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Leadership Ratings for Civil War Generals - General Civil War Talk - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 12:27 am
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bschulte
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I've recently been involved in a project where I need to rank Civil War generals at a certain battle on a scale of 0 (worst) to 6 (best) in several important features, including:

1) the ability to rally troops who are disrupted or routed
2) the radius of command a leader has to effectively control his men
3) the ability to keep unit cohesion high (i.e. keep men in their units and fighting
4) leadership (the ability to give units in the vicinity a boost to their morale)
5) leader style (i.e. aggressive, normal, George McClellan)
6) combat experience.  

In addition to reading about the performance of each leader (brigade and above) at the battle in question, I've come up with several other factors to use when calculating these ratings.  These include:

1) age at the battle: I thought a particularly old or young leader might be marked down in some areas for physical disability or inexperience.

2) West Point (or equivalent) graduate or attendee: I realize that many West Pointers turned out to be dismal generals and that some civilians turned into excellent combat officers, but this is one that could be used as a general guideline.

3) number of battles leading his current type of formation (brigade, division, corps, army): The idea here is to see how much practical battle experience the leader has at commanding this number of men.  A leader recently promoted to a higher level might struggle a bit with cohesion until he gets used to handling a larger number of men.

4) number of battles the leader has been with his current unit (or a lower subunit of the current unit): This is basically familiarity.  How well do the men know this commander.  A long term leader is probably going to function more efficiently leading a unit rather than someone just placed in command of a new unit.

5) wounds prior to the battle and possible adverse affects on the leader in question: This is what I'll call the "Hood rule".  The laudanum usage has proven to be a myth, but losing a leg and losing most of the use of one arm has to affect you in some large ways.  Another example is Winfield Scott Hancock after his Gettysburg wound.  He was never the same and was ultimately forced from command of the II Corps by this wound.


Does anyone else have any ideas on factors to consider and how they would apply them to the six features listed at the top of this post?  I find this sort of research fascinating and I'd love to hear from those of you who have any opinions on this one.



 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 03:16 pm
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David White
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Brett:

Your factors seem to be pretty objective facts that would make someone like McClellan look good.  You need more subjectiveness. like aggresiveness or persistence of the commanders, of course those two factors may be good in some cases but in the hands of a fool lead to disaster.  Organizational skill is another subjective skill that will help a commander who is able to control a complex and ever-changing situation and manage it but how do you rate one commander's ability over another? It's an opinion that many will argue with.  Heck another subjective factor is winners always win and losers always seem to lose or just plain good (bad) luck.  Politics and ability to work with superior and subordiante officers is another subjective criteria that made or broke many a CW general.  But then some like Stonewall Jackson were able to overcome weakness in this area because he had such a superior commander who recognized the plus side of Jackson versus the downside.



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 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 04:48 pm
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bschulte
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David,

These factors are mostly going to be secondary considerations.  My main resource will be actually reading about the commanders and how they performed on the battlefield in question.  For some of the more popular battles like Gettysburg, there are actually books covering solely this topic.  For other battles, say Antietam for instance, reading thorugh the various Campaign and Battle studies would be required.  By coming up with these secondary factors or considerations, it gives me that many more things to consider and then use to defend why I chose to rank a certain general a certain way.

Last edited on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 04:49 pm by bschulte



 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 10:36 pm
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Kernow-Ox
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Interesting project Bschulte.


I did have a pedantic point about definitions here, but have now removed it as it would not have actually related to what I think you are testing for.

I initially read the post as being about success or failure, but I got completely the wrong end of the stick and realise you are interested in matters of leadership, which a quick read of the thread title would have told me.

Sorry.

But anyway...

How do you plan to test for rallying the troops? I initially thought that desertions over time might be a way to do so. Such a measure wouldn't work because a desertor wishes to leave the war, rather than one individual event. I also thought that the length of time of an engagement might be a useful yardstick, but that might just as also show a refusal to change tactics (three hours for the bridge at Antietam?). Or would you base it on reputation?

Last edited on Thu Apr 10th, 2008 10:53 pm by Kernow-Ox



 Posted: Fri Apr 11th, 2008 01:46 am
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CleburneFan
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What level of general are you examining for your rating plan? Would you rate a corps commander differently than a division commander? Would you rate an army commander differently. What about, say, Sherman in the Atlanta Campaign who had three armies under him and each of these had a commander, Thomas, Schofield and McPherson at the start of the campaign? 

The reason I ask about this is that those in the  highest level of command had different responsibilities. So for example,  J E Johnston would require a different analysis than, say, Patrick Cleburne, a division commander, because their responsibilies were different.

In short, it seems that generals would have to be judged on a basis of equivalent rank and commands. For example, as the war wore on, commands might fall to men of lower rank than usual for that level because there weren't qualified men available at the higher rank... as when a Colonel might at least temporarily command a brigade. It would be hard to compare such leaders. Well, I guess you are just examining generals anyway.

I would also think that cavalry commanders, for example, might have some special considerations, as would leaders with independent commands such as Nathan Bedford Forrest in Mississippi after he fell out with Bragg.

By the way, I thought it was so funny when you listed "Leadership style: Aggressive, Normal, George McClellan." Thanks for the laugh.

You have taken on a very complex project. It will take so much study and research. I'd love to read your final report.



 Posted: Fri Apr 11th, 2008 03:56 pm
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Kernow-Ox
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generals would have to be judged on a basis of equivalent rank and commands

I do like the idea of the league tables, as regardless of their subjectivity they can help in quickly comparing and assessing qualities. As well as factoring in equivalent rank, the other factor to consider is deciding whether to treat the whole war as one set, or whether to break it down into different parts as the nature of the conflict changed.
Are we assuming that General X, who we score highly in area 3 based mainly on his performance 1862, is comparable to General Y who also scored equally well in that same area in 1864?

Had I subjected my research plans to such criticisms I think I might have continued onto a PhD....

(Aggressive, Normal, George McClellan - yeah, that could work. Anyone on the Confederate side we can also use as a term of derision?)



 Posted: Fri Apr 11th, 2008 04:12 pm
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Texas Defender
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  I would nominate Gideon J. Pillow and John B. Floyd.

Last edited on Fri Apr 11th, 2008 04:35 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Fri Apr 11th, 2008 07:28 pm
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ole
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Pillow and Floyd were jokes. Leonidas Polk was dangerous and possibly licked the Western Confederacy single-handedly.

ole



 Posted: Sat Apr 12th, 2008 12:22 am
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CleburneFan
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How about one of my favorites, Confederate Major General Earl Van Dorn who was not killed in battle, but by the jealous husband of one of his "girlfiends" ? That represents a kind of leadership--competent in battle; rash off the battle field.;)



 Posted: Sat Apr 12th, 2008 12:37 am
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Texas Defender
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  Earl never got to duke it out in the marquee as he was: "baron" of common sense and Dr. Peters put him down for the count.



 Posted: Sat Apr 12th, 2008 12:45 am
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CleburneFan
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Schulte, rereading your original post, I see that you are wanting to rate the generals in a "certain battle." What battle do you have in mind? The battle that you choose might make a difference on what traits you would be looking to compare, contrast and rate.

It might be easier to choose a "smaller" battle rather than a major action such as Gettysburg or the Battle of Atlanta (Bald Hill). Big set piece battles have so many complexities and so many commanders of regiments, brigades, divisions, corps and army level that your job would be time consuming, though very educational.

A smaller battle with fewer generals involved might be easier. Battles such as Brice's Crossroads, the almost comical Battle of Monroe's Crossroads (Kilpatrick's Nightshirt Skedaddle), the Battle of Olustee, Florida, Fort Pillow, etc, might be easier to study. Or you could take just one part of a major battle, such as Day One at Gettysburg.



 Posted: Sat Apr 12th, 2008 12:50 am
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CleburneFan
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Texas Defender wrote:   Earl never got to duke it out in the marquee as he was: "baron" of common sense and Dr. Peters put him down for the count.
:D:D:D  Now the song "Duke of Earl" will never be the same for me again.



 Posted: Sat Apr 12th, 2008 12:58 am
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Texas Defender
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CleburneFan-

  Our Early impressions of most things in life change over time.



 Posted: Sat Apr 12th, 2008 01:26 am
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CleburneFan
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So true. A diner near our house has an old juke box and when I hear the "Oldies but Goodies " I can't help but be amazed how life has changed since those days. But guys like Early Van Dorn will always be around. Just watch Dr. Phil.:(



 Posted: Sat Apr 12th, 2008 01:36 am
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javal1
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Ahem...... getting back to the original topic.....



 Posted: Sat Apr 12th, 2008 02:05 am
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CleburneFan
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Point 7: Where the general received his training--USMA, small  military school, Mexican War, working up from lower ranks, foreign military experience, previous state militia, etc.

Point 8: Relationships with other generals, rivalries, friendships, intrigues, resentments over promotions, etc.

Point 9. Political connections positive and negative.

Point 10: Personal wealth (Wade Hampton--very wealthy), Nathan Bedford Forrest (had worked his way out of relative  poverty)

Last edited on Sat Apr 12th, 2008 02:06 am by CleburneFan



 Posted: Sun Apr 13th, 2008 04:03 pm
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bschulte
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Everyone,

Excellent points!  I have learned a lot from this board and several others I frequent.  Thanks for the help.  Once I'm done with my project, I'll let you know what it was and where you can find it.  It will be interesting to see how you think I did.  :cool:

Last edited on Sun Apr 13th, 2008 04:05 pm by bschulte



 Posted: Sun Apr 13th, 2008 04:07 pm
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bschulte
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CleburneFan wrote: Schulte, rereading your original post, I see that you are wanting to rate the generals in a "certain battle." What battle do you have in mind? The battle that you choose might make a difference on what traits you would be looking to compare, contrast and rate.

It might be easier to choose a "smaller" battle rather than a major action such as Gettysburg or the Battle of Atlanta (Bald Hill). Big set piece battles have so many complexities and so many commanders of regiments, brigades, divisions, corps and army level that your job would be time consuming, though very educational.

A smaller battle with fewer generals involved might be easier. Battles such as Brice's Crossroads, the almost comical Battle of Monroe's Crossroads (Kilpatrick's Nightshirt Skedaddle), the Battle of Olustee, Florida, Fort Pillow, etc, might be easier to study. Or you could take just one part of a major battle, such as Day One at Gettysburg.

CF,

Unfortunately I do not have a choice on the battle.  :)  It IS a larger battle, but I can't say more than that for the present.  I will definitely revisit this post at the proper time.  I can really see this turning into a useful and fascinating debate.



 Posted: Sun Apr 13th, 2008 11:00 pm
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CleburneFan
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Definitely come back here when you find out the battle. Some folks here have an amazing amount of knowledge about specific battle fields they have visited and battles and generals they have studied in detail. I guess most of us have a few "favorite" battles and favorite generals or armies or corps or what have you. Don't hestitate to ask for help.



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