Did anyone actually lead from the front?

I believe General Curtis LeMay was a prime example of this.

Hehe, General LeMay, from what I understand, was something of a nutcase too. He once snuck up on an SP who was guarding some parked bombers. The SP shot at him and missed.

The general had the SP court-martialled for missing. :smiley:

IIRC, General George Washington was known for exposing himself to enemy fire, riding back and forth on his horse rallying his troops during battle. The man was also apparantly frustratingly hard to hit with a musket.

Keegan states that the American Civil War was among the first in which generals stayed well back from the fighting, controlling their troops from afar. He says that Waterloo was about as big as a battle as a general right on the scene could control personally; after that, battles got much bigger and the general tended to stay offsite and delegate on-site leadership to lower ranks.

Of course, lower ranks are expected to lead from the front, even today.

It seems that everybody was hard to hit with a musket. If that hadn’t been true the tactic of standing in ranks and firing salvos by the numbers wouldn’t have lasted past the first battle.

That is, it wouldn’t have lasted unless the generals of WWI had been in charge.

The Revolutionary War smoothbores weren’t at all accurate. Hence the invention of rifled muskets. Unfortunately the tactics didn’t change at the same time the muskets did, which is one reason the Civil War was as bloody as it was.

Even then, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnson met his end due to an injury suffered leading his troops at Shiloh, and tons of lesser generals and colonels were killed or wounded during the Civil War.

Yes and the machine gun and rapid fire artillery called for another change of tactics which the generals of WWI didn’t seem to grasp either.

Gustavas Adolphus, as was already pointed out.

Charles XII was also a 'lead ‘em in’ type. Favored shock tactics with cavalry charges at a time when most warefare was turning to attempts to cut the other general’s supply line.

Oh yeah? Whatever happened to “fighting for king and country”?

  • Jinx :confused:

The Brown Bess’s lack of accuracy was, of course, made only worse by the fact that few soldiers were actually trained in marksmanship. They were trained to raise their guns to their shoulders and fire on command, and most firearms training focused on firing faster, rather than hitting anything.

Riflemen did better because they were often aiming at specific targets, using whatever was available for cover, and of course, in many cases, were experienced hunters who HAD to be good shots or else they would be much thinner.

and not forgetting Lord Cardigan in the charge of the light brigade http://www.victorianweb.org/history/crimea/chargelb.html

Richard III actually was leading a charge against Henry Tudor / Henry VII at Bosworth Field when he was killed. In this situation, Henry was the one hanging back.

Now we know why the war in Iraq is going so badly. George Bush and Tony Blair are not leading from the front.

Wonder why.

I think you need to read historical accounts of kings leading from the front with a large grain of salt. I read a detailed account of the Battle of Hastings, and the battle in Northern UK (Battle of Stamford Bridge, was it?). There was much talk of the king “leading” charges, but when you drilled down into the detail, he was totally surrounded by a personal bodyguard comprising the best equipped, strongest and biggest of his soldiers.

Getting through the romantic haze to the truth about what actually goes on in a battle is difficult even in relation to the last century.

Sorry, that should read "the battle in what is now the Northern UK immediately before the Battle of Hastings. There have of course been many many battles in the Northern UK, and it wasn’t necessarily the UK at the time.

I guess the answer to this depends on your definition of ‘lead’ and ‘front’. Certainly, until fairly recently the only way to know what was going on and to be able to command was to be pretty close to the scene of the action. Additionally, having a sufficiently well-trained army that you could send them detailed instructions and have them obeyed has historically been pretty unusual.

The majority of battles have probably followed the basic pattern of “follow me lads!! RAAAAAAAAAAR!!!”, and most of the rest probably fall into the “You lot charge over there. The rest of you charge there. No, no, no, not there, there. Oh never mind. Bodyguards, follow me. RAAAAAR!!!”

And as Paul in Saudi says, in any military organisation you will always need someone to receive the command and put it into action, so at the basic level the NCOs and junior officers will need to be in the front line persuading the poor bloody infantry to do whatever the general thinks is good idea.

You kind of don’t want to lead a large army from the front. A battlefield commander needs to be in a position where he can oversee the entire operation and not get distracted by local events. That’s why there’s different ranks of officers.


It’s easy enough to tell who the 1632-universe readers in the thread are, isn’t it?


I doubt anyone who has read even the main books is likely ever to forget Captain GARS. Or his special Finnish cavalry units.

In the early parts of the Hundred Years’ War, Edward III at Crecy, and his son the Black Prince at Poitiers, ran those respective battles from nearby hilltops, where they could see the battle as a whole and make approprate tactical decisions. The sources I’ve read implied this was considered innovative at the time–certainly the French weren’t doing this, as shown by the capture of France’s King John II at Poitiers …