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 Posted: Thu Mar 27th, 2008 06:01 pm
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ole
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We might be talking about personal definitions of "political." I take political to mean gaining and giving cooperation. A commanding general often had to resort to political maneuvers to maintain peace among his subordinates who, most likely, were as interested in position as they were in conducting the next campaign.

He also often had to persuade civilian authorities to gain approval and cooperation.

In the beginning, very nearly all were "political" generals. Shurz for bringing in the Germans; Butler for bringing along Massachusetts; et alii. Even Grant may not have been promoted had it not been for the Governor and Senators from Illinois. When Sherman wasn't called up, he secured an appointment through his brother and foster father. JE Johnston and Beauregard secured the personal enmity of Jeff Davis with their political jostling for position. Bragg failed miserably in his lack of this political ability to maintain peace among his subordinates; Lee excelled in it.

But I see where you're coming from. "Political" is most often associated with some extreme incompetence.

ole



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 Posted: Thu Mar 27th, 2008 10:19 pm
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Don
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Ole,

I was thinking of that as "communicating" instead of politics, but I see what you mean.

Bama,
No, I wasn't thinking of "suck-up." What I think I understand (quite probably in error) sounds more like strategic vision and the ability to be a good subordinate than "political." But I freely admit this may be due to my own personal definition of the term. Perhaps in my head, "political" is too closely tied to "own agenda."



 Posted: Thu Mar 27th, 2008 10:22 pm
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Don
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Hmm, so much for that error message that my post didn't go through. Looks like I was redundant and I said it twice....



 Posted: Fri Mar 28th, 2008 07:43 am
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Kernow-Ox
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Thinking about this list of qualities: would those we would want in a general also be desired in subordinate officers?

I'm inclined to accept that good generalship requires a specific set of skills which, whilst overlapping, are different to those of a good captain or colonel.



 Posted: Fri Mar 28th, 2008 10:03 am
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ashbel
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KO
I agree there are qualities of great generals that overlap with the qualities of good junior officers.  I think that is inevitable.  For example, both need to have the ability to motivate their men.  On the other hand, there are some qualities that don't overlap very much. For example, a captain does not have much of a need for strategic ability.

There is a missing ingredient in this list.  One might call it - "it."  There is a presence that great men (generals) have that separates them from the rest.  We can sense "it" when we around people who have it but I am not sure anyone can describe what "it" is.  I suppose we could add "it" to the list.

The fact that many junior officers have the same qualities of great generals is the core of John Boyd's theories on warfare.  That is why in today's modern american military the emphasis is putting decision making at the lowest effective level.  Generals do not have a monopoly on making good decisions.  Many of the disasters in the Civil War could have been avoided had generals allowed their subordinates to operate within the limits of broader strategic objectives rather than micro-managing every move.




 Posted: Fri Mar 28th, 2008 02:04 pm
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HankC
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ashbel wrote:  That is why in today's modern american military the emphasis is putting decision making at the lowest effective level.  Generals do not have a monopoly on making good decisions.  Many of the disasters in the Civil War could have been avoided had generals allowed their subordinates to operate within the limits of broader strategic objectives rather than micro-managing every move.




Excellent points.

 

Two great triumphs occurred when the junior officers and rank and file showed initiative and agility at Chattanooga and Nashville rather than waiting for orders to trickle down…

 

Good commanders tend to plan what they *want* to happen and allow others to *make* it happen...

 

 

HankC



 Posted: Fri Mar 28th, 2008 02:43 pm
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ashbel
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Has anyone else read the biography of John Boyd: "Boyd: The Fighter Pilot that Changed the Art of War"?  I have mentioned it several times but without a hint of recognition.  IMHO this is probably the best book at helping to understand modern military strategy and tactics. 

Briefly Boyd was responsible for everything from the design of the F16 and the Warthog to OODA which is the core of military tactical training for officers.  The book reads like a novel and is filled with lots of "eureka wow" information.

I have an extra copy of it and I would be willing to donate it to the "CWI book sharing club."  I will send it to the first person that requests it.  Keep it for two weeks and send it on to the next person who is interested in reading it.  I hope this doesn't violate any discussion board rules, but I would like for people to be familiar with this man and his work. 

 



 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 03:04 am
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JoanieReb
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Awesome, Ashbel.  Absolutely Awesome. 

What a great idea, and thank you.

(Speaking of books on tactics making the rounds, today someone handed me a copy of Battle Tactics of The CW, by Paddy Griffith, and told me to read it.  Is anyone familar with this book?)



 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 04:16 am
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ole
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Yes. He makes it easy to understand, although I understand that sometimes he oversimplifies. Even so, it is purported to be fine for a more than basic understanding. I have it, but have only used it for reference. Maybe I ought to read it?

ole



 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 04:18 am
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ole
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Back on topic, I introduced this thread on another board. Interestingly enough, one poster brought up "luck."

Another suggested: Must look good on a horse.

ole



 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 05:45 am
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susansweet
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Yep they have to look good on a horse for their statue.

 



 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 05:55 am
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JoanieReb
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" Must look good on a horse." 

Cute! 

As I understand it, Robert E. Lee was a bit vain about looking good on horse.  As I understand it, one of his "weaknesses" was enjoying being admired by women.

It is a common story, and I'm sure someone can bring it up in it's enjoyable entirety -  but the story Of General Lee, post war, interacting with two wide-eyed and admiring young women as he sat on Traveller.   And,  Traveller whinnied and bucked and seemed althogether a bit wild, so that Lee seemed quite a masterful horseman.  And, it turned out, the whole time, Lee was almost impercetively needling Traveller with Lee's spurs, so as to wild the horse and impress the ladies, LOL!

Last edited on Sat Mar 29th, 2008 05:56 am by JoanieReb



 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 06:10 am
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JoanieReb
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"Yes. He makes it easy to understand, although I understand that sometimes he oversimplifies. Even so, it is purported to be fine for a more than basic understanding. I have it, but have only used it for reference. Maybe I ought to read it?

ole"


Thanks, Ole.

Based on what you've said, I'll give it a shot and see where and how it goes. 

It looks, from font and length, to be quite reasonalbe in terms of a reading commitment.  Unless it is awful, and I doubt it is, I'll give the first 50 pages a commitment, then decide if I want to continue.

However, it has to take a number and stand in line....

Now, back to the real topic!

Last edited on Sat Mar 29th, 2008 07:42 am by JoanieReb



 Posted: Sat Mar 29th, 2008 08:37 pm
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Don
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Maybe "intangibles" for "it"? I would submit there are probably several "it"s. McClellan, for example, didn't seem to get "it", though he would have aced a college course on warfare of the time.

Ole, can you PM me that site? I lost it, that's why I haven't been there lately.



 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2008 12:11 am
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ashbel
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Don
I think "it" as I see it refers more to leadership qualities than everything encompassed by "intangibles." 



 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2008 12:59 am
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CleburneFan
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I think "it" refers to what Albert Castel in Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign called a "knack for war."

Castel was referring to Ulysses S. Grant when he used the expression to mean that Grant was "aggressive, tirelessly determined, cool and clear headed in a crisis, and, yes, at times lucky.

All those traits that Castel describes when taken as a whole in one package would describe a talented general.

 



 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 07:41 pm
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Don
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Cleburne,

I like "knack for war" a lot better than intangibles. Good one!



 Posted: Mon Apr 28th, 2008 08:09 pm
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Sgt. Ramsey
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May I add Absolute Belief in the Cause. One would need that in order to be willing to sacrifice even one soldier. Perhaps a bit of the gambler plus the ability to find and maintain a reliable cadre of informants. So much falls apart when the General is misinformed.

Sgt. Ramsey



 Posted: Mon Apr 28th, 2008 11:57 pm
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CleburneFan
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Sgt Ramsey, I do like your "absolute belief in the cause" characterization. Can you imagine how it would have gone if Robert E Lee had doubts about leaving the US Army to fight for Virginia?  Or if Sherman had entertained second thoughts about why he was battling his way through Georgia?  

The belief in the cause had to be a consideration for Union generals, some of whom fought to preserve the Union but weren't particularly committed to ending slavery while others were fanatic abolitionists and did fight to end slavery. This created a situation in which highly committed generals were fighting for two different causes although they fought on the same side.



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