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Famously Mmediocre Generals

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

  1. Dame Edna

    Dame Edna Prince

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    "More luck than skills" - Copenhagen, The Nile and Trafalgar - what was lucky about those victories?

    "I do not have the time to explain" - how convenient. This is beginning to smell like a troll rather than an informed discussion about Nelson's merits as a military leader. :rolleyes:
     
  2. Case

    Case The horror, the horror

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    This criticism of Nelson is coming from the same person who likes to argue that the German Army could have still won the war in May 1945 ;)
     
  3. Dame Edna

    Dame Edna Prince

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    That would be because of all those mediocre Allied Generals. :lol:
     
  4. Sofista

    Sofista card-carrying

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    The point is, "lucky" is the detractor's "daring".

    Nelson took risks - had to, given mere numbers in most occasions - and they paid. One could at most argue about the violation of Danish neutrality, but that's another issue entirely.
     
  5. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    On WW2 I agree that Montgomery and Zhukov were mediocre. Eisenhower is harder to tell, as others pointed out his job was not to manage the battles but rather the whole theater, and I think he did a good job at that.

    On Nelson I must echoe the others here and say he was brilliant. His career in the ultra elitist british armed forces of the time is proof enough that he was an extraordinary man.

    Grant I think was OK, he is indeed somwhat overrated but was not a bad general at all. To call him good is more appropriate than mediocre.
     
  6. onejayhawk

    onejayhawk Afflicted with reason

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    Luck that consistent is rarely luck. His breakout of the harbor, which led to the battle of Trafalgar defied every conventional wisdom in the book. Given the result, that tends more toward genius than fortune.

    In any event, Nelson is not generally perceived as mediocre, so he is not germane to this thread.

    Grant is much more the point of this thread. Many are unimpressed with his winning the war, considering how he had the big, well fed army, and Lee had grits. Cold Harbor was certainly a mark against Grant. On the other hand, he had been rocked back on his heels before, and pulled one out. Shiloh comes to mind. One wonders what Meade, or Hooker, would have made of the results of the first day at Shiloh (McClellan would have been in his element, ie on the defensive). Grant recognized the Hornet's nest for what it was, a bloody stalemate, and utilized the time to bring up his reinforcements. When the time came, he had whipped Sherman, the goat of the first day, back into form in the decisive attack. In Lincoln's famous words, "I can't spare this man — he fights."

    Grant had some serious body count battles. He also had some nearly bloodless ones. The Tennessee River forts were, are, textbook assaults. The campaign at Vicksburg was recognized by both sides as the key to the entire western theatre. Nor was it one lacking in subtlety, and perception. The running of the guns is one instance, and the repositioning of the crossing on the word of an escaped slave is another. The fact that it was Grant's command, at all, says volumes about how he was perceived by his superiors.

    J
     
  7. Cheezy the Wiz

    Cheezy the Wiz Socialist In A Hurry

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    Rommel, really? Didn't he and Guderian practically invent Blitzkrieg in mid-stride? As far as I know, that's THE military doctrine now.

    As for my contribution to this thread, I nominate James Abercromby. He was a British general in the French and Indian War. Abercromby was an organizational genius, and a capable tactician, but lacked the vigor to keep up the sort of campaign he needed to in northern New York, and thus was replaced by Jeoffrey Lord Amherst shortly after he stalled out in said spot.
     
  8. nonconformist

    nonconformist Miserable

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    Guderian created the doctrine, and wrote the book on it, Rommel put it into effect. Rommel was a bad logistician, wasn'ty too original, and also completely fell for the whole Pas de Calais ruse.
    He was also an ardent Nazi supporter for most of the war.

    In his defence though, he was a dynamic and charismatic guy who camped it out close to the front lines.
     
  9. Cheezy the Wiz

    Cheezy the Wiz Socialist In A Hurry

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    I read that, while they were both practicing the established doctrine of "capture the bridges so the infantry can do the REAL fighting," both Guderian and Rommel realized the potential damage they could do from their position, and basically took their orders into their own hands and set about causing as much chaos as they could, creating blitzkrieg right there in the middle of the Fall Gelb. Rommel was so far out of radio contact, no one knew where the hell he was.

    I'm not too intimate with his tactics, so I'll trust you're right in that regard.

    True, but Zhukov was a Communist, and Wolfe a monarchist; I don't see what his political affiliation has to do with it.


    Actions like that you can't help but to admire.
     
  10. Kan' Sharuminar

    Kan' Sharuminar Fluffy

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    I was about to ask what that ruse was, but stopped myself. Would have been exceptionally embarrassing :blush:

    I think a lot of Rommel's reputation comes from the fact he is generally believed to be anti-Nazi, and a genuine equal to the Allied forces against him. It gives him a romantic quality and makes him worthy adversary to historians, whereas the automatic reaction if he were a Nazi would be 'another evil enemy to conquer.'
     
  11. Nylan

    Nylan Characters Welcome

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    "Lesser general that defeated a greater one in the end of a long campaign". Following this description, I may be so bold as to say the Duke of Wellington.

    However, he is most definately not mediocre, so please don't hurt me. ;)
     
  12. luiz

    luiz Trendy Revolutionary

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    Napoleon was certainly a more interesting general than the defense-minded Wellesley, but that doesn't make him necessarily better.

    Wellesley knew how to play his cards exceptionally well.
     
  13. sydhe

    sydhe King of Kongs

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    A good example of a lesser general defeating a better is Liu Bang's victory over Hsiang Yu. Hsiang Yu was a better battle commander but he had a gift for alienating people off the battlefield. He kept beating Liu Bang's armies, but Liu Bang was always able to raise another army and finally won a battle (Kai-Shia) where he had a three-to-one advantage.

    Liu Bang also had an advantage himself. He had the loyalty of a a lot of other good generals, and they were able to beat Hsiang Yu's other armies. That's why Hsiang Yu was outnumbered three-to-one in the first place.

    I think of Liu Bang (the founder of the Han Dynasty) as sort of a Chinese Augustus Caesar.
     
  14. Hornblower

    Hornblower Cry Havoc!

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    I'm disappointed that there are detractors of Nelson when there is no evidence to point to anything but brilliance.
    The fact that he was obtuse, insubordinate, a social pariah for his very public ****olding of his friend's wife and of low social standing only serves to indicate that the man became famous for being an absolutely outstanding mariner.
    You don't manage to join the Royal Navy of the 1780's (from before the mast)and pass the examination for Lieutenant without being pretty damn good. That in itself was amazing. The fact that he then went on to win his own command was again something special. The Admiralty didn't just hand out ships to anyone. In fact most Post Captains won their appointments through serious influence from titled benefactors. Nelson had no such sponsors.
    For Nelson to then distinguish himself in numerous battles prior to the famous Nile victory is again a mark of his vigour and prowess.
    As for his three famous battles, Nile, Copenhagen and Trafalgar... well they essentially revolutionised war at sea in the age of sail. Nelson was entirely responsible for these victories and there was not an Admiral since 1805 that has show as much innovation or merit since!
    Anybody care to dispute his mediocrity now?
     
  15. Case

    Case The horror, the horror

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    According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Nelson,_1st_Viscount_Nelson Nelson was made a midshipman (eg, a trainee officer) through family connections shortly after joining the navy, so he didn't really serve 'before the mast' and he wasn't without influential friends. However, the RN was the closest thing to a meritocracy as existed at the time, and his success was largely due to his outstanding ability.
     
  16. Agent Cooper

    Agent Cooper Lynch's Creation

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    Just wanna add some thoughts about Nelson:

    It's my understanding that he as admiral surrounded himself with very capable captains, who understood all the elements in his overall stategies and knew exactly what they had to do and when. That's an incredible important factor (often overlooked) - the ability to pick out the commanders you know can make a difference in battle.

    At Copenhagen, his bold manouvre secured him most of the Danish fleet (which was quite considerable at that time) as a prize. The bombardment of Copenhagen (civilian casualties) amongst other things aren't that pretty to look back upon, but from a military standpoint you got to admire his boldness.

    His victory at the Nile, sealed Napoleans forces in Africa and gave Boney a lot of trouble. It had a huge significance of the European landscape.

    Trafalgar - well, after that England ruled the seas for a century afterwards. The trade income from overseas made England wealthy beyond imagination.

    As someone else mentioned, luck in itself is not enough - you need to know how to make the most of the luck you are given. Your ablilities will have to do the rest. :)

    He is probably one of the greatest naval commanders of all time.

    As a sidenote - everybody interested in naval warfare who gets the chance to visit the UK, should visit Portsmouth and check out The HMS Victory. I did with my parents when I was like 16-17 years old and I will never forget that experience.

    Mediocre generals - well, perhaps some of the commanders of The Vietnam War, Afganistan War (Soviets) and the first Gulf War...
     
  17. Adler17

    Adler17 Prussian Feldmarschall

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    It seems with some I can't argue...

    Adler
     
  18. Adler17

    Adler17 Prussian Feldmarschall

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    Why I think Nelson was mediocore:

    1. Before Aboukir he drove the whloe Easter Med to search the French fleet- although she was already spotted by his ships.

    2. The battle of Aboukir was against ships lying in a harbour. The attack was also only possible because of errors of the French by deploying their ships.

    3. Copenhagen was a sneak attack against a fleet defenseless lying in harbour. They were not prepared for any fights. Also he threatened to blow up the Danish ships with their crews.

    4. Trafalgar was a battle with a French admiral why was to be released by Napoleon by the leader of the Naval Archive, Vice Admiral Rosily. Villeneuve was a man who was remarkable unable to fulfill his tasks.

    Thus I think Nelson is much overrated. OTOH some of his sub commanders are still underrated.

    Adler
     
  19. privatehudson

    privatehudson The Ultimate Badass

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    Your criticism of Nelson at the battle of the Nile totally misses the point. When he attacked the French fleet Nelson took a great risk. They may have been at anchor but he had to sail in close through shallow water and fight at night to get at them. In doing so he caught the French unprepared, chained together and unable to manouvere. Another commander would have waited for daylight to attack, or tried to engage the French in open seas. Good commanders do what they can to put their forces in the best tactical position possible for an upcoming engagement.

    Criticising Nelson for what happened at the Nile makes about as much sense as criticising Lee for splitting his army in two to defeat Pope at 2nd Bull Run.

    The Danish fleet at Copenhagen were far from "defenseless" even if they were at anchor, since some of the British ships were badly damaged and the fleet suffered over 900 casualties. Nor is attacking such a position particularly easy, especially if you don't know the area well (which the British didn't). Its easy to run aground, a fate that befell three of Nelson's ships and reduced his ships of the line stregnth by fully 25% before he began. As for threatening to "blow up" the Danish ships a more accurate statement would be that Nelson used the threat of sending in fire ships to scare the Danes into surrendering. He had every right to follow through with the threat if he felt the need since some of the ships fired on British boats approaching those ships who had struck.
     
  20. Sofista

    Sofista card-carrying

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    Every right? He was attacking neutrals, you know.
     

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