm not trying to say that his army was uniformly composed of fast-moving units anyway, or anything like that; but the hypaspistai were at least as maneuverable as the Roman legionaries, not to mention units like pheraspidai and the Agrianikoi pelekuphoroi; add to that the various arms of the psiloi and that's a large number of 'agile' infantry.


True enough - what was training like? A super-fit man in armour can run fast, but not someone who has just been given the baselios' drachma and a suit of armour


That's the point of the formation. With that many pike points in front of them, the Makedonian syntagma is basically a meat grinder, capable of mincing anything in front of them. At Gabiene, Makedonian-style troops caused 5,000 casualties for 300 of their own in a very short time.


Ah... of course, the policy of firing at a distance does not apply to a spear-armed unit. However, in one battle (may have been Bannockburn) where the English army faced Scots in phalanx formation they simply clove the ends of the pikes and rushed into close-combat.

flyingchicken
Mar 03, 2009, 03:11 PM
He was not a 'field officer', who ensures that his unit is kept under his leadership in the battle while still ighting and directing; he was a planner who rushed ahead and s leftthe main battle to his subordinates. Nevertheless, his troops still felt inspired by him (possibly due to the fact that he was a god)I'll just go say that only God can be omnipresent.

privatehudson
Mar 03, 2009, 03:27 PM
Back to Gettysburg; I've wondered about this. The impression I got from that superb 4 part Civil War documentary from the 90s (on PBS), was that while the Confederates vacillated over the attack, the Union had time to 'reload', bandage their wounds, and make some serious defensive preparations. They were beaten - I think Lee felt there was an opportunity before they dug in. Maybe he didn't make it clear but that was what he intended. The formal charge and its accompanying bombardment smacks too much of the attrition suffered on the western front in WWI. I forget the rest, so maybe they needed some preliminary bombardment, but whatever they could do, focus it and do it quickly. Maybe thats why a lot of boys reenact this one from time to time, just to see how it plays out !

Well obviously we'll never know either way but my gut feeling is that whether there was a delay or not the approach march was long enough for Meade or a senior officer on the scene to call in reinforcements from less pressured sectors. The only advantage that attacking earlier would have had was to time it better with the assault on Culp's Hill, but it wasn't like the Union couldn't call for help from other sectors, plus the Rebs didn't exactly penetrate the union line in such strength that it required major reinforcements to repel anyway.

Flying Pig
Mar 04, 2009, 09:54 AM
I'll just go say that only God can be omnipresent.

Like rugby captains, an officer seems it, even though he isn't. And somehow, superiors always find out what you did even when nobody else saw it.

vogtmurr
Mar 04, 2009, 05:44 PM
But they did fight with him, too. He was in the thick of it, all the time, with the cavalry...I just don't understand what you're trying to get. :p

I didn't say that Epaminondas were in essentially the same position at the start. I said that there were comparisons. :dunno:

Depends; to be honest, I don't remember exact numbers. I'm not trying to say that his army was uniformly composed of fast-moving units anyway, or anything like that; but the hypaspistai were at least as maneuverable as the Roman legionaries, not to mention units like pheraspidai and the Agrianikoi pelekuphoroi; add to that the various arms of the psiloi and that's a large number of 'agile' infantry.

That's the point of the formation. With that many pike points in front of them, the Makedonian syntagma is basically a meat grinder, capable of mincing anything in front of them. At Gabiene, Makedonian-style troops caused 5,000 casualties for 300 of their own in a very short time.

http://www.twcenter.net/forums/images/smilies/emot_vhappy.gif

Hey. Since you are guys still on this topic a bit. I read that the real strength of the phalanx was in pinning an enemy, holding a position, the like. The real knock out blow would come from the cavalry, hypaspists, and peltasts I suppose, the way Alexander would use them. By the way, how do his 'heavy' cavalry the Companions, rate in style and capability vs. other ancients ? I don't know where the argyraspides fit in, elite phalangites ? In Hellenic battles, the phalanx came to be the decisive element, ultimately to their undoing when Macedonia faced Roman legions. Honestly they should get a strength bonus on level ground instead of a defense bonus in hills. Had the more mobile Spartan hoplites been engaged, with their training and ability to run in armor they could feint and change position fast, it might have been a more interesting contest. The one occasion Rome and Sparta met doesn't tell you much, they weren't in their prime then.

LightSpectra
Mar 04, 2009, 07:54 PM
I thought about it, and here's my revised list:

Andronikos Doukas
Darius III
James Abercrombie
Zinovy Rozhestvensky
John Bell Hood
William George Keith Elphinstone
Chuichi Nagumo
André Maginot
Guy of Lusignan
Gaius Terentius Varro

Honorable mention: Every French general in the Franco-Prussian War.

;)

vogtmurr
Mar 04, 2009, 08:05 PM
I thought about it, and here's my revised list:

Andronikos Doukas
Darius III
James Abercrombie
Zinovy Rozhestvensky
John Bell Hood
William George Keith Elphinstone
Chuichi Nagumo
André Maginot
Guy of Lusignan
Gaius Terentius Varro

Honorable mention: Every French general in the Franco-Prussian War.

;)

Are these your candidates for the 10 worst ? Gee thanks- whats up with that.

LightSpectra
Mar 04, 2009, 08:37 PM
Are these your candidates for the 10 worst ? Gee thanks- whats up with that.

Aw, c'mon. Everybody does the "top ten best" list. Top ten worst is a bit original. :lol:

vogtmurr
Mar 04, 2009, 09:00 PM
Aw, c'mon. Everybody does the "top ten best" list. Top ten worst is a bit original. :lol:

In that case, thanks. I am working on that as a matter of fact :mwaha:

The first reply to this post was from a very clever gentleman (and I mean that sincerely, I'm talking about a subtle wit here) who suggested Maurice Gamelin, Jesus of Nazereth, and Oprah. I was thinking of stalking him around these forums just to see what other bits of bizarre off the wall wisdom I could glean :crazyeye:

Flying Pig
Mar 05, 2009, 12:06 PM
Hey. Since you are guys still on this topic a bit. I read that the real strength of the phalanx was in pinning an enemy, holding a position, the like. The real knock out blow would come from the cavalry, hypaspists, and peltasts I suppose, the way Alexander would use them. By the way, how do his 'heavy' cavalry the Companions, rate in style and capability vs. other ancients ? I don't know where the argyraspides fit in, elite phalangites ? In Hellenic battles, the phalanx came to be the decisive element, ultimately to their undoing when Macedonia faced Roman legions. Honestly they should get a strength bonus on level ground instead of a defense bonus in hills. Had the more mobile Spartan hoplites been engaged, with their training and ability to run in armor they could feint and change position fast, it might have been a more interesting contest. The one occasion Rome and Sparta met doesn't tell you much, they weren't in their prime then.

The phalanx thing is what I said, but as Dachs pointed out the formation acts as a grinder to kill anything in front of it at high speed.

Greek heavy cavanlry (post alexander) was known as good, definitly better than Roamn horsemen but not as good as the barbarians like the huns who were experts at horsemanship; but they had the kontos and so had probably one of the hardest charges of any unit, ever.

vogtmurr
Mar 05, 2009, 11:30 PM
yeah - I don't think these statements are contradictory. I suppose the speed depended on the resistance, but often when two phalanxes met as they did in the Hellenestic world, it turned into a bloody shoving match, the weight of the men and number of spearpoints forward determining the outcome. That's what I mean by pinning the enemy's main body. In Philip's army, the cavalry and other faster moving elements were intended to break through somewhere and expose a flank. These were more the assault troops you two have spoken of. But it doesn't deny the power of the phalanx in a head on encounter which was often enough to scatter an enemy. That's why the Greeks met phalanx with phalanx.

Teeninvestor
Mar 08, 2009, 12:56 PM
Just to be clear, generals should be definied in 2 categories

System generals- these generals didn't have to set their army, a functioning army was already available for them. They didn't invent the military system they operated in.
E.g. Caesar(Roman military system established for centuries)..

Founder Generals- These generals are generals who not only command well, but set up their own military system and it worked. For example: Georgi Zhukov(He redefined the Soviet Red army from a conscript army to a professional army on par with the Germans).

I'm viewing it in a strategic sense; like many generals are great tacticians, but if they were in Hannibal's situation(no supplies for 18 years) they would collapse.

1. Sun Tzu- Founder General- Wrote the Art of war. He managed to conquer a large swath of land in Feudal China, with poorly equipped troops. He probably conducted the FIRST organized military campaign in HISTORY. Invented most modern strategy, so he definitely deserves a spot here.

2. Alexander the Great- Although he was a system general, this guy created an entire Empire with only about 20,000-60,000 troops. Considering the logistics of the time, it was an amazing feat his army didn't collapse in Iraq. His army marks the first and only time before rougly 1700 that an European army was the best in the world. The distance his army advanced was not equalled until 3 centuries later, when a chinese army marched to the caspian in pursuit of the Huns(and that was with the logistics of China, who had the world's largest population and best agriculture.)

3. Li Jin- Founder General Tang dynasty general who reunified all of China AND who defeated an entire Turkic horde(about 200,000 horsemen) with just 3,000 Cavalry (with about 100,000 troops following him, but by the time they arrived he had already won). Probably best tactician.

4. Al-Khalid- The general who founded the Arabian Empire. Undefeated over a hundred battles. An excellent tactican, but I think Li Jin would still be able to defeat him.

5. Frederick the Great- Founder General A man who took a small power and made it defeat the three great land powers of Europe. This man knows his strategy.

6. Hannibal- Founder General Hannibal was able to supply an army for roughly 18 years without provisions, and although he failed he was able to crush every Roman army he faced except at Zama, and he invented most of modern western military tactics.

7. Eugene of Savoy- Defeated the Turks and the French, and prevented Louis XIV from conquering the Austrian Empire.

8. Belisarius- Founder General: He was able to conquer Italy and North Africa from the barbarians with little more than 20,000 troops and was never supported by his soverign. Coupled with the pathetic condition of the Byzantine army at this time, this deserves respect. He reorganized the byzantine army to make it more effective.

9. Liu Yu- System general: China's Belisarius, except he controlled the government(became emperor) and he was successful in holding the land he conquered(at least until his grandson messed things up). Reconquered Chinese heartland from the barbarians.

10. Wei Qin & Huo Qubing- System General: Drove the Huns from China to Rome, and ensured the power of Han China. Defeated a GIGANTIC nomadic horde(about 300,000 cavalrymen).


Honourable Mentions:

Napoleon- I wanted to include him but I'd think he wasn't a complete founder general, and his empire did collapse.

Liu Bochen- The man who Mao took the credit from, the general who ensured the success of the CPC in Chinese Civil war(not a good thing due to Mao's havoc, but with Deng's reforms China is recovering).

Caesar- Most of these lists would include him, but he was just a system general who conquered Gaul(Not the most well-accomplished feat in history).

Chen Qingzhi- This man conquered North China with 7,000 troops(though he then lost it in a few months).

Xie Xuan- A system general, this general defeated a barbarian army of 270,000 troops with only 80,000 troops, and prevented them from overruning China after Ran Min's death. His success is mainly due to heavy training of his troops though.

Georgi Zhukov- This general single-handedly won WWII. He transformed the Soviet Army into a professional army and defeated the Nazis. Soviet Union was the greatest contribution to Nazi defeat and Zhukov the greatest contribution to the Soviet Union.

Genghis Khan- He is not as good as you might think; he invaded China in a time of weakness and he crushed the Persian and Arab Empires. Much of his work though was done by his sons, and the military system was already established by him. Many a barbarian chieftain north of China would have succeeded in his shoes if given the chance.


What do you think? any suggestions?

Steph
Mar 08, 2009, 01:01 PM
Let me guess... You are Chinese?

LightSpectra
Mar 08, 2009, 02:01 PM
Georgi Zhukov- This general single-handedly won WWII.

:lol:

Let me put it this way... not exactly.

Teeninvestor
Mar 08, 2009, 02:13 PM
Ya, that was a slight error.

But the Soviets did contribute most to defeating Nazi Germany, and Zhukov is their best general.

Using Aristolian logic A=B & B=C, C=A.

Cheezy the Wiz
Mar 08, 2009, 02:25 PM
Just to be clear, generals should be definied in 2 categories

System generals- these generals didn't have to set their army, a functioning army was already available for them. They didn't invent the military system they operated in.
E.g. Caesar(Roman military system established for centuries)..

Founder Generals- These generals are generals who not only command well, but set up their own military system and it worked. For example: Georgi Zhukov(He redefined the Soviet Red army from a conscript army to a professional army on par with the Germans).

I'm viewing it in a strategic sense; like many generals are great tacticians, but if they were in Hannibal's situation(no supplies for 18 years) they would collapse.

1. Sun Tzu- Founder General- Wrote the Art of war. He managed to conquer a large swath of land in Feudal China, with poorly equipped troops. He probably conducted the FIRST organized military campaign in HISTORY. Invented most modern strategy, so he definitely deserves a spot here.

2. Alexander the Great- Although he was a system general, this guy created an entire Empire with only about 20,000-60,000 troops. Considering the logistics of the time, it was an amazing feat his army didn't collapse in Iraq. His army marks the first and only time before rougly 1700 that an European army was the best in the world. The distance his army advanced was not equalled until 3 centuries later, when a chinese army marched to the caspian in pursuit of the Huns(and that was with the logistics of China, who had the world's largest population and best agriculture.)

3. Li Jin- Founder General Tang dynasty general who reunified all of China AND who defeated an entire Turkic horde(about 200,000 horsemen) with just 3,000 Cavalry (with about 100,000 troops following him, but by the time they arrived he had already won). Probably best tactician.

4. Al-Khalid- The general who founded the Arabian Empire. Undefeated over a hundred battles. An excellent tactican, but I think Li Jin would still be able to defeat him.

5. Frederick the Great- Founder General A man who took a small power and made it defeat the three great land powers of Europe. This man knows his strategy.

6. Hannibal- Founder General Hannibal was able to supply an army for roughly 18 years without provisions, and although he failed he was able to crush every Roman army he faced except at Zama, and he invented most of modern western military tactics.

7. Ran Min- A founder general who basically saved Chinese during the uprising of the five barbarians. He founded his own army and was able to defeat four successive barbarian races, teaching them a lesson not to commit genocide against Chinese(Before him, the barbarian uprising in China had killed half of China's population and the number of barbarians in China acutally for the first time exceeded Chinese.) It was because of his example that Chinese were not all genocided(then we wouldn't have paper, the wheelbarrow, the compass, silk(didn't spread to Rome at this time), Dim Sum, gunpowder, muskets, printing press, paper money and a ton of stuff.) This guy isn't the best tactican, its just that he was able to revive Chinese military spirit after the barbarian invasions.

8. Belisarius- Founder General: He was able to conquer Italy and North Africa from the barbarians with little more than 20,000 troops and was never supported by his soverign. Coupled with the pathetic condition of the Byzantine army at this time, this deserves respect. He reorganized the byzantine army to make it more effective.

9. Liu Yu- System general: China's Belisarius, except he controlled the government(became emperor) and he was successful in holding the land he conquered(at least until his grandson messed things up). Reconquered Chinese heartland from the barbarians.

10. Wei Qin & Huo Qubing- System General: Drove the Huns from China to Rome, and ensured the power of Han China. Defeated a GIGANTIC nomadic horde(about 300,000 cavalrymen).


Honourable Mentions:

Napoleon- I wanted to include him but I'd think he wasn't a complete founder general, and his empire did collapse.

Liu Bochen- The man who Mao took the credit from, the general who ensured the success of the CPC in Chinese Civil war(not a good thing due to Mao's havoc, but with Deng's reforms China is recovering).

Caesar- Most of these lists would include him, but he was just a system general who conquered Gaul(Not the most well-accomplished feat in history).

Chen Qingzhi- This man conquered North China with 7,000 troops(though he then lost it in a few months).

Xie Xuan- A system general, this general defeated a barbarian army of 270,000 troops with only 80,000 troops, and prevented them from overruning China after Ran Min's death. His success is mainly due to heavy training of his troops though.

Georgi Zhukov- This general single-handedly won WWII. He transformed the Soviet Army into a professional army and defeated the Nazis. Soviet Union was the greatest contribution to Nazi defeat and Zhukov the greatest contribution to the Soviet Union.

Genghis Khan- He is not as good as you might think; he invaded China in a time of weakness and he crushed the Persian and Arab Empires. Much of his work though was done by his sons, and the military system was already established by him. Many a barbarian chieftain north of China would have succeeded in his shoes if given the chance.


What do you think? any suggestions?

Two things: first, any list of great generals that does not include Gustav II Adolph is not very well thought out, in my opinion.

Second, Zhukov was a horrible general. The man stumbled his way through every war he fought in, and only won because of an incredible superiority of numbers. Khalkin-Gol was a victory only because he built up for months to a point that only a fool could have still lost the battle: and then he went and suffered rather nasty casualities anyway. His credo was essentially that if you had enough men, then not all will get blown up by mines, shot by bullets, or hit by artillery, and enough will get through to kill the enemy. Look at his horrible, conduction of Operation Mars in 1942, it was singularly his fault that the place became known as the "Rzhev meat grinder." Kursk was conducted similarly, he only had the advantage of occupying the most obvious point in the line for the Germans to attack, watching them build up forces for months, and spending all that time building defenses that still almost got broken. The only that saved him was his reserve armies near Voronezh, but again, probably any fool with half a military education could have won those battles or performed better than he did. The invasion of Rumania at the end of 1944 went similarly horrible, and they were on the verge of collapse! Probably his only two actions worthy of praise are the initial defense of Leningrad, over which he only briefly presided, and the initial defense of Moscow in October-December 1941. Even at Moscow he made really juvenile mistakes, and entire armies were surrounded and pocketed by the Germans, to be slowly liquidated piecemeal. There was a brief span of time when there were absolutely no Russian forces between the Germans, who were rolling down the highway, and Moscow! It was only through mobilization of the population of Moscow to build anti-tank trenches, machine gun nests, and other obstacles, as well as vast amounts of hastily-trained citizen-recruits (he raised 100,000 in two weeks of October alone, and another 500,000 before the third week of November), plus the timely arrival of winter, that ground the Germans to a halt in the Moscow suburbs. But the saving grace of the Russian defense was not even conducted by Zhukov, it was Vasilevsky's defense of Tula, on the open plain south of Moscow (as opposed to the hilly forests Zhukov had to defend in the West and NW), that thoroughly stopped Guderian in early December and made a German pincer movement impossible. Zhukov deserves considerably less credit for the Soviet victory in World War II than he gets.

Teeninvestor
Mar 08, 2009, 02:51 PM
Well, its a good thing I didn't put Zhukov on the list. LOL

But, really in the beginning of the war the Soviet army was junvenile compared with hte German army. It's really very difficult to manouver in such circumstances.

Anyways, I modified the list to include some chinese generals who I consider excellent tacticians.

Gustavus Adolphus II of Sweden? He won one battle and was defeated/killed in the second.... not exactly the best tactician. Compared to Khalid(won one hundred battles in a row) or Li Jin(Conquered all of China, and then crushed a horde of 200,000 with 7,000).

Dachs
Mar 08, 2009, 03:00 PM
Gustavus Adolphus II of Sweden? He won one battle and was defeated/killed in the second.... not exactly the best tactician.
:lol::lol::lol::lol::lol:

Somebody hasn't read up much on Gustav Adolf. Breitenfeld and Lützen weren't even the only engagements he took part in during the Thirty Years' War, much less his entire career.

Cheezy the Wiz
Mar 08, 2009, 03:02 PM
You really don't know anything about Gustavus, do you? You seem so fond of giving credit for "founder generals" yet ignore a man who recreated European warfare. While the rest of Europe was busy with the slow-moving, uninventive terrico, Gustavus Adolphus was busy running circles around them with a new system of army deployment that used thin ranks capable of swift redeployment. This mobilization, combined with some of the first light field guns effectively fielded in Europe, was so far ahead of its time that generals spent the next hundred years trying to figure out how the hell to do it! Look at the immediate effect it had on the English Civil War. Cromwell's New Model Army was the first to try and emulate Gustavus' reforms, and even though he did so incompletely, it was still enormously effective.

There's more to a general than just how many battles he won.

Also, where is Eugene of Savoy? Surely a more worthy candidate than this Li Jin, who I've both never heard of and can find nothing on.

Teeninvestor
Mar 08, 2009, 03:03 PM
I realize he had more than that, but hey, there's a lot more candidates to include than that.
Remember this is the 10 GREATEST GENERALS of ALL TIME. not 10 generals i think is cool. I'm pretty sure I can find a ton of generals that have better achievements than him.

What about SkandaGupta, who crushed hte Huna? or Chang yuchuang, who single-handedly put an end to the Mongol Empire? or some others.

Teeninvestor
Mar 08, 2009, 03:09 PM
Most European armies were relatively badly commanded before the thirty years war, due to the fact only nobles could command. Mind you, European warfare wasn't exactly known for ingenity. Most European tactics were relatively unflexible compared to Asian warfare, which was far more mobile.

And besides, shouldn't you then give more credit to Wallenstein, who defeated the protestant armies repeatedly until he was killed?

Eugene of Savoy, I agree is a better choice.

Li Jin didn't reinvent warfare, but his tactics were pretty much amazing. He was able to defeat both the nomadic armies of the Gokturk Khagnates and the settled armies of other chinese factions. 3,000 vs 200,000, is a pretty tall order.

Dachs
Mar 08, 2009, 03:16 PM
Most European armies were relatively badly commanded before the thirty years war, due to the fact only nobles could command.
I think you don't understand how the nobility got started, nor do you have a particularly good understanding of European military history.
Mind you, European warfare wasn't exactly known for ingenity. Most European tactics were relatively unflexible compared to Asian warfare, which was far more mobile.
Mobility ain't the same thing as ingenuity.

Teeninvestor
Mar 08, 2009, 03:21 PM
Mobility promotes ingenuity and manouvere.
I've read both European, Chinese, Indian and a lot of other history.

Dachs
Mar 08, 2009, 03:42 PM
Mobility promotes ingenuity and manouvere.
Mobility has its uses but in itself is rather useless for inflicting casualties or forcing an opponent to submit (which is the point of fighting). At Tours, a relatively immobile unit of Franks weathered rather serious blows by the relatively mobile but lightly armed Umayyad shock cavalry with impunity, as rather memorably evoked by Oman. Stolid defense allowed the British and Dutch forces to stand up to the French hail of fire and the cavalry assault at Waterloo, too.
I've read both European, Chinese, Indian and a lot of other history.
So apply it.

Teeninvestor
Mar 08, 2009, 03:54 PM
By mobility i mean Chinese armies were always manouvering; they didn't advance in squares and fight like in Europe. Most European battles rely on the valour of the soldier rather than the command of the general; they involve little manouvere, and that is what generals are for.

Dachs
Mar 08, 2009, 04:16 PM
By mobility i mean Chinese armies were always manouvering; they didn't advance in squares and fight like in Europe. Most European battles rely on the valour of the soldier rather than the command of the general; they involve little manouvere, and that is what generals are for.
Little maneuver, eh? That's lulzy. So much to choose from...how about Muret, for starters?

LightSpectra
Mar 08, 2009, 05:15 PM
Any list of best generals that doesn't have Zinovy Rozhestvensky is terrible, as well. He sailed his entire armada straight into Japan's fleet and then lost over 30 ships.

:mischief:

Masada
Mar 08, 2009, 06:56 PM
Zinovy Rozhestvensky

He was traveling for 18 months, had no element of surprise (they were reporting where he was in newspapers), his ships were slow after not being slipped for 18 months and a fair wack of them ships were obsolete.

You also need to give him credit for standing up and defending his subordinate officers and succeeding in getting many of their prison sentences commuted.

negZero
Mar 08, 2009, 07:00 PM
He was traveling for 18 months, had no element of surprise (they were reporting where he was in newspapers), his ships were slow after not being slipped for 18 months and a fair wack of them ships were obsolete.

You also need to give him credit for standing up and defending his subordinate officers and succeeding in getting many of their prison sentences commuted.

Wow that joke went right over your head

vogtmurr
Mar 08, 2009, 07:07 PM
Just to be clear, generals should be definied in 2 categories

System generals- these generals didn't have to set their army, a functioning army was already available for them. They didn't invent the military system they operated in.
E.g. Caesar(Roman military system established for centuries)..

Founder Generals- These generals are generals who not only command well, but set up their own military system and it worked. For example: Georgi Zhukov(He redefined the Soviet Red army from a conscript army to a professional army on par with the Germans).

I'm viewing it in a strategic sense; like many generals are great tacticians, but if they were in Hannibal's situation(no supplies for 18 years) they would collapse.

1. Sun Tzu- Founder General- Wrote the Art of war. He managed to conquer a large swath of land in Feudal China, with poorly equipped troops. He probably conducted the FIRST organized military campaign in HISTORY. Invented most modern strategy, so he definitely deserves a spot here.

2. Alexander the Great- Although he was a system general, this guy created an entire Empire with only about 20,000-60,000 troops. Considering the logistics of the time, it was an amazing feat his army didn't collapse in Iraq. His army marks the first and only time before rougly 1700 that an European army was the best in the world. The distance his army advanced was not equalled until 3 centuries later, when a chinese army marched to the caspian in pursuit of the Huns(and that was with the logistics of China, who had the world's largest population and best agriculture.)

3. Li Jin- Founder General Tang dynasty general who reunified all of China AND who defeated an entire Turkic horde(about 200,000 horsemen) with just 3,000 Cavalry (with about 100,000 troops following him, but by the time they arrived he had already won). Probably best tactician.

4. Al-Khalid- The general who founded the Arabian Empire. Undefeated over a hundred battles. An excellent tactican, but I think Li Jin would still be able to defeat him.

5. Frederick the Great- Founder General A man who took a small power and made it defeat the three great land powers of Europe. This man knows his strategy.

6. Hannibal- Founder General Hannibal was able to supply an army for roughly 18 years without provisions, and although he failed he was able to crush every Roman army he faced except at Zama, and he invented most of modern western military tactics.

7. Eugene of Savoy- Defeated the Turks and the French, and prevented Louis XIV from conquering the Austrian Empire.

8. Belisarius- Founder General: He was able to conquer Italy and North Africa from the barbarians with little more than 20,000 troops and was never supported by his soverign. Coupled with the pathetic condition of the Byzantine army at this time, this deserves respect. He reorganized the byzantine army to make it more effective.

9. Liu Yu- System general: China's Belisarius, except he controlled the government(became emperor) and he was successful in holding the land he conquered(at least until his grandson messed things up). Reconquered Chinese heartland from the barbarians.

10. Wei Qin & Huo Qubing- System General: Drove the Huns from China to Rome, and ensured the power of Han China. Defeated a GIGANTIC nomadic horde(about 300,000 cavalrymen).


Honourable Mentions:

Napoleon- I wanted to include him but I'd think he wasn't a complete founder general, and his empire did collapse.

Liu Bochen- The man who Mao took the credit from, the general who ensured the success of the CPC in Chinese Civil war(not a good thing due to Mao's havoc, but with Deng's reforms China is recovering).

Caesar- Most of these lists would include him, but he was just a system general who conquered Gaul(Not the most well-accomplished feat in history).

Chen Qingzhi- This man conquered North China with 7,000 troops(though he then lost it in a few months).

Xie Xuan- A system general, this general defeated a barbarian army of 270,000 troops with only 80,000 troops, and prevented them from overruning China after Ran Min's death. His success is mainly due to heavy training of his troops though.

Georgi Zhukov- This general single-handedly won WWII. He transformed the Soviet Army into a professional army and defeated the Nazis. Soviet Union was the greatest contribution to Nazi defeat and Zhukov the greatest contribution to the Soviet Union.

Genghis Khan- He is not as good as you might think; he invaded China in a time of weakness and he crushed the Persian and Arab Empires. Much of his work though was done by his sons, and the military system was already established by him. Many a barbarian chieftain north of China would have succeeded in his shoes if given the chance.


What do you think? any suggestions?

Some unusual names on this list - I will have to do more research on. Also We know little about Sun Tzu's exploits. As an early military writer, he may be great, but I don't have von Clausewitz in my list either. Some of the others may be prone to exaggeration. Wiki is loaded with accounts of Chineese battles where 30,000 or less annihilated 300,000 or more, but these accounts seem to be written by the victors. The ancient European historians are prone to exaggeration too, but usually there are alternate estimates provided by modern historians to compare to. I don't see that level of scrutiny going to Li Jin with 3,000 vs 300,000. Since we are talking about Chinese generals, I'm surprised we don't see Bai Qi and Ban Chao on your list.

Regarding some of the 'honorable mentions', I think you have an incomplete picture of Caesar and some other great generals. The current list in this thread is post #158, with 15 great military leaders sharing the top ten spots. If you have not read it please do so and then comment on appropriate choices.

It is arbitrary to try and break the ties, but the rating system I'm using has identified a narrow line, above which all 15 pass. Incidentally, I cannot fit any more short biographies on that post, it is full. Nobody else gets on without someone else coming off. But honestly, Genghis Khan should share 9th spot with Subutai. They have slightly different ratings, but they complement eachother to give a fuller picture. You are right that the Mongol conquests can't be attributed solely to Genghis Khan, but it was his generals Subutai and Jebe, not his sons, who deserve the credit. However, the campaign of unifying the Mongol, Uyghur, Merkit, Kerait, Naiman and Tatar tribal confederacies was one of the biggest accomplishments of Genghis, about which we have only a few details.

When you say "the military system was already established by him", are you giving him the credit or not ? Yes he already had a great warrior tradition and skilled mounted archers to work with, but no other barbarian chieftain north of China came close to his success.

Masada
Mar 08, 2009, 07:17 PM
Wow that joke went right over your head

No it didn't, I didn't say he should be in the list, I was merely offering qualifying statements as to why he wasn't really all that terrible. LightSpectra needs to come up with someone more hopeless.

LightSpectra
Mar 08, 2009, 07:36 PM
Respectable people can be terrible commanders.

vogtmurr
Mar 08, 2009, 07:37 PM
Uuh...sorry about that last long post. I used spoil but that is what I got. :blush:

For those who are interested:

Coming up with the top 10 placeholders means others had to get due consideration as well, so I'm working on a list of the close runner-ups that according to my rating, just fell below the line by narrow subjective ratings. I realize I won't make everyone happy, but if you see your favorite general on either of these two lists you should be satisfied that at least they are in the same league. It is difficult to measure modern military commanders on the same scale, so I'm also working on a top ranking list for them separately, in two categories: strategists and operational commanders. The line gets blurred for some of them, but as an example I would put Zhukov as a strategist and Rommel as an operational commander. (I was surprised you had little good to say about Zhukov, Cheezy. I thought you had some respect for him, as in the Defense of Moscow, etc. Not to mention he survived Stalin's rages and jealousy)

I'm busy these days but should have something in a week or two. After that, there is a list of honorable (and dishonorable) mentions. This is not a dumping ground for every name that has been dropped in this and other threads. My intent is to actually determine if they make the honorable mention list or not. When that is done, there should be a lot of names in total that are essential in the list of top 100 generals.

So what do you guys think ? Am I on the right track ? Any comments on what we have so far ?

Masada
Mar 08, 2009, 07:48 PM
Respectable people can be terrible commanders.

He was knocked unconscious early on in the battle. He was also by no means a terrible commander he was to put it bluntly trying to push water up a hill for the aforementioned reasons (as well as others).

Cheezy the Wiz
Mar 08, 2009, 07:50 PM
I have respect for Zhukov as a logistical manager. I shouldn't have said he was a horrible general, because even though he showed almost total disregard for the costs associated with an operation, he also had a keen understanding of what the Soviets called "deep battle," which was a variant of blitzkrieg that came about in the late 20s-early 30s; he was also one of the few commanders to survive the purges who knew this.

LightSpectra
Mar 11, 2009, 08:31 PM
I've been reading about Attaturk. He's an amazing general; the Ottoman military was badly outdated and most of the Turkish troops had no desire to be on the front lines at all, but he managed to score some impressive victories.

Cheezy the Wiz
Mar 11, 2009, 09:13 PM
This guy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osman_Pasha) was pretty sweet; managed to hold up the whole Russian army for a few months in some useless town, really gave them hell, too. The Turks saw fit to buy 5,000 new Winchester repeaters and equip their soldiers with them, along with many more Peabody-Martini falling block rifles for the longer-range stuff. This article (http://www.militaryrifles.com/Turkey/Plevna/ThePlevnaDelay.html) describes in great detail his fantastic defense of Plevna.

vogtmurr
Mar 11, 2009, 09:51 PM
Plevna won the admiration of many Europeans, which historically had usually sided against Turkey, though the Crimean War reversed that trend. I think the spirited attempt at a breakout really stands out, unlike so many capitulations from this era of their history. I've got both of these guys identified on the extended list - but haven't read up much on them yet.

Dachs
Mar 11, 2009, 11:11 PM
I've been reading about Attaturk. He's an amazing general; the Ottoman military was badly outdated and most of the Turkish troops had no desire to be on the front lines at all, but he managed to score some impressive victories.
Ataturk was pretty competent. Dunno if I'd call him 'amazing'; at Mus-Bitlis, he even overextended the Turkish forces, exposing them to a later defeat and further withdrawal. (Was wondering what Wikipedia thinks of him, and apparently they're up to their old tricks; Bitlis, the first part of the campaign, has an article, and it expounds upon the military talent of Mustafa Kemal...the second part, Mus, doesn't have an article at all, because the Turks were driven back...woohoo Turkish partisanship.) While not denying that he performed ably at the Sakkaria and Dumlupinar, what rescued the Turkish foreign policy - and allowed the importation of Allied weaponry, as well as the diplomatic muscle of France and the UK - was the death of King Alexandros in Greece and the fall of Venizelos.
This guy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osman_Pasha) was pretty sweet; managed to hold up the whole Russian army for a few months in some useless town, really gave them hell, too.
Hey, they finally expanded the Osman Pasha article. About damn time, too. When I was looking for information on him everywhere I could, back when I was writing one of my alternate history TLs, they barely had a stub.

vogtmurr
Mar 12, 2009, 12:49 AM
Hey, they finally expanded the Osman Pasha article. About damn time, too. When I was looking for information on him everywhere I could, back when I was writing one of my alternate history TLs, they barely had a stub.

I was reading that alternate history Meade at Gettysburg, and honestly wasn't sure when fact ended and fiction started, blended pretty good.

Yui108
Mar 12, 2009, 02:42 PM
I throw in a vote for Baibars. He was the one who truly heralded the demise of the Crusader States, forever changing the trejectory of Europe and Asia.

EDIT: As of course, an honorable mention.

North King
Mar 12, 2009, 05:26 PM
So what do you guys think ? Am I on the right track ? Any comments on what we have so far ?

A few too many Romans, no Indians, no Khalid ibn al-Walid or whatever the name is, no Marlborough... All in all an excellent effort, though, I just have some disagreements. :)

Yui108
Mar 12, 2009, 05:59 PM
A few too many Romans, no Indians, no Khalid ibn al-Walid or whatever the name is, no Marlborough... All in all an excellent effort, though, I just have some disagreements. :)

I thought he did have Khalid Ibn-al Walid on his list?

LightSpectra
Mar 12, 2009, 06:38 PM
You know, nobody ever seems to talk about World War I generals, except perhaps an occasional praise for Pershing or Hindenburg. Who would you say were the most notable generals for that era?

Cheezy the Wiz
Mar 12, 2009, 08:06 PM
Ludendorff is the one most worthy of note. He is more or less credited with creating and applying the sturmtroppen in an effective way, as well as the new relationship between artillery and infantry, which together defined his eponymous offensive in Spring 1918.

North King
Mar 12, 2009, 08:43 PM
Ludendorff is the one most worthy of note. He is more or less credited with creating and applying the sturmtroppen in an effective way, as well as the new relationship between artillery and infantry, which together defined his eponymous offensive in Spring 1918.

Ech. Ludendorff always struck me as a tactical genius but lackluster strategically. It's not my area of expertise, though.

GoodGame
Mar 12, 2009, 09:20 PM
Ho chi minh should get honorable mention, no? At least for strategy?

vogtmurr
Mar 13, 2009, 01:04 AM
I throw in a vote for Baibars. He was the one who truly heralded the demise of the Crusader States, forever changing the trejectory of Europe and Asia.

EDIT: As of course, an honorable mention.

This honorable mention list is getting long yes - but there is even a higher echelon of these I'm calling close runners up that I need to analyze in some depth to make the final choices I haven't identified Baibars quite in that category, but I'm far from done. Note that the Crusader states were hanging by a thread by then, but Baybars decisive rout of the Mongols at Ain Jalut gets my vote !

A few too many Romans, no Indians, no Khalid ibn al-Walid or whatever the name is, no Marlborough... All in all an excellent effort, though, I just have some disagreements. :)

For sure Khakid is in, he's tied #5 with Frederick ! As for Marlborough, along with Wellington, and Conde I think they all tie in 10th so I have some restructuring to do. Who would he replace that is on there now ? Honestly I'm thinking about Gustavus Adolphus moving to the close runner ups. They are all so close to 10th spot that choosing one over the other becomes arbitray. As for Indians, I don't know where they fit in the top 10 place-holders, but I think Mahmud of Ghazni (not really Indian, but that's where he became famous), Demetrius Aniketos (ditto), Akbar the Great and maybe Chandragupta Maurya and Babur would be near the top of the honorable mentions list. I appreciate these comments though - you must understand the obvious challenge.

vogtmurr
Mar 13, 2009, 01:12 AM
Ho chi minh should get honorable mention, no? At least for strategy?

I would consider him a modern strategist, yes, not a general, and Mao too. But that seems to trigger a storm of controversy - many feeling these were not military leaders at all, but great or not, political leaders. I think they are both - just as Winston Churchill was.

vogtmurr
Mar 13, 2009, 03:33 AM
The first of two installments of the close honorable mentions to the top 10 list of great military leaders follows.

As before, consideration of their rating is according to the following criteria (scale 1 to 5): Victory Count, Ingenuity and tactical innovation, Scale and consequence (for their time), Beating the odds, Personal involvement and risk, Legacy – you have to ultimately succeed to get a 5.

Just so you know they’ve already been picked, the top ten rankings are currently held by:
Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Kahlid ibn al-Walid, Frederick II the Great of Prussia, Admiral Yi Sun-sin of Korea, Horatio Nelson, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus the Elder, Flavius Belisarius, Cyrus the Great, Prince Eugene of Savoy, Subutai Bahadur, Gustavus Adolphus, Flavius Heraclius.

The current ranking, their biographical entries, and the definitions of rating criteria can be read here: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showpost.php?p=7740337&postcount=158

1st Duke of Wellington - An Irishman whose family originally came from Wells, Arthur Wellesley was reputed to say "Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton", but he was much happier at the French Academy. Returning to Ireland as a captain and Member of Parliament, he poltically opposed Irish Nationalism. He was not wealthy, and had gambling debts; when his proposal of marriage was rejected, he burned his violins, dedicating his life to a military career.

After an inauspicious debut in Flanders, he joined his brother in India as a colonel. He marched 400 km across jungle, to bring the demise of Tippu, ‘Tiger of Mysore’ at Seringapatam. Vastly outnumbered by the Maratha Confederacy, he pressed home a gallant attack at Assaye, “the best battle I ever fought”, and at Argaon. Wellesley maintained good logistics, hygiene, and discipline in this terrain and climate.

After Trafalgar, England looked for a place to take the war to Napoleon, and that became the Peninsular Campaign. Wellesley defeated the French in Portugal, but was nearly compromised by an incompetent general, who offered them terms of free passage. He returned to England, was cleared, and given full command, missing Napoleon's own venture in Spain by weeks, but not his marshals. Wellesley's victories at Oporto, Bussaco, Talavera, Salamanca, Vittoria and the Pyrenees were celebrated in Europe, but he broke down and wept at the carnage of Badajoz. The odds were usually even or slightly in his favour, with half of his army made up of Portuguese and Spanish units. The advance from Lisbon to southern France took six years, but he was undefeated against all of Napoleon's best generals. At the Congress of Vienna he advocated France’s position in the balance of power.

Wellington is most remembered as the final nemesis of Napoleon, but that was not one of ‘Boney’s better days. The French attack separated the allies, but failed to combine itself against Wellington’s dug in army, half of whom were less experienced Dutch and German recruits. They withstood a mass cavalry charge and the last assault of the Old Guard before Bluecher returned to end the battle. Napoleon abdicated for the last time, and Waterloo was cannonised as one of 15 Decisive Battles, catapulting Wellington to the Head of Government.

He passed a controversial emancipation of Catholics, which benefited Ireland, and defended it with his honour in a duel. As a general he curbed the excesses of his troops and respected civilian property, but the ‘Iron Duke’ resisted much needed Parliamentary reforms later in England.
Victory Count: 4 Ingenuity: 4 Scale and consequence: 4 Beating the odds: 3 Personal involvement and risk: 4 Legacy: 4

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough – grew up in poverty, but after the Royalist Restoration his family was associated with future king James. His first combat experience was a 3 year post in Tangier. John’s charisma and attractiveness did not hurt his career, even when discovered by the old king in a liaison with his mistress.

He fought on sea and land in the Dutch War, at great risk saving the life of Monmouth, and impressed Louis XIV. John then served under the great Turenne, and was present at his death. Diplomatic service acquainted him with William of Orange. He remained loyal during a plot against King James, bringing the demise of the same Monmouth at Sedgemoor, but he was distancing himself from James’ unpopular Catholicism. John Churchill’s defection to William in the bloodless Glorious Revolution (becoming the III) convinced James to flee to France.

John was elevated to C-in-C in England during the Grand Alliance, seeing brief heroic action in Dutch service, but William grew to distrust him and Mary heartily disliked him. She tried to force her sister Anne to choose her loyalties, but Anne stood by the Marlboroughs through the goodwill of his wife Sarah. After James’ failed coup in Ireland, John protested Dutch appointments openly, and contacted James. Charged with treason, it is a measure of his influence that he was cleared, despite the enemies he had made, while still hedging his bets with James. Mary’s death brought reconciliation, and Marlborough was given center stage in the War of the Spanish Succession, William dying soon after. At 52, he had an opportunity to shine under Anne.

The campaign in Holland was successful, but he was at odds with the Dutch States-General and English Tories. He slipped his tight leash and made a 400 km fighting march to join Prince Eugene for a crushing victory at Blenheim, taking Bavaria out of the war, and fortresses on the Rhine. Alone he fought Villars at Ramillies, inflicting 20,000 casualties for 3,000 of his. Offered the governorship of Austrian Netherlands by Emperor Leopold, he had to refuse. Marlborough’s diplomacy kept the allies in the war and Charles XII of Sweden out, but at home Sarah fell out of favour with Anne, who was under increasing political pressure and tired of her influence. Marlborough and his supporter Godolphin were being squeezed between the Whig Party and the Queen.

In 1708 John rejoined Eugene and won at Oudenarde, taking Lille, Europe’s strongest fortress. Malplaquet was a bloodbath, Villars claiming a few more such French defeats would destroy the allied armies. Facing more accusations, only Godolphin and Eugene kept him from resigning. In ill health for his last campaign, he brilliantly deceived Villars, penetrating French lines in a 64 km night march without losing a man, to overcome the defenses of Bouchain, demonstrating again his siege mastery. He was past the last frontiers of France, but the queen stole his place at the peace table. Marlborough returned to England and a political storm, but he was a national hero. Dismissed and charged with embezzlement, the flimsy case was dropped.

Sarah and John spent 21 months in Europe, greeted in every court with the respect due a Prince of renown. They returned the day after Anne died and were greeted by George I with the words "My Lord Duke, I hope your troubles are now all over." He returned to office before his retirement at Blenheim Palace. Wellington considered him the greatest British commander in history. He never lost, and showed humanity, courage and perception. He was also ruthlessly ambitious in the pursuit of wealth and fame. His betrayal of and intrigue with James, who gave him trust and opportunities, was defended by his descendant Winston Churchill claiming he only acted honestly, with loyalty to higher motives.
Victory Count: 3 Ingenuity: 4 Scale and consequence: 5 Beating the odds: 4 Personal involvement and risk: 4 Legacy: 3

Louis II de Bourbon, the Great Conde – Louis Duc d’Enghien was a high ranking prince who received a thorough education and at 17 was governing Burgundy. In love with another, he was forced to marry Richelieu’s 13 year old niece, who would later bear 4 children, and his abuse, until she was sent away on false charges of adultery.

Enghien won Richelieu’s favour in actions at Arras and Perpignan, and was given command against the Spanish, at this time the toughest soldiers in Europe. Overruling experienced generals, Enghien’s sweeping cavalry charge through the rear ranks isolated the Spanish tercios at Rocroi, who fought to the end, the survivors allowed to leave the field with honours. It was their first major reverse in a century, and a devastating defeat for the larger Catholic-Imperial army. At 21, he had changed the strategic complexion of the war, ushering in a long period of French predominance. But the dreadful 30 Years War was not over. He assisted the hard-pressed Vicomte de Turenne at Freiburg, and again at Nordlingen, where he was seriously wounded, and took the remaining fortresses that didn’t open their gates. He became Prince of Conde on his father’s death. His influence was worrying Cardinal Mazarin who moved him to Catalonia, where he was forced to give up Lerida. However, after French setbacks in Flanders, he again returned to save the cause with his coolness at Lens before the war closed.

Conde's resentment lent himself to the rival faction in the Fronde, and he reluctantly reduced Paris. His pride and ambition had made enemies and led to his arrest, while Turenne escaped to assist the women of Conde’s family who rose to his defense. But it was his young wife who left her banishment to gather an army in support of her faithless husband, who won sympathy and respect. Conde was released, but found himself isolated from both factions in the confused civil war. With insufficient forces, he fought with desperate bravery, but at Faubourg St. Antoine he faced Turenne, and only the citizens of Paris saved him. Conde went into exile to command the Spanish army he had previously humbled, and was at war with France for 7 years. He maneuvered with great skill against his former comrade Turenne, before his defeat at The Dunes led Spain to make peace. Conde, who never renounced his French precedence was pardoned, but he was given no active role for 8 years.

He surrounded himself with men of genius like Racine, and took part in the multi-national force that defeated the Turks at Saint Gotthard, where many past and future enemies fought together. Rehabilitated as a subordinate of Louis XIV, he intrigued for the throne of Poland, but that was vetoed and went to Jan Sobieski. He conquered Franche-Comte in the war of Devolution, and was reunited with Turenne in the Dutch War. He was severely wounded forcing a Rhine crossing, but returned to the lowlands for the hard fought victory of Seneffe against William of Orange (future William III of England), where he had 3 horses shot under him. In his last campaign, leading the late Turenne’s army, he repelled the Imperial invasion under Montecuccoli.

Worn out, his last 11 years were spent in retirement and religious exercises, but he never relented in the unchivalrous treatment of his ‘socially inferior’ wife. Louis XIV felt he had lost the 'brightest star in his constellation'. His quick decisions and stern will in battle that drove his professional army through thick losses are what exalted him over the other generals of his day. His only failure was in the Fronde where his genius was thwarted by circumstance, but that wasn't where his destiny lie, and he again served France with his comrade in arms, Turenne.
Victory Count: 4 Ingenuity: 4 Scale and consequence: 4 Beating the odds: 4 Personal involvement and risk: 4 Legacy: 3

Vicomte de Turenne - Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne (duc de Bouillon) was given a Huguenot education, displaying admiration for the exploits of Alexander the Great and Caesar. He had to overcome severe speech and physical impediments in his youth before he could enter military service.

He won renown for his skill and courage in the Dutch War of Independence under Maurice of Nassau. Under Richelieu, he raised the siege of Mainz where he crossed swords with the famed Imperial Gallas, and led many successful assaults on armed towns, notably Breisach with Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar. On the Italian front, he fought for ‘Cadet la Perle’ in the rearguard action ‘Route de Quiers’, and a complex counter-siege at Turin resulting in the surrender and defection of an Imperial Prince.

Turenne’s home principality Sedan sided with the Imperials, his brother joining the ‘Princes de la paix’ conspiracy, but was later spared. Despite this and his Protestantism, Turenne became a Marshal of France, having served under 4 great commanders. He conducted 4 campaigns that brought an end to the 30 Years War, winning the bloodiest battle against Mercy at Freiburg, but suffered a disaster at Mergentheim. He was paired with the incomparable duc d’Enghien (Great Conde), and on the site of a Swedish defeat at Nordlingen, Mercy was slain, eventually knocking Bavaria out of the war.

Conde’s influence, and sister whom Turenne loved, would lead him to take the cause of revolt in the Fronde against Cardinal Mazarin, and his abandonment by the Weimar army. With the release of the princes, he was reconciled, and would later oppose Conde. He crushed the 2nd rebellion at Faubourg St. Antoine, and then faced Conde leading the armies of Spain. They traded victories, but the final one went to Turenne at The Dunes, with the help of gallant redcoats donated by Oliver Cromwell. He rejected 2 influential marriage offers if he would adopt Catholicism, but eventually drifted towards it by 1668 of his own accord.

The War of Devolution and Dutch War found Conde and Turenne on the same side again, rivaling eachother’s achievements. The Dutch resistance mobilized a German-Imperial alliance against France. Turenne ranged far into Germany winning the submission of Brandenburg. Meanwhile the wily Imperial Montecuccoli had outmaneuvered him taking Bonn in his rear. Under orders, Turenne devastated Palatinate, but the Imperials slipped across the Rhine at Strasbourg. Turenne’s daring mid-winter march surprised them at Turckheim, which was brutally sacked, the worst blot on his record. After a series of 'strategic chessmoves' in Alsace by both commanders, he forced Montecuccoli to battle at Sasbach, where the first shots killed Turenne, demoralizing the French, who gave up their recent gains.

He had an amazingly active career of 40 years, but not without help, and a few defeats along the way. Napoleon considered him one of 7 Great Captains, whose ‘genius grew bolder as it grew older’. Conde was more versatile in the early big battles, but Turenne's aggressive minor actions, and steady improvement gave France the staying power in these interminable wars. Although not beyond reproach, Turenne appears as simply an honorable soldier whose men loved him, without the intrigues of Conde.
Victory Count: 4 Ingenuity: 4 Scale and consequence: 3 Beating the odds: 3 Personal involvement and risk: 5 Legacy: 4

Charles XII of Sweden – was king at 15, and 3 years later embarked on the Great Northern War against all of his Baltic neighbours including Russia.

His enemies expected an easy victory over this inexperienced boy-king. With some English and Dutch aid, he quickly forced Denmark-Norway to submit. Outnumbered 4 to 1 by the Russians at Narva, his well drilled musketeers attacked in a blizzard and inflicted more casualties than the size of his army, for the loss of less than 1000. Defeating the Poles and Saxons at Kliszow and the dramatic crossing of the Duna, he dethroned the king of Poland-Lithuania, with still more victories by Lewenhaupt and Rheinskiold against Russia and its allies.

Tsar Peter the Great was making a resurgence with military reforms and built St. Petersburg, so Charles resolved to invade Russia’s heartland. Mobilizing a large force, by Sweden’s standards, it opened with a victory, but encountering scorched earth, attacks on his supply train, and 'Father Winter', he turned south, taking his army further away from home. The Cossack reinforcements of Ivan Mazepa did not materialize. By the summer he was at a severe disadvantage in the Ukraine, having lost a third of his army. Unable to lead from his injuries, his brave soldiers were enfiladed attacking superior Russian positions at Poltava, where “the Swedish Empire ended, and the Russian Empire began”. Charles escaped with 1500 fugitive survivors who called themselves the 'Caroliners', but he did not know he was beat yet.

He found refuge in Turkey, inciting them to war, but they tired of his scheming and placed him under house arrest. He eventually escaped to Pomerania after riding across Europe in 15 days, but efforts to restore his empire failed. Attempting twice to invade Norway, he was shot through the head inspecting artillery at Frederikshald. Charles abstained from vices, preferring life on campaign, and had a skill for science. Contemporaries report his inhuman tolerance for pain and utter lack of emotion. The ‘Madman of the North’ brought Sweden to its pinnacle of prestige and power through his brilliant victories, but the Great Northern War ended in defeat.
Victory Count: 3 Ingenuity: 4 Scale and consequence: 4 Beating the odds: 4 Personal involvement and risk: 5 Legacy: 3

Robert E. Lee – son of 'Lighthorse Harry' Lee, a Revolutionary War hero who died when he was 11, Lee excelled at West Point and in the Army Corps of Engineers. Lee saw action in all battles of Winfield Scott’s Mexican expedition, providing valuable reconnaissance. He was appointed Superintendent of West Point Academy for 3 years, and held various other posts.

Lee inherited many slaves from his wife's family, and though he eventually freed them during the Civil War, his views were common in border states, finding it morally repugnant but with no simple path for change. Lee later agreed with manumission of black slaves in the army, but it was too late to help the Confederacy. Although non-aligned on the issue, he was destined to play a major role in it, beginning with the capture of John Brown at Harper’s Ferry. Ironically, Lincoln offered Lee command of the Union army, but he declined when his state Virginia seceded, though privately he ridiculed the Confederacy’s chances of success.

His first assignments were unimpressive, becoming military advisor to Jefferson Davis. With Johnston wounded, ‘Granny Lee’ had an army command, and by the end of the Seven Days Battle was known as ‘Marse Robert’ for the rest of the war. Lee changed front to defeat another Union army at 2nd Bull Run, following up with an invasion of Maryland. An intercepted dispatch nearly resulted in disaster at Antietam, but with half the union strength he inflicted higher casualties, a ratio that would grow in his favour at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, where he lost Stonewall Jackson, his best subordinate. He had the initiative and victory within his grasp at the 3 day battle of Gettysburg, but had to accept blame for Pickett's suicidal charge ('High Tide of the Confederacy'); his offer of resignation was refused. With half of U.S. Grant’s strength, Lee bought time and inflicted heavy losses at Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbour. The hard-fighting Rebels took advantage of Federal blunders, but Lee could not sustain the 9 months of attrition at Petersburg. Elsewhere the South had been gutted by the Federals, and the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox.

Lee’s Farewell Address rejected any attempt at carrying on a guerilla war. He advocated and practiced reconciliation and racial tolerance, despite the dishonors done to him and the Reconstruction. He is revered in the north and south, and belatedly was granted a full pardon in 1975. To the Confederate army he was a father figure. His son, also a West Point graduate embraced the ‘Noble Cause’ which absolved the South of responsibility for this destructive war.
Victory Count: 4 Ingenuity: 3 Scale and consequence: 4 Beating the odds: 5 Personal involvement and risk: 3 Legacy: 4

Jan Zizka – One eyed soldier in early Czech civil wars, and against the Germans at the pivotal battle of Grunwald. Zizka became a follower of reformer Jan Huss, whose immolation at the stake for heresy, was a prelude to a repressive Catholic crusade.

Rising to defend the honor of his people, Zizka lacked funds and equipment, but had a willing Bohemian peasantry and townspeople. They turned ‘plough-shares into swords’ and heavy conestoga-style wagons into wagon forts, enabling a mobile defense that could shelter his cavalry, or trap the enemy’s. Their industry furnished wheeled artillery and the successful mass use of handguns. It was the world’s first non-feudal modern nationalist army.

After the Defenestration of Prague in 1419, Zizka and the Taborite faction defended the city from Emperor Sigismund, turning the larger army back with heavy losses. Zizka was one of several elected captains with field forces of 5-6,000, but even when combined they were typically outnumbered 2 to 1. He took the major role in suppression of partisans and extremists, losing his remaining eye in battle. Sigismund attempted a trap with a large feudal army, but blind Zizka, still in command, executed the first mobile artillery maneuver to break their lines at Kutna Hora, destroying the remnants at Nemecky Brod. Hussite raids continued far and wide.

Civil war broke out with the moderate Utraquists but Zizka eventually triumphed. Sigismund could not even mobilize a crusade at this time, and an armistice was concluded. Zizka executed an epic fighting retreat in Hungary, but died before other plans could be completed. His soldiers called themselves ‘The Orphans’. His enemies said "one whom no mortal hand could destroy was extinguished by the finger of God". Despite a few massacres, Zizka enforced a strict code of conduct. Their success would continue under Andrew Procopius the Great, (and the Little, a leader of the Orphans), but ultimately, civil wars would be their undoing. The Bohemian Hussites were much desired mercenaries for years after.
Victory Count: 3 Ingenuity: 5 Scale and consequence: 3 Beating the odds: 4 Personal involvement and risk: 4 Legacy: 3

Genghis Khan – Born a hereditary chieftain, young Temujin learned many hard lessons in life as the head of his disinherited family. After narrow escapes, successful raids, and a tribal marriage, he made alliances that enabled greater ambitions. His even-handed fairness attracted adherents, allowing him to defeat two rivals who were former friends. Uniting or subduing 6 major steppe confederacies was his greatest achievement, securing his position as Great Khan.

His major innovation was replacing hereditary positions in his army with a skill-based meritocracy, and good intelligence to understand his enemies’ weakness. After picking apart the Western Xia (Tangut), he was ready to take on the Jin Dynasty. His Fifth Column betrayed the Jin (Chin) army at Badger Mouth Pass, considered by revisionists one of the decisive battles of history, capturing their capital Yanjing (Beijing) with siege technology from conquered subjects. His generals figured prominently in this 10 year campaign, although Genghis also led himself.

Jebe overran the Kara-Khitan Khanate, bringing Genghis into contact with Moslem Khwarezmia. He was interested in an alliance and trade, but the Khwarezm Shah made the mistake of executing his envoys. Genghis now commanded 200,000 mounted archers/swordsmen, whose skill and equipment was second to none. The Calamity that befell the Khwarezm cities, even after civilians opened the gates expecting mercy, shocked even his warriors. Genghis ordered gruesome massacres that rank with the worst in history. Sending Subutai to pursue the Shah, Genghis raided northern India, then led his main body back to overcome the Jin and fierce resistance of Tangut, which did not assist him in Khwarezm.

Genghis chose Ogedai as his successor, ensuring unity for two generations. Few nations willingly accepted an alliance with the Mongols. Their empire quickly fragmented, leaving little cultural imprint, and Kublai Khan’s dynasty in China was also short lived. However, one branch would experience a resurgence, carrying on his legacy.
Victory Count: 4 Ingenuity: 4 Scale and consequence: 5 Beating the odds: 4 Personal involvement and risk: 4 Legacy: 2

Tamerlane – Timur the Lame was a Turco-Mongol conqueror whose people were descendants of Genghis Khan’s army that had adopted Islam and the Persian language. Although he claimed to be undoing the misdeeds of his ancestor Genghis, he would later exceed that notoriety.

For the first 10 years he campaigned in Uzbek and Khorasan successfully with small forces but deferred to the Jagatai Khans until the death of Tughluk. Defeating the latter’s son, by 1370 he was enthroned in Samarkand. For the next 35 years Timur would build a new Mongol empire, starting with the former Ilkhanate, where the first massacres took place. Next he defeated his erstwhile ally Toktamish of the Golden Horde in a titanic struggle, after a pursuit of 1700 miles.

Crossing the Khyber Pass to intervene in a civil war, Timur spared no Hindus in horrific massacres at Delhi and Meerut. A similar fate befell Aleppo and Damascus, leading to his public declaration as an enemy of Islam. After depopulating the Caucasus, he turned on Baghdad, a great center of learning, where his shaken veterans got their slaves to carry out the order to return with two heads, and came back with more. The collision between Timur and the Ottoman Turks took place at Angora, where he won a resounding victory, eclipsing their power for a generation. He was on his way to restore the Mongol Empire in China from the Ming dynasty when he died in a winter mountain crossing (or was assassinated), and his army melted away.

Timur was a military genius but left no administration or continuity in defeated states. For the death of over 15 million civilians and extinction of many cultures he became known as the ‘Prince of Destruction’. Remarkably, he was also a patron of arts and Central Asian literature flourished in his time. His successors would found the Mughal dynasty in India, which left a shining epic in the annals of history. Anecdotal: When Tamerlane's body was exhumed by a Russian anthropologist a carving warned “that whoever would dare disturb the tomb would bring demons of war onto his land”. It was June 1941.
Victory Count: 5 Ingenuity: 4 Scale and consequence: 5 Beating the odds: 3 Personal involvement and risk: 3 Legacy: 1

Simon Bolivar – Venezuelan aristocrat served a short time under Napoleon, but when Joseph Bonaparte was made King of Spain he formed a resistance junta with collaborator/adventurer Miranda. Suppressed by the reigning Spanish governors, he fled to New Granada (Colombia) where he wrote the Cartagena Manifesto. Thus, the resistance to Napoleon was a catalyst for the independence movement.

El Libertador returned and issued his Decree of War to the Death, but it was premature. He had to flee the Royalists again, eventually to Haiti where he befriended Petoin who furnished him troops on condition he abolish slavery. Bolivar landed and won control over an area of Venezuela. With a committed army, assisted by British volunteers, Bolivar was able to win dramatic victories at Boyaca, Carabobo, and Junin against Royalist forces, liberating New Granada, Venezuela, and Peru respectively. This campaign involved great distances and some of the wildest terrain in the world.

Bolivar divided the continent with Argentine liberator Jose de San Martin. While Antonio Sucre completed the liberation of Peru and Ecuador, Bolivar founded the Republic of Bolivia, named after him. He attempted to maintain a centralized government of a vast Gran Colombia federation, with an enlightened constitution based on his classical and revolutionary ideals. It was impossible to reconcile with regional and commercial interests, and Bolivar made himself dictator, but rather than risk civil war, resigned after 2 years and an assassination attempt. He died of TB before he could leave for exile in France.

In the end, the common people in many cases had simply traded one exploitive government for a more repressive one. South America was destined to be rocked by revolts and unstable governments. Bolivar remains a powerful symbol in the art and psyche of liberal folk movements.
Victory Count: 2 Ingenuity: 3 Scale and consequence: 3 Beating the odds: 4 Personal involvement and risk: 4 Legacy: 5

North King
Mar 13, 2009, 03:34 AM
For sure Khakid is in, he's tied #5 with Frederick ! As for Marlborough, along with Wellington, and Conde I think they all tie in 10th so I have some restructuring to do. Who would he replace that is on there now ? Honestly I'm thinking about Gustavus Adolphus moving to the close runner ups. They are all so close to 10th spot that choosing one over the other becomes arbitray. As for Indians, I don't know where they fit in the top 10 place-holders, but I think Mahmud of Ghazni (not really Indian, but that's where he became famous), Demetrius Aniketos (ditto), Akbar the Great and maybe Chandragupta Maurya and Babur would be near the top of the honorable mentions list. I appreciate these comments though - you must understand the obvious challenge.

Sorry, I thought I checked the post you mentioned, and a lot was missing. Maybe I found an early version or something?

Anyway, yeah, one can basically only validly choose the top fifty without much ranking, in my opinion. But people love rankings, and I respect that. :)

Cheezy the Wiz
Mar 13, 2009, 06:12 AM
But, really in the beginning of the war the Soviet army was junvenile compared with hte German army. It's really very difficult to manouver in such circumstances.


Erm, not really. It was pretty much second to Germany in terms of the tactical and strategic envelope. Surely you've heard of theDeep Battle Docrine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_operations)? It was a Russian equivalent, more or less, of blitzkrieg, developed from lessons learned during the Civil War and the Polish War about the mobility of cavalry on the modern battlefield. Mikhail Tukhachevsky, in addition to helping develop this and pioneer conscious operational art (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operational_art) (without calling it something silly like "grand tactics" ( :lol: ), was given responsibility to modernizing the Soviet Red Army into a mobilized, mechanized force, and was the first army in Europe to do so. But even Tukhachevsky's reforms built on the extensive reworking that Leon Trotsky did during and after the Civil War. What weakened the Red Army so much in the 30s were three things: First, most of the senior leadership of the military was removed more or less simultaneously by Stalin's purging of the Party, and then of positions across the board, including Tukhachevsky, second, though the Army was fully mechanized, its tanks proved unable to compete with heavy German Panzers and their 75mm guns; most were more in the realm of armored cars and early 30s-era tanks, before big guns were common, and third, their mechanized units proved unwieldy in the great muddy broth that the spring thaw and fall deluges turn the countryside into, which forced the Army back into using horses as a primary source of transportation during those times. Perhaps the only exception to this, before the obvious T-34, was the KV-1 heavy tank, but it was not produced in significant numbers before 1941 to be able to make up for the slack left by the rest of their crappy tanks. In addition, these prized tanks were kept at the second and third tier defenses revolving around Minsk and Ryzhev, and not at the front in Poland where they would be quickly overrun and minimally effective.

JonathanStrange
Mar 13, 2009, 06:57 AM
Though I'm relatively familiar with Western generals, I'm less familiar with nonWestern ones, esp. Chinese. Much of what I've read about them seems apocryphal, even more than usual: the numbers involved in particular, would indeed require a great deal of supply and perhaps their quartermasters were the real heroes.

If I'm contemplating "the greatest", I'd really get bogged down in the critera: founders vs system, tactical geniuses vs strategic wizards, generals who faced enormous odds, generals whose accomplishments lasted, generals who changed history despite losing vs generals who won but produced empty victories, etc.

Probably I'd end up with the usual suspects in my top ten but with far less confidence that they were "great" and not merely well-known, successful or lucky. Still I'm ok with that for the most part.

vogtmurr
Mar 13, 2009, 08:26 PM
Well these bios certainly have gotten long ! I should try to trim these down, most of their stories can be gleaned directly from wiki. But their stories are so damn interesting. So allow me to share the highlights. After a few more close honorable mentions, the rest will be kept brief. But I have to admit that taking an overall view may miss some essential military feat or nugget, which is really what this is supposed to be about. So feel free to mention a few you think I've overlooked. If anybody wants to propose alternative ratings go for it. we can argue till the cows come home:smoke:.

vogtmurr
Mar 13, 2009, 08:33 PM
Ech. Ludendorff always struck me as a tactical genius but lackluster strategically. It's not my area of expertise, though.

On the allied side: what about Byng and Foch ?

vogtmurr
Mar 13, 2009, 08:48 PM
Though I'm relatively familiar with Western generals, I'm less familiar with nonWestern ones, esp. Chinese. Much of what I've read about them seems apocryphal, even more than usual: the numbers involved in particular, would indeed require a great deal of supply and perhaps their quartermasters were the real heroes.

If I'm contemplating "the greatest", I'd really get bogged down in the critera: founders vs system, tactical geniuses vs strategic wizards, generals who faced enormous odds, generals whose accomplishments lasted, generals who changed history despite losing vs generals who won but produced empty victories, etc.

Probably I'd end up with the usual suspects in my top ten but with far less confidence that they were "great" and not merely well-known, successful or lucky. Still I'm ok with that for the most part.

Interesting perspective - I just try to find a balance, and probably I tend to favor underdogs, or dudes who are just more interesting, period. But if you've got some suggestions lets hear them.

Dachs
Mar 13, 2009, 09:14 PM
On the allied side: what about Byng and Foch ?
I like Allenby and Yudenich myself. And mebbe Franchet d'Esperey.

vogtmurr
Mar 13, 2009, 09:33 PM
I like Allenby and Yudenich myself. And mebbe Franchet d'Esperey.

yeah its pretty hard for any senior allied commander on the western front to look good, but Allenby had the romance of the middle east. A much funner place to romp around in at that time than Flanders.

vogtmurr
Mar 13, 2009, 09:42 PM
So I've got a question for you guys before I take a break. Who's better: Conde or Turenne ?

Dachs
Mar 13, 2009, 09:50 PM
So I've got a question for you guys before I take a break. Who's better: Conde or Turenne ?
de Turenne, though it's close. IIRC de Turenne had the better of the campaigning during the Fronde between the two of them (both of the two won their share of battles, but de Turenne outmaneuvered de Conde), and of course there's the immortal example of the Battle of the Dunes. Plus, de Turenne gave us the Alsace Campaign, which is one of the greatest achievements in the history of warfare IMHO.

vogtmurr
Mar 13, 2009, 11:37 PM
de Turenne, though it's close. IIRC de Turenne had the better of the campaigning during the Fronde between the two of them (both of the two won their share of battles, but de Turenne outmaneuvered de Conde), and of course there's the immortal example of the Battle of the Dunes. Plus, de Turenne gave us the Alsace Campaign, which is one of the greatest achievements in the history of warfare IMHO.
Ok - but one more word; Conde had Spanish Tercios, which he probably reorganized, but still...it seems that and the help of some New Model Army vets gave Turenne the edge at The Dunes.

Is Alsace the won that ended at Sasbach ? Anyhow Conde often seemed to be bailing Turenne's ass out, though granted the latter may have faced big challenges, but he naver gave us a victory quite like Rocroi.

privatehudson
Mar 14, 2009, 06:41 PM
vogtmurr:

Just a few points:

Wellington probably never said that remark about the playing fields of Eton, it was only attributed to him for the first time 3 years after he died and there was no playing fields and little in the way of organised games at the time that he attended the school (where he wasn't exactly a great pupil anyway).

The Allied army at Waterloo wasn't half dutch recruits the proportion of troops from the Netherlands was closer to a quarter. There were more "Germans" in the Allied army than troops from the Netherlands, although they were admitedly divided into different nationalities such as Brunswickers and Hanovarians.

Wellington didn't decide on a military career after rejection by Longford as a future son in law, he had already been in the army for 6 years by then and had already risen to the rank of Captain.

I'm not entirely sure that describing his allies in the peninsular battles as irregular is very accurate. Whilst the guerillas were very important the Portugese troops involved in the set piece battles were regular units, as were the Spanish troops he commanded at say Toulouse. The portugese army units, with their training and organisation under the direction of a man like Beresford became formidable troops.

Mowque
Mar 14, 2009, 07:11 PM
I just realized anyone i think of has already been posted. This is humbling.

vogtmurr
Mar 14, 2009, 08:09 PM
vogtmurr:

Just a few points:

Wellington probably never said that remark about the playing fields of Eton, it was only attributed to him for the first time 3 years after he died and there was no playing fields and little in the way of organised games at the time that he attended the school (where he wasn't exactly a great pupil anyway).

The Allied army at Waterloo wasn't half dutch recruits the proportion of troops from the Netherlands was closer to a quarter. There were more "Germans" in the Allied army than troops from the Netherlands, although they were admitedly divided into different nationalities such as Brunswickers and Hanovarians.

Wellington didn't decide on a military career after rejection by Longford as a future son in law, he had already been in the army for 6 years by then and had already risen to the rank of Captain.

I'm not entirely sure that describing his allies in the peninsular battles as irregular is very accurate. Whilst the guerillas were very important the Portugese troops involved in the set piece battles were regular units, as were the Spanish troops he commanded at say Toulouse. The portugese army units, with their training and organisation under the direction of a man like Beresford became formidable troops.

Thanks - we need accuracy in these paraphrased highlights. The quote about Eton was really meant to emphasize the fact that he was unhappy there, but the English officers who came from that background were well prepared. It's a great quote though, and too bad if it has been misinterpreted or worse is totally inaccurate.

OK - I would say 1/3 Dutch at Waterloo, but the Germans were also less inexperienced or had even fought for Napoleon before. Only 25,000 (1/3) were trained by English standards, but there is a need for brevity.

As for the rejection and burning his violins, any young man with aspirations might be in the army, but at that time he was pursuing a political career in Ireland as well as romance with Ms. Pakenham. He turned his back on all of that for a career of active service - it was a momentous difference.

Yes not intending to denegrate the Spanish-Portuguese soldiers. If they were as effective as you say, then he certainly helped make them that way, giving him some credit for integrating other nationalities in his army, as he did at Waterloo.

If it seems I've exaggerated or omitted some minor details, I would point out that his ratings, considering his fame, are pretty modest, but solid.

I've taken this to tweak some changes, and I have been reviewing and clarifying others.

privatehudson
Mar 15, 2009, 04:22 AM
Thanks - we need accuracy in these paraphrased highlights. The quote about Eton was really meant to emphasize the fact that he was unhappy there, but the English officers who came from that background were well prepared. It's a great quote though, and too bad if it has been misinterpreted or worse is totally inaccurate.

Well Longford's Years of the Sword points out that later in life when given the opportunity to do so Wellington refused to help provide additional money for the school. He also only visited it infrequently after the war, suggesting that he didn't have too high an opinion of the place.

OK - I would say 1/3 Dutch at Waterloo, but the Germans were also less inexperienced or had even fought for Napoleon before. Only 25,000 (1/3) were trained by English standards, but there is a need for brevity.

The 67,000 present for the battle breaks down as:

British: 24,000 - 36%
Netherlands - 17,000 - 25%
Hannover - 11,000 - 17%
Brunswick - 6000 - 9%
King's German Legion - 6,000 - 9%
Nassau - 2,800 - 4%

As for the campaign itself:

British: 35,726 - 34%
King's German Legion: 6,387 - 6%
Hanoverians: 24,935 - 24%
Brunswickers: 5,376 - 5%
Nassauers: 2,880 - 3%
Dutch-Belgians: 29,214 - 28%

The Nassauers are a debateable figure since they served in the Netherlands army, but Nassau is in modern day Germany. The Netherlands troops weren't all "dutch" either way though since their contingent included not just Nassauers but Belgians as well.

As for quality I'd say it was a mixed bag. The King's German Legion, Nassauers and Brunswickers were pretty reliable troops, but the Hanovarians and Dutch-Belgians both contained militia regiments, recently raised. Both the "German" and "Dutch" contingents contained troops and officers who had served before on the French side. Both contingents put in a decent performance during the battle although they were often poorly led. The British troops present were all regulars and about 7,000 of those at the battle were veterans.

With that in mind I'd put the number present at the battle which were "trained by english standards" at least as high as 38,800 (British plus Brunswickers and KGL) and perhaps higher but that would require a more in depth analysis of the individual regiments and their performance in the campaign. That's about 58% of his army, quite a high figure for an "infamous army".


As for the rejection and burning his violins, any young man with aspirations might be in the army, but at that time he was pursuing a political career in Ireland as well as romance with Ms. Pakenham. He turned his back on all of that for a career of active service - it was a momentous difference.

He did not turn his back on politics at that point, he was re-elected after his return from the Netherlands campaign in 1795 and sought high office in the Irish government. After failing to get that he moved on to service in India, North Germany and Denmark before becoming MP for Rye in 1806 and then getting himself elected again in 1807, this time for Newport.

In all honesty he never really gave up a on his career in politics since whenever he was at home for any length of time he tended to dabble in it to some degree. Unless it can be shown that he was contemplating resigning his commission back in 93 its hard to argue a total change of direction at that time.


Yes not intending to denegrate the Spanish-Portuguese soldiers. If they were as effective as you say, then he certainly helped make them that way, giving him some credit for integrating other nationalities in his army, as he did at Waterloo.

I'd say he deserves a lot of the credit yes, his ability to tolerate often flakey allies like Cuesta when they were needed, and willingness to plow money, faith and time into helping to bring his allies up to scratch was admirable.

If it seems I've exaggerated or omitted some minor details, I would point out that his ratings, considering his fame, are pretty modest, but solid.

I've taken this to tweak some changes, and I have been reviewing and clarifying others.

Well any summary can sometimes lack detail, and whilst I might disagree with some of the scores there I don't think they're way off the mark.

vogtmurr
Mar 15, 2009, 04:44 PM
Well any summary can sometimes lack detail, and whilst I might disagree with some of the scores there I don't think they're way off the mark.
ok well, I don't think you'll find substantial differences with my rewording of a few points.

I didn't hear any more on the Turenne/Conde debate, but I added a bit more there too - and I don't think I'm being too partisan, to say it is a split decision. I think Conde shone for all his career, and made the difference at the bigger battles. Turenne was more endearing personally, and was also easier to manipulate.

Anyway, we've captured the essentials, now we're narrowing it down. I thought I'd throw out some names for the next close runner-ups. We should really be able to limit it to 10-12 more. Here are some that I think we need to at least look at their stories, in chronological order.

Epaminondas
Bai Qi – Qin dynasty – warring states
Pyrrhus of Epirus
Demetrios Aniketos
Ban Chao
Genseric
Charlemagne
Canute or Sweyn Forkbeard
Mahmud of Gazni
Robert Guiscard
Richard the Lionhearted
Saladin
Baybars
Tran Hung Dao
Robert I the Bruce
Edward the Black Prince
Joan of Arc
Janos Hunyadi
Akbar the Great
Henri IV of Navarre
Selim I Yavuz
Oliver Cromwell
Jan or Michael Sobieski
Duc de Luxembourg
George Washington
Giuseppe Garibaldi
Shaka Zulu

So if they have your vote, why don't some of you write the short bio and rating ? I would like to see that. And if they don't all make it, there is still the honorable mentions, but if there is someone else who just needs to be in this illustrious category, then add em.

I'm still working on a separate modern rating that starts with about von Moltke, but I'll start with Epaminondas for this one.

LightSpectra
Mar 15, 2009, 06:26 PM
This topic is already getting a bit out of hand, but I can't resist. I'm getting bogged down in Russian history, so let's go with Russian military leaders:

Alexander Nevsky
Ivan III the Great
Mikhail Kutuzov
Aleksandr Vasilevsky
Fedor Ushakov
Dmitri Ivanovich of Moscow
Alexander Suvorov

Dachs
Mar 15, 2009, 06:28 PM
Alexander Nevsky
Ivan III the Great
Mikhail Kutuzov
Aleksandr Vasilevsky
Fedor Ushakov
Dmitri Ivanovich of Moscow
Alexander Suvorov
List is missing Rumyantsev-Zadunaisky, Pyotr Velikiy, Skobelev, and Yudenich. :(

LightSpectra
Mar 15, 2009, 06:33 PM
List is missing Rumyantsev-Zadunaisky, Pyotr Velikiy, Skobelev, and Yudenich. :(

Good calls. I'm only a novice in Russian history so far, so I'll look into them.

Dachs
Mar 15, 2009, 06:34 PM
Good calls. I'm only a novice in Russian history so far, so I'll look into them.
You need to 'look into' Pyotr Velikiy? :p

FWIW I'll do a bio up on Demetrios eventually.

LightSpectra
Mar 15, 2009, 06:36 PM
You need to 'look into' Pyotr Velikiy? :p

I just Wikipedia'd him. Did you really feel obligated to use an obscure form of "Peter the Great"? :p

Yui108
Mar 15, 2009, 06:37 PM
Is that list of honorable mentions? If so here is my pitch for Baybars...

Born as a poor young boy on the north shore of the Caspian Sea, he was taken as a slave in a turkish raid. He was eventually sold in Egypt, were he was seen as a piece of great potential. He became a member of the Mamelukes, and through his own merit (no royal blood there!) became a leading general, leading his men to victory against odds at the battle of Ain Jalut. Eventually, through a string of three assasinations , he became the Sultan of the lands of Egypt and Syria. Eventually, he conquered the crusaders states of Edessa, and Acre as well as the city of Jerusalem. All in all, he forever changed the political climate of the middle-east, and and started out as a humble slave-boy!

Cheezy the Wiz
Mar 15, 2009, 07:37 PM
I just Wikipedia'd him. Did you really feel obligated to use an obscure form of "Peter the Great"? :p

If by "obscure" you mean "endonym," then its was quite obscure indeed.

As for Vasilevsky, he's by no means worthy of even an honorable mention. A competent commander, but no star.

vogtmurr
Mar 15, 2009, 11:14 PM
Good calls. I'm only a novice in Russian history so far, so I'll look into them.

Cool LightSpectra. Does this mean we may see a few top ranking Russians from you ?

You need to 'look into' Pyotr Velikiy? :p

FWIW I'll do a bio up on Demetrios eventually.

That was a natural - thanks Dachs.:D

Is that list of honorable mentions? If so here is my pitch for Baybars...

Born as a poor young boy on the north shore of the Caspian Sea, he was taken as a slave in a turkish raid. He was eventually sold in Egypt, were he was seen as a piece of great potential. He became a member of the Mamelukes, and through his own merit (no royal blood there!) became a leading general, leading his men to victory against odds at the battle of Ain Jalut. Eventually, through a string of three assasinations, he became the Sultan of the lands of Egypt and Syria. Eventually, he conquered the crusaders states of Edessa, and Acre as well as the city of Jerusalem. All in all, he forever changed the political climate of the middle-east, and and started out as a humble slave-boy!

This is good enough for a high in the honorable mentions with some minor editing. We'd need details fleshed out and a rating, if you want to make a case for close runner-up though.

If by "obscure" you mean "endonym," then its was quite obscure indeed.

As for Vasilevsky, he's by no means worthy of even an honorable mention. A competent commander, but no star.

Yeah that was pretty obscure. Anyway - I seem to recall you were the one who mentioned Tran Hung Dao way back. Do you want to do a quick spiel on him ? And maybe split Richard and Saladin with me ? Maybe you don't think either belong - but it was a thought. :mischief:

I'm not sure where we're going with this - but I'm learning a lot and enjoying reading about these guys - so I look forward to seeing your distillations of their achievements. Eventually it may add up to a pretty nice summary. Then we can add media and pictures and maps and have a quick primer for amateur history buffs. :lol: just kidding.

What if these generals were represented with different qualities and advantages/disadvantages in the game, with an AI element to them ? I'm thinking of a mod where they're earned within their historical culture - no more 'Saladin has been born in France'. Their loyalties could shift - modified by your civics, religion, and the state of your nation, even be bought in some cases like mercenaries. Now I think that would be pretty cool.:)

vogtmurr
Mar 15, 2009, 11:20 PM
A few too many Romans, no Indians, no Khalid ibn al-Walid or whatever the name is, no Marlborough... All in all an excellent effort, though, I just have some disagreements. :)

Would you like to do a quick spiel on Mahmud of Gazni or Akbar the Great ?:)

vogtmurr
Mar 15, 2009, 11:41 PM
Just to be clear, generals should be definied in 2 categories

System generals- these generals didn't have to set their army, a functioning army was already available for them. They didn't invent the military system they operated in.
E.g. Caesar(Roman military system established for centuries)..

Founder Generals- These generals are generals who not only command well, but set up their own military system and it worked. For example: Georgi Zhukov(He redefined the Soviet Red army from a conscript army to a professional army on par with the Germans).

1. Sun Tzu- Founder General- Wrote the Art of war. He managed to conquer a large swath of land in Feudal China, with poorly equipped troops. He probably conducted the FIRST organized military campaign in HISTORY. Invented most modern strategy, so he definitely deserves a spot here.

3. Li Jin- Founder General Tang dynasty general who reunified all of China AND who defeated an entire Turkic horde(about 200,000 horsemen) with just 3,000 Cavalry (with about 100,000 troops following him, but by the time they arrived he had already won). Probably best tactician.

9. Liu Yu- System general: China's Belisarius, except he controlled the government(became emperor) and he was successful in holding the land he conquered(at least until his grandson messed things up). Reconquered Chinese heartland from the barbarians.

10. Wei Qin & Huo Qubing- System General: Drove the Huns from China to Rome, and ensured the power of Han China. Defeated a GIGANTIC nomadic horde(about 300,000 cavalrymen).

Liu Bochen- The man who Mao took the credit from, the general who ensured the success of the CPC in Chinese Civil war(not a good thing due to Mao's havoc, but with Deng's reforms China is recovering).

Chen Qingzhi- This man conquered North China with 7,000 troops(though he then lost it in a few months).

Xie Xuan- A system general, this general defeated a barbarian army of 270,000 troops with only 80,000 troops, and prevented them from overruning China after Ran Min's death. His success is mainly due to heavy training of his troops though.

What do you think? any suggestions?

I may have different spelling but what do you know of Bai Qi (Qin Dynasty - Warring States Period) ? I wondered if you would want to take a stab at penning a brief biographical entry and some ratings as a close runner up. If you think there are enough solid details to rate these other dudes, then offer 1 or 2 up as well. If some of the details or claims look questionable then don't emphasize it too much. As for numbers - its enough to give a magnitude - like maybe they were outnumbered several times over or just 3 or 4 times. I know feudal China was capable of fielding some pretty big armies on occasion though I know next to nothing about their organization, level of training, or capabilities. But its hard to imagine Li Jin with 3,000 cavalry actually engaging 200,000 for instance. A more believable scenario would be its possible they defeated the vanguard, and the Turks got discouraged when the rest of Li Jin's army showed up, and they were running out of supplies, so they packed it in, or something like that. But I don't know the story. Also, just as Wiki does, the biography needs to be 3 dimensional - a few points about their challenges, legacy, and moral assessment.

So what do you think ?

Cheezy the Wiz
Mar 16, 2009, 04:45 PM
Yeah that was pretty obscure.

I don't think so. Is calling him Frederick der Grosse also obscure? Or Carolus Magnus?

Anyway - I seem to recall you were the one who mentioned Tran Hung Dao way back.

No, I don't think so.

Do you want to do a quick spiel on him ? And maybe split Richard and Saladin with me ? Maybe you don't think either belong - but it was a thought. :mischief:

I don't see what your point is. There was nothing especially brilliant about Vasilevsky.

I'm not sure where we're going with this - but I'm learning a lot and enjoying reading about these guys - so I look forward to seeing your distillations of their achievements. Eventually it may add up to a pretty nice summary. Then we can add media and pictures and maps and have a quick primer for amateur history buffs. :lol: just kidding.

I really don't know what your problem is.

The only thing of real merit in Vasilevsky's career is his defense of Tula.

What if these generals were represented with different qualities and advantages/disadvantages in the game, with an AI element to them ? I'm thinking of a mod where they're earned within their historical culture - no more 'Saladin has been born in France'. Their loyalties could shift - modified by your civics, religion, and the state of your nation, even be bought in some cases like mercenaries. Now I think that would be pretty cool.:)

I think you're looking for this: http://forums.civfanatics.com/forumdisplay.php?f=46

Yui108
Mar 16, 2009, 04:51 PM
Rating Baybars, just for the heck of it...


Victory Count
As before, consideration of their rating is according to the following criteria (scale 1 to 5).
1. Victory Count - quantitative aspect. - 4 ; Rarely lost, and Ain Jalut is still talked about. His only true loss was at the First Siege of Acre
2. Ingenuity and tactical innovation - qualitative aspect.- 2 . Managed to lead the Mamelukes to power, changing Egypt. Not much else.
3. Scale and consequence (for their time) - size, casualties, historical significance.-4 Wiped out the Crusaders States, halted the Mongol Tide. Pretty important.
4. Beating the odds - difficulties, disparities in numbers or resources, reversing a trend.5, came from Slave to Sultan. Also beat the mongols, again
5. Personal involvement and risk - active role, personal stakes and sacrifices.- 2 ; Had nothing to lose, started as slave boy
6. Legacy - lasting achievement, influence and moral assessment. Requires ultimate victory for a 5. -3 Never truly defeated, two sons became sultans, and the mamelukes remained in power for 600 hundred years.

vogtmurr
Mar 16, 2009, 05:07 PM
I don't think so. Is calling him Frederick der Grosse also obscure? Or Carolus Magnus?

I don't see what your point is. There was nothing especially brilliant about Vasilevsky.

I really don't know what your problem is.

The only thing of real merit in Vasilevsky's career is his defense of Tula.



No - I wasn't talking about Vasilevsky - whoever that is. I was asking whether you wanted to do a short spiel on Tran, or Saladin/Richard, or some one else. Sorry for the confusion.

vogtmurr
Mar 16, 2009, 06:14 PM
Rating Baybars, just for the heck of it...

Victory Count
As before, consideration of their rating is according to the following criteria (scale 1 to 5).
1. Victory Count - quantitative aspect. - 4 ; Rarely lost, and Ain Jalut is still talked about. His only true loss was at the First Siege of Acre
2. Ingenuity and tactical innovation - qualitative aspect.- 2 . Managed to lead the Mamelukes to power, changing Egypt. Not much else.
3. Scale and consequence (for their time) - size, casualties, historical significance.-4 Wiped out the Crusaders States, halted the Mongol Tide. Pretty important.
4. Beating the odds - difficulties, disparities in numbers or resources, reversing a trend.5, came from Slave to Sultan. Also beat the mongols, again
5. Personal involvement and risk - active role, personal stakes and sacrifices.- 2 ; Had nothing to lose, started as slave boy
6. Legacy - lasting achievement, influence and moral assessment. Requires ultimate victory for a 5. -3 Never truly defeated, two sons became sultans, and the mamelukes remained in power for 600 hundred years.

Thanks - its nice to have some other opinions to compare to, obviously these ratings mean different things to different people. If I was doing the rating I might raise personal involvement to 3 at least. That's average to slightly above. If Baybars had a role in the formation, and active command of the mameluke army in the field he gets that anyway. If he habitually fought in the front line or in some other way put himself at significant risk - he should get a 4. Beating the odds, well he certainly wasn't facing unreasonable odds against the crusaders at that time, and the battle against the Mongols while significant, was pretty close odds. His personal challenges aside, history may justify a 3. I should mention that Baybars did not finish off the crusaders, Al-Ashraf did in 1291. Ain Jalut was not on the same scale as some of the larger Mongol or Middle-Eastern battles. A 4 for scale and consequence is not unreasonable, but unless there are other battles of equal significance, a victory count also of 4 seems high. That's usually about 10 and above. These are just my thoughts on rating - feedback if you like.

Edit on that: - I just read up: forgot he beat Louis on the 7th crusade in Egypt, pretty significant. and the so-called 9th crusade against Christians, and Mongols again. Easily a 4 on victory account

North King
Mar 17, 2009, 11:06 PM
I don't think so. Is calling him Frederick der Grosse also obscure? Or Carolus Magnus?

Kinda, yeah. I mean, I recognize most of them. But I don't get the propensity that historians have for using only the most "proper" terms possible at the expense of easy communication with laypeople. Seriously, isn't that the point of writing this stuff -- to communicate it with the people who don't know the subject? Is it easier to say "Tamed Chingizid Khan", or just say "Tamerlane"? Or do you just want to be read by the 1% (as very much an upper bound) of the population who knows the territory?

Dachs
Mar 18, 2009, 12:27 AM
Seriously, isn't that the point of writing this stuff -- to communicate it with the people who don't know the subject? Is it easier to say "Tamed Chingizid Khan", or just say "Tamerlane"? Or do you just want to be read by the 1% (as very much an upper bound) of the population who knows the territory?
Who cares? It sounds cool. I label your complaint "irrelevant".

vogtmurr
Mar 18, 2009, 08:17 PM
Well, there is no complaint anyway. I just agreed with a comment that I didn't know Pyotr Velikiy either. I don't mind hearing their names in their native tongue - they do sound cool. As long as the learned aren't surprised if they get asked from time to time.:confused:

flyingchicken
Mar 18, 2009, 11:30 PM
On native name/accurate transliteration of names thing: As long as (1) you are consistent and (2) you don't do that for supposedly-informative-for-the-general-public things, methinks it is fine.

However, as an exception to that non-rule personal opinion, I will fully support anyone who calls Charlemagne "Carl the Gross" or "Charles the Gross"-- in fact, any German with "the Great" should instead be Anglicized to "[Name] the Gross."

GGitchell
Mar 18, 2009, 11:38 PM
Honestly I beleive it should be Genghis khan for controlling and conquering the biggest empire ever. Also he sacked Persia who was expected to crush. Plus he used great hit and run tatics.

North King
Mar 19, 2009, 05:13 PM
Honestly I beleive it should be Genghis khan for controlling and conquering the biggest empire ever. Also he sacked Persia who was expected to crush. Plus he used great hit and run tatics.

Temujin (ooh, look at me, I can use obscure names too! :p) wasn't pretty good, but he's probably not the greatest. A lot of the Mongol success comes from their army, which was entirely established pre-Genghis Khan.

vogtmurr
Mar 19, 2009, 09:54 PM
On native name/accurate transliteration of names thing: As long as (1) you are consistent and (2) you don't do that for supposedly-informative-for-the-general-public things, methinks it is fine.

However, as an exception to that non-rule personal opinion, I will fully support anyone who calls Charlemagne "Carl the Gross" or "Charles the Gross"-- in fact, any German with "the Great" should instead be Anglicized to "[Name] the Gross."

Be careful though, because this could also transliterate to Charles the Fat, who couldn't get off his hindquarters except to dip into the treasury to pay off the vikings (or is it the Bald ?, there was also the Simple !). It was up to his duke Odo to sort the raiders out. But anglicized Gross is "the Great", not the other way around. You have to admit Friedrich der Große sounds (or looks) better than Frederick the Gross, depending on your emphasis. Charlemagne, as first Holy Roman Emperor is probably better remembered by the Latin eponym Carolus Magnus.

Honestly I beleive it should be Genghis khan for controlling and conquering the biggest empire ever. Also he sacked Persia who was expected to crush. Plus he used great hit and run tatics.

Well the legend seems to be larger than life, but Genghis did not actually conquer the biggest empire in his lifetime, and they never did control it for any length of time. Persia's Shah had delusions of grandeur but it was his people that paid the price when the fully mobilized Mongol horde swept down on their cities. Genghis Khan deserves much of the credit of course for unifying the steppe tribes and starting the steamroller. It happened every 800 years or so (Scythians, Huns, Mongols, 2020 ?), but when it did there was usually hell to pay. Genghis also deserves much of the blame for atrocities, which on the low estimate, exceed anything Adolf or Joe Stalin succeeded in doing in the modern age. The biggest share of the Mongol conquests I believe goes to his most trusted general and friend from his youth, Subutai, who continued the era of conquest for 30 years after the death of Genghis. In case you didn't see them, I did a short entry on both, Genghis at http://forums.civfanatics.com/showpost.php?p=7865316&postcount=362 I actually upgraded his legacy a bit because it did have fairly far reaching consequences. Subutai, whom I rated 9th is at: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showpost.php?p=7740337&postcount=158. They explain my rationale for these comments.

Cheezy the Wiz
Mar 19, 2009, 10:07 PM
Heh, misread, your post could imply that the Chancellor of Germany was one "Adolf Stalin." :lol:

vogtmurr
Mar 19, 2009, 10:22 PM
Damn. I relied on the universal notoriety of 'Adolf' to be self-explanatory. Didn't mean to imply him and Comrade Joe were brothers, though they probably shared the same recessive gene.

Infantry#14
Mar 20, 2009, 12:22 AM
maybe somebody already mentioned it, but I would say Sun Tzu. I mean he left us the Art of War.

vogtmurr
Mar 20, 2009, 04:12 PM
maybe somebody already mentioned it, but I would say Sun Tzu. I mean he left us the Art of War.

Many have mentioned him. It appears Sun Tzu was a historical figure from either the Spring and Autumn Period, the accounts of which are semi-legendary, or the Warring States Period (?) He was a superior general in the service of the Wu state who had an opportunity to test his theories in practice, and perfected them. His book is very influential - but I have to ask: What did he actually do that we know about ? Is there pure conjecture, or something of substance. It is a remarkable topic for such an early date - I never read his book, is it more of a work of Taoist philosophy; a theoretical guide, like Machiavelli's The Prince or does it seem to speak from real experience, hint at actual exploits or battles won or lost ? I would say his fame alone gets him on the honorable mentions list, but I have little else to go on.

North King
Mar 20, 2009, 10:27 PM
The Art of War is a mixture of the theoretical and practical. A lot of its value comes more from its insights into the Chinese way of thinking about war than actual brilliant insights, though I suppose the emphasis on subtler methods is pretty important. In any case, it was much improved by the commentary.

I don't think it's really that earth-shattering, but then, I've thought the same thing about every theoretical book on warfare that I've read.

vogtmurr
Mar 21, 2009, 11:31 AM
Well that's pretty much what I thought. Its general enough that modern day high-powered execs on Madison Ave. or Wall Street keep it around as recommended reading. The book itself doesn't guarantee Sun Tzu a place on a great commanders list, but if we knew more about his actual career as a general, a case could be made.

LightSpectra
Apr 03, 2009, 02:05 PM
Also, Sulla. It's unusual to win a battle where you're outnumbered 120,000 to 40,000, and win an annihilation victory with twelve casualties. This is something he repeated several times.

vogtmurr
Apr 03, 2009, 06:45 PM
Also, Sulla. It's unusual to win a battle where you're outnumbered 120,000 to 40,000, and win an annihilation victory with twelve casualties. This is something he repeated several times. Yeah I have to read up on him again. Whether it was 12 or 1200 still pretty impressive. I know his military record was overwhelming - an earlier Julius Caesar. After his reign of terror and Cromwell-esque status he tried to give it back to the Republic anyway. Just too much of a crooked bully tyrant to inspire much love - but worth writing something about. I kind of preferred Marius in opposition - too bad he had his bones thrown into the Tiber, a real war hero.

LightSpectra
Apr 03, 2009, 10:05 PM
Yeah I have to read up on him again. Whether it was 12 or 1200 still pretty impressive. I know his military record was overwhelming - an earlier Julius Caesar. After his reign of terror and Cromwell-esque status he tried to give it back to the Republic anyway. Just too much of a crooked bully tyrant to inspire much love - but worth writing something about. I kind of preferred Marius in opposition - too bad he had his bones thrown into the Tiber, a real war hero.

I find Sulla to be liberating. It's too easy to buy into the romantic illusion that the reason why great men are great, is because they have some noble or titanic goal at mind. Sulla was just a plain old tyrant: he wanted to be wealthy, loved, envied, and in charge.

Marius was a brilliant commander, but his military reforms heavily contributed to the collapse of Roman society in the long run. (I suppose this is irrelevant to his ranking as a leader, though.) Sulla took a lot of the ideas Marius had and took them to the next level, hence why you see various battles where the odds were ridiculously against Rome's favor but they come out without a scratch, like Chaeronea and Orchomenus. Hell, even Marius' most famous victory (Vercellae) shares credit with Sulla.

vogtmurr
Apr 04, 2009, 01:26 AM
I find Sulla to be liberating. It's too easy to buy into the romantic illusion that the reason why great men are great, is because they have some noble or titanic goal at mind. Sulla was just a plain old tyrant: he wanted to be wealthy, loved, envied, and in charge.

heh-yuh, its not like you can ignore this guy. Would you recommend, Plutarch for a quick source >? Compelling story, but were all his acts necessary for the time, even to achieve these stated goals ? I hope to find he also had noble qualities as a military leader, or is it just his martial skill and the power of his legions ? .

vogtmurr
Apr 04, 2009, 11:48 PM
Hey LightSpectra

It occurs to me it is the anniversary of the Battle on the Ice (well actually I just read it "on this day in history..."). Do you know a good story on Nevsky ?

Bowsling
Apr 10, 2009, 06:03 AM
Cyrus the Great
Alexander the Great
Richard I the Lionhearted
Saladin
Julius Caeser
Genghis Khan
Churchill
Minamoto Yoshitsune
Huayna Capac
Tecumseh

vogtmurr
Apr 10, 2009, 03:18 PM
Cyrus the Great
Alexander the Great
Richard I the Lionhearted
Saladin
Julius Caeser
Genghis Khan
Churchill
Minamoto Yoshitsune
Huayna Capac
Tecumseh

interesting - I would like to see a pairwise comparison between Saladin and Richard. And two indigenous leaders from the Americas - are you proposing some of these as honorable mentions, or is that list actually in order of preference ?

EDIT: hey that is cool that you got Churchill up there.

Dachs
Apr 10, 2009, 03:44 PM
interesting - I would like to see a pairwise comparison between Saladin and Richard.
Here you go (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Arsuf). :mischief:

vogtmurr
Apr 10, 2009, 04:23 PM
Here you go (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Arsuf). :mischief::lol:
that was a great story

Bowsling
Apr 11, 2009, 07:11 AM
interesting - I would like to see a pairwise comparison between Saladin and Richard. And two indigenous leaders from the Americas - are you proposing some of these as honorable mentions, or is that list actually in order of preference ?

EDIT: hey that is cool that you got Churchill up there.

No, they are in no particular order.
I don't know why not many others put Churchill on their list, in about late 1939 though 1940 he was fighting Germany and Italy with only Canada helping them, due to the the France occupation, the treaty between the Germans and Solviets, and Japan had Australia, China, and the rest of the Pacific on their knees. Churchill led England through that.

LightSpectra
Apr 11, 2009, 11:13 AM
Cyrus the Great
Alexander the Great
Richard I the Lionhearted
Saladin
Julius Caeser
Genghis Khan
Churchill
Minamoto Yoshitsune
Huayna Capac
Tecumseh

Saladin lost every major battle of the Third Crusade. He's known for being a cunning politician and a chivalrous opponent, but I don't think he was an exceptional military commander.

Huayna Capac? I don't know much about him, but I've never heard anything about his extraordinary military invasions, so I'm highly skeptical.

Tecumseh's War went really well him, didn't it? He put up a good fight, but I hardly think he's worthy of a spot on the list.

Hey LightSpectra

It occurs to me it is the anniversary of the Battle on the Ice (well actually I just read it "on this day in history..."). Do you know a good story on Nevsky ?

Nevsky was voted the greatest Russian in history by that TV show. Though Stalin and Lenin were also on the list so I don't give it much credit.

Bowsling
Apr 11, 2009, 01:44 PM
LightSpectra, Saladin reclaimed Jerusalem and reunited the Saracen (Egypt, Syria, and Arabia). He won a battle where he was quite badly outnumbered very soundly (Hattin's Horns).
Huayna Capac came to the Incan crown with little more then modern-day Peru in his empire, and expanded it to Equador, most of Chile, and some of Argentina, and even a considerable chunk of Brazil.
As for Tecumseh, he was an Iroqouis chief who led the his tribe to important Canadian/Iroqouis victories at Beaver Dams and Chrysler's Farm, both times badly outnumbered.

LightSpectra
Apr 11, 2009, 01:58 PM
LightSpectra, Saladin reclaimed Jerusalem and reunited the Saracen (Egypt, Syria, and Arabia). He won a battle where he was quite badly outnumbered very soundly (Hattin's Horns).

The Battle of Hattin also came about whereby Guy stupidly decided to march his enormous, heavily armored army without water for an extended period of time. But I don't believe he was outnumbered there, either.

As I said, he was able to reclaim Jerusalem by cunning politics and also a great deal of luck; Richard was recalled to England due to political turmoil there, and Frederick I Barbarossa's large army all went back home after their leader drowned. The fact that Saladin lost every major battle of the Third Crusade would support this.

Huayna Capac came to the Incan crown with little more then modern-day Peru in his empire, and expanded it to Equador, most of Chile, and some of Argentina, and even a considerable chunk of Brazil.

As I said, I'm not an expert on Incan history. But, I believe very little information exists regarding Capac's military exploits.

Furthermore, just being a conqueror doesn't mean you are an excellent military commander. Neo-Babylon was able to take a great deal of the Middle East because of their technological advancements and vast resources from Mesopotamia, for example. Charlemagne, in the same vein, was a fairly mediocre commander but managed to control most of western Europe because he happened to be king at a very favorable time for the Franks.

As for Tecumseh, he was an Iroqouis chief who led the his tribe to important Canadian/Iroqouis victories at Beaver Dams and Chrysler's Farm, both times badly outnumbered.

The commander at Beaver Dams was a British soldier, not Tecumseh. The same goes for the latter.

Bowsling
Apr 11, 2009, 02:19 PM
Fredrick I's army stayed in the holy lands after Fredrick died, and was lead under Leopold of Austria.
He also reclaimed Jerusalem while Richard was in the holy lands, and was key in defending it against Richard's army after the battle of Arsuf. Arsuf in itself was a very minor raid, and was Saladin's only loss.

And would you quit attacking the leadership skills of a leader you've never researched?

btw, I do realise now that I remember that Tecumseh wasn't in those battles mentioned, but was key in the capture of Detroit, one of Canada's greatest and many victories in the War of 1812.

LightSpectra
Apr 11, 2009, 03:13 PM
Fredrick I's army stayed in the holy lands after Fredrick died, and was lead under Leopold of Austria.

Most of his troops abandoned. He exited the HRE with roughly 20,000 troops, and after he drowned, Frederick of Swabia lead a remaining 5,000 to the Holy Land.

He also reclaimed Jerusalem while Richard was in the holy lands, and was key in defending it against Richard's army after the battle of Arsuf.

As far as I know, Richard never got the chance to attack Jerusalem during the Third Crusade. After Richard re-captured Jaffa, Richard was caught up in the middle of external affairs, so they signed the treaty whereby pilgrims would be allowed into Jerusalem.

Arsuf in itself was a very minor raid, and was Saladin's only loss.
:lol:

What about the humiliating defeat at the Battle of Montgisard? That wasn't even the Third Crusade; whom Saladin lost all three major battles (Arsuf, Jaffa, Acre). He did manage to re-take Jaffa, though his troops completely forsook him when it happened.

And would you quit attacking the leadership skills of a leader you've never researched?

Would you stop beating your wife? I can't really answer a question whose underlying assumption is false.

btw, I do realise now that I remember that Tecumseh wasn't in those battles mentioned, but was key in the capture of Detroit, one of Canada's greatest and many victories in the War of 1812.

The Americans didn't put up much of a fight at Detroit. There was less than ten casualties on either side before they surrendered. I blame their lack of morale, moreso than some brilliance of Tecumseh.

vogtmurr
Apr 11, 2009, 06:01 PM
I think often contributors are just interested in making us aware of their more interesting choices, not necessarily vieing for the top 40. It's a matter of degree. Anyway I like Tecumseh, and especially Little Turtle, and Geronimo. They make good stories and I would like to do a short vignette for all leaders of this caliber, but it is a daunting task. I think in time we could at least assemble a list of the better names and merge it with that other one in progress, and people can wiki them. It is good to have different topical choices for different time periods, if there is ever the ambition to mod games where the leader or hero is earned when you play their culture. Ratings would be cool though because it would reflect their actual abilities.

LightSpectra
Apr 11, 2009, 07:30 PM
I think often contributors are just interested in making us aware of their more interesting choices, not necessarily vieing for the top 40.

I understand that, though if you list ten choices, I'm going to immediately assume that these are your picks for the greatest ten commanders in history (since that's what the topic is about, afterall).

vogtmurr
Apr 11, 2009, 07:40 PM
Yup - we are trying to pick the best. This 'Honorable Mentions' list could get pretty long.

EnlightenmentHK
Apr 11, 2009, 07:57 PM
1. Hannibal--Alexander had the advantage of a country mobilized for conquest before he even became king and the most technologically advanced and strategically sophisticated army of the era. He still did great things with it while vastly outnumbered. Hannibal did amazing things while vastly outnumbered against technologically superior and well organized and militarized foes. He did it all with at best lukewarm support from home.

2. Belisarius-- Perhaps no general in history has done more with less than Belisarius. Intrigued against at home. Undermined by his own generals on multiple occasions. Never given the men or resources to undertake a fraction of the conquests he was called upon to do. He still managed to exceed even the most optimistic expectations and for a fleeting moment made Justinian's dreams of reconquest a reality.

3. Julius Caesar--Luckiest general ever? I think so. Although having the best core of well trained, hardened veteran elite troops certainly helped. When Caesar was in the field, traditional notions of force superiority just didn't apply. Charging into the fray outnumbered more than 2-1? Caesar would salivate over those odds. Doing it against legendary generals in their own right backed by similarly equipped legions themselves? Why not. Don't even need to touch on his amazing feats of military engineering or mind-boggling forced marches that always caught his enemies off guard to seriously consider him for any top 5 list.

4. Alexander the Great.--Sure he had the forementioned built in advantages, he still managed to conquer all the great powers of the era, defeat vast armies more than doubling his own on multiple occasions, and push his men further and further, to even greater lengths and feats than anyone til the Mongols.

5. Khalid ibn al-Walid--Want to know how a bunch of backwater nobodies in the middle of nowhere carved out a MASSIVE empire in record time against vastly superior foes? Well, the first part is that the two main foes had just finished bloodying eachother severely. The second part was probably more than a bit of religious fervor. The third, absolutely essential part was Khalid ibn al-Walid. Decisive victories over numerically and technologically superior foes. Repeated Hannibal's brilliant double-envelopment against worse than 2-1 odds. Conquered most of the Persian Empire and a fair chunk of the Byzantine in only a few short years.

vogtmurr
Apr 11, 2009, 09:50 PM
...'nuff said

The same 5 in very similar order appear on page 8 of this thread, with more on page 19. I would say there are 10, maybe 20 more that would complete the truly remarkable ones, and wrap this up.
Then I would be tempted to see a poll where people can rate their own order of selection just for interest's sake, but that would be a pretty complicated poll.

Antilogic
Apr 14, 2009, 12:56 PM
It would probably be better to just say "which 10 deserve to be on the list" and then vote on them out of the top 25 or so.

I can get behind EnlightenmentHK's list if it includes Hannibal. Any Top Ten list without Hannibal is seriously lacking.

Luckymoose
Apr 15, 2009, 02:45 PM
Not reading the thread but the first post has a severe lack of Suvorov.

Dachs
Apr 15, 2009, 02:58 PM
Not reading the thread but the first post has a severe lack of Suvorov.
He's been mentioned a few times.

vogtmurr
Apr 16, 2009, 06:39 PM
Thanks for all your contributions.

Given the title of this thread and how it has evolved, let me clarify where I thought we should go with this. From the beginning we recognized the need for an honorable mentions list, as any rating after 7th spot is very close and the distinctions are arbitrary. And lets face it, top 10 is so limiting; you end up with just another short list that looks like everyone else's, when so many great leaders go unmentioned. So far I have written up 25 exceptional military leaders, which includes the top 10, plus on another thread I've covered 10 modern strategists of note. At present, there are at least 10-20 exceptional leaders out there that could easily be as good or better than some of the ones I've already identified. Therefore, until we nail down these final choices, I feel the list is essentially incomplete.

I guess this is really becoming a top 50 list, and to be an all-inclusive one, we need to decide who the last ones are. Once we do, I look forward to writing up short bios and ratings, though I have extended the invitation to those who have some candidates in mind that just have to be included. Although I have pre-defined the criteria, it is more of a guide. I don't want to be the one who makes the final choices unilaterally. I threw out a list of names on this thread that could be considered based on the feedback so far, but again it is not necessarily all-inclusive:
http://forums.civfanatics.com/showpost.php?p=7874220&postcount=378

And if we end up with 60 so be it, but I think there is a line where we can say we have captured the very best. After that there is of course a long list of potential candidates that could simply be rated high, medium or low, with minimal effort, but that is completely another project I would want to merge with an existing top 100 list.

Darkstyx
Apr 19, 2009, 10:37 PM
Anyone heard of Admiral Yi Sun-sin? Defeated a 300-ship Japanese fleet with only 13 ships. Japanese soldiers were highly experienced and had perfect organization coming out from almost a hundred years of Sengoku (warring states). To defeat that kind of force with a formerly ragtag fleet of badly damaged Korean troops is nothing short of a miracle.

vogtmurr
Apr 20, 2009, 02:49 AM
Anyone heard of Admiral Yi Sun-sin? Defeated a 300-ship Japanese fleet with only 13 ships. Japanese soldiers were highly experienced and had perfect organization coming out from almost a hundred years of Sengoku (warring states). To defeat that kind of force with a formerly ragtag fleet of badly damaged Korean troops is nothing short of a miracle.

True - check posts #158 (page 8) and #362 (page 19) for the current list.

LightSpectra
Apr 20, 2009, 12:21 PM
Have you noticed that British military commanders have this tendency to die during their greatest victory? Isaac Brock (Queenston Heights), James Wolfe (Quebec), Horatio Nelson (Trafalgar)...

Bowsling
Apr 20, 2009, 02:10 PM
have to agree with that. i can't think of any others, though.

Dachs
Apr 20, 2009, 02:51 PM
Have you noticed that British military commanders have this tendency to die during their greatest victory? Isaac Brock (Queenston Heights), James Wolfe (Quebec), Horatio Nelson (Trafalgar)...
Wellinghton (Waterloo), George II (Dettingen), Cromwell (Naseby), Anson (First Cap Finisterre), Hawke (Quiberon Bay)...:mischief:

privatehudson
Apr 20, 2009, 02:52 PM
Sir John Moore died at Corruna and Sir Ralph Abercromby at Alexandria, both victories although not as notable as Trafalgar.

Then again I don't think Wellington was so much as scratched during his whole career (and he spent a lot of time during battles in the thick of the fighting) and I don't think Marlborough was ever seriously wounded in battle either.

LightSpectra
Apr 20, 2009, 03:36 PM
Wellinghton (Waterloo), George II (Dettingen), Cromwell (Naseby), Anson (First Cap Finisterre), Hawke (Quiberon Bay)...:mischief:

Dettingen was when George II died, on the inside.

;)

vogtmurr
Apr 21, 2009, 12:07 AM
The other Richard, Coeur de Lion, King Arthur, and William the Conqueror only got to die after injuries sustained in minor skirmishes. I can't think of any more who died in their greatest victories - but a few who died in their worst defeats:
Richard III at Bosworth and Richard Neville (the man who should have been king) at Barnet, Harold Godwinson at Hastings. But there's also Boudicca...yeah she commit suicide, but still counts.

EDIT: and a whole bunch from the Dark Age: Byhrtnoth at Maldon, Cadwallon at Heavenfield, Edwin at Hatfield Chase, Saint Oswald at Maserfield, Macbeth at Dunsinane, Harold Hardraada.... OK this is getting carried away not a very uncommon distinction.

Insanity_X
Apr 24, 2009, 12:13 PM
Macbeth didnt die at Dunsinane, he was killed three years later by the future Malcolm III.

BarrageQueen
Apr 24, 2009, 01:20 PM
Anyone heard of Admiral Yi Sun-sin? Defeated a 300-ship Japanese fleet with only 13 ships. Japanese soldiers were highly experienced and had perfect organization coming out from almost a hundred years of Sengoku (warring states). To defeat that kind of force with a formerly ragtag fleet of badly damaged Korean troops is nothing short of a miracle.

I learned of this guy and he's amazing indeed. Like many of the top generals, he also didn't have the full logistic support of the government, which always makes these guys' achievements more remarkable in my view.

vogtmurr
Apr 24, 2009, 03:42 PM
Macbeth didnt die at Dunsinane, he was killed three years later by the future Malcolm III.

oh - OK, someone lied for dramatic effect.

vogtmurr
Apr 24, 2009, 03:59 PM
I learned of this guy and he's amazing indeed. Like many of the top generals, he also didn't have the full logistic support of the government, which always makes these guys' achievements more remarkable in my view.

yup - that's an understatement. He was actually imprisoned and tortured twice by the jealous and paranoid monarch.

sebsone
Jan 18, 2010, 05:17 AM
Napoleon.

LightSpectra
Jan 18, 2010, 09:00 AM
I've been reading a lot about Napoleon's campaigns lately, and I've concluded that if he had died of a heart attack the day after Austerlitz, he would've been -- bar none -- the greatest military commander in history.

The problem is that he started to become overconfident and sloppy after his amazing victory in the Third Coalition. Which is not to say he became a bad general by any means, it's just that instead of brilliant strategies like the turning movement at Ulm or the concentrated battery fire on a weak flank at Rivoli, Napoleon began resorting to just frontal assaults. This worked against Prussia in the Fourth Coalition because their entire military structure was grievously outdated and incompetent, but it left Napoleon with half-hearted victories later on at Wagram, Borodino, and Ligny, and also defeats at Aspern-Essling and Leipzig. He did regain his fire at times -- Dresden is an awing victory, Bautzen might've won the war had Ney not been a terrible commander, Berezina Bridge is unbelievable. I've thought recently that Waterloo's significance wasn't that the French army was defeated, but rather that it demonstrated that Napoleon no longer had the genius necessary to win wars against stronger alliances.

Steph
Jan 18, 2010, 09:05 AM
Don't forget that in the late war, France had suffered many casualties (over one millions in 20 years), and so the soldiers were less experienced, and perhaps a little less willing... And so perhaps Napoleon couldn't really used his earlier tactics and had to use frontal assault.
And the ennemies also learned how to fight him.

vogtmurr
Jan 19, 2010, 10:54 PM
Well I have you guys to thank for resurrecting this thread, lol. I was actually whittling away in the background for some time on summarizing a number of military biographies before I got sidetracked. It turned into quite an extensive list, but I would like to share it. Instead of leaving it buried in this thread I would like to create a new page that appears at the front of the discussion with links to where the actual bios can be read, so I'm not inhibited by thread length and the intent isn't lost in the volume of information. Any good ideas how I should do that ?

Regarding Napoleon, I have the utmost respect for his abilities even with a slightly tarnished legacy, and I know less about some of his more enduring exploits than many of you. I tend to agree that if he could have retired in say 1809, he might have stolen 1st place overall, but no leader with that distinction can afford to take a vast army of his brief, hard-won empire and leave it behind in the frozen wastes of a Russian winter. Things unravelled for Napoleon fairly quickly after that, despite another blossoming of his tactical brilliance as he fought on defensively. Finally his own countrymen got tired of the endless sacrifice, and widespread hero-worship turned to disdain. The prime criteria is military success, so he necessarily occupies a top spot, but what that is where the debate continues.

Cheezy the Wiz
Jan 20, 2010, 08:42 AM
I've thought recently that Waterloo's significance wasn't that the French army was defeated, but rather that it demonstrated that Napoleon no longer had the genius necessary to win wars against stronger alliances.

Well there are several things to remember about Waterloo that were unusual, and combined to create a perfect storm of Napoleon-pwning.

First, Napoleon wasn't even able to see most of the battle from where he was located, so he was giving orders based purely on intelligence reports and runners. Ney was really the "consigliere," if you follow my meaning, as he was there on the field. It was to French detriment that he did not exercise discretion when following Napoleon's orders, and simply that he was not quite the commander that Bonaparte was.

Second, Bluecher's ability to be defeated on day 1, withdraw along his lines of supply, and put back into the field in only 48 hours was nothing short of a miracle (and something the legends about the Prussian Academy are made of), and Third, he did so at the most undesirable moment possible for the French, while in the height of the assault proper on the British line.

Fourth, Wellington's position was nothing short of perfect. A sunken road along the spine of a hill? Who could ask for better positioning than that? Besides the obvious pseudo-trench to protect infantry, it made his line nigh impossible to hit with artillery (as Ney found out!), and further down the road, funneled the French cavalry into a disaster zone. And with one flank hemmed in by an impassable quarry, the only thing to worry about was the village. That Ney/Bonaparte was able to press this position so hard is a credit to their skill and those of French arms. Even Wellington remarked that he was impressed and surprised his line held.

Fifth, the French infantry assault was just plain odd. The idea (D'Erlon's) was to present a larger front per battalion to allow them to concentrate their fire against British units, who had a reputation of using high-volume, short-range musket fire to drive away infantry columns (I imagine this is a sort of "don't shoot until you see the white of their eyes" type of thing, but in reality I don't quite understand fully what it means, just what the books say); the problem with this being that it left essentially no way to alter formation or really to maneuver, which proved disastrous.

Sixth; I'm the sketchiest on this one. I remember reading that Napoleon had a different aid for this battle than for previous ones, and the old one was a sort of unnamed hero in that he could take Napoelon's sometimes complicated orders and make sense of them in a way that his commanders receiving the orders would be able to do something with them quickly. The new guy couldn't do this, with the result being apparent.

LightSpectra
Jan 20, 2010, 01:05 PM
You missed a point #3 there; but nevertheless I blame nobody but Napoleon for #2, 4 and 6. Being that he was the author of both France's strategic plan and was the general who decided to engage at Waterloo, he should've known better.

Cynovolans
Jan 20, 2010, 01:42 PM
May I suggest that we include a woman in the honorable mentions? Maybe, Princess Pingyang, who assisted her father in overthrowing the Sui dynasty and establishing the Tang dynasty. She commanded an army of 70,000 men, known as the Army of the Lady, and joined her father in the campaign to capture the Sui capital Chang'an. She died in 623, and her father arranged a general's funeral for her.

Aegis
Jan 20, 2010, 02:52 PM
Anyone heard of Admiral Yi Sun-sin? Defeated a 300-ship Japanese fleet with only 13 ships. Japanese soldiers were highly experienced and had perfect organization coming out from almost a hundred years of Sengoku (warring states). To defeat that kind of force with a formerly ragtag fleet of badly damaged Korean troops is nothing short of a miracle.


According to the wiki on him, it was 13 v 133 warships & 200 logistical ships, still impressive.

It goes on to list the Korean ships being capable of carrying 20 cannons, while the Japanese could only carry 1-2 at most, having sturdier hulls, better offensive vantage points and more maneuverability than their Japanese counterparts. In that light, victory was not so far-fetched.

He was still a very skilled Admiral, using superior tactics & strategy (using the tide to his advantage and kiting the enemy ships, for example).

LightSpectra
Jan 20, 2010, 02:54 PM
May I suggest that we include a woman in the honorable mentions? Maybe, Princess Pingyang, who assisted her father in overthrowing the Sui dynasty and establishing the Tang dynasty. She commanded an army of 70,000 men, known as the Army of the Lady, and joined her father in the campaign to capture the Sui capital Chang'an. She died in 623, and her father arranged a general's funeral for her.

Also, St. Jeanne d'Arc, the uneducated, undefeated teenage peasant girl that routed the armies who conquered half of France.

Cynovolans
Jan 20, 2010, 03:10 PM
Also, St. Jeanne d'Arc, the uneducated, undefeated teenage peasant girl that routed the armies who conquered half of France.

I don't think people question how involved Pingyang was with her army. She wasn't a figurehead placed to inspire the army like some claim Joan was. The Army of the Lady was Pingyang's own personal army which she and no one else commanded.

LightSpectra
Jan 20, 2010, 03:13 PM
Let's not get into an argument as to who was better, shall we? No historical source I know of considers Jeanne to be a "pure figurehead." Most of them report that she had a keen eye for both strategic goals and tactical solutions.

Omega124
Jan 20, 2010, 03:38 PM
My Top 10.

1. Alexander
2. Napoleon (Before Moscow)
3. Eisenhower
4. Julius
5. Washington
6. G. Khan
7. Wolfe
8. Rommel
9. Saladin
10. Sitting Bull

vogtmurr
Jan 20, 2010, 05:26 PM
There are just a few women I've identified and among them Jeanne d'Arc rises to the top. Whether her influence was inspirational or tactical it resulted in victory in one of history's decisive battles, completely reversing a long trend and likely saving a nation-state. I had heard of this princess Pingyang before but forgotten the name, so thanks for that; I will do some research on her.

Phrossack
Jan 20, 2010, 05:57 PM
My vote goes to Khalid ibn al-Walid. His endless and decisive victories against superior numbers brought the hitherto insignificant Arabs to the fore.

privatehudson
Jan 21, 2010, 11:15 AM
First, Napoleon wasn't even able to see most of the battle from where he was located, so he was giving orders based purely on intelligence reports and runners. Ney was really the "consigliere," if you follow my meaning, as he was there on the field. It was to French detriment that he did not exercise discretion when following Napoleon's orders, and simply that he was not quite the commander that Bonaparte was.

Well the position was his choice, Wellington spent most of the battle where he was needed the most and it paid off. Ney's performance wasn't exactly bad as such but you do have to wonder why Napoleon left him with such a degree of freedom when Ney had already underperformed in the eyes of Napoleon two days before.

Sixth; I'm the sketchiest on this one. I remember reading that Napoleon had a different aid for this battle than for previous ones, and the old one was a sort of unnamed hero in that he could take Napoelon's sometimes complicated orders and make sense of them in a way that his commanders receiving the orders would be able to do something with them quickly. The new guy couldn't do this, with the result being apparent.

Not an aide as such but his Chief of Staff from Italy to the first abdication, Marshal Berthier. On Napoleon's return he did not rally to the cause and moved to Bamberg where he died in June 1815. His role was taken up by Soult who would have been much better suited to Ney or Grouchy's role. He may well have contributed to the confusion experienced by both Ney and Grouchy but Napoleon didn't help matters either, especially since Napoleon chose to put him in that position in the first place despite knowing his lack of experience in such a role.

Second, Bluecher's ability to be defeated on day 1, withdraw along his lines of supply, and put back into the field in only 48 hours was nothing short of a miracle (and something the legends about the Prussian Academy are made of), and Third, he did so at the most undesirable moment possible for the French, while in the height of the assault proper on the British line.

Credit has to go to Blucher and the Prussian staff officers but Napoleon mostly and Grouchy partly have to shoulder the blame for the lack of pursuit after Wagram. The delay in doing so not only made it easier for Blucher (although not easy, it was as you say a feat) it made it a damn sight harder for Grouchy to interpose his small command between the Allied forces and make the Prussians fight through him to reach the Anglo-Dutch.

Fifth, the French infantry assault was just plain odd. The idea (D'Erlon's) was to present a larger front per battalion to allow them to concentrate their fire against British units, who had a reputation of using high-volume, short-range musket fire to drive away infantry columns (I imagine this is a sort of "don't shoot until you see the white of their eyes" type of thing, but in reality I don't quite understand fully what it means, just what the books say); the problem with this being that it left essentially no way to alter formation or really to maneuver, which proved disastrous.

Its hard to generalise what British infantry musketry tactics were but some of its hallmarks were a coolness and discipline which allowed for close range volleys and platoon firing where each platoon fires one after the other in succession until by the time the last fires the first has reloaded giving the impression of a constant rolling volley. Given the small size of the army and relative wealth of the country I believe we also tended to allow a recruit the chance to fire more practice rounds in training than some armies as well. I believe there is some debate about just how much more effective it was than other infantry though, usually amongst wargamers who argue about whether British troops should get a bonus or not.

Dachs
Jan 21, 2010, 12:40 PM
Credit has to go to Blucher and the Prussian staff officers but Napoleon mostly and Grouchy partly have to shoulder the blame for the lack of pursuit after Wagram.
Superlative post, but did you mean Wavre here, not Wagram? :)

privatehudson
Jan 21, 2010, 01:24 PM
Superlative post, but did you mean Wavre here, not Wagram? :)

Oops :D

Yes I did mean Wavre.

Del Pino
Jan 23, 2010, 07:51 PM
Francisco Pizzaro - with about 150 other men, he conquered an empire of 6 million.

LightSpectra
Jan 23, 2010, 07:55 PM
First of all, those numbers are... well, a bit off.

Secondly, this was moreso by political maneuvering than strategic genius. It's not as if you could give Pizarro the same 150 men and he'd conquer Western Europe.

mpescatori
Jan 25, 2010, 07:57 AM
First of all, those numbers are... well, a bit off.

Secondly, this was moreso by political maneuvering than strategic genius. It's not as if you could give Pizarro the same 150 men and he'd conquer Western Europe.

I'm sorry but I could never accept Pizarro as a "Great General". He was nothing short of a scoundrel, and little more than a mercenary.

Pizarro plundered and looted and made promises he knew he would never keep.

Pizarro made the best he could of an Inca religious prophecy that specified "the Gods with white faces and beards and shiny dress" would return to rule the world...
...so the Inca (the Emperor) and his people did their best to make them happy, until it was too late.

The Inca Atahualpa even converted to Christianity, only to be sentenced to death that very day.

If someday a girlie-looking guy came to you, long blond hair, fluffy pigeon's wings and all that, and declared he was there as an Angel of the Lord, would you do everything and anything he said ?
Even if it turned out he was actually a flesh-eating alien from another planet ?

Before you reply, think in technological terms, crossing the oceans in 16th century was as close to space travel as you can today.

Dachs
Jan 25, 2010, 09:11 PM
Scoundrels and mercs can make good war-leaders. Just look at Brett Favre, Han Solo, Kassandros, and Benedict Arnold.

mpescatori
Jan 26, 2010, 01:55 AM
Scoundrels and mercs can make good war-leaders. Just look at Brett Favre, Han Solo, Kassandros, and Benedict Arnold.

OK, don't want to get into an argument here, but :

the only Brett Favre I found via Google is (was) an Americal Football player (I'd like to see him play a full game of Rugby, or run the full 90' of an Association Football match - then we can discuss about sports !)
Han Solo is the mercenary form the Sci-Fi film Star Wars - imaginary, doesn't count;
Kassandros - I read of his feats, but they are no better, no worse than those of many US Cavalry Colonels who murdered American Indians by the hundred-score.
Benedict Arnold ? Really, you consider him worthy of mention ? :mischief: Which one are you talking about, the American traitor or the British general ?

Masada
Jan 26, 2010, 03:55 AM
Pizzaro falls into the upper echelons of raubwirtschaft practitioners and not into that of the 'great military leader', even so, I wouldn't denigrate his capabilities. He managed against all possible imaginings to conquer a state which nobody would have picked to lose.

Pizarro plundered and looted and made promises he knew he would never keep.

That describes just about everyone from Alexander to Genghis Khan. If its some kind of character aspersion then I accept it, however I don't see how it has any bearings on his abilities on the battlefield. Anymore than anyone of the innumerable historical generals who practiced pillage and plunder while on campaign.

Pizarro made the best he could of an Inca religious prophecy that specified "the Gods with white faces and beards and shiny dress" would return to rule the world...

That he could exploit it successfully is in itself quite impressive and not really all that different to the myriad of rulers/generals who have consciously cultivated an image and played on the resulting mystique.

...so the Inca (the Emperor) and his people did their best to make them happy, until it was too late.

Sure, Pizarro also managed to rout vastly numerical superior forces once that welcome wore out.

# Benedict Arnold ? Really, you consider him worthy of mention ? Which one are you talking about, the American traitor or the British general ?

Normative judgments are so droll.

Dachs
Jan 26, 2010, 09:27 AM
OK, don't want to get into an argument here, but :
But arguments are fun! And they inflate postcount.
the only Brett Favre I found via Google is (was) an Americal Football player
That was a tongue-in-cheek response made for lulz (and timely as well!) but yes, that is indeed the Brett Favre I was thinking about.
(I'd like to see him play a full game of Rugby, or run the full 90' of an Association Football match - then we can discuss about sports !)
Usual asinine European penis-contest. Don't denigrate the achievements of players solely based on the sport they're playing (unless the sport is, say, baseball). In the last game the man played, he took innumerable hits full-on from 300+ pound men, seriously hurt his ankle, yet managed to stay in the game and throw pretty good passes right up to the end. (Except that last one. Not that I'm complaining. :D) It's a physical effort unlike anything a rugby or soccer player would have to deal with, not in terms of greater or lesser intensity, it's just different. I could just as easily claim that soccer players are wusses and not worthy of comparison until they play a few quarters on an offensive line, or that they are all dandified idiotic pretty boys without any sort of tactical mind to the lot, much less any physical power or stamina, unless they can successfully quarterback a football team to victory.
Han Solo is the mercenary form the Sci-Fi film Star Wars - imaginary, doesn't count;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humour#Understanding_humour
Kassandros - I read of his feats, but they are no better, no worse than those of many US Cavalry Colonels who murdered American Indians by the hundred-score.
Yeah totally, those US cavalry colonels were all totally capable of conquering the heartland of the largest and most powerful empire in the world with what started out as a token force, maintaining their hold on power despite repeated rebellions and counterattacks from foes and former allies, successfully warding off massive movements of peoples, creating a viable government despite displacing the beloved and revered centuries-old dynasty that had previously obtained in the state, and all in all fighting and winning a war in which their state was totally surrounded by enemies in far greater numbers than their own forces and yet successfully facing down these challenges both external and internal before an untimely death.

:rolleyes:
Benedict Arnold ? Really, you consider him worthy of mention ? :mischief: Which one are you talking about, the American traitor or the British general ?
They were, ah, the same person. But the American traitor showed rather exceptional generalship, especially before he was a traitor; the twin battles at Saratoga were very well conducted. And then the fact that he did turn traitor showed that he was quite mercenary and amoral.

LightSpectra
Jan 26, 2010, 10:00 AM
That describes just about everyone from Alexander to Genghis Khan. If its some kind of character aspersion then I accept it, however I don't see how it has any bearings on his abilities on the battlefield. Anymore than anyone of the innumerable historical generals who practiced pillage and plunder while on campaign.

Makes me wonder, then, who would be the most chivalrous general in history -- one that went out of his way, or indeed even to his own disadvantage, to avoid any sort of dishonesty, harm to civilians or other dishonorable conduct -- and yet was still (mostly) successful.

Lee and Rommel come to mind but they both fought for indisputably wicked causes, even if they themselves were just commanders.

Dachs
Jan 26, 2010, 11:14 AM
Eumenes fits the bill :mischief:

Cheezy the Wiz
Jan 26, 2010, 11:41 AM
Salah Ad-Din does as well.

Dachs
Jan 26, 2010, 12:57 PM
Only when Christians were involved and only when tolerance would serve his political purposes better than execution would (as in the case of Renaud de Châtillon). He didn't quite have the same record against opponents in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. Dude was one of the smoothest political operators in history.

vogtmurr
Jan 26, 2010, 02:05 PM
My own conclusion is that unnecessary collateral damage and wanton acts of terror will detract from their rating, because usually such leaders were universally reviled, and it ended up working against them or their progeny, not to mention the (lack of) cultural legacy. However, if they were still successful to a large degree, nonetheless they will rise in stature on this subjective scale vs. other 'good' generals. But making a blanket statement that they all practised this to some degree ignores the very obvious and subtle differences in what, why and how they did it - it's largely a matter of degree isn't it ? Plundering to feed your army or deny supplies to the enemy may be a sheer necessity of survival. Considering the names that have been mentioned here:

- Pizarro: definitely got some major bad raps going against him - even Cortes appears in a much better light by comparison, whose enemies were not exactly an enlightened beacon of civilization. Nonetheless, Pizarro's numbers were miniscule, his challenge even to get there daunting, and his audacity bordering on insanity. He at least merits some analysis don't you think ?
- Kassandros, successful ruthless political opportunist, but what else makes him great on this scale ?
- Benedict Arnold, there is some bias on the issue of him becoming a turncoat, but dishonesty to his own beliefs is what materially affects the rating in my opinion. If a turncoat chose the path that he believed in or felt some justification for, and otherwise acted honorably, then he may not have a stellar legacy but otherwise is OK. Louis II de Bourbon, the Conde, comes to mind. Even Prinz Eugen is a borderline example. In Arnold's case I think he realized his mistake, and in the end was much unhappier for it than he was before.
- Saladin was a great leader without the atrocities of say, a Baibars, but it often seems that certain leaders' presumed humanity or magnanimity gets overstated. The testament of the refugees who fled Jerusalem and other cities after supposedly being ransomed would say otherwise, though this may not be directly attributable to him. 'Rivers of Blood' flowed in Khalid's legendary conquests as well. For his time and place, Saladin's conduct was certainly above average, and was duly noted by Christian chroniclers at the time, which in itself is remarkable.

The concept of chivalry and magnanimity is very interesting indeed. It's apparent absence from some cultures in certain timeframes has to be considered when assessing these leaders. But when it truly happens, it takes on legendary proportions in our own time.

LightSpectra
Jan 26, 2010, 02:27 PM
My own conclusion is that unnecessary collateral damage and wanton acts of terror will detract from their rating, because usually such leaders were universally reviled, and it ended up working against them or their progeny, not to mention the (lack of) cultural legacy.

Not always. Alexander the Great was about two steps removed from barbarism, yet nobody would deny his cultural legacy and battlefield prowess.

Quackers
Jan 26, 2010, 03:20 PM
Cromwell was a good leader right? Anybody got any thoughts on him?

LightSpectra
Jan 26, 2010, 03:39 PM
Cromwell was a good leader right? Anybody got any thoughts on him?

An utterly vicious man that happened upon military success because he was intelligent enough to copy Gustavus Adolphus's model, whereas the Royalist side did not. Other than that insight he was not particularly notable.

vogtmurr
Jan 26, 2010, 03:59 PM
Not always. Alexander the Great was about two steps removed from barbarism, yet nobody would deny his cultural legacy and battlefield prowess.

I'm aware that mercy wasn't always his trademark - but there were notable examples of magnanimity and respect for his enemies and their legacy, that offset some of the bad episodes. But anyways, even Tamerlane and Genghis require mention for the sum total of their careers, its just that their rating is a little....skewed.

Masada
Jan 26, 2010, 06:53 PM
I'm nominating Belisarius.

Cheezy the Wiz
Jan 26, 2010, 07:12 PM
Cromwell was a good leader right? Anybody got any thoughts on him?

I'm sure the half of the Irish population he genocided would beg to differ.

An utterly vicious man that happened upon military success because he was intelligent enough to copy Gustavus Adolphus's model, whereas the Royalist side did not. Other than that insight he was not particularly notable.

Well to be fair, the Cavaliers tried, they just really really sucked at it.

Dachs
Jan 27, 2010, 02:54 AM
- Kassandros, successful ruthless political opportunist, but what else makes him great on this scale ?
On this scale...OH you think I'm answering the OP question. No no no no I'm just needling mpescatori. If I had any inclination left to seriously try to pick a top ten (I don't), Kassandros Antipatrou would not be on the shortlist. But he was a scoundrel, he was a mercenary, and he was a "Great General".

vogtmurr
Jan 27, 2010, 10:31 AM
On this scale...OH you think I'm answering the OP question. No no no no I'm just needling mpescatori. If I had any inclination left to seriously try to pick a top ten (I don't), Kassandros Antipatrou would not be on the shortlist. But he was a scoundrel, he was a mercenary, and he was a "Great General".

Actually, I questioned Cassander before I saw this:


....conquering the heartland of the largest and most powerful empire in the world with what started out as a token force, maintaining their hold on power despite repeated rebellions and counterattacks from foes and former allies, successfully warding off massive movements of peoples, creating a viable government despite displacing the beloved and revered centuries-old dynasty that had previously obtained in the state, and all in all fighting and winning a war in which their state was totally surrounded by enemies in far greater numbers than their own forces and yet successfully facing down these challenges both external and internal before an untimely death.


So he must have done a few things right. You don't see his name much in a 'list of battles'. Most passing references speak only of his infanticide and pathological envy of Alexander's legacy, which he felt should have been Antipater's, and his by birthright.

rollo1066
Jan 27, 2010, 09:54 PM
My top 5 are Gengis Khan, Alexander the Great, Sun Tzu, Julius Ceasar & Napoleon in that order. For size on conquests and never being defeated the first two are in mho the clear top 2. I gave Gengis the edge because he accomplished Aexanders feats and those of his father Philip who gave Alex a very solid start on the road to greatness. Sun Tzu has to be here for being the author of both the oldest known and probably best book on military strategy. I rant Ceasar a little lower because he came closer to defeat in Gaul than the others. Napoleon was defeated in the end but given the resources he had and the number of enemies deserves to be #5 in my opinion. It would be easy to argue I overrated him.

vogtmurr
Jan 27, 2010, 10:22 PM
When it comes to Genghis (or maybe more appropriately his most prolific general Subutai, who went on conquering for 30 odd more years after his death), it comes down to what your personal subjective rating scale is. Even objectively, I'm not sure Genghis won more battles or killed more soldiers (not counting civilians) in proportion to the size of his army than some of the others. I actually rate Napoleon and Caesar as roughly equivalent - even though Caesar won his wars in the end. Sun Tzu's authorship of what makes up the Art of War is disputed, and other renowned military theorists don't even merit mention in a list of great military leaders. What about Hannibal ?

Cynovolans
Jan 28, 2010, 02:17 PM
I've always thought Genghis Khan did better in politics and uniting mongol-turkic tribes than fighting wars. I don't think he was such a warmonger as his descendents, or at least the ones that sacked the middle east.

Phrossack
Jan 28, 2010, 02:34 PM
He was best at nomad tribal politics, but it should be noted that the only battles Chinggis Khan personally lost were early in his career to the very man who taught him how to wage war, his blood brother Jamukha, and he eventually won anyway.

say1988
Jan 28, 2010, 04:04 PM
Which one are you talking about, the American traitor or the British general ?
Unlike those traitors Washington, or Hancock, etc... Don't forget that taking arms against the government or supporting those who do is treason.

As for "atrocities" I would say they have to be judged based on their time period. I would have higher expectations for a 20th century general than one from the middle ages.

rollo1066
Jan 28, 2010, 09:50 PM
I'll admit Hannible is a good canidate to join the top 5. I certainly think he's in top 10. I think he and Nappy are real close. One reason why I ranked Nappy higher was that Carthage fell about 55 years after Hannibles defeat and never recovered while France is still a major world nation (although not a powerfull relative to others as durring the periods of Napoleon or Louis XIV).

Masada
Jan 28, 2010, 11:22 PM
I'll admit Hannible is a good canidate to join the top 5. I certainly think he's in top 10. I think he and Nappy are real close. One reason why I ranked Nappy higher was that Carthage fell about 55 years after Hannibles defeat and never recovered while France is still a major world nation (although not a powerfull relative to others as durring the periods of Napoleon or Louis XIV).

Totally different stakes then and now.

vogtmurr
Jan 30, 2010, 03:11 AM
I've always thought Genghis Khan did better in politics and uniting mongol-turkic tribes than fighting wars. I don't think he was such a warmonger as his descendents, or at least the ones that sacked the middle east.

I like the first part of that; his long rise to power, astute politics and daring escapes. Also a visionary who turned their tribal society into an empire. but actually it was Genghis' orders to massacre civilians who opened the gates of many cities, and lay waste Khwarezmia, in a manner shocking to his soldiers. It was a legacy they carried on for some time after. Like the empire Bai Qi built for Qin, it wasn't meant to last long.

vogtmurr
Jan 30, 2010, 03:12 AM
I'll admit Hannible is a good canidate to join the top 5.

'Hannible the Cannible', or Hannibal ? lol

storealex
Jan 31, 2010, 04:54 AM
I'd put Napoleon very high. He beat all the major powers of Europe time after time, and only got beaten by their combined effords. Though I admit he made several bad mistakes after Eylau, but even then he did fight some very impressive campagins.

vogtmurr
Feb 17, 2010, 06:43 PM
So I have a question; Alexander Suvorov. Successful, unconventional, maybe heroic; but what achievements of his elevate him above other generals of the day ? Yes he had a fairly long career with some highlights, but most of his victories were against a Turkey already in decline, and Polish nationalists, aside from a brief spell in northern Italy against the French Directorate. He's good, but I wouldn't rate him higher than say Cromwell, who with little formal training and experience, forged a modern army capable of handily beating well-trained Royalist armies in equal force, and Scottish Covenanters in much superior force.

Dachs
Feb 17, 2010, 06:45 PM
That "Turkey already in decline" wasn't actually already in decline. It's amazing how willing people are to give the Ottoman Empire and its military short shrift.

vogtmurr
Feb 17, 2010, 07:06 PM
Well maybe we take it for granted that it was due to leaders like Suvorov who won, but it seems even their 2nd high water mark in 1683 was really beyond Turkey's capabilities. They'd already been badly worsted by Jan Sobieski on a number of occasions, and their record since then was an almost uninterrupted succession of major defeats. Not to mention the obvious weakness of the Sultans by this time, raised in virtual isolation through fratricide and harem intrigues, to be given absolute power. The janizaries could not be trusted to obey them anymore.

Dachs
Feb 17, 2010, 07:24 PM
Well maybe we take it for granted that it was due to leaders like Suvorov who won, but it seems even their 2nd high water mark in 1683 was really beyond Turkey's capabilities. They'd already been badly worsted by Jan Sobieski on a number of occasions, and their record since then was an almost uninterrupted succession of major defeats. Not to mention the obvious weakness of the Sultans by this time, raised in virtual isolation through fratricide and harem intrigues, to be given absolute power. The janizaries could not be trusted to obey them anymore.
Well maybe we take it for granted that it was due to leaders like von Rundstedt who defeated France, but it seems even their 2nd high water mark in 1811 was really beyond France's capabilities. They'd already been badly worsted by the duke of Wellington on a number of occasions, and their record since then was an almost uninterrupted succession of major defeats. Not to mention the obvious weakness of the Republic by this time, dominated by constant squabbling between the extreme Right and extreme Left with the Center more or less destroyed. The military could not be trusted to obey it anymore.

vogtmurr
Feb 17, 2010, 08:47 PM
lol.
That's a clever analogy but I must be missing the parallel with the reality of Turkey's quite decadent despotism by the mid 18th century, in the 50 or 60 years after 2nd Mohacz. Were they still a strong army capable of facing European arms on equal terms ? France at least enjoyed periods of great prestige in the 130 year gap you mentioned; such as Napoleon III's intervention in the Wars of Italian Independence, and Crimean War. Now if you were to make that statement in 1871....
Anyway - what else is it about Suvorov that sets him apart ?

Dachs
Feb 17, 2010, 08:53 PM
lol.
That's a clever analogy but I must be missing the parallel with the reality of Turkey's quite decadent despotism by the mid 18th century, in the 50 or 60 years after 2nd Mohacz.
It wasn't despotism, it was quite clearly a period dominated by landed aristocracy. And "decadent" is a word used to describe food, and is almost always a meaningless pejorative when used to describe historical situations.
Were they still a strong army capable of facing European arms on equal terms ?
I hear they did a number on Austria and Russia combined once. Pretty cool stuff actually. Recaptured Belgrade and everything.
France at least enjoyed periods of great prestige in the 130 year gap you mentioned; such as Napoleon III's intervention in the Wars of Italian Independence, and Crimean War. Now if you were to make that statement in 1871....
The Ottomans did, too, being one of the largest states in Europe with a vast amount of wealth and manpower.

ParkCungHee
Feb 17, 2010, 11:03 PM
They also did quite a bit more to stop that Napoleon fellow then they are usual given credit for.

Cheezy the Wiz
Feb 18, 2010, 06:30 AM
I hear they did a number on Austria and Russia combined once. Pretty cool stuff actually. Recaptured Belgrade and everything.

And then there was that little number at Plevna, which was decidedly unequal terms.

Dachs
Feb 18, 2010, 08:04 AM
And then there was that little number at Plevna, which was decidedly unequal terms.
Yeah but that's not really Suvorov-era.

Cheezy the Wiz
Feb 18, 2010, 08:42 AM
I thought the discussion had switched to more general late-Ottoman Empire vs. Europe.

vogtmurr
Feb 18, 2010, 08:34 PM
I thought the discussion had switched to more general late-Ottoman Empire vs. Europe.

Plevna was impressive. I was most interested in the state of Ottoman armies in the mid-late 18th Cent, especially in relation to Suvorov. It was my impression the state of Turkish Sultans in the era of interest was decidedly disfunctional, but the worst seeds of decay, by whatever description we want to call it, happened in the century before. 8 out of 12 reigning Turkish Sultans between 1600 and 1730 were deposed and/or assassinated.

Yeekim
Mar 01, 2010, 02:54 AM
To suitably finish the thread:
Out of two idiotic generals, one shall eventually win a given conflict and be hailed as a military genius.