Greatest Military Leader elimination game (game thread)

Setup thread here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=573572. The five-word (or longer) descriptions have been edited as necessary for accuracy, clarity and/or consistency.

In the first elimination round, each player has five votes to cast as he or she sees fit, but cannot cast more than two for a single nominee. The first round will run through Mon. Aug. 16 at noon EST. No vote trading, please - vote on the merits of each nominee. You need not have participated in the setup thread to vote, nor need you vote in the first round to vote in subsequent rounds.

Our list of nominees:

Akbar the Great: Conquered much of India
Alexander the Great: Conquered the known world
Attila the Hun: Scourge of God, and Rome.
Belisarius: Justinian’s hammer
Napoleon Bonaparte: Conquered most of Europe
Sir Isaac Brock: Saved Canada against overwhelming odds
Charles the Bold: Would-be King of Burgundy
Carl von Clausewitz: Influential thinker on Western warfare
Hernan Cortez: Conquered Aztec Empire
Arthur Currie: Vimy Ridge; only sane WW1 leader?
Moshe Dayan: Eye-patched Israeli commander
Charles de Gaulle: Led Free French forces
Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter: Dutch admiral, naval star
Hugh Dowding: Won Battle of Britain
Gabriel Dumont: Metis guerrilla warfare strategist
Dwight D. Eisenhower: Defeated Nazis in Western Europe
Flavius Aetius: Scourge of Attila
Frederick the Great: Prussian king and battlefield genius
Gaius Marius: Most important military reforms ever?
Genghis Khan: Built the perfect war machine
Vo Nguyen Giap: Won Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam
Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey): Defender of late Roman Republic
Ulysses S. Grant: Won final victory for Union
Gustavus Adolphus: Made Sweden a great power
Hannibal: Greatest tactical genius?
Henry V: Warrior-king; won at Agincourt
Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson: Embodiment of maneuver and offense
John Paul Jones: Great American, Russian naval commander
Julius Caesar: Rome’s most brilliant commander
Paul von Hindenburg: German field marshal
Albert Kesselring: Defended Italy from Allies
Khalid ibn al-Walid: Architect of the Arab conquests.
Kong Ming/Zhuge Liang: Great Chinese tactician
Robert E. Lee: Beloved, aggressive Confederate underdog
Curtis LeMay: Reorganized Strategic Air Command
Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck: Evaded the British in Africa
Douglas MacArthur: WW2, Korean War top commander
Erich von Manstein: His plan conquered France
Duke of Marlborough: Master of early modern war
John S. McCain Sr.: American admiral in Pacific
George McClellan: Semi-victor at Antietam
Mehmet the Conqueror: Took Constantinople
Marc Mitscher: Master of operational carrier warfare
Bernard Montgomery: British commander at El Alamein
Lord Nelson: Royal Navy admiral; Trafalgar victor
Oda Nobunaga: First great unifier of Japan
Richard H. O’Kane: Top U.S. submarine captain, WW2
George Patton: Armored warfare advocate
Phillip II of Macedon: Alexander’s father, set the stage
Pyrrhus: King of Epirus; opposed Rome
Erwin Rommel: Germany’s Desert Fox
Scipio Africanus: Stopped Carthage and Hannibal
Philip “Little Phil” Sheridan: Grant’s troubleshooter; Indian fighter extraordinaire
William Tecumseh Sherman: Logistics, maneuver as strategic warfare
Subutai: Genghis Khan’s top general
Sun Tzu: General; influential Chinese military theorist
Zachary Taylor: American general; Mexican War hero
Themistocles: Victor of Marathon, Artemisium, Salamis
Timur-e-Lang: The scourge of Western Asia
Josip Broz Tito: Kicked Germans out of Yugoslavia
Titokowaru: Beat the British twice
Togo Heihachiro: Japanese naval victor against Russians
Tsao Tsao (also Cao Cao): Chinese emperor, general
Charles Upham: Modern hero in ancient mould
Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban: Great French military engineer
George Washington: Determined general; won American independence
Duke of Wellington: Successes in India; thrashed Napoleon
Orde Wingate: Unorthodox leader in Africa, Asia
Yamamoto Isoroku: WW2 Japanese naval leader
Yi-Sun Shin: Noteworthy Korean admiral
Georgy Zhukov: Led from Moscow to Berlin

Ho Chi Minh is disqualified, as it does not appear that he ever exercised battlefield command.

Have at it!

Last man standing wins, right? Vote for who to eliminate, so

OK, gimme two on the fucking arsonist, General William Tecumseh Sherman May-He-Rot-in-Hell.

Gimme another two on Grant the Butcher.

Last vote goes to George McClellan.

If we’re going to talk about “Greatest Military Leader” we should eliminate the antithesis of this title first and I’m afraid Charles the Bold actually counts as a genuinely bad general. His nickname le Temeraire more accurately translates to the the Reckless or the Rash and describes both his impulsive nature and his huge metaphorical cojones. While he was certainly aggressive and he can be credited in taking a keen interest in military affairs, creating as modern and balanced as army as existed in mid-15th century Europe, his command of it was pretty uniformly inept.

While still just Comte de Charolais he performed somewhat ineffectively at Montleheury, but convinced himself he had done magnificently on the strength of successful counter-charge against the balky right wing of the royalist army. Of course he lit out after retreating troops willy-nilly in a perfect example of cavalryman’s disease, leaving it to his more level-headed captains to wheel some of the Bugundian troops around against the royal center. In the end the battle was functionally a draw.

That was his peak as it were. At Grandson he abandoned a strong defensive position on an open plateau where his cavalry superiority could have been used effectively and marched his disorganized army in ragged masses streaming around both narrow ends of lake Neuchatel, straight into the maw of the Swiss heavy infantry where they were chopped to pieces. At Morat he decided for no discernable reason that the Swiss weren’t prepared to give battle and effectively ignored the threat of their larger army until he was under full assault, at which point he panicked and began issuing confused and contradictory orders while his army collapsed around him. At Nancy instead of withdrawing to rebuild or sue for peace, he for all intents and purposes committed military suicide, throwing the shattered remanants of his heavily outnumbered army into battle for no good reason other than pride and died on the field.

He deserves five votes, but I’ll give him the maximum…

Charles the Bold - 2 :).

Hernando Cortez - 2. Disease, internal Aztec dissension and a large native army made his conquest a little easier than it seems. He certainly seems competent but probably wasn’t a military genius per se.

George McClellan - 1. Kind of flipped a coin here. He’s definitely in the shallower end of the pool with a few others and while he undeniably had certain talents, his results on the battlefield clearly don’t put him anywhere near the first ranks.

Alright, let’s have a go.

George McClellan: 2pts. Heck, he would be a plausible candidate for worst, not greatest.
Charles de Gaulle: 2pts. I fail to see his military (as opposed to political) accomplishments.
Charles Upham: 1pt (reluctantly). Very cool dude, and a great soldier, but his accomplishments don’t seem to be about military leadership.

Two side comments. First, all appearances aside, I don’t have a hard-on against the French! And de Gualle has lots of other things going for him (though we would have to pass over the “Vivre Québec libre!” moment.) Secondly, I think we have to pass over any sort of moralistic reasoning in determining who’s the greatest, at least until we bring it down to a smaller number of candidates. Frankly, tons of these guys were morally reprehensible. Sherman isn’t even close to the worst —Trolland his tactic worked. Same thing for Curtis LeMay. If we are going to make moral judgments, then Genghis Khan, Attilla the Hun, and basically all the other ancients need to be kicked out first.

ETA: I wanted to hear more about Charles the Bold before voting for him (since my knowledge is limited to Wikipedia, in his case), but I promise I’ll vote for him next round. :wink:

EATA: That’s a decent point about Cortez. His accomplishments would best be described as political, not military.

cortez - 2
mcclellen - 2
charles the bold - 1

Well, he was one of the few successful French commanders in 1940, albeit only a divisional scale and as an academic he was a forward-thinking advocate of more modern armored warfare. So I’d certainly rank him as competent. But in general I agree he was far more of a political genius than a military one.

Charles the Bold: 2. I wondered why I hadn’t heard of him… apparently it’s because he kinda sucks.

**Charles Upham: 1pt. ** He would rank high on my greatest heroes list, but bravery doesn’t cut it for greatest leaders list.

Hugh Dowding: 1. More of a brilliant logistician than a commander.

Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban: 1. Again, not as much a great military leader as he was an exceptional engineer.

I’ll disagree in part. He was not just some dusty academician - not only did he design some 160 forts, but he was also repeatedly wounded on the battlefield and he personally conducted 48 successful sieges. As an offensive field engineer he is probably without peer in history.

Now what could be said is that he was mostly a siege specialist, who rarely took the field of open battle once he became an engineer ( and after he was given a Marshal’s rank he ceased field operations altogether ). But by happenstance he was inspecting the defenses in Brittany when the English made an attempt at an amphibious assault on Brest and despite the paucity of his forces, his organizational skills completely thwarted the attack.

He was also a highly moral commander that hated war and disdained excessive bloodshed, plus he also wrote a book on pig breeding ;).

Titokowaru: 2 points. He won two minor battles. And apparently reintroduced cannibalism.
Sherman: 2 points. He was precedented by Wellington in logistics and manoeuver.
Mehmet: 1 point. Taking Constantinople was no great feat as it was a rump state by then.
And for those who’ve voted for Upham, consider how his battlefield behaviour differs from ancient leaders like Alexander, because it doesn’t.

Charles the Bold: 2
George McClellan:1
Charles de Gaulle:2

Charles The Bold: 2 points (Worst commander candidate)
McClellan: 2 points (What’s he doing here?)
Mehmet: 1 point. What Quartz said.

Charles the Bold: Barely had heard of him before. From what I’ve now read, agree he shouldn’t be on this list - 2

George McClellan: Has an excellent claim to be one of the worst generals ever, given his arrogance, the high expectations he encouraged, rudeness to his CINC, laughable overestimation of opposing numbers, botching the Peninsular Campaign, squandering his great advantage (in having Lee’s actual lost orders) at Antietam, and his overall reluctance to actually fight. Oooo, I hates him, I hates him, I do! - 2

Zachary Taylor: Deservedly obscure today - 1

George McClellan - 2
Douglas MacArthur - 1 . While good, not the greatest due to political slip-ups in Korea that had military consequences.
Pyrrhus - 1. The George W Bush of the ancient world (in a grand strategy sense, not tactics.)

Can’t think of a fourth and the MacArthur and Pyrrhus dont deserve two votes. I almost voted Washington but realized he did was McClellan was trying to do, only successfully and at the right time.

Feeling out of my depth here; I’ll throw an anchor to a couple guys who seem to deserve it:

McLellan 2
Charles the Bold 2

And with my singleton

Charles DeGaulle 1

Gabriel Dumont: 1
Titokowaru: 1
Richard H. O’Kane: 1
Josip Broz Tito: 1
Charles the Bold: 1

I’ll add another single point for Mehmet. I could be persuaded otherwise, I suppose - but taking an impoverished city-state, even one with Constantinople’s prestige, just doesn’t impress.

A point for Pompey Magnus as well. He was a genuinely talented administrator (and I’m not knocking that - it’s a rare gift), but he can’t boast many victories against enemies that were in the league of Roman fighting forces of the era, so far as I know. (Clearing the pirates out of the Med was neat, but required solid administrative and logistical skills more than battlefield prowess). And his performance in the civil war against Caesar was not particularly impressive. Finally - I know that morality isn’t really supposed to be a factor here, but the man got his start backing Sulla, for Ford’s sake. That’s hard to forgive.

A point for Richard O’Kane - nothing against his prowess as a captain, but I think you’ve got to show your chops with command of more than one ship if you’re to be in the running for Greatest Military Leader.

A point for Tito - while he clearly had chops as a guerilla leader, his partisan movement was far from the only thing responsible for Germany getting kicked out of Yugoslavia. Not that it wasn’t important - it clearly was - but Germany was getting pounded all over the place.

And my last point? Eh, I’m sold on Charles the Bold - a point for him.

I tend to wonder about the Sherman-hatred I encounter. Do you hate William Quantrill for sacking Lawrence, Kansas? How about the Confederate cavalry generally for setting fire to civilian property, robbing banks, and stealing food on numerous occasions? How about the Confederate secret service for its attempt to burn New York City to the ground?

Sherman perceived that the war was killing people every day just by continuing. We are not very cognizant of it at this remove, but on non-battle days there was always skirmishing, sniping, cavalry patrols, and so on killing people in a slow but steady trickle. The Confederates, however, claimed to have indomitable spirit – they would not end the war unless they were all killed or lacked the material resources to continue.

If Sherman’s choice was to kill them all OR destroy the material resources needed to continue (and with that, he hoped, the “will to fight”), would you rather he have killed everyone in the South? War on property is terrible but it’s not the MOST terrible alternative.

In practice, Sherman’s march to a large degree avoided direct engagement with Confederate soldiers; on some occasions Sherman seems to have essentially let them slip away unharmed. Historian McPherson, in Battle Cry of Freedom, seems to feel that Sherman believed the damage he was doing made it more or less unnecessary to actually kill soldiers.

Sherman’s bummers did indeed make Georgia howl and they were even more vindictive against South Carolina, which they blamed for the original Secession convention (and SC had cheerfully claimed credit for Secession, in apparent agreement)…but the arson essentially stopped at the North Carolina border. It was specific and targeted, not generalized.

Also, some of the cities were set on fire by retreating Confederates, and Sherman stayed up at least one night coordinating firefighting by his men (I forget if that was Columbia or which city).

Numerous historians have noted that Lee hung right in there with Grant in 1864’s war of attrition. Lee desired the attrition and he took steps to make sure it happened. And Lee had already bled his forces white in previous attacks – look at Longstreet’s critique of Pickett’s Charge.

Although Lee himself claimed to have a high regard for Little Mac (when asked who his greatest opponent had been, he famously said, “McClellan, by all odds,”) I am going to agree with both of you on this one. Mac had some valuable qualities as an organizer, and with morale, but was a major liability in every other way.

Well, while I wouldn’t put him on this list, de Gaulle had one outstanding military moment. As the German forces poured through the gap at Sedan and began that fatal penetration, de Gaulle, commanding the only concentrated armored reserve the French had, took the what historian John Keegan called “the correct response” to Blitzkrieg – he attacked the “shoulders” of the penetration and tried to pinch it off (or force the Germans to divert strength from attack into defense). de Gaulle’s counterattack failed because his force was small and unsupported, but his approach was exactly right – at a time when everyone else seemed confounded and bedazzled by Blitzkrieg. And he did give the Germans a scare.

Excellent point.

Or Lee’s army kidnapping free blacks in Pennsylvania and selling them into slavery?

Aww, thanks. Don’t get too excited, though —TrollI will be making some moral judgments at the very end. After all, it is greater to succeed militarily without having to do evil things than to have to do evil things*. If that makes sense. Still, there are plainly other considerations of greatness that should come first.

That’s an interesting fact about de Gualle, BTW.

*This makes the reasonable assumption that military leaders don’t kill people, starve people, etc., just for fun.

ETA: That’s the second time “Troll” has randomly appeared in my post. And I can’t imagine it being a cut-and-paste twice. And I don’t think I’m insane. What’s going on?

EATA: And now a third —Trollin this very post. This is seriously weird.

EYATA: it’s this symbol. — maybe?

I wonder trollif it’s a freudian trollslip? :smiley: