Who was the Greatest Civil War General? (poll)

Who was the Greatest Civil War General?

  • Jubal Earl

    Votes: 1 0.4%
  • George Gordon Meade

    Votes: 2 0.7%
  • James Longstreet

    Votes: 15 5.4%
  • George Henry Thomas

    Votes: 6 2.2%
  • Robert E. Lee

    Votes: 90 32.3%
  • Ulysses S. Grant

    Votes: 97 34.8%
  • Philip Sheridan

    Votes: 1 0.4%
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest

    Votes: 18 6.5%
  • Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

    Votes: 24 8.6%
  • William T. Sherman

    Votes: 14 5.0%
  • Don't Know

    Votes: 11 3.9%

  • Total voters
    279

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
We'll never know. But the fact remains that Early was not a success against Sheridan.

And that would matter to this debate only if every single battle, no matter what the numbers or the other respective advantages and disadvantages, was decided solely based on the generalship of the respective commanders.

Napoleon lost the 1814 Campaign in France. Does that make him a bad general? Or does it simply mean that even history's greatest general cannot hope to prevail with 85,000 men against an enemy that numbers 350,000?
 

Drew

Major
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
I would like to know what other general in American history suffered casualties relative to his adversary as did Grant against Lee. I don't want to hear about "percentages," but numbers lost.

OK, there's not been an answer to my question. I figured as much.
 
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cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Right here.
And that would matter to this debate only if every single battle, no matter what the numbers or the other respective advantages and disadvantages, was decided solely based on the generalship of the respective commanders.

Napoleon lost the 1814 Campaign in France. Does that make him a bad general? Or does it simply mean that even history's greatest general cannot hope to prevail with 85,000 men against an enemy that numbers 350,000?

Or perhaps he wasn't history's greatest general after all. Perhaps Wellington was better and just isn't appreciated.

The sole yardstick for measuring a general's success is whether or not he wins. Early was not successful against Sheridan.
 

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
The sole yardstick for measuring a general's success is whether or not he wins. Early was not successful against Sheridan.

Taking your thinking to its logical conclusion. . . if an individual samurai warrior armed with a sword goes up against a battalion of U.S. Army Rangers armed with the world's most sophisticated firearms and kills 90% of them before finally being gunned down, he's not a great warrior.

Of course, that makes no sense. And the reason it makes no sense is that one must always consider the respective advantages and disadvantages commanders have if we are to give them a fair judgment.
 

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
OK, there's not been an answer to my question. I figured as much.

To paraphrase Gary Gallagher, if you live in North America in the 1860s and your goal is to get killed, you want to be in the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of Robert E. Lee. In all of Grant's battles in the West before he came to Virginia, he lost 35,000 men. What casualties did Lee suffer during the same time period? 95,000 casualties!

Do the math.
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Right here.
Taking your thinking to its logical conclusion. . . if an individual samurai warrior armed with a sword goes up against a battalion of U.S. Army Rangers armed with the world's most sophisticated firearms and kills 90% of them before finally being gunned down, he's not a great warrior.

He's not a general, is he? So then your analogy fails because it has nothing to do with what I said.
 

R. Alex Raines

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 13, 2015
Location
Monte Vista, Colorado
To paraphrase Gary Gallagher, if you live in North America in the 1860s and your goal is to get killed, you want to be in the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of Robert E. Lee. In all of Grant's battles in the West before he came to Virginia, he lost 35,000 men. What casualties did Lee suffer during the same time period? 95,000 casualties!

Do the math.

Inflammatory comments edited out by moderator JerseyBart Prior to coming to Virginia, Grant was waging an offensive war against a numerically inferior foe. Further, he was playing against the CSA second team. Also, that number you've thrown out doesn't make any sense. Meanwhile, Lee was fighting to defend a fairly limited geographical area (the approaches to Richmond) for that same time period, while generally outnumbered. Casualties aren't a good metric, especially not how you want to use them for comparison.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

R. Alex Raines

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 13, 2015
Location
Monte Vista, Colorado
Or perhaps he wasn't history's greatest general after all. Perhaps Wellington was better and just isn't appreciated.

The sole yardstick for measuring a general's success is whether or not he wins. Early was not successful against Sheridan.
Cash,

You silly Anglophile. A general doesn't have to win every single battle or campaign to be considered successful or great. Hannibal comes to mind. Do you think Zama outweighs Cannae? That said, Early vs Sheridan is not a hill I'm gonna die on, Sheridan was clearly the better general.
 

Saruman

Sergeant
Joined
Jun 10, 2011
And that would matter to this debate only if every single battle, no matter what the numbers or the other respective advantages and disadvantages, was decided solely based on the generalship of the respective commanders.

Napoleon lost the 1814 Campaign in France. Does that make him a bad general? Or does it simply mean that even history's greatest general cannot hope to prevail with 85,000 men against an enemy that numbers 350,000?

Totally agree. Early was a far superior general to Sheridan and performed very well against overwhelming odds.

At that stage of the war, and with 40,000 to 15,000 odds, not to mention the vast disparity in arms and supplies, most Union generals could have dispatched Early's forces with far greater ease than Sheridan could manage.
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Right here.
Cash,

You silly Anglophile. A general doesn't have to win every single battle or campaign to be considered successful or great. Hannibal comes to mind. Do you think Zama outweighs Cannae? That said, Early vs Sheridan is not a hill I'm gonna die on, Sheridan was clearly the better general.

In order to have a Cannae you have to have a Varro, so yes, Zama outweights Cannae. Scipio defeating Hannibal is far more impressive than Hannibal defeating Varro.
 

Jamieva

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
To paraphrase Gary Gallagher, if you live in North America in the 1860s and your goal is to get killed, you want to be in the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of Robert E. Lee. In all of Grant's battles in the West before he came to Virginia, he lost 35,000 men. What casualties did Lee suffer during the same time period? 95,000 casualties!

Do the math.


I like Gallagher but the comparison of Lee's losses in the east to Grant's in the west have always bothered me. It's a very apples and oranges situation as the armies in the east were larger and it was a much more active theater.
 
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