Best Civil War General

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by Pistolenschutze, Sep 27, 2006.

?

Best Civil War General

  1. Robert Edward Lee

    31 vote(s)
    43.7%
  2. Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson

    18 vote(s)
    25.4%
  3. Ulysses Simpson Grant

    11 vote(s)
    15.5%
  4. William Tecumseh Sherman

    11 vote(s)
    15.5%
  1. Well, we haven't had a good, controversial Civil War discussion topic for quite a while, and this one should get the juices flowling! I know there must be at least some Civil War buffs on this forum aside from just Polish and me. Hoist the Battle Flag, Rebs! Strike up the Battle Hymm of the Republic, Yanks! Load the cannon with triple grape and fire without sponging!

    I've chosen four of the most prominant Civil War generals for the poll, two Confederates and two damnyankees, er, I meant to say, "Union officers," to be as equitable as possible. Feel free, however, to chime in with any other candidates you feel would be more deserving of the title "best general."

    My own choice? Robert Edward Lee, of course!! :D
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 27, 2006
  2. Ursus

    Ursus New Member

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    Lee. No doubt. If the Confederates would have had the same resources the Union had, plus Lee I think the outcome would had been totally different.
  3. stugacz

    stugacz New Member

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    If the dog had not stopped to relieve himself he may have caught the rabbit! I vote for the winner since there is no such thing as a fair fight!
  4. Nighthawk

    Nighthawk New Member

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    I voted because couldn't pass up my granddads name sake Stonewall Jackson.:p :D sorry if I messed yall's poll up carry on. :)
  5. Sackett

    Sackett Member

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    I won't play the 'what if' game either so I'll stick with the winners.
    I picked Grant. He figured out how to take Vicksburg which cut the Confederacy's throat.
    As an extra candidate, I'll choose Gen. John Buford whose actions at Gettysburg held the high ground against the Rebs. I feel that if it weren't for Buford, the South would have won the day.
    Lee gambled all on his run through the North at the risk of Vicksburg and his shear charisma persuaded Davis to agree to the action. He lost both.
  6. You make some very good points, Sackett. Grant's tactics at Vicksburg, and earlier along the Mississippi at Ft. Donalson, were nothing short of brilliant. I would argue, however, that as a field general commanding an army in a tactical sense, Grant definitely had his weaknesses. The most glaring of these became abundantly apparent at Cold Harbor when he sent his troops repeatedly against entrenched Confederate positions and they were literally slaughtered by the thousands, earning him the epithet " The Butcher." Grant's real strength, I believe, lay in his understanding of the war itself and how it must be won ultimately--by prolifigate use of the overwhelming superiority of the Union in terms of men and resources, when necessary, without regard to losses. Grant did not retreat, even when he lost; he just kept on coming. As a Union general, he could afford to; Lee could not; he simply did not have the manpower.

    As for deciding on the "best general" based on which side finally won the war, I think that sidesteps the point of the discussion. The South ultimately lost the war, as history clearly shows, to the overwhelming abundance of manpower and resources possessed by the Union over the Confederacy, not to better Union commanders.
  7. Ursus

    Ursus New Member

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    Right on, Pistol.
  8. Sackett

    Sackett Member

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    I see your point Pistol. I'm no good at what ifs, but let me ask one anyway.
    What if the South had the manpower and artillery that the North had, do you feel the outcome would have been different?
    Personally, I think yes.
  9. southernshooter

    southernshooter New Member

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    If vote Lee
    BTW The South did not lose the war we thought the North was after our women when we found out they just wanted our slave we said they could have em
  10. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    One of the contributing factors that the South LOST was Robert E. Lee. A stubborn anachronism, fighting a 19th Century "modern" war with 18th Century tactics, always looking for the "mythical" Napoleonic "Decisive Battle" while losing the WAR the entire time and not KNOWING it.

    Couple that with his INSISTANCE on moving the Capitol from Mobile, that COULD have been defended and cost the North a LOT more to take, he instead as a price for his service makes them move it to RICHMOND, 50 miles from Washington! (What price Victory? It NEVER seemed to enter his MIND!) Plus he NEVER grasped that the war would be won or lost in the WEST not the EAST. Grant DID. Which makes what Grant did in the WEST before he was called East to the "headlines," maybe more important overall to the entire war than ANYTHING Lee did! About the ONLY thing he did to help Bragg in the West was send Longstreet AFTER Gettysaburg to Chickamauga....he would have been BETTER to have his WHOLE ARMY there, and not barefoot and extended in Pennsylvania!

    No Lee was a GREAT man, and a GREAT battlefield commander, and the men LOVED him, (Overrated as that was, hell, the Union Troops loved McCLELLAN too....)but as the "George Washington," or even "Dwight Eisenhower," much LESS a Montgomery or MacArthur, of his age, he was a FAILURE as a "Supreme Commander," almost devoid of long term strategic thought!

    There is no contest between Lee and Grant, Grant knew at ALL times his strategic strengths, and USED them, and fought EVERY battle with an eye for TOMORROW, not for the "glory" of TODAY.

    But the TRUE genius was Sherman, he was truly the FIRST great "Mobile Force" Commanader, like Patton or Rommel, who UNDERSTOOD what it meant to break into the enemy's REAR and destroy his ability and MEANS to fight, if not his WILL....by causing MAXIMUM havoc with the means at hand...and keep MOVING....
  11. That, my friend, is one of the most interesting "what ifs" that can be posed with regard to the Civil War. Yes, I agree with you on that issue. If the South had possessed anywhere close to the resources of the Union, the war would have been over within the first two years. It took the Union that long to get its act together militarily. In the first two years of the war, the Confederacy clearly had the edge in terms of trained military leadership, many of whom were professional soldiers and had indeed been trained at West Point. I think it is pertinent to note also, that for the South to win, it only had to draw, to force the Union to allow the Confederacy to go its own way. Greater resources would have allowed the Confederates to take the war to the Union instead of fighting the defensive war they were essentially forced to fight.
  12. BALDERDASH! :D Polish, when Stuart's cavalry rides through Indiana and steals your socks, don't say I didn't warn ya! ;) Somehow I just knew you would respond that way, which is, of course, a primary reason for setting up this thread in the first place! :p :D

    Lee was forced to fight what was essentially a defensive war, which was, admitedly, something he was particularly good at. However, Lee was also a highly trained and experienced commander, and was indeed offered full command of the Army of the Potomic before his decision to go South. Yes, Lee was a gambler, but what successful commander is not? Lee was also experienced and astute enough to realize the overwhelming advantage in manpower and materiel the Union possessed. In short, the South--and Lee--had no viable alternative but to gamble on the "big win" if the South had any real chance at all to win. He had to force a conclusion quickly, before the Confederacy was destroyed by "overwhelming numbers and resources," as he later phrased it in General Order No. 9. It was a near fought thing as it was. If Ewell had gotten off his duff on the first day at Gettysburg and taken the heights, or if Longstreet had not piddled along until mid-afternoon to launch his attack on the second day, Lee might well have been dictating terms to Lincoln in the White House.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2006
  13. 358 winchester

    358 winchester *TFF Admin Staff*

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    With my name being R.E.Lee how else could I vote:D
  14. bfld

    bfld New Member

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    I knew how I was going to vote 'til I started reading everyone else, now I'm ambivalent; Thanks A Lot!

    Still will go with Grant. I'm looking for a CIC, not a field general (otherwise I'd take Sherman). Lee certainly muffed some of the more political aspects of his job (e.g. Richmond as capitol), but I don't hold that against him because Grant was spared those tasks by Lincoln. Lee certainly did amazing things, but he had the advantage of being a defensively oriented general at a time when defense was at a higher advantage than it normally is (nasty Mini balls). But Grant was the only one whose mind was flexible enough to understand how to apply all the resources of the North and what it would take to truly defeat the South. While in hindsight it is hard to understand why no other Northern general could grasp these two things, the difficulty of it is shown by how many tried and failed.
  15. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    PS, I understand you and all of your Southern Sympathizer Friends (In Indiana, we called them the "Damm COPPERHEADS":cool: ) have this emotional attachment and need to canonize Ol' Marse Robert as a SAINT (Patron Saint of Lost Causes, maybe?;) ) but you REALLY need to step back and look at what you are saying...

    Lee COULD have had his "Decisive Battle," in 62 or 63, in TENNESSEE, or GEORGIA, or SOUTH CAROLINA, after a Union force with a LOT less power, AND probably commanded by a Burnside or a McClellan, i.e, NOT a Grant, at the end of a LONG and tenuous supply line stretching through HUNDREDS of miles of "hostile" territory with partisans, and new "Swamp Foxes" and the South'ren "Cavalry Geniuses" making his railways and roads a living hell, that MAY have accomplished all the "wishful thinking" and fantastic twisted logic you ascribe to what MIGHT have happened if Lee had WON at Gettysburg

    INSTEAD, he squanders the GREATEST assets of the Confederacy, interior lines, manpower, and wealth, defending an "artificial" capitol 50 miles from his enemy's STRENGTH???? That was only MADE the capitol to "buy" his LOYALTY???? And then goes on the OFFENSIVE????

    No, the ONLY thing that would have insured Sainthood for Sir Robert, Earl of Virginny, would be if he would have STUDIED AMERICAN HISTORY....WASHINGTON won our independence by not LOSING the "Big Battle," winning the occasional "skirmish" that would give his army great experience, and keep the enemy off balance, keeping an "Army in Being," letting Lee and Marion conduct "Guerrilla" warfare when the British tried an "expedition" through the SAME areas the Union forces would have to try in 1863, all the while seeking and GETTING foreign recognition and support....


    HE grasped NONE of this. SO, Lee was a FAILURE to the Confederacy.

    DON'T allow the heartrending picture in your mind's eye of all those great, hardened and honorable Confederate veterans SOBBING when their "Great Leader" rode out on his magnificent white horse (while they were EATING theirs:cool: ) to meet Grant at Appomattox, cloud your ACCEPTANCE of the TRUTH, that Lee was the main reason they were THERE, starving, forsaken, out of powder and ball, barefoot, bedraggled, bloody,and BEATEN.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2006
  16. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

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    And "Oh By the Way..."

    WHY isn't Winfield Scott on the list?

    As C in C of ALL Union forces for most of the war, HE and HE ALONE foresaw the strategy needed to WIN, and submitted it EARLY, and EVERYONE in the Union army "pooh-poohed" it as the ramblings of an 80 year old senile mind...

    But the "Old Man's" "Anaconda Plan" is almost PRESCIENT in it's predictions, and ultimately is WHAT the North DID to the South....


    I guess when you are in your 80s, drooling a little spittle out of your mouth, and having STAINS on your 20 year old outdated uniform, and walk with a cane, all the "youngsters" in both officer corps AND the newspapermen on BOTH sides, much less the HISTORIANS:mad: HAVE to ignore you and put the "dashing" Lees and McClellans in their IMMACULATE uniforms and prancing steeds on their front pages....:cool:

    HELL, Scott COMMANDED just about every "great" General on BOTH sides in his masterfully conducted "last" of the "18th Century" campaigns in Mexico in the 1840s, and even HE grasped that what he did in Mexico was outdated...he KNEW them, WARTS and ALL....

    About the ONLY General on either side that also grasped it TOO was Grant....




    Old Age and Trickery beats youth and skill any day of the week....;)
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2006
  17. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

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    Alright, Pistol You should know by now that in order to be a "Damn Yankee", you must be certified as having been born in the Nutmeg State, with a hadn full of REAL nutmegs as you make your appearance. :) :) I'm not sure either of you choices meet that all important criterion......

    I would also add to my choice of General Lee, acknowledged as one of the GREATEST EVER PRODUCED by the US Military Academy, Stonewall Jackson. Each fought themselves and their deep Christian beliefs not only in the initial decisions to go to war and where or for whom, but were continually concerned for all the Christian brothers throughout the conflict.

    That to me is the mark of a great man !!!!!!
  18. Red Neck64

    Red Neck64 Former Guest

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    William Tecumseh Sherman,For a man that hated war so much he was ruthless in fighting one.But let me add this after some thinking,all four of them men were true fearless fighting man leaders,and I only wish we had them fighting for us today.They were definitely not politically correct leaders.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2006
  19. Polish, y'all need a T-shirt which says, "I'm just jealous 'cause the Rebs had a man like Lee, and all we Yanks got was a sloppy ol' drunk." :D

    Your reasoning is in error, Polish. Let me begin by stating for the record that locating the Confederate capitol at Richmond was strategically foolish for the Confederates. Yet it must be remembered that the decision to do so was POLITICALLY based, not militarily founded. Secession of Virginia was an absolute necessity to the formation of the CSA as a viable state. The little industry the South possessed was located in Virginia, mostly in and about Richmond. Once Richmond was chosen, the necessity of defending it as the symbolic home and center of the Confederacy naturally followed. Lee, as commander of the primary Confederate field army in the eastern theatre, had no choice but to govern his strategy--in large degree--around that key city. If Richmond had fallen to the Union, it is likely the Confederacy would have fallen to with it. It is hardly reasonable to chastise Lee for strategic decisions over which he had no control.

    I must also disagree with your reasoning on another implied issue, Polish. In your argument it seems you are committing one of the gravest errors any historian can commit; i.e., you are thinking anachronistically. You argue that Lee should have fought the kind of campaign we might fight today, but that was simply not done in the 19th century, at least not in the United States. Guerrilla tactics and terrorism were anathema then, and no respected commander--North or South--would have employed them. Armies fought armies, and let the chips fall where they may when the smoke cleared. Honor was still more than just a word to such people. Yes, there were such incidents during the Civil War, but those occurred later and were committed by irregulars like William Quantrell, not honorable men like Lee and Grant. Even Sherman in his "march to the sea" concentrated on destruction of militarily useful property, not the killing of innocent civilians.

    Because he was so old and fat that he couldn't even mount a horse, Polish, much less command an army, and indeed he didn't for any significant length of time! :D Granted, Scott did see much earlier than most that the Civil War would ultimately be won through attrition, but that does not qualify him as a tactical thinker, nor allow for the possibility that the Union might loose by a brilliant military thrust from the other side.
  20. 22WRF

    22WRF Well-Known Member

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    Since I am married to former Ms Lee a Daughter of the Confederacy
    and Ron's distant Cousin I could only vote one way:D :D :D :D
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