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Thread: The 10 Greatest Field Generals in History.

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    Senior Member Senior Member Kurando's Avatar
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    I've given this a considerable amount of thought and here are my picks for the ten greatest Field Generals in history.

    Keep in mind we are talking "Field Generals" here + it is possible to have a brilliant mind, yet only command a mediocre presence in the field, (such as was the case with Heinz Guderian), or conversely it is possible to have a figure like the U.S. Navy's "Bull" Halsey who was a magnificent field leader, yet was completely void of tactical/logistical foresight. (Consequently neither such individual would qualify for this list):


    1) Achilles (Greek)
    2) Patton (U.S. Army)
    3) Scipio (Roman)
    4) Shaka (Zulu)
    5) Rommel (Wermacht)
    6) Alcibiades (Greek/Athenian)
    8) Stonewall Jackson (Confederate Army)
    9) Jan III Sobieski (Poland/Lithuania)
    10) Chennault (USAAF and Flying Tigers AVG)
    [/list]


    Other noteables: "Howlin' Mad" Smith (USMC), Longstreet (Confederate Army), Michael Calvert (Chindit Rifles and SAS), and Konev (Red Army) + I am also interested in Mongol and Japanese considerations, (if anyone has any names they'd like to put forward)?

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    Member Member Tone's Avatar
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    Have to think about a list of ten. But a 1 off:
    Zhukov (Red Army)

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    Member Member candidgamera's Avatar
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    How about, at least consideration for, some of these guys were real groundbreakers too, besides being good:

    Gustavus Adolphus (Swedish, Thirty Years War).
    Kesselring (Wehrmacht, N.Africa, Italy).
    Spruance (USN-Midway).
    Julius Caesar.
    Alexander.
    Wellington.
    Lee, Grant, Sherman in their different ways.
    Frederick the Great.
    Napoleon - early on.
    Nelson.

    Vandegrift earns some mention for performance on Guadalcanal, original, unconventional defensive strategy - way ahead in air/ground coordination, pretty early.


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    Member Member Takeda Shingen's Avatar
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    Here's a few more that could be on the list.
    1.Admiral Togo(Japan)
    2.Peter the Great(Russia)
    3.Murat(France)
    4.Gengis Khan(Mongol)
    5.Takeda Shingen(Japan)
    6.Mori Motonari(Japan)
    7.William Wallace(Scotland)
    8.Davout(France)
    9.Alexander Nevsky(Russia)

    Michael

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    Senior Member Senior Member Kurando's Avatar
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    Tone;

    As brilliant as he was I wouldn't say Zukov was a "Field General" per se; a friend of mine pointed out to me that if we are talking about the truely great Russian Field Commanders we should look back to figures of earlier centuries such as: Suvorov, Kutuzov or Barcalay De Tolli.

    ..

    Thanks for the suggestions everyone + keep them coming, (it will soon be a top 100 list at this rate!)

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    Member Member Takeda Shingen's Avatar
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    Kurando about Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolli in some people's opinion those 2 were'nt that great.Most of the Russian Generals during the Napoleonic Wars were of low quality.

    Michael

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    Senior Member Senior Member Kurando's Avatar
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    Takeda Shingen;

    Interesting, maybe Didz will come and clear that up for us (he knows a great deal about the subject).

    In any event as I stated previously the contention that Kutuzov and De Tolli, receive credit was a friends contention, not mine; (know-it-all's like me can't stand to be wrong you know...)

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    Alexander III of Macedon(aka Alexander the Great)!

    How can you forget him???
    - A conclusion is simply the place where someone got tired of thinking.
    - The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.

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    Senior Member Senior Member FwSeal's Avatar
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    Davout would top my own list - he was certainly the best of Nap's marshalls (well, according to me, anyway .

    Subetai of the Mongols was also a great - and was studied by such future generals as George Patton...

    Yi Sun Shin, the great Korean admiral.

    Wellington.

    Alexander - indeed, he deserves a place on any list.

    If I had to name a samurai to the list, I'd opt for Shimazu Yoshihisa. While its hard to determine just how good individual daimyo really were, Yoshihisa's accomplishments are obvious.

    Agrippa.

    Gustavus Adolphus.

    That's not ten, but it leaves me some room to consider further...


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    i've always had the most admiration for generals who could make their footsloggers cover extraordinary distances. in descending order of quality

    1. subedai
    2. genghis
    3. davout
    4. alexander
    5. caesar
    6. hannibal
    7. napoleon
    8. suvorov
    9. nobunaga
    10. cleomenes


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    Member Member Anssi Hakkinen's Avatar
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    The concept of "field" general differs rather vastly depending on which time period we're talking about - someone like Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring would never have counted by 16th century standards. Rommel would have, however - there's this eternal debate about whether his eagerness to personally lead flanking maneuvers and such was more of a detriment than a merit, but he makes my list nevertheless. As for Guderian, don't forget his stint at commanding a Panzer Korps during the invasion of France - his drive through the French Northeaster front demonstrated that he was more than adequately able to apply his strategies in practice.

    If Oda Nobunaga really did develop the volley fire method, a century or more before it was used in Europe, he definitely deserves to be on this list (and might otherwise). Gustavus Adolphus initiated a comparable (though different) musketry revolution in Europe, and his use of cavalry and well-trained conscript troops (as opposed to mercenaries) was masterful. Those two were really quite similar.

    As for Rome, there's Caesar, Scipio, Pompey - far too many...

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    Member Member Choco's Avatar
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    Here are my top ten picks (not necessarily in order of merit)

    In other words those are the guys I WOULDN'T like to meet when playing STW

    1)Hannibal
    2)Julius Caesar
    3)Scipio
    4)Gustav Adolf
    5)Alexander
    6)The Korean Admiral Yi
    7)Oda Nobunaga
    8)Wellington
    9)Takeda Shingen
    10)Marious


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    Senior Member Senior Member Zen Blade's Avatar
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    Ok,

    now, I don't know the difference between field general, etc...
    But, good generals to me.... (taking into account the change in warfare over the centuries...) I will attempt to go from old to new. btw, I will also only have down names I know...

    Ground:

    Alexander
    Mongols (horse tactics and psychological warfare were unique, not sure who to attribute it to though)
    Napoleon (and Davout)--revolutionize warfare in the west
    Lee (not Grant b/c he was more of a blood and guts guy... willing to sacrifice more men to win a war... not much of a tactic in my opinion)
    Rommel, Zhukov, Patton (WWII ppl, don't know enough about the other names that you mentioned)--however, Zhukov really did a lot for Russia. Originally on the East front, but then went Western on Hitler's ass.. hehe

    Sea:
    Nelson
    Yamamoto (NOT given enough credit in the West, brilliant strategist and understood warfare better than any of the Japanese... that's why he was AGAINST war with the US) Only reason he lost Midway was due to Japanese mass error and US hardwork... oh, and lots of luck. I did a report on Midway, oi!


    A rather short list, mainly full of ppl whom I know. Perhaps everyone would be willing to enlighten me with regards to what their choices did?

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    Member Member Tone's Avatar
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    Kurando point taken on Zhukov, but as i admire him so much i'm going to use his early career in the East to cheat and keep him in.

    My list is chronological because I can't decide an order.

    Militades (Athens)
    Alexander (Macedonia)
    Caius Claudius Nero (Rome)
    Subedei (Mongol)
    Tamerlane (Mongol/Timurid)
    Gustavus Adolphus (Sweden)
    Wellington (Britain)
    Zhukov (Soviet)
    Koniev (Soviet)
    Patton (U.S.)

    Reasons for not including some of the others mentioned. All MHO so feel free to criticise.

    William Wallace - Take away the Hollywood fairytale and all he did was fight a small Scottish civil war then get his arse kicked by the English. Not the stuff of brilliant generals.

    Napoleon - As often a liability as an inspiration. Failed to adapt to changing tactics.

    American Civil War - Just don't know enough on the individual Generals.

    Rommel - Fighting between the desert and the sea gave little room for the brilliant manouvres he may have been capable of.

    Guderian - IMHO the best German field commander but was too often overuled by his immediate superiors and the OKH to display his true potential.

    Early Japanese - Difficult because of a lack of historical comparisons.

    Other Roman - There are so many that I restricted myself to one. Nero got it for his Metaurus campaign IMHO the single most daring and brilliant generalship of the era. (BTW this is the consul Nero circa 207 B.C. not the emperor who watched Rome burn.)

    Kurando don't know Jan III Sobieski, can you give battles and i'll check him out in the library.

    [This message has been edited by Tone (edited 04-29-2001).]

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    Member Member Irving's Avatar
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    i am more knowlegable in WWII than other conflicts, so my vote would be for Rommel, Von Runstedt, Patton and it's late so i can't think

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    Senior Member Senior Member Kurando's Avatar
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    Tone;

    Jan III Sobieski was the brilliant Polish, (and yes, I know that's a contradiction in terms...), Commander and King who lived from 1624-1696.

    His two greatest conquests were his victory over the Ottoman Turks in 1673 at Khotin, and his liberation of Vienna from the Turks in 1683. Additionally, he distinguished himself as a lesser General during the Polish-Swedish War of 1655-1660 and against the Cossacks and Tatars circa 1667.

    In addition to being a "William Wallace-esk" presence on the Field of Battle he was also a master of logistics and strategic planing and though his forces suffered some minor set backs in his Romanian Campaign, he did not lose a single battle in his distinguished military career.

    Unfortunately, as I stated previously he was not just the Commander of the Polish Forces, but also a the King and Ruler of Poland, and his lust for battle, (combined with a profound ignorance in matters domestic policy), proved to be disastrous in the end, and consequently Poland ceased to exist as a Nation shortly after his death in 1696.

    I am not 100% certain of this, but it is my understanding that Patton claimed Jan Sobieski to be one of his many incarnations. (Praise from Ceaser, as it were...)

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    Member Member Takeda Shingen's Avatar
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    Tone i think you're wrong about Napoleon Have you ever read about the Austerlitz Campaign.The way Napoleon made the Austro-Russian Army do what he wanted then destroyed them,it was his greatest Campaign.Napoleon would top my own personnal list to me he was the greatest Military Commander of the modern era.

    Michael

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    Member Member Tone's Avatar
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    Thanks.

    Quote Originally posted by Kurando:



    the brilliant Polish, (and yes, I know that's a contradiction in terms...), Commander and King who lived from 1624-1696.

    [/QUOTE]

    Don't say that cos like you I have a certain amount of Polish background too.

    Seriously though, I don't know about quality of leaders, but the U.K. has never forgotten the bravery of the thousands of Polish soldiers and pilots who fought in British uniforms in WWII.


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    Member Member Tone's Avatar
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    Takeda

    Thought I might get a response to some of those opinions .

    Don't get me wrong Napoleon was a great commander and as you point out Austerlitz is a good example. However I feel that he could often be disasterous too. It has long been debated what mistakes should be attributed to Napolean himself and what to his generals. The most long running being Ney at Waterloo. To take that instance as an example N clearly saw what Ney was doing and as his commander made no move to change the situation. Therefore responsibility falls squarely on his shoulders as the CinC.

    Napoleon would make my top 20 but not top 10. If the list was campaign commanders then he would be higher.

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    Member Member Takeda Shingen's Avatar
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    I respect your view's Tone at least we can have a disagreement about things and discuss it like gentleman.I may be more passionate to Napoleon than other people but at least everyone has an opinion.

    Michael

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    Senior Member Senior Member Kurando's Avatar
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    Tone

    Quote Seriously though, I don't know about quality of leaders, but the U.K. has never forgotten the bravery of the thousands of Polish soldiers and pilots who fought in British uniforms in WWII.[/QUOTE]

    Moi tata, on jest dwa corpus! (My father was one of them!!) He served as a sapper in the Polish 2nd Corps from 1939-1945, (as part of the British 8th Army) + My mothers two brothers both served in the FPO also, but unfortunately neither survived the War; (they were both buried with full British Military Honours at the Commonwealth Military Cemetery near Eindhoven, Holland).

    I hear what you are saying about the "proud to be Polish" thing; as long as we live we'll never have to hang our heads about our heritage because of all the FPO accomplished in WW2 -Jeszcze Polska nie zginela, e on nie dunski!

    Anyway, I'd better be careful not to hijack my own thread here... You guys were talking about Nappy + back to the discussion.

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    Senior Member Senior Member ShaiHulud's Avatar
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    In any order...

    Scipio
    Hannibal
    Belisarius
    Gustavus Adolphus
    Wellington
    Nelson
    StoneWall Jackson
    Genghis Khan
    Alexander
    Napoleon


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    Member Member Didz's Avatar
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    Well I would not pretend to be an expert on any of these generals but my personal view is that very few Generals accually had a direct influence on the field of battle.

    Hopefully once the shot and shell started flying most of a Generals work had already been done.

    Napoleon for instance appears to have been quite a mediocre battlefield command who was prone to self-delusion and poor bad (sometimes incomprehensible) communication.

    However, his strength lay in his ability to grasp and influence the grand strategic situation in order to engineer a decisive battle at a point and on the terms that he dictated. He was also a superb motivator and organiser of men which meant that his armies normally had the edge in both morale and tactical doctine throughout the war.

    Thus IMO the benefits of a good General are best judged by their actions and abilities between battles rather than actually on the field. Once the battle starts there is little more they can do but shout encouragement from the sidelines.

    Bit like a football manager really;-)
    Didz
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    Member Member Tone's Avatar
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    Moja rodzina są wciąż dumna być Język polski. JA nawet popierają Polskę przy piłce nożnej. (Mój Język polski zły)

    The insult it doesn't support Polish characters



    [This message has been edited by Tone (edited 04-29-2001).]

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    Member Member Takeda Shingen's Avatar
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    Didz while i agree with you on some things you mentioned i must disagree with you about Napoleon being a mediocre.Again i go back to Austerlitz doing what he did on the Battlefield against the Austro-Russian Army.I would'nt call that mediocre had he not been there who knows what could've happened.

    Michael

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    Senior Member Senior Member ShaiHulud's Avatar
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    Napoleon as general should be separated from Napoleon as Dictator, too. In his youth his brilliance was what got him noticed. His personal influence was generally decisive before his ascendance as leader of France.

    Egypt was a pure loss for a lot of reasons but Italy was a masterpiece attributable to Napoleon, alone.

    As the scope of war expanded his influence on matters was, logically, diluted. By the end, it is actually difficult to find any brilliance at all in his military actions. Mere competence is about all he can claim at the end.

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    Senior Member Senior Member FwSeal's Avatar
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    I agree. I read an interesting arguement once that, in a way, the times were passing Napoleon by even as he continued to war. His enemies were beginning to reorganize their armies (in particular Austria, which came close to besting the French in the Wagram Campaign) and the Grand Armee itself was growing weaker with each battle. The petty bickering and very real animosities between his marshalls couldn't have helped much either.

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    Senior Member Senior Member Kurando's Avatar
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    Quote The petty bickering and very real animosities between his marshalls couldn't have helped much either.[/QUOTE]

    I guess that's what Nappy was referring to when he delivered his famous quote: "...it's better to have one bad General, than two good ones!"

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    Senior Member Senior Member ShaiHulud's Avatar
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    K... Nope, my friend... He was referring to division of command as a great detriment.

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    Senior Member Senior Member Kurando's Avatar
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    Sorry for being thick Shai, but I'm not quite grasping that, (can you elaborate, please).

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