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Old 08 May 05, 22:41
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The Captains of History - a Compilation

I had a lot of fun, my primary aim, in compiling my own 'top military leaders list', which I constantly revise thanks to the contributions and suggestions of other posters, whom I thank.
Of course, it is entirely subjective and extremely vulnerable to criticism. I would like to point out that there really is no such indisputable title 'greatest general of all time'. An attempt to 'prove' who was superior among great commanders is pointless and futile, but comparing great commanders and opining whom was 'better' makes for fascinating conjecture. C'mon, you all enjoy the debates, right? I sure do! Let's have fun!

Of extreme importance to mention is that I am merely an amateuer, and my knowledge of military histroy is much more thorough with the West, so I apologize in advance if anyone feels I am erroneous in my rankings, and if certain greats from the East are understated. I have done my best, and many should add to the list etc., as well as suggest changes to TIER 1.

Perhaps a list such as this could be broken up into two major TIERS - before gunpowder, which would comprise all the commanders before the 1420s or so, and after gunpowder. Gunpowder did indeed exist in China in the 9th century, but was used almost exclusively for pyrotechnics. The knowledge and technology of gunpowder was transmitted to Europe via the Middle East. The Arabs produced the first known working gun in 1304. Gunpowder was used in warfare from the 14th century but it was not generally adapted to civil purposes until the 17th century, when it began to be used in mining. It was the Hussites under the brilliant Jan Zizka and Andrew Procop who showed what gunpowder could do on the battlefield if employed with bold imagination.

Moreover, a vast list could be piecemealed under specifics: strategic, tactical, operational, revolutionary, guerilla and artillery leaders etc. How much credit do monarchs merit in certain campaigns? Edward III and Henry V surely deserve all the credit. Elizabeth I? Maybe. Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin? Absolutely not, in my opinion (this is arguable).

The circumstances of war may never be repeated, but the essence of major tactics and strategy have not changed. It is the methods of their applications, due to the changes in technology, that have altered. Thus we can indeed compare the ancient commanders with the modern ones (IMHO) from this point of view. I will add that ones with autocratic power, such as Alexander, answered to no government, which certainly ameliorated his situation for conquest. What if Hannibal had been the absolute ruler of Carthage? He merely could have ordered supplies and troops to be sent to him in southern Italy after his devastating victory at Cannae. The pressure might have been too much for the Senate.

What if Hitler had listened to Erich von Manstein and not become so obsessed with solely capturing Stalingrad, which surpassed all rationality, and concentrated a bulk of his forces towards capturing the oilfields in the Caucasus, thus porobably grinding the Soviets to a halt? It all makes for great hypothesis - which is all it can be.

So, what makes a great general? Many things, of course, and no man is infallible. Adaptation. Improvisation. Panache. Magnanimity. Non-hesitation. Decisiveness. Exerting discipline and iron will into his troops. A political understanding. Luck. All great ideas are simple (at least to a genius). Perhaps the biggest, if one is most paramount, attribute to a great commander is his ability to identify a 'simple' solution to victory before his opponent in battle. Logistically, exploiting the terrain and weather is invaluable. The greats had them all. B.H. Liddell Hart, the renowned theorist (among many things he was), says the most important quality is to strike at an opponents' Achilles Heel. But one must find that weak point. A good soldier will conceal his weak point the best he can.

With all things considered, such as Epaminondas' and Gustavus' innovations and Hannibal's and Narses' tactical genius, I consider Alexander to be the towering figure of military history. For what it merits, no other has successfully 'linked' the East and West, thus he was a cultural reformer. His troop dispositions were perfect (if there is such a thing), and his battle victories were incredible. He indeed commanded an army much superior than what he faced, but he was outnumbered considerably and his battle dispositions were perfect (Gaugamela). The military machine left to him from Philip II was the world's first standing army and raised by the world's first universal military service. There has perhaps been no greater practitioner of a great system than Alexander. Hannibal, Scipio Africanus, Chinggis Khan and Napoleon were certainly comparable. Heinz Guderian was probably the greatest exponent of 'Blitzkrieg' at the start of WWII, which proved incrediblty efficacious initially.

Napoleon was as able as any other in history, but his colossal ambition was beyond his, or any man's, reach. His hands were trying to reach the moon. He was extant in a time when no Alexander could thrive. Man cannot be God. Like Cannae, Austerlitz was a lesson in the art of war.

Chinggis Khan may have impacted the world as much as any other, and the truth is he was a visionary leader whose conquests joined backward Europe with the flourishing cultures of Asia to trigger a global awakening, an unprecedented explosion of technologies, trade, and ideas, all filtered via the Silk Rode. His great general Subotai was probably history's greatest grand strategist, as he effectively used one army to screen another's flank, thus co-ordinating multiple armies across multiple mountain ranges. Brilliant.

Though Alexander's empire did not endure as Rome's did or was as vast as that of the Mongols, his legacy probably outlasts any other military figure, other than perhaps the Prophet Mohammed (and maybe Constantine, and his work was one of near cosmogony. He was a genius. He was a madman. He was a visionary. He was a mass-murderer. He was a liberator. He was intoxicated with power. He was chivalrous when not opposed. Was he all of these? Was he any of these?
No one leader has personally marched so far so fast, in which he led an army replete with cavalry and infantry, some 15,000 miles in 14 years.
This may be a stretch, but neither the Roman empire, the triumphant route of Christianity, the Byzantine empire nor Arabian civilization would have germinated and fostered as significantly as they did without the works of Alexander. Of course, that wasn't his plan, as Julius Caesar couldn't have known he indirectly shaped French civilization with his conquest of Gaul.

As a field general who sustained his army in enemy territory so adeptly, with that enemy assidiously dogging him, with only grudging support from his own state, who could have sent him troops in 215 B.C. through the Straits of Messena (Messina), Hannibal has no equal. His campaign was the first in which strategic endurance played the pivotal role. Rome adapted brilliantly. He also provided the posterity of warfare with a textbook display of tactical perfection in a pitched battle at Cannae in 216 B.C. He did ultimately fail, though.

In the 220s B.C. Shih Huang-ti created the first unified Chinese empire - the Ch'in Dynasty, hence 'China'. He developed an astounding military force (he never personally led his armies in battle), replete with a shock cavalry force, and consolidated China. His domain collapsed just 4 years after his death, but he did usher in the great Han Dynasty. He established a centralized administration and constructed a network of roads and canals. He fought against the steppe peoples from the northern desert, and he began that immense work, the Great Wall of China, to set limits to their incursions.

Warlords of the steppes of the Asian interior, such as Mete Han (late 3rd century to early 2nd century B.C.) and Ran Min (mid 4th century A.D.) carried out devastating campaigns of destruction with their indefatigable armies of horsemen.
Cao Cao, a warlord who had been an important member of the previous Han Dynasty, had first established his power in northern China by defeating his rival, Yuan Shao, in the Battle of Guandu in 200 A.D. This made Cao Cao the most powerful ruler in northern China. Records seeem a little exiguous, but, in this battle, Cao Cao was outnumbered significantly.
Wanyan Min, or Wanyan Aguda, founder of the Jin Dynasty and one of military history's greatest mounted warriors, defeated 700,000 Liao (Qidan) troops with 20,000 (this is not a typo) of his superbly armored and skilled Jurchen cavalrymen at the Battle of Hubudagang in 1115. The Liao Dynasty by this time was very decadent, but those odds are ridiculous! The following year, Aguda completed the conquest of the entire Liaodong Peninsula (northeastern China). Between 1119 and 1122, Aguda's army repeatedly defeated Liao armies and captured all of Liao's five capitals. The Mongols destroyed the Jin in 1234. By this time, however, the Jin was seriously weakened by internal strife.

Xenophon was the originator, probably, of the rearguard action, exemplified in his legendary, disciplined retreat of the Ten Thousand in 401 B.C.

I have categorized my compilation into three Tiers.

TIER 1 - The very best. I have added in parantheses each commander's great military victory. This gets difficult; I am steadfast about the top 4, but how can one discern that Marlborough was indisputably better than Gustavus Adolphus?. It comes down to our own subjective preferences. Remeber, too, history is written by the winners.
The quality of one's work is a little more important than the breadth (who am I to judge the 'quality', right?). This doesn't necessarily mean final victory for one's cause. For example, Epaminondas and Philip II of Macedon won just 3 major victories between them, smashing ones, which displayed tactical innovation. But it seems to me they were military geniuses above others who may have conquered more people and terrotory, such as Tamerlane and Hernan Cortes.

TIER 2 - The next level. These commanders could very well have possessed genius on par with the TIER 1 leaders, but something precludes them from being ranked with the others. For example, Tamerlane, an amazing leader, was no fool, but basically a bandit on a massive scale with no political foresight. he simply conquered, not settled. On the flip side, one might argue with "who cares?"; the scope of Tamerlane's conquests rival that of Chinggis Khan. Superfluous to say, this is all debatable. I may have shown a little too much impressionability for the Christian Crusaders, who have been the subject of much romanticism. Let me know what you think.

TIER 3 - These commanders, in some form or another, warrant attention more positively than negatively. I may have underrated some, such as Nathan Forrest, and the likes of Crassus and McClellan were moderate commanders at best. I include bandits, revolutionists and operational commanders. I realize TIER 3 may be too broad. Perhaps there should be a 4th? A 5th?

I do not include the likes of Elizabeth I, Queen of England or Adolf Hitler, as they cannot be given credit for the military successes, in battle, of their nation's armies. That credit goes to their subordinates. They do merit credit (or accountability) for their influence upon human history.

I hope I haven't expounded too much. By all means, I would love approvals, reprovals and suggestions etc., etc. Remeber, this is all my opinion, and I am just an avocational amateur.

TIER 1
This is my 'top 10' list (16, actually).

Alexander III Alexandros III Philippou Makedonon 'the Great' (Guagamela 331 B.C.)

Hannibal Hannibal Barca (Cannae 216 B.C.)

Napoleon I Napoleone Buonaparte, Emperor of France (Austerlitz 1805 A.D.)

Chinggis (Genghis) Khan Temujin 'Universal Ruler' (Indus River 1221 A.D.)

Publius Cornelius Scipio Scipio Africanus Major (Ilipa 206 B.C.)

John Churchill Duke of Marlborough (Blenheim 1704 A.D.)

Gustavus II (Gustavus Adolphus, Gustaf Adolph) King of Sweden (Breitenfeld 1631 A.D.)

Belisarius Flavius Belisario (Constantinople 559 A.D.)

Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington (Salamanca 1812 A.D.)

Subotai Subedei Ba'adur (Kalka River 1223 A.D.)

Gaius Julius Caesar (Pharsalus 48 B.C.)

Frederick II King of Prussia 'the Great' (Leuthen 1757 A.D.)

Epaminondas (Leuctra 371 B.C.)

Philip II King of Macedon (Chaeronea 338 B.C.)

Khalid ibn al-Walid the Sword of Allah (Yarmuk River 636 A.D.)

Horatio Nelson Viscount Nelson (Trafalgar 1805 A.D.) - Probably the greatest ever at sea


TIER 2
These commanders are the next level. I do not rank these; they are listed chronologically.


Tuthmosis III Thutmose III, Pharaoh of Egypt

Cyrus Achaemenid King of Persia 'the Great'

Shi Huang-ti Chao Cheng, Emperor of China

Gaius Marius

Trajan (Marcus Ulpius Trajanus) Roman Emperor 'Optimus Princeps'

Aurelian (Lucius Domitius Aurelianus) Roman Emperor 'Restitutor Orbis'

Constantine I (Flavius Valerius Constantinus) Roman Emperor 'the Great'

Narses Narseus

Heraclius

Charles Martel (Carolus Martellus) Frankish Ruler 'the Hammer'

Charlemagne (Carolus Magnus) Charles I, King of the Franks 'the Great'

Alfred King of Wessex 'the Great'

Godfrey (Godefroy) Duke de Bouillon

Wanyan Aguda (Shizu) Jin Founder 'Taizu'

Saladin (Salah al-Din Yusuf bin Ayyub) Kurdish Muslim Leader

Richard I King of England 'Coeur de Lion'

Edward III King of England

Timur Timur Lenk, hence Tamerlane

Henry V King of England

Jan Zizka

Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba El Gran Capitan

Selim I Ottoman Sultan 'the Grim

Babur (Zahiruddin Muhammed Babur) Moghul Founder 'the Tiger'

Suleiman (Suleymaniye) I Ottoman Sultan 'the Magnificent'

Oda Nobunaga

Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange

Oliver Cromwell Lord Protector of the Commonwealth

Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne Vicomte Turenne

Louis II de Bourbon Duc d'Enghien and Prince de Conde 'the Great Conde'

Charles XII King of Sweden

Eugene Prinz Francois-Eugen of Savoy-Carignan

Nadir Shah (Nadir Qoli Beg) Shah of Persia

Maurice de Saxe Hermann Moritz

George Washington

Aleksandr Vasilevich Suvorov Generalissimus

Louis Nicolas Davout Duc d'Auerstadt and Prince d'Eckmuhl 'the Iron Marshal'

Charles Karl Ludwig, Archduke of Austria

Johann Josef Wenzel Radetzky Graf Radetzky von Radetz

Thomas Jonathan Jackson Stonewall Jackson

Robert E(dward) Lee

Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke Count

Mustafa Kemal Kemal Ataturk 'Gazi'

Erwin (Johannes Eugen) Rommel the Desert Fox

George Smith Patton Old Blood and Guts

Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim Baron

Heinz Wilhelm Guderian

Erich von Manstein Fritz-Erich von Lewinski

Georgiy Konstantinovich Zhukov

Vo Nguyen Giap

TIER 3
Some of these were moderate at best, thus I am certain many more could merit being placed. Perhaps this assemblage should serve as a gauge for study, so please suggest if one is missing and I'll gladly add him/her.

BEFORE CHRIST

Sargon King of Akkad 'the Great', Suppiluliumas Hittite King, Rameses II Pharaoh of Egypt, Gideon Jerub-baal, Wu Wang Chi Fa 'the Martial King', Tiglath Pileser I King of Assyria, Chou Kung Chi Tan, Ashurnasirpal II King of Assyria, Shalmaneser III King of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser III King of Assyria, Sargon II King of Assyria, Sennacherib King of Assyria, Esarhaddon King of Assyria, Ashurbanipal King of Assyria, Nabopolasser King of Babylonia, Cyaxeres King of Media, Nebuchadnezzar II King of Babylonia, Sun Tzu (Wu) Honorable Sun, Darius I King of Persia 'the Great', Artaphrenes the Elder, Miltiades, Leonidas I King of Sparta, Gelon Tyrant of Syracuse, Pausanius, Leotychides, Themistocles, Cimon, Leosthenes, Cincinnatus Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, Gaius Servilius Ahala, Sitalkes Odrysian King 'the Great', Pagondas, Brasidas, Hannibal Hannibal Mago, Gylippus, Alcibiades, Himilco, Lysander, Agesilaus King of Sparta, Iphicrates, Conon, Marcus Furius Camillus, Pelopidas, Dionysius Tyrant of Syracuse, Artaxerxes II King of Persia 'Mnemon', Xenophon, Marcus Valerius Corvus, Titus Manlius Torquatus Imperiosus, Timoleon, Parmenio the Old General, Craterus, Antipitar, Antigonus I Cyclops, Chandragupta Maurya Mauryan Founder 'Sandracottus', Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus, Agathocles Tyrant of Syracuse, Ptolemy I Soter, Demetrius I Demetrius Poliorcetes, Lysimachus, Seleucus I Nicator, Publius Cornelius Dolabella, Pyrrhus King of Epirus, Appius Claudius Caudex, Manius Curius Dentatus, Xanthippus, Marcus Atilius Regulus, Asoka, Adherbal, Gaius Lutatius Catalus, Hamilcar Barca Lightning, Gaius Duilius, Ming T'ien, Chou T'o, Lucius Aemilius Papus, Gaius Atilius Regulus, Lucius Caecilius Metellus, Publius Cornelius Scipio the Elder, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus, Gaius Flaminius, Marcus Claudius Marcellus, Hasdrubal Barca, Gaius Claudius Nero, Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator, Mago Magon Barca, Marcus Valerius Laevinus, Marcus Livius Salinator, Attalus I King of Pergamum 'Soter', Hsiang Yu Xiang Yu, Liu Bang Kao-tse 'Gaozu', Lucius Cornelius Scipio Asiagenes, Manius Acilius Glabrio, Antiochus III King of Syria 'the Great', Prusias I King of Bithynia 'Cholos', Philopoemen the Last of the Greeks, Marcus Fulvius Nobilior, Mete Han Maodun, Titus Quinctius Flamininus, Philip V King of Macedon, Antiochus IV King of Syria 'Epiphanes', Judas Maccabaeus the Hammer, Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus, Eumenes II King of Pergamum 'Soter', Masinissa King of Numidia, Viriathus, Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Minor, Ho Qu-bing, Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus, Sulla Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Quintus Sertorius, Spartacus, Mithridates IV King of Pontus 'the Great', Ariovistus Friend, Lucius Licinius Lucullus Ponticus, Marcus Licinius Crassus Dives, Surena Eran Suren-Pahlev, Vercingetorix, Pompey Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus 'the Great', Juba I King of Numidia, Pharnaces II King of Pontus, Titus Taurus Statilius, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

ANNO DOMINI

Augustus Caesar Gaius Octavius, Germanicus Caesar Nero Claudius Germanicus, Arminius Hermann, Liu Xiu (Han-Guang Wu Di) Han Emperor, Boudicca (Boadicea) Queen of the Iceni, Gaius Paulinus Suetonius, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, Eleazar bin Yair, Flavius Josephus Joseph ben Matthias, Bar Kochba Simon bar Kochba, Severus Lucius Septimius Severus, Chu-ko Liang, Cao Cao Wei Wudi 'Mengde', Ardashir I Sassanid Founder of Persia, Gallienus Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus, Publius Septimius Odaenathus, Claudius II Marcus Aurelius Claudius 'Gothicus', Shapur I Sassanid King of Persia, Shi Le Great Chieftain, Constantius II Illyricum 'Junior Emperor', Ran Min, Shapur II Sassanid King of Persia, Fritigern King of the Visigoths, Theodosius I Flavius Theodosius 'the Great', Flavius Stilicho, Alaric I King of the Visigoths, Attila the Hun 'the Scourge of God', Flavius Aetius, Geiseric King of the Vandals, Odoacar (Odavacer) King of the Heruli, Clovis I King of the Franks, Theodoric King of the Ostrogoths 'the Great', Arthur King Arthur (legendary), Priscus, Totila (Baduila) King of the Ostrogoths, AEthilfrith King of Northumbria, Raedwald King of East Anglia, Muhammed the Prophet of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab Caliph of Islam, Amr-ibn-al-As, Rustam Farokhzad, Sa'ad ibn abu-Wakkas, Tariq ibn Zayid, Mohammed ibn-Kasim, T'ai tsung Lin Shih-min, Pelayo, Eudes (Odo) Duke of Aquitaine, Leo III Byzantine Emperor 'the Isaurian', An Lu-shan, Hsuan-tsung, Harun al-Rashid, Egbert King of Wessex, AEthelwulf King of Wessex, Basil I Byzantine Emperor 'the Macedonian', Arpad Chief of the Magyars, Edward King of Wessex 'the Elder', Simeon I Tsar of Bulgaria, Harold I (Harald Haarfager) King of Norway, Henry I German King 'the Fowler', John Kurkuas, Nicephorus II Byzantine Emperor 'Phocas', Otto I Holy Roman Emperor 'the Great', John I (John Tzimisces) Byzantine Emperor, Muhammed Almansour Abi emir 'the Victorious', Boleslav I (Boleslav Chobri) King of Poland 'the Brave', Brian Boru, Basil II Byzantine Emperor 'Bulgaroktonos', Mahmud Sultan of Ghazni, Canute (Knut) II Danish King of Denmark, England, and Norway, Fulk III (Fulk Nerra) Count of Anjou 'the Black', Harold II (Harold Godwinsson) Earl of Wessex, Tughril Beg Seljuk Turk Founder, Alp Arslan (Muhammed ben Da'ud) Seljuk Sultan of Persia 'the Valiant Lion', Robert Guiscard the Resourceful, William I Duke of Normandy and King of England 'the Conqueror', El Cid or El Campeador Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar), Bohemond (Marc Guiscard), Baldwin (of Boulogne) I Latin King of Jerusalem, Alexius I Byzantine Emperor 'Comnenus', Sigurd I (Sigurd Magnusson) King of Norway 'the Crusader', Baldwin (of Le Bourg) II Latin King of Jerusalem, Alfonso I King of Aragon and Navarre, Boleslav III King of Poland 'Wrymouth', Waldemar I King of Denmark 'the Great', Richard de Clare 2nd Earl of Pembroke 'Strongbow', Baldwin IV Latin King of Jerusalem, Alfonso I King of Portugal 'Henriques the Conqueror', Minamoto Yoshitsune, Frederick I (Frederick Hohenstauffen) Holy Roman Emperor 'Barbarossa', Kilij Arslan II (Izz ad-Din Kilij Arslan) Seljuk Sultan of Rum, Enrico Dandolo Doge of Venice, Muhammed of Ghor Muizz al Din Muhammed, Kaloyen Asen Johannizza 'the Roman Killer', Alfonso VIII King of Castile 'the Noble', Simon de Montfort IV Lord of Montfort, Chepe (Jebe Noyan), Philip II (Phillippe Auguste) King of France, Alfonso II King of Portugal 'the Fat', Muqali, Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu Khwarezm Sultan, Hermann von Salza, Chormaqan Noyan, Waldemar II King of Denmark, Frederick II Holy Roman Emperor, Batu Batu Khan, Hulagu Hulagu Khan, Kaidu Kaidu Khan, Kadan, Alexander Nevsky (Alexander Vsevolodovich) Prince of Novgorad, Simon de Montfort Earl of Leicester, Baybars I Mamluk Sultan, Liu Cheng, Rudolf I German King 'Rudolf of Hapsburg', Kublai Khan, Jan I Duke of Brabant 'the Victorious', Pedro III King of Aragon, William Wallace, Edward I King of England 'Longshanks', Hojo Tokimune, Robert I King of Scotland 'the Bruce', Alfonso XI King of Castile and Leon, Stefan Dusan, Orkhan Ottoman Sultan, Edward de Bailol, Edward Prince of Wales 'the Black Prince', Bertrand Du Guesclin, Louis I King of Hungary and Poland 'the Great', Pedro IV King of Aragon, Murad I Ottoman Sultan, John Hawkwood, Beyazid I (Yildirim) Ottoman Sultan 'Thunderbolt', Owen Glendower (Owain Glyn Dwr), Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc), Nun'Alvares Pereira the Great Constable, Ladislaus II (Ladislaus Jagiello) King of Poland, Andrew Procop Procopius the Great, Janos Hunyadi, Alfonso V King of Aragon and Alfonso I King of Naples 'the Magnanimous', Muhammed II Ottoman Sultan 'the Conqueror', Isabella I Queen of Aragon, Castile and Leon 'the Catholic', Henry VII (Henry Tudor) King of England, Francisco de Almeida, Gaston de Foix Duc de Nemours, Ferdinand V King of Castile and Leon and Ferdinand II King of Aragon and Ferdinand III King of Naples 'the Catholic', Ismail Shah of Persia, Georg von Frundsberg, Francisco Pizarro, Pedro de Alvarado, Khair ad-Din Barbarossa, Hernan Cortes (Hernando Cortez, Jan Tarnowski, Charles V Holy Roman Emperor, Takeda Shingen Kai-Shugo, Don Juan de Austria, Fernando Alvarez de Toledo Duque de Alba (Alva), Ivan IV Tsar of Russia 'the Terrible', William I Prince of Orange 'the Silent', Stephen Bathory, Alessandro Farnese Duke of Parma, Yi Sun-shin, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Akbar Mughal Emperor 'the Great', Stephen Bocskay, Henri IV King of France, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Jan Chodkiewicz, Charles Howard 1st Earl of Nottingham, Nurhaci, Peter Ernst Graf von Mansfeld, Abbas I Shah of Persia 'the Great', Ambrogio Spinola Marques de Balbases, Gottfried Heinrich Graf zu Pappenheim, Johann Tserclaes Graf von Tilly, Albrecht von Wallenstein Duke of Friedland and Mecklenburg, Johan Baner, Bernhard Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Duo'ergun Dorgon, Franz Freiherr Baron von Mercy, Hargobind Guru, Stanislaw Koniecpolski, James Graham Marquess of Montrose, Lennart Torstensson, Robert Blake, Ottavio Piccolomini, Bohdan Chmielnicki, Tuhaj- Bej, Jinga Queen of Ndonga and Matamba, Thomas Fairfax 3rd Baron of Cameron, Michiel de Ruyter, John Maurice Prince of Nassau-Siegen, William Cavendish Marquis of Newcastle, Raimondo Montecuccoli, Shivaji Bhonsle Shri Shivaji Maharaj, Rupert Prince of the Rhine, David Leslie, Henry Morgan Morgan the Pirate, Abraham Duquesne Marquis Duquesne, Francois Henri de Montmorency-Bouteville Duc de Luxembourg, John III (Jan Sobieski) King of Poland, Niels Juel, Menno van Coehoorn Baron, William III King of England 'William of Orange', Sebastien le Prestre de Vauban, Louis William Margrave of Baden-Baden, Aurangzeb (Alamgir) [i]Mughal Emperor[/b], Louis Joseph Duc de Vendome, Kangxi Hsiian-yeh, Peder Tordenskjold Thundershield, Peter I (Pyotr Alekseyevich Romanov) Tsar of Russia 'the Great', James FitzJames Duke of Berwick, Claude-Louis Hector Duc de Villars, Robert MacGregor Rob Roy, James Wolfe, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm Marquis de Saint Veran, William Augustus Duke of Cumberland, Leopold Joseph Maria Count von Daun, Robert Clive 1st Baron of Plassey, Emelian Pugachev, Casimir Pulaski, Charles (Karl Alexander) Prince of Lorraine, Haidar Ali, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia Sardar, Nathanael Greene, Ethan Allen, Francois-Joseph Paul Comte de Grasse, Jacques Hippolyte Comte de Guibert, Grigoriy Potemkin, Ferdinand Duke of Brunswick, John Burgoyne Gentleman Johnny, John Paul Jones, Richard Howe 1st Earl Howe, Benedict Arnold, Ralph Abercrombie, Daniel Morgan, Francois Toussant-L'Ouverture, Charles Cornwallis Lord, Horatio Gates, Jean Dessalines, Aleksei Orlov, Gerard Lake 1st Viscount, Jean Lannes Duc de Montebello, John Moore, Isaac Brock, Pyotr Bagration, Gerhardt von Scharnhorst Graf, Tecumseh, Mikhail Kutuzov, Josef Poniatowski, Hugh Robert Rollo Rollo Gillespie, William Howe 5th Viscount Howe, Joachim Murat King of Naples, Louis Berthier Prince of Wagram and Neufchatel, Michel Ney Duc d'Elchingen and Prince de la Moscowa 'le Brave des Braves', Pierre Augereau Duc de Castiglione, Karadjordje Djordje Petrovich, Andre Massena Duc de Rivoli, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, Mikhail Barclay de Tolly, Gerbhard von Blucher Prince of Wahlstadt, Oliver Perry, Manuel Belgrano, Charles Dumouriez, Lazare Carnot the Organizer of Victory, Francis Rawdon 1st Marquess of Hastings, Shaka Shaka Zulu, Simon Bolivar, Antonio Jose de Sucre, Robert Stopford, Marie-Joseph du Mortier Marquis de Lafayette, Tomas Zumalacarregui, Hari Singh Nalwa Sardar, William Harrison, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte Prince of Ponte Corvo (later became Charles XIV King of Sweden), Andrew Jackson, Muhammed Ali Pasha of Egypt, Jose de San Martin, Juan Martin de Pueyrredon, Thomas Bugeaud, Zachary Taylor, Nicolas Soult Duc de Dalmatie, Francisco Castanos, Jose Ballivian, Auguste Marmont Duc de Ragusa, Charles Napier, William Beresford Viscount Beresford, Fitzroy Somerset 1st Baron Raglan, Pavel Nakhimov, Thomas Cochrane 10th Earl of Dundonald, Harry Smith Sir Harry, Ignacio Zaragoza, Frederick Ward, Colin Campbell 1st 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Norman Schwarzkopf Stormin' Norman, Charles Guthrie Baron Guthrie of Craigiebank, Wesley Clark, and Tommy Franks.

"War is all hell" - William T. Sherman

Thanks and enjoy, Spartan JKM

Last edited by Spartan JKM; 26 Jun 05 at 14:57.. Reason: Additional leaders to the list
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  #2  
Old 08 May 05, 23:58
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Interestingly in Barbarossa by Alan Clark, the arguement has been put forward that in the initial stages of the war Hitler made the right choices the generals did not - AC saod that some of his choices bordered on military genious.
However later in the war (Stalingrad on) the tables turned, the Generals (untrusted by Hitler) knew what wa going on but Hitler was on that dteep spiral into insanity.

he doesn't deserve to be on your list, but it seemed like and interesting by-line to your observations
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Old 09 May 05, 02:20
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Edward III and Henry V surely deserve all the credit.
I strongly disagree. The campaigns of both were ill concieved and badly run. Agincourt was fought as the English army was deteriorating quickly from disentary and desertion and was in a horrible situation. Crecy was won after Edward III put himself into a bad situation. They merely succeeded in general engagements in which their superior weaponry achieved remarkable results against stupid opponents who walked right into their strengths.

Lidell Hart mentions this in "Strategy"

Edward I was the far better medieval commander.

I would also put Tokugawa Ieyasu in that top tier and remove Gustavus Adoplphus, because I don't believe he showed much in the way of great genius.
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Old 09 May 05, 03:43
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Welcome Spartan Wow, your posts are terrific. Very thorough and well researched. Lots of talking points too. Thanks for your contribution - we'll be looking forward to hearing a lot more from you !

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Old 09 May 05, 04:21
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Quote:
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I would also put Tokugawa Ieyasu in that top tier and remove Gustavus Adolphus, because I don't believe he showed much in the way of great genius.
Not on the battlefield (nothing was super innovative), but politically and logistically he was very well organised
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Old 09 May 05, 05:18
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Edit: should have read your post more carefully.

Senger u. Etterlin (Monte Cassino)

Abbas Dowran. One of if not the best Iranian pilot and excellent air strategist. KIA 21.7.1982 over Baghdad.
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Old 09 May 05, 07:20
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Not on the battlefield (nothing was super innovative), but politically and logistically he was very well organised
I don't think strategic genius is marked by innovation on the battlefield. Ieyasu was a master military and political strategist. It would be tough to find one better.

If I'm a ruler and I get to pick five I want, I'm taking Ieyasu, along with Wellington, Bellasarius, Subotai, and Nelson. When I died, and they fought amongst themselves over who would control my empire, I'd bet that Ieyasu came out on top.
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Old 09 May 05, 09:15
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I am sure there is much to discuss on this list (didn't see Robert E. Lee) but I did want to acknowledge that just putting it together is a very nice accomplishment! Have you read about all those leaders? If so, you have read a lot of books!
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Old 09 May 05, 09:26
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(didn't see Robert E. Lee)
He is under Tier 2.
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Old 09 May 05, 09:35
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He is under Tier 2.
That would explain why I didn't see him in tier 3! Thanks!
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Old 09 May 05, 10:38
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Certainly a very comprehensive list. At first glance I am hard pressed to see any names I would have added to your list. The only possible complaints I see are a few of the names you've included..........At least on my personal list Bragg, McClellan, Haig and Clark make a worst generals list. What no Ambrose Burnside, just kidding.

I'm really only splitting hairs, I think your list is quite an effort.

BTW, welcome to the forums.
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Old 09 May 05, 21:27
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Thank you

Thank you for the comments, everybody. Appreciation all around.

Well, I wish I had more time; I'll reply to Legion, as there is much I would like to say about Hitler as a military commander. There may have been some instances in which his unschooled instict proved right over his generals, such as his faith in fanaticism; the Waffen SS substantiated themselves just about as tenacious and effective as soldiers as the regular Wermacht. I think, in a nutshell, there were 2 primary factors that defeated the Germans on the Eastern Front:

1) The weather. The late spring rains delayed the invasion by 1 month, thus if we move all the action that took place up one month, then the opening offensive upon Moscow would have began in early September rather than at the end. The German troops would have been in the city before the deluge of the coming autumn rains. To point out the obvious, couldn't he have learned from Napoleon's debacle?

2) Adolf Hitler. The remarkable victories of Germany in the West at the onset of WW2 were the result of the sagacity of the brilliant Erich von Manstein, spearheaded by the likes of Rommel and Guderian. Hitler, at best, deserves credit for simply sanctioning the plans. Because, partly, of the inspiring resistence of 'Little Finland' in 1939-1940, Hitler surmised there was absolutely no way he could lose a war to the Soviet Union. He extrapolated that his armies would be in Leningrad, Moscow, and Kiev before the winter struck. He used the rapidity of the the Blitzkrieg victories in Poland and the West as a gauge towards his conquest of the Soviet Union. That was foolish. The Soviets may have been lacking in good leadership (thanks to Stalin's purges), but they had far more land to fall back, men and supplies than any of Hitler's European subjugations. Thus, little was done to provide for the contingency of being stalled when winter arrived. Very foolish.
Moreover, his repugnent (I guess not in his view) ideology prevented him from accomplishing what Hannibal, possibly history's greatest field commander, failed to do almost 2 millenia earlier against Republican Rome. Hannibal's bold plan, to detach Rome's allies from her, was very viable, and almost worked. He implemented a novel strategy, but was not availed adequate support when he needed it. It was the relative enlightened policy of Rome and her sensible institutions that saved her. But that's another story - a fascinating one. Persia submitted to Alexander after Gaugamela in part because he began to admire the ways of the East. Another spellbinding chapter from another time.

The situation was in stark contrast on the Eastern Front in 1941 than Hannibal's plight against Rome, with regards to the peoples under the control of the state.

One reason why the Germans captured such enormous numbers of prisoners and so much submission was because these peoples, afflicted horribly by Stalin, could not wait to turn coat. The regime in Moscow was detested by the poor, simple peasantry of the lands Hitler would first cross, those of Ukraine and Belorussia. The population here initially saw the Nazis as liberators and begged to be allowed to assist in overthrowing Stalin. The Germans had an opportunity practically unique in military history; Hitler could have thrust into the Soviet heartland with, possibly, hundreds of thousands of motivated recruits. Instead, Hitler, following his horrific weltanschauung, ordered them shot or hauled back to Poland and Germany for slave labor. By abusing the population, the Soviets were able to organize a very resultant underground movement of partisans in German-held territory. By attacking supply lines and destroying means of transport etc., these partisans proved very harmful to the German effort. Thus, the Germans were constrained to maintain a huge bulk of their forces in their rear gaurds to protect these assets. As a result, they lost much of their effectiveness at the front against a rebuilding Soviet army, which would be replenished by fresh recruits and resources, such as the famed T-34, from Siberia. I feel if Hitler had overlooked his extreme racial ideology for a bare year, played the guise of liberator for those hundreds of thousands in western Russia, and driven straight for Moscow, with a less balanced attack upon the country, Stalin certainly would have collapsed. With Moscow in his hands, the primary rail nexus would have been German-held, making it impossible for whatever Stalin had sustained in the eastern territories to be shifted west. With the Soviet government in Nazi hands, the regions and cities all over the country would have fallen to Hitler. They were far from even being remotely semi-autonomous. The entry of the United States would ahve looked less auspicious for the Allies with the fall of the Soviet Union.

But with regards to the ideological issue, expunging the Slavic peoples of the East was part of his plans from the beginning. He deemed them sub-human. I guess enmity at this level takes on different meanings of the world and its people.

More than the initial stolidity of the Soviet command structure or the superb capability of Georgiy Zhukov, it was the weather, a factor every great commander would prepare for, and Adolf Hitler's decisions (and non-decisions) that caused the German defeat in the East.

I realize that this all deductive logic on my part, and we'll never know what could have happened, no matter how likely it may have seemed.

I'll be back very soon to discuss with you your disagreements with me, Cobra Commander. Your opinions do not strain complete credibility, but I have plenty to offer in contrast to your Edward III/Henry V/Gustavus Adolphus issue.

Lance Williams, McClellan, Bragg, Clark, and Douglas Haig possessed enough mild qualities, barely, to be mentioned. I'll be glad to explain. I am not that impressionable and generous though - Ambrose Burnside repelled! But he himself knew that, and Lincoln wouldn't immediately relieve him, as he wished. This all IMHO, of course.

Eric Weider, the answer to your question is no - of course I have not in-depthly read about every leader on the assemblage. Most of the 'obscure' names on TIER 3 have come up amid looking up battle descriptions over the years. Every commander on the first 2 TIERS I can discuss in detail.

Again thanks everyone, and it's a pleasure posting here.

Spartan JKM

Last edited by Spartan JKM; 10 May 05 at 16:03..
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Old 10 May 05, 11:46
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Spartan, I'll concede that McClellan, Clark and even Haig did at least at times offer some positives. Regarding Bragg I can find none of these in his career after he was a sterling artillery officer in the Mexican War. During the American Civil War he remained in command only through the highest level of cronyism due to his friendship with President Jefferson Davis. His personality was utterly poisonous to his command and he alienated his most able subordinates. If ever a commander should have been sacked and wasn't he's the one.
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Old 10 May 05, 19:01
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I'll be back very soon to discuss with you your disagreements with me, Cobra Commander. Your opinions do not strain complete credibility, but I have plenty to offer in contrast to your Edward III/Henry V/Gustavus Adolphus issue.
Gustavus was woefully outmanuevered by Wallenstine.

Convince me that Edward III and Henry V were better strategists than Edward I. Who accomplished more? Edward I put in place the tactics used by both.
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Old 10 May 05, 19:06
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Too early for Tommy Franks?.
Not at all, Rumsfeld and Meyers too. Rumsfeld could go down as the father of the new modern warfare.
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