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Which General would you have least liked to face? - General Civil War Talk - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Wed Jul 16th, 2008 03:48 pm
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BloodyBob64
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Forget the specifics about what type of command you would have. Just write about who you would not want to face and why.  

Personally, I would not want to go up against Forrest or Jackson. I think Forrest is self-explanatory. For Jackson, I realize many people question his tactical abilities and feel that his eccentricities hurt him rather than helped him in battle. Yet he was always thinking offensively; no matter how badly outnumbered he was or outgunned, he was always thinking attack. When soldiers headed towards the back because they were out of ammunition he would tell them to charge the batteries with their bayonets. This kind of automatic, almost inhuman like thought process (kind of like a stonewall), could no doubt be advantageous to the defender who just sat back and picked off the oncoming attackers; but Jackson was relentless and and would fight until the end. Also the chance that he would come at you only one way was unlikely. Most of the generals he faced during the war were unsure about his location up until the very point of battle and even if he didn't attack one of your flanks with a surprise manuever, the psychological fear that he would could often times be just as great. As for Forrest, I don't feel I really have to explain why I wouldn't want to face him; he was a violent, omnipotent cyclone; a 19th century mongol warrior.



 Posted: Wed Jul 16th, 2008 04:40 pm
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izzy
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Jackson and Forrest are a couple of guys I wouldn't want to face either.  I really don't know enough about the military leadership to choose anyone.  Does anyone have a Trans-Mississippi choice?



 Posted: Wed Jul 16th, 2008 05:23 pm
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javal1
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Cleburne - he had that very non-specific trait that any commander should fear, namely a "fire in his belly" and fierce determination. Him and Forrest (gotta hate meeting a guy who is both unpredictable and unorthodox) would be my choices.



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 Posted: Wed Jul 16th, 2008 08:36 pm
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BloodyBob64
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Yea Cleburne is another great addition to the list. He and Forrest alone were probably the greatest forces of deterrence to the North in the West. If they both had been put in positions of more power out there the outcome of the war would have probably been different.



 Posted: Wed Jul 16th, 2008 09:06 pm
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TimK
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For me, definitely Forrest. He was too unorthodox and crazy fearless. He would have me paranoid if I even thought he was somewhere within 100 miles.



 Posted: Wed Jul 16th, 2008 10:37 pm
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Captain Crow
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Over the course of a long campaign: U.S. Grant/Sherman
a specific engagement: Jackson



 Posted: Fri Jul 18th, 2008 01:53 am
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bschulte
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Captain Crow wrote: Over the course of a long campaign: U.S. Grant/Sherman
a specific engagement: Jackson


I'll take the Jackson who was at White Oak Swamp on June 30, 1862.  It shouldn't be too hard to beat a guy who falls asleep!  ;)

All kidding aside (and i joked around because I'm about to pick a specific circumstance myself), I'd probably go with William Mahone during the Petersburg Campaign.  Mahone was a civil engioeer pre-war for the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad.  He knew EVERY inch of ground around the latter city like the back of his hand, and his generalship improved measurably as a result of this fortuitous advantage!



 Posted: Fri Jul 18th, 2008 05:36 am
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fedreb
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Forrest, Cleburne, Jackson, all formidable opponents

US Grant, you gotta be uneasy when you keep hitting a guy who just gets up and comes at you again.



 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2008 05:20 am
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Dixie Girl
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Forrest and Jackson



____________________
War Means Fighting And Fighting Means Killing - N. B. Forrest When war does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." Stonewall Jackson


 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2008 06:07 am
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cklarson
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Dear All,

I am a member of the NY Military Affairs Symposium that has about 50 speakers a year, a number of them West Point officers so we get some real operational takes on events past and present.

A few years ago, I attended a lecture by a WP instructor on Forrest and he deflated his balloon. As I remember his main point was that not until very late did Forrest face a Union force of more than 2500 men with a competent general, so he had previously been facing weaker foes by definition. He also said he made a very bad subordinate. His conclusion: he's overrated.

RE: Jackson. Per Bonekemper's work, he was one of the few AofNV generals who could respond well to Lee's general orders. However, keep in mind that he was part of the equation of factors, including his noted over agressiveness, that made Lee lose as many men (KWM) in 14 months as he started out with with the AofNV: 80,000 when the North had an overall 4:1 manpower advantage, as well as one in massing and concentrating forces (read: RRs).

In modern war, which the CW really was in many ways, it seems to me that the best generals are not the ones intent upon achieving mano-a-mano type victories, but ones who work well with combined forces, plan and use their forces effectively and efficiently, and are "situational" decisoin-makers, adapting to circumstances. Also there is a saying in the military: amateurs discuss strategy and tactics; professionals discuss logistics. Grant, Sherman and Sheridan were also superb logisticians. Prior to the battle of Shiloh, it was Grant who ordered the most medical supplies from Chicago, not Halleck.

CKL



 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2008 03:09 pm
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ole
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Going with fedreb on this one: U.S. Grant. He simply refused to be beaten.

I keep getting this mental picture of Lee having beaten the AotP up, down and sideways in the Wilderness (again), upon hearing that the AotP is not retreating but marching around his right. As a religious man, I'd guess he didn't say what I would have, but there must have been a bit of profanity in his remark.

CKL makes an excellent point: both Forrest and Jackson have been the beneficiaries of considerable legend, although they both were very, very good at what they did best.

Forrest's primary contribution was in keeping vast numbers of troops on alert and in protecting Hood's rear (where he really gained some major points) on the trek back from Nashville.

Jackson's reputation is based largely on his performance in the Valley, occasions on the Penninsula, and his fatal end-run at Chancellorsville. Unfortunately (opinion coming), his fixation on his own predestination likely extended to his troops as well.

ole

Last edited on Sat Jul 19th, 2008 03:15 pm by ole



 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2008 03:58 pm
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TimK
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Reading the question again, I am leaning a little bit off Forrest and a little more towards Grant. My argument for Forrest would be based on his unpredictability, which of course was a reason why he was a very poor subordinate. In football terms, if I'm facing an opposing coach that has shown tendencies and patterns that are predictable, I can plan accordingly - even if one of those tendencies is tenacity. If I'm facing somebody that I can't figure out, that is so unorthodox, that he feels rules (orders) don't apply to him - in the short run, this guy scares me. Of course over the long run, anybody that says I've got more guys than you - if we take each other down one to one, eventually I'll win, that's pretty scary, too. In the long run, I agree its probably Grant.



 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2008 05:23 pm
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Captain Crow
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We must also keep in mind that Lee was working against the clock. He knew logistically/numerically that the South could not stand toe to toe with the North for an extended period of time and hope to maintain her independence.Thus I contend that in context with the strategic situation presented him Jackson's "over-aggressiveness" was actually quite appropriate in most cases. They (lee/Jackson) knew they must win and win big, quickly, before the full might of the North could be brought to bear. You cannot judge them with the same criteria as Northern Commanders because both sides were dealing with completely different situations. International recognition/intervention and presidential election results were things they could not control but the results on the battlefield were ultimately up to them.
Grant on the other hand was, I believe, the perfect General to implement the North's formula for success. He understood the logistics were in his favor and proceeded accordingly.
And keeping that in mind, if we are to judge Jackson for his excessive casualties then how much more so must someone like Grant be judged harshly for his bloody assaults at Vicksburg and Cold Harbor. The difference between Grant and many of his peers was his ability to admit his tactical errors and adjust accordingly and also his understanding of the overall strategic situation. I must say though that had he been presented with the same situation that the south dealt with I have grave doubts as to the success he would have achieved.



 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2008 06:26 pm
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ole
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Excellent post, Captain.I must say though that had he been presented with the same situation that the south dealt with I have grave doubts as to the success he would have achieved.
 

But he wasn't and didn't. The right man, in the right place, at the right time. End of story. As a nation, we've been darned lucky to have had such men in leadership positions. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Grant .... (Stops there because, after all, this is a Civil War Board.)

What the South dealt with is a problem of its own design.

ole



 Posted: Sat Jul 19th, 2008 08:00 pm
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Captain Crow
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ole wrote: Excellent post, Captain.I must say though that had he been presented with the same situation that the south dealt with I have grave doubts as to the success he would have achieved.
 

But he wasn't and didn't. The right man, in the right place, at the right time. End of story. As a nation, we've been darned lucky to have had such men in leadership positions. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Grant .... (Stops there because, after all, this is a Civil War Board.)

What the South dealt with is a problem of its own design.

ole
That is indeed true ole. It is a source of constant amazement to me that we always seem to produce the perfect leader for the circumstance when the need is greatest.
As I illustrated above each leader must be placed in a situation that suits their particular talents. Take Earl Van Dorne for example; in subordinate command of large formations ala Corinth=terrible, in independent command of smaller formations (Holly Springs) =solid commander. It all depends on wether we are evaluating the commanders record as it stands or if we are looking at overall attributes that could judged as liabilities in specific situations. In the later case I would put forth that given the same manpower and resources available to their northern  counterparts, the Lee/Jackson team would have been almost unstopable. I realize this is not reality but merely conjecture...but the original question was which general  would you have least liked to face. I took that to mean which one regardles of their record/circumstances would be the most difficult to face based on their different talents/personalities.
 And again I must agree that the South in many ways made their own metaphorical bed and ended up lying in it.
Sorry if I appear to wax argumentative but I just wanted to make sure I clarified the perspective from which my original points originated.
Great discussion regardless!



 Posted: Sun Jul 20th, 2008 07:24 am
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cklarson
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Dear All,

I reiterate and expand on my points given the subsequent remarks:

Forrest: he was a bad subordinate because he chafed at being supervised.

Lee: his and Davis's job was to win independence, not necessarily just military victories which meant putting up the best defense, not offense: keep the Federals from going deep into the South to disrupt their comms and supply lines and internal means of production; await war weariness from the North; and get European recognition. Lee was Virginia-centric--failed to send reinforcements, say to, Hood before Atlanta; and just always wanted to win by the mostest, with huge casualties that he could not afford.

Grant: Grant, on average, had 10-15 percent casualties; compated to Lee's 15-20 percent. His "butchering" is a myth.

My point about being a situational commander is that you have the flexiblity to change, given changing circumstances.

You also have to judge the context in which a general was operating. Forrest could be unpredictable, because he was mounted. As a WP officer pointed out, the AofP was a slow, lumbering army because as WPer led, they were engineers who relied on lumbering artillery. Once you have slowness built in, and are operating in a confined space with a transparent target (Richmond), of course, you're going to be more predictable. In another example: Buell and Rosecrans in TN: it took them weeks to get across TN, partly because Morgan and Forrest were ripping up their supply lines and RRs. But at this point in the war, a "soft" policy toward the South was still in effect--not a lot of destruction, and no one was thinking of cutting off from their supply lines. Grant was the first before V-burg, and then Sherman into GA. So at this time in the war, they did what everyone else would have done--probably Grant and Sherman included, although Buell was otherwise abominable, but Rosecrans very good.

CKL




 Posted: Sun Jul 20th, 2008 01:30 pm
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Wrap10
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There would be several commanders from the war that I'd be less than enthusiastic about facing, including some of the one already named here. But if I were to pick just one that I absolutely would not want for an opponent, it would have to be Grant.

It's often said of men such as Forrest, Cleburne, Jackson, or Lee, that they were fearless, relentless, could read their opponent like a book, could adapt their plans to a changing situation, or learned from their mistakes. Grant was all of these things. He was also not the same commander in 1865 that he had been in 1861 or 1862. He grew, learned, and adapted.

As for how Grant may have fared as a Confederate general, it's a good question, even though we can't really answer it. But personally I think he would have done well. After Fort Donelson surrendered, Buckner told Grant that had he, Buckner, been in command, Grant would not have found it so easy to approach the fort in the way that he had. Grant replied that had Buckner been in command, he would not have tried it in the way that he did.

Grant and Buckner were friends in the old army and the exchange may have been partly in jest. But I also think there's truth in it, and that it reflects the kind of commander Grant was. There was more to Grant than the simple, head-down, straight-forward bulldog of legend. He was a thinking general, and did his best to reason his way through whatever situation he faced.

Had he commanded on the southern side, then in my opinion it would have been no different. He would have attempted to adapt his overall approach to the means at hand, and reason his way through to the best of his ability.

If I were up against Grant, I may not have been terrified, but I would have had serious concerns about my long-term prospects as a commander. For every opponent he faced in the war, Grant proved to be the end game. They may have beaten him in a battle on occasion, but none of them ever figured out how to beat him in a campaign.

Grant sent a message to Lincoln at the start of the Overland Campaign that no matter what happened, there would be no turning back. For me, that, in a nutshell, is how you define Grant. Sooner or later, whatever it took, and whoever the opponent, he found a way to win.

Perry



 Posted: Sun Jul 20th, 2008 05:07 pm
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cklarson
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Dear All,

Someone wrote about Grant that he was just "sincere, appllied thought." As I remember, he never consulted staff on a major decision (which may not always be the best). He wrote clear, precise orders and even while he was doped up on cocaine, dying of throat cancer, wrote memoirs so clear that you don't even need maps to follow what was going on (thankfully because the book maps are atrocious).

I think this deep concentration was the reason he was not successful in business. In business you have to be outside your head. Grant was inside his head. Plus by the time he got back from the West in the 50s, a lot of the good land and business opportunities in IL and MO were already sapped up, as advertisements for years ahd been luring young men West with promises of great fortunes to be made and 40 percent of farmers in IL were tenants.

But one of the best descriptions of Grant is taken from the journal of a young 59th IL LT Chesley Mosman. He begins by saying that with Grant and Sherman campaigning changed. There were no more 3-6 month lulls between battles, which he facetiously stated the generals desired so victories would be duly "appreciated" by the public. Then:

"But this 'crazy Sherman' and 'Bulldog Grant' go at it like a man at a day's work, as
long as there is anything in sight to do they are up and doing as though 'hired by the the job.' They don't seem to care about clean clothes, but require clean guns."

A real classi comment. Cracks me up.

CKL



 Posted: Sun Jul 20th, 2008 06:26 pm
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ole
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Thanks for sharing that, CKL; I hadn't heard that one before.

ole



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