Author Topic: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?  (Read 1640 times)

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Offline PzLdr

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For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« on: July 07, 2014, 08:50:20 PM »
Can be from any era, any place, any  Army. Only restriction, recorded history. Be prepared to justify your choice. Debate is encouraged. Have at it.
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Offline DCPatriot

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2014, 09:06:25 PM »
I'd vote for George Washington, given what was attempted and what was gained by the effort.

There's a reason that a few baseball managers always seem to be in the World Series...no matter the team or league in which they're managing.  Leaders of men.  Leaders of other men with large egos.

Such was George Washington. 

Imagine getting a group of Colonists riled up in the middle of Winter...when the life span already was short...to fight a world power.  There were many people back then then were just fine with the status quo at the time. 

« Last Edit: July 07, 2014, 09:07:13 PM by DCPatriot »
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Offline massadvj

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2014, 10:17:21 PM »
Washington would be my choice as well.  But I also like Ike and Grant. 
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Offline Atomic Cow

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2014, 10:22:23 PM »
It all depends on how far back in history one wants to go.
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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2014, 11:09:57 PM »
Genghis Khan.

Never lost a battle. Kept a massive army of tribes that were constantly at war with each other focused. Was smart enough to use talent where ever he found it, even among the defeated.


Boudicca.

Took on the biggest empire in the world. Sure, she lost, but how many other generals of her time can you name?
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Offline truth_seeker

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2014, 12:01:58 AM »
Alexander, Caesar.

Offline DCPatriot

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2014, 12:13:56 AM »
It all depends on how far back in history one wants to go.

I thought of that as well, AC.  Also, the weapon technology level at the given time.   Fighting with muzzle loader muskets.   Or using fixed bayonets, vs. antiseptically, with a hellfire missile.

Don't forget....the American history they're teaching the kids today isn't the same version I was taught 50 years ago.  So WTF are you going to believe?
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Offline evadR²

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2014, 01:10:23 AM »
Washington would be my choice as well.  But I also like Ike and Grant.
Grant???
How so?
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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2014, 01:26:04 AM »
I thought of that as well, AC.  Also, the weapon technology level at the given time.   Fighting with muzzle loader muskets.   Or using fixed bayonets, vs. antiseptically, with a hellfire missile.

Don't forget....the American history they're teaching the kids today isn't the same version I was taught 50 years ago.  So WTF are you going to believe?

Factor it in. Go for appropriate and inventive use of the existing technology at the time.

I were tempted to add Claudius for his use of camels (they scare the crap out of horses for some reason and the Britons used horse drawn chariots) but he's not technically a general.
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Offline jmyrlefuller

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2014, 09:21:04 PM »
My vote goes to Alexander the Great. He singlehandedly turned a tiny Greek city-state into both a military and sociopolitcal force that conquered almost the entire Middle East (and portions beyond) in less than a decade.
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Online Lando Lincoln

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2014, 09:28:48 PM »
Grant???
How so?

As Lincoln said, "he fights".
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Offline Luis Gonzalez

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2014, 10:51:25 PM »
Trần Hưng Đạo, hands down
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Offline Luis Gonzalez

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2014, 11:14:58 PM »
sounds like he was kick-a$$:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tr%E1%BA%A7n_H%C6%B0ng_%C4%90%E1%BA%A1o


Beat Kublai Khan three times and broke the Mongol Empire's back.
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Offline PzLdr

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2014, 11:29:15 AM »
Since I proposed it, I'll take a whack at it. My candidate is Subodei Bahadur, an Uriankhi, and an Orlok for both Chingghis Qua Quan, and his two successors, Ugeddai Qua Quan and Guyk Qua Quan.

Subodei participated in the campaigns angainst the Keraits, Tartars, Hsia Hsia and the Chin Empire. He acted as Chingghis during the Khwaresm campaign, after initially commanding the vanguard. the operation had Subodei's fingerprints all over it: independent yet converging columns, a sweep through the Kazil Khum desert leading to an attack on the main enemy lines from far to the rear. He then, along with Jebe Noyon was tasked with pursuing and capturing the Khwaresm Shah, who had fled west. That led to a reconnaissance in force, that took the Mongols north through the Caucasus and into Ukraine [1223]. The Mongols raided the Crimea, and withdrawing east, fought an army of Russian princes at the Khalka river, destroying an army four times their size.

Subodei emerged from the Kuriltai of 1234[?] as the actual commander of the army [the nominal commander was Batu Quan, son of Chingghis' oldest son Jochi]Uggedai sent west to conquer those lands where 'Mongol ponies had trod". He was also to destroy the free roaming Kipchak [Cuman] Turks and the Volga Bulgars [who had beaten him in battle in 1224]Crossing some 15 degrees of longitude. Subodei did just that, sending the Kipchaks fleeing to Hungary. In 1237. Subodei began the conquest of the Russian principalities, in the winter, using frozen rivers as highways. By Spring the Mongols had defeated and conquered all the northern kingdoms except Novgorod [Spring floods, and they submitted]. Subodei then set his sights on Kiev. After two years fattening up their horses, the Mongols moved west, sacking Kiev in December, 1240.

Subodei then turned to eastern Europe. Using the various Mongol princes attached to his army, Subodei struck on a roughly five hundred mile front. One column drove through Trsansylvania. One invaded Poland [a feint]. Subodei and Batu led two columns across the Carpathians into Hungary.

On April 9th, 1241, the northern force under Buri [Batu's brother] and Kadaan faced an army of 40,000 under Henry the Pious at Liegnitz. They had already scattered to the wind and army under Boleslas the Chaste [where do they get thoise nicknames], and sacked Crackow. At Liegnitz, the Mongols drew out the cavalry, separating them from the infantry, using a smoke screen to obscure the latter. Then they attacked. By the end of the day, most of the 40,000 Europeans [including Henry, were dead. The Mongols, merely a feint to secure a flank, then road south, engaging Wenceslas [that Wenceslas] of  Bohemia, and riding him out of aiding anyone.

The other three Mongol columns had united in front of Pest by the middle of March. They then feigned a retreat, luring an army of reportedly 100,000 north and east, to Mohi. The Mongols withdrew across a river, leaving the valley and bridge to Hungarians. The next day [April 11th], Batu launched an artillery assault with catapults and bowmen, while Subudei, downstream, built a bridge, and attacked the Hungarians from the flank and rear. When the Hungarians saw what they thought was a gap, they fled. The Mongols pursued them for three days, killing some 70,000 men. Bela IV, the king, fled for his life. The Mongols then stormed Pest, and once the Danube froze, Buda. In the Spring of 1242, Subodei had columns advancing in Italy [Udine] and Austria [they raided Wiener Neustadt], and reconned Vienna.

Then came word that Uggedai had died the previous December. Pursuant to Mongol law, and their own ambitions, most of the princes of the blood returned to Mongolia to elect his successor. the war in the West was over. Subodei went on to campaign against the Sung, and then retire. He had won some 65 battles, lost 1, and more than doubled the size of the Mongol Empire. His campaigns were well planned and coordinated. He used the newest technologies to best effect. No one else, IMHO, comes close.
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Offline PzLdr

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #15 on: July 10, 2014, 03:03:57 PM »
Just read through the replies again. It's interesting who didn't make the list. No Hannibal, no Napoleon, no Frederick the Great, no R.E. Lee, and aside for one vote for Ike, no WW II generals. Fascinating.
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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #16 on: July 10, 2014, 08:45:12 PM »
Just read through the replies again. It's interesting who didn't make the list. No Hannibal, no Napoleon, no Frederick the Great, no R.E. Lee, and aside for one vote for Ike, no WW II generals. Fascinating.
Lee doesn't make the list because he lost his only major war. The greats have a consistent track record of success, only interrupted by their own death (in antiquity) or victory (in modern times, where the art of mass conquest is no longer the goal). If they can't even match up to their own competition, how are they supposed to match up against all history?
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Offline PzLdr

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2014, 11:30:39 PM »
Lee doesn't make the list because he lost his only major war. The greats have a consistent track record of success, only interrupted by their own death (in antiquity) or victory (in modern times, where the art of mass conquest is no longer the goal). If they can't even match up to their own competition, how are they supposed to match up against all history?

Not necessarily. Erich Von Manstein has a significant claim to be the greatest general of WW II. His side lost. Montgomery's side won. Not many consider him a 'greatest general'. He certainly doesn't rank with Slim, Britain's greatest general of the century. And with apologies to Maasadjv, I don't think Ike ranks up there, either.
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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2014, 11:44:56 PM »
There are a lot of good Generals. I'd put Rommel in the top 5 any time, for example.

The problem is - defining good. McArthur was a genius when dealing with the troops, but a Tac and Strat nightmare. Monty had the opposite problem - the guy knew what he were doing, could see patterns before they had the chance to throw a shadow, but he were terrible with the troops. Kitchener - totally solid on threat assessment, didn't give a crap how many died to achieve the objective.

You could go on. I do think one of the reasons that more historic generals tend to make the list in bigger numbers is the fact that we do understand that modern generals have staff. People who are not just there to stop rude strangers bothering the General, but who fill in the blind spots.

By all measures, Benedict Arnold should be ranked high. Brilliant man, loved by his troops (not one of whom deserted when he switched sides) and a tac genius. It's a complex equation.
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Offline Dexter

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #19 on: July 11, 2014, 12:19:15 AM »
Genghis Khan.

Indeed, Genghis Khan was pretty awesome. The tactics they used with bows and horseback were pretty ingenious and very deadly.
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Offline PzLdr

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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #20 on: July 11, 2014, 09:12:44 AM »
Indeed, Genghis Khan was pretty awesome. The tactics they used with bows and horseback were pretty ingenious and very deadly.

What made the Mongols particularly lethal [they were, IMO, the greatest Army in history, bar none] were four things. They had excellent intelligence on all their targets. They had a unified system of tactics and strategy [they did post-operational critiques of their operations]. They had a highly disciplined, highly organized military organization, with a professional officer corps. They made use of the most modern technology available, incorporating those technologies into their system [including raw silk shirts under light armor, a variety of arrows, depending on the target, maces and scimitars for close combat, and lances with hooks below the points to pull enemy riders off their horses].

The Mongol Saddle bow and the use of horse archers went back to the Scythians, the Huns, the Turks, and any other group of horse nomads that periodically debauched from the Steppe. But when the Mongols invaded the Chin Empire, they became aware of their shortcomings vis a viz fortified cities. they worked around that, and won, but by the time they attacked the Khwaresm Empire less than ten years later, they did so with siege trains of Chinese engineers. And those siege trains followed Mongol armies west to Hungary, southwest to Baghdad, and southeast to Sung China. The Mongols also used a sophisticated communication system, signal flags [day], signal lanterns [night], whistling arrows, and signal drums [naccaras]
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Re: For Debate: Who is history's greatest General?
« Reply #21 on: July 11, 2014, 09:18:17 AM »
I do think that there is one other thing for the Mongols.

The lowest could speak freely to the highest without fear of retribution (or head removal). Not much effect on strategy, though a lot of lowers got promoted, as it were - it were the first army in history to use mustangs - but for tactics, you got a guy grew up by a curving river and he knows where the mire should be and where it should be reasonably safe to cross.
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