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Ranking the Confederate Generals

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by major bill, Sep 29, 2013.

  1. major bill

    major bill Sergeant Major

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    During the civil War the Confederate Army had a large number of Full Generals, 8 in all. Not all these men were successful at that rank. I am going to attempt to give them a grade. Please note I am not attempting to grade them as Brigadier, Lieutenant or Major General just their performance as Full General.

    Robert E. Lee A
    Edmond Kirby Smith B
    Samuel Cooper B- (as Adjutant General and Inspector General)
    Joseph E. Johnson C+
    P.G.T. Beauregard C
    John B. Hood C
    Braxton Bragg D+ ( missed a D because of his victory at Chickamauga)
    Albert Sidney Smith Incomplete (I would give him a B or B- for what he did do)



    In your view are there any corrections of grade needed. Perhaps I am being a bit harsh?
     
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  3. Barrycdog

    Barrycdog Captain

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    How are you grading them? Based on what perhaps performance?
     
  4. major bill

    major bill Sergeant Major

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    I am trying to give a grade based on how they performed once promoted to full General. The trouble I having is not all armies or situations were equal. For example General Hood was probably put in a no win situation. General Bragg on the other hand had better opportunities than Hood, but did not do take advantage of the opportunities given him.
     
  5. Stony

    Stony Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    1. Lee
    2. Hood
    3. Joe Johnson
    4. Beauregard
    5. K. Smith
    6. A. S. Smith
    7. Cooper
    8. Dead Last in any poll. Bragg
     
  6. Delhi Rangers

    Delhi Rangers First Sergeant

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    Bragg didn't even realize that the Confederates had won at Chickamauga. He spent most of the battle in the rear and had little knowledge of what had occurred. IMO the Confederates won at Chickamauga in spite of Bragg. I believe that Hood only held the rank temporarily, I think that it was withdrawn by the Confederate congress.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2013
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  7. Poor Private

    Poor Private First Sergeant

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    Tis a tuffy because sentiment always worms its way in, but I ll give it a try.
    1-Lee(everyones favorite) kept the AOP on the ropes but mostly due to it's own ineptitude and commanders
    2-Longstreet
    3-Jackson
    3-A.S. Johnston
    5-Kirby Smith
     
  8. Barrycdog

    Barrycdog Captain

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    I know we are talking Civil war but some of these guys fought in the Mexican War and distinguished themselves there. Considering the condition of Hood and other conditions... how can you make a fair assessment. Not arguing with anyone's opinion.. just saying.
     
  9. Stony

    Stony Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    2, 3, and 4 are not choices my friend.
     
  10. Delhi Rangers

    Delhi Rangers First Sergeant

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    I believe that he is asking us to rank the men that were appointed the rank of full general.

    http://ehistory.osu.edu/world/ListPreviewOnly.cfm?LID=16&PreviewOnly=yes&public=yes
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2013
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  11. JeffBrooks

    JeffBrooks First Sergeant

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    I'd give him a lower grade, to be honest. Perhaps a B-. He was tactically brilliant and a superb manager of men. But his strategic vision was limited to the single objective of destroying the Army of the Potomac, which was not realistic and which caused the Confederacy enormous casualties it couldn't afford. He also fixated entirely on his own front and didn't appreciate the importance of the West; I recall one letter to Davis in which Lee said that the Confederacy should leave "sufficient garrisons" in the West and bring the rest of the Army of Tennessee to reinforce the Army of Northern Virginia. That statement reflects a complete failure to grasp strategic realities.

    Fair enough. He managed the Trans-Mississippi better than anyone had a right to expect and probably as well as or better than anyone else could have done.

    He was absolutely outstanding at signing his signature to the bottom of whatever paper Davis put in front of him.

    He deserves at least a B-. His variant of the Fabian Strategy (luring federal armies so far from their supply bases that their supply lines could be attacked with cavalry, while waiting for an advantageous opportunity to attack) was probably the best bet for the South to achieve its independence. He failed to win dramatic battlefield victories like Lee did, but he also avoided the enormous casualties Lee suffered; you don't see any Mechanicsvilles, Malvern Hills, or Pickett's Charges on Johnston's record, do you? And as Richard McMurry points out in his book on the Atlanta Campaign, Johnston's rebuilding of the Army of Tennessee in the winter of early 1864 is one of the great achievements of American military history.

    His competent defense of Charleston in 1863 and his outstanding defense of Petersburg in 1864 warrant at least a B, even if he was an arrogant blowhard.

    I'd say a D. While his tactical plans for the battles around Atlanta in July of 1864 weren't bad, his execution of them was seriously flawed. The strategic and tactical execution of the Franklin-Nashville Campaign was nothing short of disastrous. He was a horrible manager of men, who never took responsibility for his own failings and constantly blamed his subordinates, and even the ordinary enlisted men of the army, for his own shortcomings.

    His movement of the army from northern Mississippi to eastern Tennessee was one of the most complicated logistical undertakings of the war, and he took the war into Kentucky after that. He probably delayed the defeat of the Confederacy by a year or more. One wonders what he could have accomplished without having Polk as a subordinate. That being said, he was a jerk and a horrible manager of men. And what he did to Joe Johnston in 1864 is absolutely unforgivable.

    Fair enough. Had he lived, at least the Confederacy would have had a commander in the West that held the trust of Jefferson Davis.
     
  12. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter First Sergeant

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    We have had similar threads and it comes down to was general x that good vs general y was that bad.
    Gen. Waite and Hindman one could argue did the best they could with what they had.
    Gen. Buckner maybe could of done better in Ky in particular Perryville? The Ky campaign was critical after all Lincoln said"to loose Ky is to loose the game". I don't have an answer if Buckner blew in opportunity for the CSA maybe it could be argued both ways?
    Gen. Pemperton maybe should have learned from the Ft. Henry experience that the CSA can't hold onto territory ? Should Gen.Pemberton have fought is way out earlier? Hindsight is 20/20 hard to say.

    Gen. van Doren out numbered Union forces at Pea Ridge that was a tough defeat. Has mentioned Ft. Henry and Donaldson was a tough defeat the name of the CSA general escapes me but Forrest knew to get out along with some others.
    Speaking of Forrest I would have to put him on the all star team.
    Should Gen. Price have been aware that Gen. Rosecrans had a big heads up when Price invaded Mo in Sept 1864?
    The general that defeated Gen. Banks at the Red River was he that good or Banks that bad?
    Leftyhunter
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2013
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  13. major bill

    major bill Sergeant Major

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    I was trying to concentrate on Full Generals,not Lt. Generals, but who really care. With 17 Lieutenant Generals it is a bit too much for me to think on.
     
  14. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter First Sergeant

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    Just to be fair to all the CSA generals. If ones army has less men, food and equipment and a fair amount of desertion especially later in the war then being on the winning side is not easy. overall one could argue the CSA did pretty well with what they had or a combination of facing not so good generals ( at least not at the Corps level) from say McCllean to Hooker and then with Meade the AoP was a tough nut to crack.
    Leftyhunter
     
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  15. Nytram01

    Nytram01 Sergeant

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    Ranking the Full Generals of the Confederacy.

    1 - Robert E. Lee

    Lee's position is unassailable as the top general of the Confederacy. He achieved more success than any other Army Commanders and was the most consistant of them. There are, of course, negative aspects, such as the accusation that he paid no attention to anything outside of Virginia and was not prepared to do much to help other theaters out, and then there's the quite high casualty rate he endured sometimes in engagements that could have been avoided - such as, arguably, Pickett's Charge - or he managed poorly - such as Malvern Hill - but all in all he is clearly a level above the others.

    2 - Joseph E. Johnston

    A position I give him probably a bit due to personal bias. Johnston was the best army builder in the Confederacy, arguably on either side. No other commander on either side had had to attempt to build a cohesive army in the midst of so much interferance into his command as did Johnston in 1861 - with Cooper and Benjamin often jumping the chain of command to deal with his subordinates instead of him, with the Richmond authorities refusing to allow him to acquire any supplies from Northern Virginia but instead demanding they be sent back to Richmond fro redistribution to Northern Virginia, with foot-soliders being poached through the use of forloughs to be retrained for positions in the artillery or cavalry, with the government demanding he sent any rifles left behind by men on sick leave to them for redistribution to other departments, with the Confederate Congress demanding he initiate regimental elections while his army was facing McClellan at Yorktown - and his minor miracle in building a cohesive force for Bentonville is something I have yet to see the equal of in the conflict. He was, of course, hit an miss where his actual battlefield performance goes but he suffered no major defeat and won quite a few minor battles so that, in addition to his army building skills, means I rate him second behind Lee.

    3 - Braxton Bragg

    Bragg gets a bum rap in truth. Tactically savvy he was not. Hell to work with, alongside or under he definitely was. I often describe him as a bitter vindictive vendetta machine. But he was sound strategically, he was very capable administratively, and in terms of battlefield performance he came closer than any others in dealing damaging blows to the Federals out west - though his habit of withdrawing from the field of battle often gave the federals victory by default. His main flaws were his inability to adapt and work in the moment and his highly argumentative personality, however he has become the scapegoat for all Confederate failures in the west and that is unjust. A far more well research defense of the man can be found here: http://elektratig.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/was-braxton-bragg-really-that-bad-part.html

    4 - P.G.T. Beauregard

    Unrealistic. That's the word I use to describe Beauregard's approach to warfare. His plans were often grandios, complex and confusing, and often far beyond the capabilities of his own forces to achieve. And, as far as negative traits go, we cant ignore his going AWOL from the Army of Mississippi nor his preparedness to air his greivances with the government in public and in the press. Then, while he scores plus points for his inspired performance in the Bermuda Hundred, his attempted defence of the Georgia and Carolina's against Sherman, though lacking the resources to achieve anything significant with Hood up in Tennessee, was not well handled and he was often out of his depth and following Sherman's lead.

    5 - Albert Sidney Johnston

    Giving Sidney the benefit of the doubt. He bluffed his forward line into Kentucky when he didn't have resources to hold it, I can let him off somewhat with the failure to properly prepare Fort's Henry and Donelson because he thought he'd assigned the ideal man for the job in Tilghman - who failed to take charge of things - but I dont let him off putting a man who had no military background in John B. Floyd in charge even if Beauregard had declined the job. He did admirably in building an army to replace the men he lost at those Forts, and did well to catch the Federals by surprise at Shiloh but he allowed Beauregard to handle the battle while he rode about the front as a cheerleader, getting cut off from the full picture of the battle and leading several charges himself resulting in his getting mortally wounded. He showed some potential but that was all it was, and all he left behind was questions, so I cant really rate him higher.

    6 - John Bell Hood

    Hood was an unmitigated failure as an army commander and there are no two ways about it. You might be able to argue that he inherited a losing position around Atlanta, you can also argue that his plans weren't bad and was able to move the Army of Tennessee quite quickly and in good order, and certainly nobody can argue that he didn't put in a brave effort and did some hard fighting. but he lost pretty much every battle he fought barring Utoy Creek and Columbia, and his suicidal charge at Franklin coupled with his suicidal seige of Nashville in the middle of winter more than off-sets that, plus there is no overlooking the fact that he left Georgia and the Carolina's defenseless to Sherman's advance.

    Samuel Cooper and Edmund Kirby Smith are unranked because I do not know enough about them or their conduct to assess them.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
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  16. OpnCoronet

    OpnCoronet Captain

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    Need to define 'success' but, from a personal viewpoint, the grades are approximately right, except, of course, you have Lee a little too high and Bragg a little too low.
     
  17. diane

    diane Colonel Forum Host

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    Samuel Cooper is always going to be a cypher because he was never in the field. The original chain of command that Davis had envisioned for the military included someone like Cooper - a go-between for the president and subordinates. This position, competently filled, would have been very helpful in handling some of the personnel problems Davis faced - particularly with his good pal Polk. As it was, Cooper's position ended up making him a competent clerk.

    Davis expected too much of A S Johnston, gave him a huge command with too few men and too few supplies, including weapons. That Johnston was able to do as much as he did shows that he was certainly above average. In fact, he was the one Confederate general who came the closest to decisively defeating Grant. Even Lee couldn't do that. Having subordinates who were primarily political generals or friends of the president was a real handicap to Johnston as well. Considering all the adversities he had to overcome, I would rate him about an A. He and Lee might well have made a winning combination - the war was lost in the West, perhaps - at least in part - because of the loss of Johnston.

    Joe Johnston is a general I often defend, particularly in the West. His main problem was being so touchy! He never did get over being ranked below Lee from the get-go, and, unfortunately for the Confederacy, his personal pride was too important to him. He handled Sherman right but in other things - well, he left some to be desired!

    Beauregard is the one I would consider over-rated. He did well when he did well but his plans were usually wonderful on paper but nearly impossible to execute. He was the general who deployed the troops at Shiloh, and his plans were counter to what A S Johnston had ordered him to do. Feeding the troops in piecemeal may have looked strong and concise, but Johnston's plan of a forceful, full strength line all at once was likely the winning ticket. Shiloh would have been won before Johnston was killed.

    Robert E Lee, to me, was a first rate general and did the most with what he had of any of the generals on either side. He, too, had a large number of handicaps placed on him but really did the best possible to overcome them. Few doubt that the ANV was one of the finest armies in the world at that time. Lee's big drawback was letting his subordinates have too much leeway in their quarrels and in not being forceful enough when he should have been. (What's that line about nice guys finish last?)
     
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  18. Yankeedave

    Yankeedave First Sergeant

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    Albert Sydney Johnson is overrated. He was slow to grasp the Henry/Donaldson position, and then backed it up with incompetents.
    I like Joe. I understand him a little I think. I too went hunting and every bird was too high or too low. Being as it is, he didn't get the support that Lee did.
    Lee's army had what it needed. There are always times of strife but when you are never more than a mile or two from supplies. The theater is a third of the size as his western counterparts and he has the largest armies, supplies etc.
    I feel bad for Hood. I doubt he was enjoying much in his new promotion. He always struck real fear in his halcyon days.
     
  19. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter First Sergeant

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    Maybe no CSA general or combination could of won the CW. A common theme when defending CSA generals such has Bragg is they just didn't have enough troops. Sears in his book about Gettysburg mentioned that Davis took away a division or so away from Lee to guard against union troops based in New Bern Nc. Keeping the troops that they had from deserting was not all that easy . If a CSA soldier dies or is incapacitated who replaces him? For the Union they could go to Europe and recruit or use immigrants or blacks. For the CSA their coasts are blockaded its not that easy to import manpower. Quite a few Southern white men did not want to fight for the CSA (approx 100k)and instead joined the Union Army or fought has insurgents or bandits thus tying down home guards who can't serve on the front. To make things worse not all Southern officers in the pre war army and navy fought for the CSA about 40% off the serving pre war generals in Va joined the Union.
    Leftyhunter
     
  20. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter First Sergeant

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  21. Yankeedave

    Yankeedave First Sergeant

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    imho a lot is made of a well of newly landed immigrant army volunteering in mass for Father Abraham. it's false. the man power came from whatever man power pool was available state side. The German troops weren't Hessians. They spoke German and came from bountiful areas in America. The other pool is the Irish with mixed results.
     

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