Greatest Military Leader of all time?

Gorsnak, you can explain out Wellington, but considering that Nelson smashed him at sea, making TWO major battles that Bonaparte lost fair and square (and Trafalgar really was inexcusable)… well, I think the Napster is out of the running. Sorry.

I’m not sure what she’s doing in this list. At best she won a couple skirmishes, even assuming she was actually commanding.

I’m unaware of Napoleon having anything much to do with Trafalgar. Trafalgar is very good evidence that Nelson was a vastly better admiral than Villeneuve. This should come as no surprise, since Nelson was a vastly better admiral than any of his contemporaries (indeed, as RickJay suggests, Nelson is arguably the best naval commander ever). But Trafalgar is no more relevant to the relative merits of Nelson and Napoleon than Talavera, Salamanca, or Vitoria are to the relative merits of Wellington and Napoleon. These engagements are good evidence that Nelson and Wellington were excellent commanders, but they say nothing about Napoleon. If you want to make a case against Boney, you should focus on the Russian fiasco.

It’s a list copied from the other site’s poster.

I don’t remember Napoleon being present at Trafalgar.

On the other hand, he was defeated, for instance, at Leipzig. But of course, the british weren’t present…

(it seems quite obvious to me, as I mentionned a number of times, that posters here being much more conversant with british history, are very biased on the overall, tending to overestimate the influence/power/importance/achievments of the UK as far as european history is concerned).

By the way, Blücher was present both at Leipzig and Waterloo. How comes Wellington is mentionned and Blucher isn’t?

:smack: :smack: :smack:

Knew that, I swear.

:smack: :smack: :smack:

For what it’s worth, he was ultimately the dude in charge.

That’s a lousy excuse, I know.

But this does remind me, there are two cases in which he clearly slunk back to France, sans l’armee. (end of the Egypt campaign and immediately after Waterloo. In the latter case, he was caught before he made it home).

The main point stands, in that I don’t think he’s really in the running for best military leader.

Perhaps it’s worth distinguishing between two sorts of situations.

Suppose we’ve got a military force and a logistical base, and we want a commander to take them and kick some ass. In this role, I think I’d probably pick Wellington over Napoleon. Possibly. Tough call, but the demise of la Grande Armee does give me pause.

On the other hand, if what we’ve got is a country, and we want a commander to take it and beat the tar out of the neighbours, then I’ll pick Napoleon over Wellington every single time.

How do you figure? Wellington won every battle he fought, IIRC, while Napoleon lost at least two, not to mention leading his army into disaster in Egypt, Russia, and over a longer period Spain. Wellington’s timing, movement and instinct in India and Spain/Portugal are pretty much unmatched IMO.

One not mentioned yet: Marlborough .

Until I mentioned Wellington and Nelson, no British commander had been cited. So, um, WHAT bias, dude?

Given that nation’s rather illustrious military and imperial history, wouldn’t it be insane to NOT expect British generals to rank among the very best? I mean, we haven’t even mentioned Wolfe or Slim yet.

Who decided the tactics for the IRA? Or did terrorist techniques come about organically?

Lee was given his first significant command in June 1862. At that point, the CSA had been around for sixteen months and the war had been going on for fourteen months. Presumedly, after a year of fighting, the “ragtag” days were over.

I’m surprised Ho Chi Minh hasn’t been brought up?

Sure, but that’s kinda like going undefeated in the Mountain West and thinking you’re a better football team than the 11-2 Big 12 Champs. It’s possible, but the records themselves don’t prove it. The Peninsular War was a sideshow compared to the campaigns in the east, and Wellington never faced France’s first string prior to Waterloo. He was very good, as I’ve said, but he didn’t face the same level of testing as Bonaparte did.

Or put it another way. Wellington was uniformly successful fighting a smallish portion of the overall French army. Napoleon was only mostly successful fighting all the military forces that England, Prussia, Russia, and assorted minor players could scrape together. Which is more impressive?

Look, I probably wouldn’t put Napoleon into the top spot, or even runner-up, precisely because of the failings that have been mentioned. However, I think conquering most of Europe should probably rate higher than winning all of the battles in your relatively minor campaign, and so he’s going to be higher on my list than Wellington. This is arguable, perhaps, but my initial point was simply that the idea that the general who defeats a great general must be an even greater general is not correct. Monty was a serviceable general, but no way was he better than Rommel, despite the fact that he beat him. Maybe Wellington was better than Bonaparte (though I’m not conceding that), but the mere fact that he beat him at Waterloo doesn’t prove the point.

Wellington is generally considered a more imaginative commander. Blucher was capable and energetic - a good general, but probably not great.

Another very fine British general - Marlborough. Though his French opposite, Villars, was also very good, as was his ally, the great Prince Eugene of Savoy.

As for that list from above:

Solid candidate - combined military ability with political genius.

Interesting choice. Most folks picking Poles would have probably been tempted to go with the better known figure like Jan Sobieski ( wrongly, in that case ). Certainly quite capable, but I don’t know the details of his campaigns enough to attempt tojudge.

Absolutely not, for reasons already enumerated.

Possible. To this day Cannae probably remains the most complete single battle victory in history.

No. An inspirational figure who had no particular military genius.

Arguable. Brilliant man, but in terms of pure campaigning, I’d incline slightly towards his general Subedei. It was Subedei that was primarily responsible for planning and orchestrating the two most brilliant Mongol campaigns, the invasions of Khwarizm and Europe. And as the primary battlefield commander, as at the Kalka River ( co-commander there, with another brilliant general, Jebei Noyan ) or Mohi/Sajo River, his armies performed flawlessly. As both a master tactician and superb strategist, he was a truly complete general.

Nah. An impressive ruler in many respects, but probably not a real military genius ( though certainly at least competent ).

Certainly in the running.


I’d be inclined to say no, but he certainly had a great strategic mind.

Ehhh…Equal of Julius as a politician, probably not as a commander ( but certainly not inept ).

Marcus Aurelius. In the top ten ( maybe five ) of Roman emperors overall and a fine commander but probably not the best of that lot. His victorius Parthian war was commanded by Lucius Verus and he himself suffered a major reverse in an attempted offensive across the Danube in 170.

Very fine grand strategist. Tactically nothing to speak of. If not for the cupidity and corruption of the Ottoman commander who had surrounded him, he would have died or been taken captive on the Pruth in 1711.

He had the good/bad luck in that his primary opponent was Charles XII of Sweden. Truly a tactical genius, the finest battlefield commander of his day. Also an utter crap grand strategist. In the end Peter won the war, despite the fact that Charles and his staff won most ( almost all ) of the battles.

I prefer Jonathan Chance’s choice of Stonewall Jackson over Lee.

Gustaf Adolph was undoubtedly the best commander in the Thirty Years War and Justinian’s commander Belisarius is a great choice. There is also the eunuch Narses, Justinian’s other great general. That guy Timur wasn’t bad ;). Or just to throw out another obscure name, Nadir Shah, one of Persia’s greatest generals. Or howabout the Hussite general Jan Zizka? Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian empire? Epaminondas? Miltiades, victor at Marathon? etc. :slight_smile:

  • Tamerlane

Giap before Ho Chi Minh as a general. Uncle Ho was more a political genius.

  • Tamerlane

Tamerlane, what’s your analysis of Sun Tzu?

Darius? Xerxes? Ozymandias?

Khalid bin Walid?


Don’t bring an army to the fight and there’s no one to win against.

Anybody else like Shaka Zulu? He didn’t conquer huge areas or have a particularly widespread legacy, but he did build the most feared and disciplined army in Africa out of virtually nothing, and the tactics and weaponry he developed have to be considered as revolutionary as anyone else mentioned here.