Most Controversial General

Who is the most controversial CW general?

  • McClellan

    Votes: 14 21.2%
  • Sickles

    Votes: 9 13.6%
  • Sherman

    Votes: 9 13.6%
  • Longstreet

    Votes: 2 3.0%
  • Butler

    Votes: 8 12.1%
  • Forrest

    Votes: 11 16.7%
  • Grant

    Votes: 1 1.5%
  • Lee

    Votes: 3 4.5%
  • Rosecrans

    Votes: 2 3.0%
  • Joe Johnston

    Votes: 3 4.5%
  • Sheridan

    Votes: 1 1.5%
  • Someone else

    Votes: 3 4.5%

  • Total voters
    66
  • This poll will close: .

GwilymT

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
On another thread it was asked if McClellan has generated the most divided opinion... let’s take it to a vote. Please note, this isn’t who you like/dislike the most but who do you think has engendered the most controversy and differences of opinion. Also, this isn’t to debate the merits of any particular general but rather to pick who garners the most differences of opinion and controversy.

For instance, I vote Sherman because he seems to be someone where there isn’t much middle ground. Some people think him a genius and hero while others think him a brutal butcher and war criminal.

Who is your choice and why?
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The answer to the question depends I think on how we define divided opinion/controversy and how we measure it. For example if it's the opinion among laypeople I think Grant comes high on the list, simply because he's one most people have heard of and there's the two simpler schools of thought about him (pro and anti).

Among people who are involved in serious historical discussion it varies depending on time, obviously; I believe that Gettysburg (and The Killer Angels) had a significant impact on the perception of several generals just as one example. Then there's the ones who are written off as a simple story who probably should not be.


I for example think McClellan was much better than most do, but I would not consider him a general who's provoked much controversy or differences of opinion simply because I think the view on him is quite uniform these days (at least among laypeople - among those who study his campaigns it's rather more mixed as far as I can tell). That someone is a cliche of civil war historiography doesn't exactly speak well to him being the subject of controversy, after all.
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
The answer to the question depends I think on how we define divided opinion/controversy and how we measure it. For example if it's the opinion among laypeople I think Grant comes high on the list, simply because he's one most people have heard of and there's the two simpler schools of thought about him (pro and anti).

Among people who are involved in serious historical discussion it varies depending on time, obviously; I believe that Gettysburg (and The Killer Angels) had a significant impact on the perception of several generals just as one example. Then there's the ones who are written off as a simple story who probably should not be.


I for example think McClellan was much better than most do, but I would not consider him a general who's provoked much controversy or differences of opinion simply because I think the view on him is quite uniform these days (at least among laypeople - among those who study his campaigns it's rather more mixed as far as I can tell). That someone is a cliche of civil war historiography doesn't exactly speak well to him being the subject of controversy, after all.
So you would think Grant maybe? If you had to pick...
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
So you would think Grant maybe? If you had to pick...
I think the main contenders are Grant and Lee (Lost Cause vs. Unionist School) if it's public perception, but if it's scholarly then there are others as well. One I think might be worth thinking about is actually Meade, because there are two views of him that seem to uneasily coexist (hero of Gettysburg and the man who needed to be superseded by Grant) though in the public perception this is sidestepped by assuming that McClellan was directly replaced by Grant!
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
I think the main contenders are Grant and Lee (Lost Cause vs. Unionist School) if it's public perception, but if it's scholarly then there are others as well. One I think might be worth thinking about is actually Meade, because there are two views of him that seem to uneasily coexist (hero of Gettysburg and the man who needed to be superseded by Grant) though in the public perception this is sidestepped by assuming that McClellan was directly replaced by Grant!
Can’t argue much with that assessment.
 

John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Controversial with whom? Among scholars and serious students? To the general public?
IS controversial today? [Because somebody has recently written a hatchet-job "exposé" about him? Because a movie has made
a hero or villain of him?]​
WAS controversial historically, but no longer really is [ie: Sickles]?
SHOULD be controversial, but nobody seems to notice?
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
Controversial with whom? Among scholars and serious students? To the general public?
IS controversial today? [Because somebody has recently written a hatchet-job "expose" about him? Because a movie has made
a hero or villain of him?]​
WAS controversial historically, but no longer really is [ie: Sickles]?
SHOULD be controversial, but nobody seems to notice?
I guess any and or all of the above. I chose Sherman- I don’t think there’s tons of controversy surrounding him among scholars but there certainly is among the general public. Who ever you think is controversial and why, whether among contemporaries, scholars, the general public... someone who SHOULD be but isn’t? Who & why?
 

Pete Longstreet

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Location
Hartford, CT
It's hard to choose... but in terms of controversy, I'd say McClellan. Think about it... out of all the generals in your list, he's the only one that was relieved of command, permanently. Plus his time while in command generates lots of controversy amongst many people. There's the lost order #191, his lack of follow up, his exaggeration of enemy numbers, and some would say lack of aggressiveness. But it's not all negative. He was superb at preparing troops to fight. He built a strong army. His men respected him, and morale was high during his tenure. Other men on that list like Sherman or Butler, generate debates, but at least you know where they stood. You have some who idolize McClellan and others who despise him. I think no matter which side of the tracks your on... once McClellan is brought into the conversation, opinions about him and his generalship always make for a heated debate. McClellan gets my vote.
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
It's hard to choose... but in terms of controversy, I'd say McClellan. Think about it... out of all the generals in your list, he's the only one that was relieved of command, permanently. Plus his time while in command generates lots of controversy amongst many people. There's the lost order #191, his lack of follow up, his exaggeration of enemy numbers, and some would say lack of aggressiveness. But it's not all negative. He was superb at preparing troops to fight. He built a strong army. His men respected him, and morale was high during his tenure. Other men on that list like Sherman or Butler, generate debates, but at least you know where they stood. You have some who idolize McClellan and others who despise him. I think no matter which side of the tracks your on... once McClellan is brought into the conversation, opinions about him and his generalship always make for a heated debate. McClellan gets my vote.
Sound reasoning. One of my favorite pastimes on CWT is to read through the McClellan threads. I’m still up in the air.
 

Irishtom29

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
I don't think McClellan is very controversial: I think that by far most people are of the opinion he was good organizer and a bust out as a combat commander. There are a few people who defend him but not many though his defenders are very vocal.

Offhand I'd say Longstreet and Lee are the most controversial with Longstreet's stock going up and Lee's coming down.
 

Irishtom29

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
Not going to argue but I think the fact that almost everyone agrees with the assessment means that Bragg isn’t very controversial... I’m not sure anyone likes him, 😂.

I think Bragg is becoming more controversial as the Lost Cause myth dies and more people come to the conclusion that warts and all he was one of the best commanders the rebellion had.
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
I guess any and or all of the above. I chose Sherman- I don’t think there’s tons of controversy surrounding him among scholars but there certainly is among the general public. Who ever you think is controversial and why, whether among contemporaries, scholars, the general public... someone who SHOULD be but isn’t? Who & why?
One of the best books which I have read on Sherman as to his march though the deep south and the Carolinas is Rising in Flames, Sherman's march and the fight for a new Nation'=author J.D. Dickey. I shall not go into detail but it changed my attitude towards Sherman, and I am from Georgia and my ancestors fought in the Confederate army. Sherman, as with Grant, saw that to shorten the war would require sacrifice ,that the previous strategy only caused losses and a prolong war which they, along with Lincoln; knew that the Union could and would not endure. Read of the changes in the soldiers who went into this with no true knowledge of why they were there and how it changed them as they did . Remember according to Sherman he was going to make those who brought on this war to suffer in more ways than through the war itself and he did. Sherman was a military genius who realized that the only way to end a war was through "total" war as we fought in World War II .Why do you think Grant sent him on his walk instead of one of his other generals?
 

Stone in the wall

Sergeant Major
Joined
Sep 19, 2017
Location
Blue Ridge Mountains, Jefferson County WV
Spoons Butler, a poor political general, but a wonderful profiteer from the very start. Pre war he returned to Massachusetts warned the governor that hostilities were very likely, and the militia should be readied.Then made sure his mill got the contract for the heavy wool. He would continue to use his powers through out the war for his own profit. To top it off, of course we all know about New Orleans.
If we were talking post war my choice would have to be Longstreet.
 
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