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Famously Mmediocre Generals

Discussion in 'World History' started by onejayhawk, Jul 6, 2007.

  1. onejayhawk

    onejayhawk Afflicted with reason

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    Of course they have to be winning Generals. Zhukov and Grant spring immediately to mind. There are others. The point is that they defeated better regarded Generals, or Armies, in a long campaign.

    Is the Label a bad rap? Do we discount them unfairly because they were very direct in their approach? Or are these simply sluggers with enough brains to close on a lighter opponent?

    J
     
  2. Adler17

    Adler17 Prussian Feldmarschall

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    Monty and also Nelson (although an admiral) are also meidocore at best.

    Adler
     
  3. Dame Edna

    Dame Edna Prince

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    Monty was, perhaps, overly cautious, but Nelson was a brilliant and courageous military leader.
     
  4. Case

    Case The horror, the horror

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    Since when is Grant mediocre? He was probably the best general to have served in the Western Theatre of the Civil War, his leadership of the Army of the Potomac was generally pretty good - Cold Harbour excepted - and he was a roaring success as supreme commander of the US Army. It's hardly his fault that the weapons technology of the day meant that attacking a well prepared and competent enemy was always costly - I believe that Lee's forces suffered equally high casualties when they went on the offensive.

    Nelson! Are you serious? He's generally regarded as being one of the greatest military leaders of all time. His combat record is nothing short of amazing (eg, repeatedly defeating larger fleets through the application of bold strategies) and he was an excellent administrator. He also proved himself to be an excellent diplomat and theatre commander during his time as commander of the Mediterranean Fleet.
     
  5. GinandTonic

    GinandTonic Saphire w/ Schweps + Lime

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    Please illuminate us as to why the rest of the world's assesment of Nelson is so far off the mark.
     
  6. Azale

    Azale Deity

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    Grant just threw his superior numbers at the Confederacy and employed the obvious strategies of the day. It's that his predecessors were so awful that he even became the head man, not that he was anything special.
     
  7. privatehudson

    privatehudson The Ultimate Badass

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    I can't believe anyone could call Nelson mediocre whilst keeping a straight face. Is it the German equivalent of April Fools day or something? :D

    I don't believe Grant was mediocre either, Case has done a good outline already, but I'd also add that Grant possessed what so many of Union commanders lacked, the confidence, ability and will to see the war through to the end regardless of the necessary cost. Too many of his fellow commanders fell back after minor reverses, or horded their commands, reluctant to risk their reputations or the lives of their men. Little Mac may have been popular with the soldiers, but proved utterly incapable of fighting agressive campaigns. Hooker may have been a good administrator but he coped badly under pressure when it mattered. In Grant Lincoln found the general who would finish the war, if he made mistakes along the way it would still be much better than what came beforehand.

    That certainly doesn't mean he was either a strategic or tactical genius but he was certainly better than mediocre.
     
  8. BEHIND_THE_MASK

    BEHIND_THE_MASK A Liar... A Cheat...

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    Suleiman The Magnificent I feel doesn't get enough credit... He brought the Ottomans into their golden age, took over most of the Balkans and much of African and for the most part was a great general/sultan.
     
  9. Case

    Case The horror, the horror

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    So you mean that he effectively used the advantages in numbers and firepower his Armies typically enjoyed? (which were, to a large degree, due to his ability to supply his forces and concentrate them at the right point at the right time).

    No, he was apointed to the supreme command of the Army on the basis of his excellent record in the Western Theatre.

    Yeah, exactly. There was no way to win campaigns in the Civil War-era without taking heavy casualties. Lee understood this, and his Army also suffered terrible rates of casualties. Anyway, I'd argue that Grant has gotten a bad rap over the number of casualties he took - this seems to stem purely from the Overland Campaign of 1864. He was actually pretty careful to minimise casualties and tried to avoid attacking fixed positions - even the costly Overland Campaign was essentially a manoeuvre campaign. It's also notable that during this campaign Lee's Army, while on the defensive, suffered higher losses in percentage terms.

    I'd also argue that a willingness to run risks and learn from mistakes is the mark of a great general, and not a mediocre one as seems to be being argued here. Both Grant and Montgomery accepted risk and adjusted their plans when things went wrong (Monty did himself a great disservice by denying this, when his record as a general shows many instances where he successfully redrew his plans halfway through battles in which his forces were bogged down - eg El Alemain and Normandy).
     
  10. nonconformist

    nonconformist Miserable

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    I'm not sure if Zhukov was that much a bad commander comsidering what he had to work with, but no in the same class as Chuikov or Rodimtsev.
    The thing about Zhukov is he was one of the vrery few people with balls to tell Stalin things straight, and one of the fewer to come out of it.


    I think Paulus was pretty mediocre as a commander, and Rommel is generally retty overrated.
     
  11. Azale

    Azale Deity

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    So in essence, by winning the war, Grant obviously isnt "mediocre". He just never really seemed that great either :p
     
  12. sydhe

    sydhe King of Kongs

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    Meade impresses me as being mediocre, although he did have that one famous battle.

    Attila the Hun is pretty overrated. (The Mongol leaders, on the other hand, were first-rate generals.)

    Mao Tse-Tung. Fortunately, Chiang Kai-Shek was much worse, and corrupt to boot.
     
  13. Hornblower

    Hornblower Cry Havoc!

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    EISENHOWER

    I rate him as over-cautious. Defence is not always the best way but under his leadership things took far to long. Even longer than a cautious defensive campaign should have taken. He didn't seem to possess that unique quality to read the terrain or an unfolding battle like Rommel or Patton. It is true that his troops were underprepared and poorly kitted out in comparison to the Germans but he had so many resources on hand he should have pushed much harder.

    He was fortunate to be very ably supported by some very canny Generals. Patton, Bradley, Cota and even Montgomery (though another proponent of exceptionally long buildups). His airforce advisors were also saviours, guys like Bomber Harris and Spaatz.

    I think without the patronage of George C Marshall back in Washington he would not have gotten the top job after Nth Africa and most certainly not after Anzio.

    He was also very lucky that he had the industrial might of the US behind him.
     
  14. Case

    Case The horror, the horror

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    He didn't need to: he was a theatre commander. His job was to set strategic priorities, and not manage battles.

    I don't think that he had anything to do with Anzio as he was in England at the time as commander of the Allied forces preparing for the invasion of France.
     
  15. Adler17

    Adler17 Prussian Feldmarschall

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    If you read more about Nelson you find his actions more lucky than skilled. I do not have the time to explain that further right now. But in contrast of popular believe he had much more luck than skills (well for his battles. Having lost his arm and later his life in battle is also not so lucky).

    Adler
     
  16. Verbose

    Verbose Deity

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    Err... British naval officer, coming up the ranks (started as an Ordinary Seaman), long and distinguished career, NOT getting himself killed early in the process; I'd consider anyone like that quite a lucky fellow, whatever bits and pieces were lopped off in the process. Probably very competent to.;)
     
  17. Hornblower

    Hornblower Cry Havoc!

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    It is true that he set the strategic priorities but he did far more than that. Eisenhower rewrote the entire invasion plan. He set the priorities once the men were on the beach and approved every single offensive. After the success of D-day the next 2 offensives failed and thereafter every offensive he conducted was only after a massive and prolonged wait. He was reluctant to push hard even when opportunities were presented to him such as crushing the Falaise pocket or keeping up across the Rhine in 44. For this reason I don't believe that he was a visionary. He was conservative.

    Eisenhower helped to develop and put in place the initial plan for Italy and appointed the commanders for the Italian invasion once he knew that he was going back to England. He actually wanted to stay and oversee it himself but was sent back at the insistance of Marshall and Churchill.
     
  18. privatehudson

    privatehudson The Ultimate Badass

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    You should really elaborate on that Adler but frankly (and this is one of the few occasions I agree with Boney) luck is one of the vital requirements of a good general. You could argue for example that Lee was lucky to face incompetent men like Pope and Burnside, or that Napoleon was lucky at Marengo. Any general or admiral can be lucky, it takes skill to take advantage of that luck.

    That's especially true when you consider the danger faced in Napoleonic naval combat. At Trafalgar for example nearly 20% of Victory's crew were either killed or wounded.
     
  19. nonconformist

    nonconformist Miserable

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    Mark Clark was pretty reputed for being useless wasn't he?
     
  20. privatehudson

    privatehudson The Ultimate Badass

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    Azale:

    I doubt very much there was that many other Union generals who were capable of devising a plan for taking Vicksburg the same way Grant did. Even Sherman had his doubts about the sanity of the plan right up until it eventually worked out (interestingly having been proved wrong Sherman wasn't too proud to admit it). Having said that however I certainly wouldn't argue that the Union was devoid of capable generals, men like Thomas, Sherman, Hancock, Reynolds and Sheridan for example.

    Uhmm Lincoln didn't fire any of his former General-in-chiefs. Winfield Scott retired, but in his short time in office did come up with the Anaconda plan, something that Grant broadly speaking used when he was in command. McClellan had the command removed from him true but it was hardly a case of being fired as Lincoln put it across as giving Mclellan time to devote his duties to the upcoming Penninsula campaign. Halleck was "kicked upstairs" to be Chief of Staff. Whilst both of the latter were cautious neither were totally incompetent, being excellent administrators. They did however lack the confidence and will Lincoln needed to finish the war, and he found that in Grant.

    Lincoln did fire commanders of the Army of the Potomac, but despite Grant spending much of the final year or more of the war with it Meade remained in command.

    Perhaps if you feel that Grant was merely adequate you can suggest ways that he could have ended the war sooner?
     

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