Top 10 Generals of Western History


In our modernized, mechanized age of warfare, where decisions are made by civilians, officers far from any line of combat, congressional committees, and unknown military strategists in committee, an army is a faceless thing. For the last six decades, the idea of massed armies doing battle has been considered a curiosity of the past, and warfare is often viewed more as an endemic state of some sort rather than a series of events.

Once, however, responsibility and consequence were not so diffused. Brilliant strategic, tactical, and logistical minds had immediate and total control of large armies, and those armies became victorious or defeated because of one man’s ability. In our attempt to survey the great generals of history, we must limit ourselves, or at least agree to common terms. For the purposes of this list, those eligible for inclusion must have been field commanders, with undeniable autonomy in their battles; no armchair generals or errand boys here

10. Attila the Hun


Attila the Hun

Leader of the Hunnish empire that stretched from the borders of modern day France to the steppes of Russia, this thorn in the side of both Roman and Byzantine empires assembled a massive force of all the tribes and nations traditionally viewed as provincial savages – Huns, Goths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, and many more, and nearly conquered mainland Europe. In the template of other “barbarian” conquerors to come after him, like Genghis Khan, he showed the lie of assumed Western superiority; and whenever your enemies names you “the Scourge of God”, you can assume you’ve proved yourself a respected threat.

9. Frederick the Great


Frederick the Great

Frederick II of Prussia was a student of modern warfare, and later its guiding voice in the late 18th century. He modernized the army of his disjointed pseudo-German kingdom, and fought continuous wars against Austria, the dominating power of the Holy Roman Empire at the time. Known for both his books and treatises on warfare, as well as leading troops into battle personally (he had six horses shot from under him), Frederick was a force to be reckoned with

8. George S. Patton

The most controversial figure of the Allied forces in WWII, Patton himself may have believed himself to be reincarnated from more ancient warriors, carrying their bravery and experience into his battles. A promising early career helping Pershing hunt Pancho Villa jumpstarted Patton into the armored corps, where he became a mentor to Eisenhower (later promoted over his head). In WWII, he gladly used the Germans’ blitzkrieg against them, using the maneuverability of American armored units to out maneuver German lines and gaining large amounts of ground over short periods of time. His infamous incidents, including troops under his command executing more than one massacre, and Patton’s slapping of a supposedly cowardly soldier in a field hospital, contributed to his decline, but more than anyone else, he led the Allies to victory in Europe.

Notable contemporaries: Benard Montgomery, British general and competitior; Erwin Rommel, Nazi tank commander and adversary

7. Joan of Arc


Joan of Arc

The maid of Orleans is the only commander on this list to have had to share command in even her finest moments of victory, but as she is also the only woman, one feels an exception is in order. A French peasant girl who claimed visions from God, she traveled to Charles II, the French king losing the war to the English. Though she was hampered by skepticism at first, Joan influenced several important French victories, leading charges personally, and inspiring French troops to renewed fervor. Tried and executed by an English court for witchcraft, she was later exonerated, beatified, and made the patron saint of France

6. Julius Caesar

The famed consul of Rome was perhaps the ablest of the late Republic’s military leaders, vying with his co-consul, Pompey for glory in subjugating territory to Rome’s expansionist will. His campaign against the Gauls is still required reading in many military academies, and his defeat of Pompey nearly granted him the kingship of firmly republican Rome. The political and personal treachery that ended his life and provided the opportunity for his nephew, Octavian, to become emperor, is legendary, but Caesar’s successes were more reliant on the loyalty and victory of his armies than political maneuvering.

Notable contemporaries: Pompey the Great (adversary), Marc Antony (protégé)

5. George Washington

George Washington

Washington was the pivotal, and probably most successful, leader of the American revolutionary forces vying for independence from the British Empire. Though ably assisted by several subordinates (including Benedict Arnold, whose military acumen has been overshadowed by his famous betrayal), Washington proved the uniting force of the Continental Army, leading it to victory at Trenton and Yorktown, and holding the piecemeal forces together in the hard winter at Valley Forge. Being elected President twice without serious opposition seemed the least Americans could do for their war leader

4. Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee

Lee, perhaps the most successful commander in history against numerically and materially superior forces, was the gentle genius in charge of the Army of Northern Virginia and most Confederate forces during the Civil War. He developed a reputation of near omniscience among both enemies and allies, and soundly thrashed Union forces soundly on numerous occasions. His losses, few as they were, were generally more devastating to his opponents than himself, and Ulysses S. Grant, the only general to successfully corner Lee, was forced to adopt a strategy of attrition, rather than any attempt to outfight Lee.

3. Salah ad Din

Salah ad Din

Saladin, as he is known in our language, was the most outstanding leader of the Crusades, hampering the fledgling crusader states and European invasions with equal aplomb. Known for his calm and rationality, his lack of fanaticism, and his respect for his opponents, he conquered Syria, Egypt, and most of modern day Israel steadily and without great difficulty. He was enormously respected by nearly all of his rivals, and maintained an epistolary friendship with Richard the Lionheart, sending him gifts, horses, and his own physician.

2. Hannibal Barca


Hannibal Barca

The most feared opponent Rome ever faced, this Carthaginian general was raised to the task of defeating the Romans from early childhood by his father, Hasdrubal. Hannibal abandoned previous Carthaginian tactics of passive naval superiority, and marched a force on elephants over the Italian Alps. Defeating the Romans at nearly every battle he fought, he made a Roman general, Quintus Fabius Maximus, famous merely for being able to delay Hannibal’s advance without enormous loss of life (Fabius was granted the title “Cunctator”, or delayer, by the Roman senate).At Cannae, Hannibal’s forces, cobbled together and suffering from losses, routed an enormous Roman army, killing or capturing upwards of fifty thousand enemies. Eventually defeated by Scipio Africanus and deserted by his government, he remained a scourge the Romans invoked to justify razing Carthage.

1. Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

Born a Corsican, Napoleon became by far the most able general of the modern age, rising from obscurity during the Revolution to Consul and Emperor of the French Empire which spanned from Madrid to Moscow and from Oslo to Cairo. Originally an artilleryman, he led campaigns that conquered the Italian States, Austria, Egypt, Prussia, Spain, the Netherlands, Swedish Pomerania, parts of the Caribbean, and large swathes of Russia. Leading brilliant campaigns, using concentrated force in lightning strikes on the field, developing independent and complete army corps (a system still modeled today), installing puppet rulers, conscripting troops from each nation he subdued, and inspiring a host of marshals who were all able tacticians themselves (Murat, Massena, Bernadotte, Ney, and many others), Napoleon revolutionized warfare. No less than four international alliances of powers were required to bring his empire to its knees, and without the simultaneous pressure or Russian winter, British naval domination, Spanish guerillas, and Wellington’s stolid and unbreakable Anglo-Spanish-Portuguese Army, very likely Bonaparte would have sat astride the his European conquests for years to come.

Sadly, this list cannot be exhaustive; our knowledge comes to us through dubious historians, and a mythos that may deny some great leaders their due. Notables who missed the top ten by a hair: Alexander the Great, who conquered most of Southeastern Europe, Asia Minor, and large parts of India in a single sweeping campaign, before dying in tears that “there were no more worlds to conquer”; Genghis Khan, whose horde took most of China and Russia; Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, who took Western Europe in the late Dark Ages, defeating native tribes, isolated kingdoms, and Moorish conquerors alike; and of course, contemporaries and rivals of those in the top ten. Wellington, Jackson, Pericles, Leonidas, Grant, Pompey, Garibaldi, and Tokugawa all played their roles, and should not be underestimated lightly. But the ten we have inscribed are perhaps the most iconic, representative, and beloved (or feared) of conquerors, a breed of men that knew the direst times of human history, and thrived in them. We shall not see their like again.

Written by C. Vincent Barbatti

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  1. The $20 Sommelier on

    Sherman. Sherman's march to the sea through Georgia is an iconic example of scorched earth, and his quote "war is hell" is known around the world.

      • Not the same way Sherman did because he used it on the offensive, not defensive. Sherman still should not be on that list.

        • Well if not Vercingetorix, then Edward of Woodstock (The Black Prince) certainly used agressive Scorched Earth Tactics (his Chevauchees) as well as Sherman during his campaigns in Aquitaine and leading up to Poitiers.

        • Chevauchee was used by Edward III as well. Both Richard and the Black Prince memory was aided by early deaths before they had to pay for their lack of management skills. In the case of both someone named John had to clean up and take the bad rap.

    • terrible list Joan of Ark was not a general just an inspiration to french troops that won them the war
      Washington though he is a great general he should not be on this list he lost the majority of his battles.
      Napoleon should not be number 1 he made a lot of massively important military mistakes that's why he lost
      HOW CAN YOU FORGET ALEXANDER THE GREAT only two generals of all time were undefeated him and Sun Tzu

      all in all this list should be remade the best generals aren't all from the west Sun Tzu could kick all these generals asses in a fight

      • david (november 4, 2009),
        your comments are symptomatic of the same problem the writer mentions at the end of the article: military history is a rather jumbled mass of truths, half-truths and mythos with a lot of revisionism thrown in.
        alexander should have been in the top 5, agreed, if not no.1. joan of arc shouldnt be here, she was just an inspiration NOT a general. washington lost most of his battles. but where the heck did you pull out Sun Tzu from? The dude wasn't even unquestionably historical. The P'ing Fa is probably a book on warfare designed by a committee, a good book, but doesnt prove Sun Tzu existed, let alone was an undefeated general. dont believe everything the Chinese claim, dude.
        going by your 'undefeated general' logic, though, Rodrigo Diaz of Spain should be somewhere at the top. he never lost a battle, inspired his enemies to give him the badass nickname of 'The Lord', led Christians and Muslims alike, employed innovative tactics, was kind, honest and didn't care about corrupt leaders. we will truly not see his likes in the bureaucratic industrial armies of our age, man.

        • leave Sun Tzu out of this, this list is made out of western generals, and we are all familiar with their exploits. As for eastern generals, please leave them out because most of the people here are unfamiliar with their exploits. ( Doubting if Sun Tzu ever existed made me laugh really hard, sorry, but that is just ridiculous )

        • In my personal George Washington should be on this list. Yes he lost most of his battles, but he won the war. It is said “you can be losing the race for the whole run, but if you pull ahead at the end and cross the line first, a wins a win” He won a war against the WORLD SUPERPOWER. With less men, supplies, and a whole country doubting him. He used strategy, influence. He road with his men into battle. Joan should be on the list, she INFLUENCED the troops It can be assumed that France would have done much worse without her, and influence is a major contributer. If you have no reason to fight, you wont fight.

        • I think you know Washington should not be on the list, really.

          Without the continual support of the French, and their ultimate intervention and point blank saving of his forces in the Battle of the Chesapeake, he would have lost and been a footnote in history.

          He didn’t win the war, the compte De Grasse did.

          His inclusion in the list, as well as Pattons, was a sop to the American ego.

        • actually that is a great example some of the people who set the worlds speed record for 100 yard dashes wernt the fastest they were able to keep the best stride thourgh the race and looked like they were actually seeding up when they were only slowing sown slower then everyone else but yha it is important for the way they won like cotez was no good but he did beat the aztecs like 300,000 to ohh um 100 that didnt make him a great tactian same alpies here like what about the aggamenon and odesseyus who developed one of the greatest strageys that aplies even on to the microspic lvl

        • You can’t give America’s victory to George Washington, more French soldiers fought the British than American, and it was more of a logistical war, it was difficult for Britain to resupply and send more troops as Britain was so far away, and a lot of the troops got ill on the Journey over, if it was the same on both sides, Britain would have wiped the floor with America.
          Moving on, I’m surprised Wellington isn’t on the list, his armies liberated Portugal and Spain, shattered the myth of French invincibility and inspired the people of Europe to resist Napoleon

        • I agree with everything you say except your inclusion of Alexander, and I’d also cut out Sun Tzu and Joan. I would have substituted Wallenstein.I would have ranked Hannibal in #1 place, with Bonaparte in #2.

          Alexander inherited a completely trained army with very competent generals. His father Philip was far more competent. The whole area grew up with iity-state wars for hundreds of years and for everyone it was a way of life.The armies if the city states he defeated were far too small to oppose his father’s army. When he invaded Asia the Persian armies defeated themselves because they were so huge. They were completely unwieldy, made up of numerous contingents from far separated areas, very unco-rdinated, and couldn’t even speak one another’s languages. So as soon as a small local contingent would be repulsed, panic would spread. The tiny casualties suffered by the invaders tells the story by itself. All this is very clear from the extant descriptions of the battles. Alexander himself most likely spent his time in carousing whilst his generals, all of whom had to have been very competent (as they showed in their later careers after Alexander died) and well controlled, tightly knit army did the work. All the valiant paintings of Alexander leading his army and threshing around with a sword are all imagination, painted 2000 years after his lifetime. Clive is in a similar situation although the accounts of his exploits are actually verifiable.

          If being undefeated is a huge plus, I would have mentioned Suchet, who was also a fine administrator in a savage country.Von Lettow-Vorbeck comes to mind.

          I’d also include Marlborough, and I’d put an Israeli general in there somewhere, although not sure which one, they were all good. I’m not keen on Patton and I’d “disinherit” Washington.

        • Austin_is _Nuts on

          So, if Hannibal is number one, then what does that make Scipio Africanus? The man who beat Hannibal at Zama?

          Alexander having been given his army? Armies mean nothing if their leader is weak. By the way, Alexander could take Fortified Cities and took many. Hannibal could never take Rome.

      • The list is not very good. Washington, D'Ark, Salah Ad Din, Attila, Lee and Patton have nothing to do on this list. The one who put it up is obviously American.

        I see no American generals in first top 10.

        Julius Caesar, Napoleon and Hannibal are obvious choices.

        I would add few more.

        1.Caesar. Before the modern time he actually fought more pitched battles than anyone else before Napoleonic era. He did suffer few losses and made mistakes like Gergovia and Dirrahium, although but the point is that he always realized when he was wrong and was able to change his plan in a blink of an eye. He never missed opportunity to finish off his opponents. Incredible abilities and personality.

        2. Alexander the Great. He did not fight as many pitched battles as caesar, but many times less, probably 10 time less and his opponents were weaker than those of Caesar. Caesar did not win just ovver gauls, Germans and other barbarians. He was able to defeat the greatest general of the age Pompeus and numerically superior Roman forces on many occasions.

        Nevetheless Alexander is a superior general and is the number 2.

        3. Napoleon. He is very similar to Caesar but unlike Caesar he did not learn well from his mistakes and was too arrogant which caused his down fall.

        Cannot be number 1 as he lost at the end.

        4. Hannibal.

        Amazing talent. Huge victories over dangerous Roman armies. He however lacked Caesar's killer instinct and did not finish off Romans when he had a chance. He lost.

        5. Alexander Souvorov. I have no idea why this general is being overlooked but this is the one who had as many pitched battles as Caesar himself and never lost a battle. i consider him military reincarnation of Julius Caesar, very similar tactics and behavior. Had he met Napoleon history might have been different. He did beat all of Napoleon best generals.

        5. Scipion Africanus. What can be told. He changed the way Roman army fought and using this change he was able to defeat Hannibal in only battle Hanibal ever lost. He is very underrated but also never lost a battle.

        6. Subedei Bahatur. This is the general of Chengis Han. Some call Chengis as a one of the greatest but Chengis was not a general but a strategist and organizer, great leader. Subedei actually was the best of his generals and his brilliance is unquestionable. His raid from Central Asia with Jebe Noion across Caucasus into Russian land and defeat of so many people along the way including superior Russian forces is a fit that hard to repeat. Superior cavalry commander, no one was better at planning and executing cavalry battles.

        7. Pirrus. The relative of Alexander the Great. Brilliant tactician but bad strategist.

        Won all the battles against Romans but his lack of strategic abilities and obviously Roman toughness prevented him from victory.

        8. Guderian. I think it must be obvious. Applying Mongol tactics to tank warfare. The guy was brilliant.

        9.Zhukov. I put him as low because of proclivity to sacrifice so many soldiers to achieve his goals. I doubt he would survive as a Roman commander. One of centurions or soldiers would run a sword through him for not taking care of his men. Russian soldier is a meek and lazy and they allowed to use them as a fodder. Otherwise, brilliant planning of great operation like Stalingrad, Kursk, Bagration.

        10. Have no idea whom to put here. First 9 stick out, the rest. I do not know. It might be Gai Marius, Sulla, Khalid ibn al-Walid or some other.

        • Generally, I believe the best military talent was concentrated in antiquity with very few emerging in modern times. I have no idea why but modern times generally lack big personalities if Churchill or Patton can be considered a great man it says that something is wrong with human race.

          Patton in my opinion is a joke. He was not able to finish off even weakened German forces not under the best leadership and his boasting about getting to Moscos in 3 weeks is laughable. He would not get anywhere beyond Pripyat marshes where he and his army would perish.

        • You're obviously a blowhard with a absurdly high opinion of yourself and an anti-American bias. Patton is a joke? Something is wrong with the human race if we consider Churchill a great man? WTF are you smoking?!?

          Your list is terrible. Where is Wellington who defeated Napoleon? Where is von Moltke the Elder? Why the hell is Guderian, who is more of a great theorist than anything else, on this list? Shouldn't you actually have to win something to be on a top ten generals of all time list?

        • Hell making a list like this is stupid period. Its much like making a list of the greatest football or hockey players of all time. How do we know how a general from antiquity fare in modern times with modern weapons and modern civilizatios thinking . you cant anymore than you can know how a hockey player from the 30s would fare in the modern NHL. A list like this is useless and should be broken down in to categories of eras.

        • Jack, I am not anti American at l, but I simply state the hard facts.
          USA has not produced any general worth called the Great and in the top 10.
          Patton belongs only at the top 10 the most eccentric generals of all time. I do not say he was no good, he was ok commander, but never forget he only fought German forces which were already practically finished by the Soviet army. 3/4 of all German forces and the best of them were at the Eastern Front, while the worst and the underequiped Western Front German forces did not posses enough armament , planes, tanks and the rest to effectively deal with US/ British forces. Neither they had adequate leadership.
          Had Patton and American army met German forces at the peak of their power, I have no doubt US army would have been utterly destroyed. American soldier and leadership is just not on par with German soldier and leadership. Guderian was not a theoretician but the greatest tank armies commander of the WWII.
          I remember Patton boasted about getting to Moscow in 3 weeks. It shows that the guy’s had no idea what he was talking about. It would be interesting to watch really that attempt.

          Despite participating in Napoleon defeat Wellington cannot be considered better general. As Caesar put it, luck plays a great deal in military affairs. Grushi losing his way and Bluher reinforcements arriving on time was the real thing that brought victory to Wellington .
          Whatever you say, the top 7-8 generals I had mentioned are the pure geniuses and cannot be challenged by second and third level generals you brought up.

        • Sergey, you don't state "hard facts" (as you call your opinions) you spew biased BS. Saying he fought Germans that were practically finished by the Russians is idiotic. The fact is that any German troops that were sent from the Eastern to the Western front were sent b/c they were among the BEST, not the worst. Indeed, many of the "German" troops on the Eastern front were actually Italians, Hungarians, Romanians, etc. who had no interest in being there and were often weak units that got easily overrun by the Soviet forces.

          And the Americans DID meet the Germans at the height of their powers and they kicked their butts out of North Africa, out of Sicily and up the Italian peninsula – all before the Soviets made any major advances against the Germans. Stalingrad wasn't even won until Feb, '43, well after the Americans had joined the war effort.

          As for Patton's boast, I too would've like to have seem him try to kick the Soviets butts back to Moscow. However, I'm sure that if he did, you would now be claiming that he only was successful b/c the Soviets were worn down by the Germans.

        • Ok, Jack, I hope you are ok, cause you look like smoked a way too much weed…

          Even to compare what Red army did and what USA army did during WWII is nothing short of complete idiocy to compare fighting Romell and Germans in Italy to Stalingrad, Kursk and other battles on the Eastern front.

          Germans did have some Romanians and Italians but they rarely were used at front lines as Germans had really low opinion of their fighting capabilities.

          I would put it this way, I know about what was going first hand as my grandfathers fought there while you only repeat words of some idiots who has been trying to diminish what Soveit Union did . The truth is, it was USSR that won the war and USA just joined when Germans already were on the way to their defeat. The number of divisions, tanks, plances everything concentrated on Eastern Front and the level of generals who commanded there clearly points where the real war was waged.

          3/4 of all German trops fought against Soviets. Yeah, it would be nice to see Patton trying to make anything stupid against Soviet Army of the time. No only he would not be able to get any closer to Mosvcow, USA would end being kicked from the continent. Strategically, Soviet Union was close and could move in reinforcements quickly while USA was far and while USA could manage weak Japan , there is no question which army was better at the end of the war. Just check what Soviet army did with best Japanese troops of Kwantun army in China within few weeks.

          At that point Soviet army had all necessary equipment, experience, leadership to destroy everything on its path. Including puny US forces in Western Europe who almost got annihilated during German Aedene operation.

          All US army experience after WII confirms that outside of Holywood you are not really as good as you think.

        • Sergei-,, while you make some good points you vastly overrate Soviet military power. Did the Soviets wage tremendous losses on the Germans and win some historic battles? Yes. Yet, its also important to remember for both the Soviets and Americans is that Germans were stretched on both fronts. The Soviets would have suffered much more if Hitler wasn’t deploying troops to Africa and the Western front. The same applies to America and its operations on the Western front against deteriorated Nazi equipment, supplies, and soldiers.

          Another thing I disagree with is the Soviet military strategy. The overall lack of respect for their soldiers’ lives means no serious western theorist considers them as a military power. This is the reason I can’t include Zhukov in the top 10. Even in the siege of Berlin, Soviets lost more men than the Nazi’s. While the Soviet’s inflicted over 80% of German casualties, they themselves suffered double the casualties of Germany. 2 soviets for every 1 German soldier died. The reason the Soviets won was due to Germany fighting two fronts and the massive advantage in man power.

          And lastly, without American production, according to Stalin himself the Soviets would have been annihilated by the Germans. The soviets couldn’t produce enough food, equipment, and armory, without America’s help. No wonder they enslaved millions on their march to Berlin.

        • Sorry but you are dead wrong. The russians sucked which is why they lost 20 million men. Stalin killed all his generals before the war. Stop hating on american. They ended the war. Its really easy to see. Before the americans entered the war the germans were advancing on all fronts. After the americans entered teh war the germans were retreating on all fronts. Add this to the fact that at the same time half of americas forces were fighting the japanese on the other side of the world. Lets see russia do that. Oh wait they couldn’t even fight the germans without losing.

        • Jack, you can have whatever opinion you have got. The truth accepted by the vast majority is that Eastern Front was the place where the destiny of the WWII was decided.

          The most important and the biggest battle, the biggest German losses. it is where Germans were stopped and destroyed.

          Yes, at the moment Russia has got vodka, some huge number of natural resources, no debt and yes dreams about passed greatness.

          However what USA got is about $60-200 trillion debt, all resources wasted, unsustainable infrastructure and overextended and unsustainable military and military budget and bleak future. How bleak you will soon see for yourself.

          US army looks like almighty but it's financial foundation is all rotten. It is being financed by loans from other countries and USA by all means bankrupt, all but by name. When sh*t hits the fan you will see quickly that US army after having no financing will unravel rather quickly and I doubt you will have even vodka left.


        • Reply to Sergey:

          Blucher's arrival at Waterloo does not lessen the Duke of Wellington's achievements at that battle in the slightest. The very morning before the battle began Wellington sent Blucher a message, in this message he told him that if at least one Corps of Prussian's could be brought to Waterloo that day then Wellington would fight on that field but if this was not possible then Wellington's Army would fall back towards Brussels and concede the field to Napoleon without a fight. Blucher's response arrived at Wellington's HQ before the battle began and Blucher promised to bring his entire Army in support. The Battle of Waterloo was not won because of Blucher and the Prussian's arrival – it was fought because the Prussians were on the way.

          Grouchy didn't get lost. He followed his orders from Napoleon to the letter. He persued the Prussian's in direct Napoleon believed them to be moving. Napoleon believed his victory at Ligny had crushed the Prussians and that they were retreating back to Prussia and sent Grouchy to persue them. Nicola Soult – one of the greatest Strategist of the era – counciled Napoleon to recall Grouchy before the Battle of Waterloo began so that their army could exert the maximum force against a enemy Soult knew from personal experience to be formidable especially in defence, but Napoleon dismissed Soult suggestion as timidness caused by his constant defeats at Wellington's hands and stated that the battle of Waterloo would be "nothing more than eating breakfast".

          Napoleon was arrogant and dissmissed Wellington as being a sepoy general, not a threat and considered Wellington's army to be bad. He sowed the seed of his own defeat at Waterloo and should carry the burden on his own shoulders for his bad decisions. Wellington, by contrast, made all the right decisions in the battle and should be praised for it.

          Besides which Waterloo was not Wellington only battle ever and the rest of his career is first rate. In fact Wellington's record of success eclipses all other generals of the Napoleonic Wars.

        • Martyn,

          The battle didn’t begin until about noon, and the Prussians under Blucher which h Grouchy had missed, appeared at around 1.00 p.m. just about 4 miles away, close enough so that Napoleon, who was short sighted, could actually see them through his small telescope. Wellington knew that Blucher would be there as he was exchanging messages with him since early morning. A recall was sent to Grouchy which he did not get until evening when it was far too late. Napoleon had to detach Count Lobau and then the Young Guard to stop the Prussians when they reached Plancenoit just close to his right. Because the French were attacking Wellington across heavy ground and uphill, they was at a considerabe disadvantage. Wellington played it smart, and Bonaparte had to gamble.

          As Wellington said, “it was the closest run thing i ever saw”.

          Another interesting point, perhaps considering that much of those wars were hand-to-hand, was that the contemporary historians, often from enemy countries, wrote that the French army generally was composed of rather small men (other than The Guards). They marvelled that these soldiers were able to march across Europe and defeat evetyone. I mention this-for what it’s worth.

        • Reply to Martin:

          Martin, thanks for your excellent comments.

          I am not trying to undervalue what Wellington achieved.

          I do think that Napoleon was brilliant general one of the best ever commanding armies but his arrogance did him really bad service both in Waterloo and Russian cases.

          He was a man who could not accept his mistakes and this is one of the reason I put him lower on the list. This is actually what I admire in Caesar the most.

          He could see, accept his mistakes and turn things around from there.

          Gergovia and Dirrahium are good examples of how he thought and acted in such situations.

        • Also surprised about Wellington not being on this list. While many think Blucher’s intervention saved him at Waterloo, it should be known that it was still much of an allied effort as Wellington would not have made a stand of he thought Blucher would not come and likewise Blucher would not have come if he doubted Wellington would make a stand. Wellington’s only problem I can see was is impatience for sieges such as at Badajoz (that said at Badajoz it would have been hell anyway) and Ahmednuggur (in which case he escaladed) and even then I have heard arguments supporting that with good evidence. Lost that book ages ago though.

        • @Sergey

          First, how do you know what I “look like?” Second, unless you yourself fought in WWII, you know nothing about that war “first hand.” Hearing stories from your grandfathers is second-hand. Not that it matters here since we’re talking about the broad scope of things and not personal anecdotes – though you are obviously full of personal biases.

          You’re also apparently full of Soviet-era propaganda BS. The Germans were done when the Americans entered the war? Who is smoking the wacky tobacky now Sergey? The US officially entered the war against Germany a full 15 months before even victory in Stalingrad was assured and Operation Torch began 10 months the Battle of Kursk was won. Seriously, Sergey, you should at least know your basic timeline before you start criticizing someone.

          You apparently also need to read up on the Battle of the Bulge. The fact is Patton, Monty, Ike and other generals were quite happy that those brilliant Germans you admire so much were putting themselves in such a precarious position. “Let them go all the way to Paris if they want to,” said Patton, knowing that the Allies could just cut them off as they did eventually.

          You apparently also have selective memory when it comes to the Japanese. When it came to a one-on-one war with the Japanese in 1904-05 your people got absolutely smoked by the “backward Japanese” time and time again despite the fact that the Japanese military had been “modernized” only a few years before and had little or no experience in modern warfare. Thankfully, American President Teddy Roosevelt was willing to negotiate a peace between the two countries and save the weak Russians any further humiliation at the hands of the Japanese.

          Along with your ignorance you also add hypocrisy, degrading the American efforts against the Japanese, while claiming a great Soviet victory over “the best Japanese forces,” by which I’m guessing you mean the Japanese forces in Manchuria. First, there is ZERO evidence that those Japanese forces were the best they had, and second, if there ever was an example of a country piling on an already defeated foe, it’s the Soviet Union’s cynical and cowardly entrance into the war with Japan.

          Another bit of hypocrisy on your part is taking such offense that I would point out the FACT that Russian soldiers have NEVER fought for freedom in their entire history, only Czars, Communist dictators and, now, a corrupt oligarchy. Your sanctimoniousness admonitions come both before and after bashing other peoples’ courage and determination on the battlefield.

          As for what has happened since WWII, history only confirms that the Russians are more bluster than anything else, run out of every country they invaded as their idiotic political system collapsed and they devolved into a third-rate power while their former nemesis, the US, became the world’s only superpower, and their ally China swiftly passed them economically, militarily and politically. I guess pathetically lashing out at others while overrating long past victories and attempting to re-write history is all the sad little Russians have left.

          That and vodka.

        • Martyn,
          You say Blucher’s arrival does not lessen Wellington’s achievements. Wellington would not be one of the victorious generals that day if not for the arrival of Blucher’s 50,000 Prussians on Napoleon’s flank. Wellington knew he couldn’t defeat Napoleon alone. The Prussians prevented Napoleon from using more than 2/3 of his army against Wellington, putting him always at a numerical disadvantage. 1/3 of the army had to be held to fight the Prussians that Napoleon knew were coming.

          Grouchy’s orders weren’t to follow the Prussians but to prevent them from regrouping–a task he utterly failed at. And Soult was hardly one of the greatest strategists of the era, he was a decent field commander but not a great one and unsuited to the role of chief of staff Napoleon put him in that day. Soult tried to recall Grouchy but was vague in the orders he sent and Grouchy didn’t carry them out. If Berthier was still chief of staff that battle would have been a victory for the French.

          Both of those were bad decisions on Napoleon’s part–putting Soult and Grouchy in roles unsuited to them–which he had to live with.

          It is interesting to speculate what would have happened if Davout–probably the greatest general of the Napoleonic Wars outside of Napoleon himself– had been in the field instead of back in Paris as minister of war. He likely would have turned the tide. Another bad personnel decision by Napoleon who was no longer at the top of his game. Wellington made good calls but he had an easier task–hold off a numerically inferior foe while holding a good position–knowing that reinforcements were arriving that would put the coalition advantage at 2-1 in numbers.

        • @Art

          You didn’t quite get the point, judging by you initial paragraph. Wellington knew Blucher was on the way, if Wellington didn’t know Blucher was on the way he wouldn’t have fought at Waterloo in the first place. Wellington was counting on the Prussians arriving to make the different, he factored their arrival into his plans – a quote from him during the battle is “give me night, or give me Blucher”.Given that Wellington conducted the vast majority of the fighting during the battle for the Coalition, that he was fighting it with the singular purpose of holding Napoleon until the Prussians arrived so they could counter-attack together then I fail to see how the arrival of troops he’s expecting and had built his plans on the expected arrival of can lessen the worth of his contribution to the battle.

          I detest this rating of Louis Davout as the greatest or second greatest general of the Napoleonic Wars. Yes he was impressive at Austerlitz and Auerstadt and many other places but he only ever command 3 battles independently and no campaigns independently. He was the best subordinate commander of the Napoleonic Wars but never proved himseld a great Army Commander or a great independent commander.

          Davout’s record is 10 battle, 3 where he was in command and no campaigns where he was in command. Compare that to Wellington who’s record is 23 battle, 21 where he was in command and about 8 campaigns, 6 of which he commanded and one of which he was in defacto command of.

          Davout cannot be rated high than men like Wellington and other Army Commander because he never commanded at a similar level and never proved himself capable of commanding at that level. It would b like trying to claim that John B, Gordon was better than Robert E. Lee or Brian Horrocks was better than Bernard Montgomery. There is no justification whatsoever that can place such an untried and untested independent commander as Davout – great subordinate though he may have been – ahead of any army commander let alone someone as indisputably succesfull in independent command as Wellington.

          Davout’s presence at Waterloo may have changed the outcome but then again it might not. Every general or marshal Napoleon sent against Wellington was beaten and came away with their reputation tarnished or, in some cases, destroyed – on Soult really came awya from a battle with Wellington with any respectability to his name. Since Davout and Wellington never faced each other there is no way to know what difference Davout’s presence at Waterloo would have made, if any.

          And Napoleon outnumbered Wellington by about 4,000 until the Prussian’s arrived and Wellington’s army was botched job of British, Dutch, Belgians, Germans and troops from Hanover, Brunswick and Nassau with little to no prior experiance and only a passable staff system while Napoleon’s army was, by and large, French troops with at least one campaign under their belts with an incredibly formidable cavalry and an very experianced command set up.

          So it was hardly and easy job for Wellington.

          You must remember when trying to rob Wellington of the credit he’s due for Waterloo that he didn’t hold all the aces and it was a close run thing.

        • Martyn,
          After 200 years of hearing claims that Wellington won at Waterloo without any real help from the Prussians, I jumped immediately to respond to that. You’re right, I was a little quick to dismiss your point as you are one of the few defenders of the Iron (Shutters) Duke to actually give credit to the Prussians. To deny them credit after Waterloo became a cottage industry which even he participated in, to his shame. He may have famously said “Give me night or give me Blucher” but that was the last time he gave them credit.

          You underrate Wellington’s Army. About 76 percent of the Brits were Peninsular vets, the Dutch (largely responsible for the famous repulse of the Middle Guard) were veterans, and the KGL too. Many of the French were veterans, true, but cobbled together for the campaign. If they hadn’t been they wouldn’t have held out as long as they did against such odds.

          Wellington had considerable numerical superiority facing Napoleon. While the French outnumbered Wellington by 4,000 on the battlefield, Napoleon could only bring about 50,000 of his men to bear against him as he had to hold the rest back to face the Prussians he knew as well as Wellington were coming. Even so Napoleon almost pulled it off. Maybe Napoleon should have thrown them against Wellington and finished him off. Speculation.

          There’s some truth to what you say about Davout’s experience, though the victory at Auerstadt stands as one of the greatest achievements of the Nap. Wars. He certainly still stands far above Soult, who was a second-tier marshal.

          So many of Wellington’s battles in Spain were holding good defensive positions against largely second line French troops while having a numerical advantage over them. The wonder isn’t he won in Spain, it’s that it took him so long with numerous advantages over his opponents.

        • And, I forgot to mention, that Count D’Erlon’s Corps of over 20,000 veterans marched uselessly from Ligny to Quatre Bras two days before, without coming into action, He received several conflicting orders . His arrival at any one of the points would have undoubtedly tipped the battle in the favour of the French, and brought on the Waterloo battle before the 18th June, when Napoleon had a real advantage.

          Waterloo went completely wrong from the French point of view. Napoleon sat in his armchair for hours that morning in a somnabulistic state whilst his generals wanted to begin the battle. They were whispering to one another about his stupor. The battle also began with a heavy cannonade which, aimed as usual tfor the balls to bounce just in front of their enemy, sank in the soft ground and didn’t bounce, so it was useless. Not to mention that Wellington wisely brougt most of his army behing the hilltop, out of harm’s way.

          Just a few more of what went wrong for Napoleon on that day. And I didn’t even mention the horrendous waste of fine troops caused by Ney’s wild attacks on the British squares with unsupported cavalry, a genuine military NO-NO. They were destroyed of course.

        • Ok Sergey and Jack you’re both right. Patton was a great general. His mastery of blitzkrieg was acknowledged by von Rundsdtet and Rommel. During the invasion of Normandy, the German High Command was convinced that the ENTIRE D-DAY was just a diversion and that Patton would invade at Calais and reserved the entire 15th Army (250k+) just for him, even though about 1.5 million allied men were in Normandy at the end of the week. Also the Patton had mastered logistics as well, contrary to many beliefs. He pivoted 90 degrees and traveled 100 miles to Bastogne even though he was already engaged in heavy fighting. His run across France was amazing as well. Stalin even said himself that the Red Army could not have planned nor executed Patton’s run. Patton was one of the greatest WESTERN modern general.
          Jack- Sergey has a point. The Red Army was beast. Operation Bagration was just amazing in man power and speed. Zhukov was a genius planner and strategist. It has been acknowledged that the Soviet War Machine could have ended the war on its own. Just would have taken a lot longer. They took back a lot of Eastern Europe in about 2 years. They did face about 500k+ more men than the U.S and Brits did.
          However I do not think that Patton or Zhukov make the list.
          But sergey what I don’t get is how the American Army nowadays is rotten in its financial infrastructure? If the American’s Army’s infrastructure was not stable, they would not be able to sustain any conflict for longer than a year. They have been a strong presence in the middle east for a long amount of time.
          jack, its true, the Red Army did inflict a HUGE amount of attritional damage on the Wehrmacht in Easten Europe, they reached Berlin first. I wouldn’t say that they won the war on their own… they could have theoretically, but the US and Brits intervened and won half the war for them. I say its 50-50 because Torch and Husky took Africa and Italy, while Overlord, Market Garden, Cobra took all france and half of Germany. (berlin is in the eastern half of Germany.) The Red Army retook most of the conquered soviet soil (gates of Moscow all the way down to the oil fields in Siberia) and went all the way to Berlin.
          my list i’m not going to justify them because i’m lazy but if you want clarification or to challenge my list just comment and ill debate 🙂

          10. Heinz Guderian/ Erwin Rommel
          9.Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur
          8.Frederick the Great (L’audace, encore L’audace, et tou’jours L’audace)
          6.Alexander the Great
          5.Ghengis Khan
          3.Duke of Wellington
          2.Souvorov- sergey was right about souvy… he was brilliant.
          1.Caesar- no arguments there honestly.

        • Richard, I mostly like your list outside of Wellington. I do not think he is at top 10 and especially could you explain why you put him above Napoleon, Hannibal and Alexander? I would not position Alexander as top 3 for example because of the opponents he fought.
          Caesar outside of fighting barbarians fought Roman army under the best general of the time, Hanibal also fought Roman army and was winning all battles before Zama. Souvorov fought French and beat them in all engagements. But Alexander despite obvious talent fought only rotten Persian army which by the way did not field mounted archers of the later era when Romans faced Parthia and Persians again. Napoleon is obvious. Frederick is lucky pr*ck.
          Had not Russian czar been crazy about all things German he would not have survived 7 years war. Guderian and Rommel were great.

          Regarding state of USA army. It is too expensive to maintain and with current and ever increasing financial troubles in US, funding eventually will dry up, like it happened in the former USSR. In the current form US army is unable to face real opponents. I do not mention Iraq or Iran. Thankfully no other country is strong enough in this department for now. Russia’s army is a joke. Chinese army has no experience. Europe is friendly. Another point is that USA has lost its industrial base and in case of real lasting conflict with equal power, USA is unable to build back losses which occur in wars like it was able during WWII. This is why I say US army is rotten. Looks good but only until it meets true challenge. Same happened to British when their army and economy got hollow.

        • You can’t compare the Roman army that Hannibal fought, with the one that Caesar commanded. The Army that Hannibal was still basically a militia raised from the Roman citizenry, while Caesar commanded full time professional soldiers.

        • Well i placed Wellington relatively high because he had defeated Napolean’s army decisively at Waterloo. He did get a lot of help from the Prussian army. They did about half the work but the reason i placed him there initially was because i had no one else. I stick by Alexander the great though. I have remade my list. Most of it is still the same. Please rate my new list.
          10. I decided to add Field Marshal Albert Kesselring alongside Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and Generaloberst Heinz Guderian. Kesslring defended Italy so successfully, they halted Operation Husky dead in its track and German troops continued to fight until the very end of the war. There are some stories about some German divisions continuing to fight after the war had ended as well. Well I guess part of Husky’s failure goes on Mark Clark as well. He didn’t fight very smartly.
          9.Fleet Admiral Nimitz/General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.
          8.No more Frederick the Great. I decided to replace him with da dara dan!!!! William Tecumseh Sherman. True practitioner of Blitzkrieg and Total War. If you want to argue this feel free too. I am going to give my reasoning now: His thrust into the south was amazing; back when the fastest form of transportation was the horse, he traveled a whooping 60 miles in one day. He cut across from Mississippi to Georgia in just 2 weeks. A truly great accomplishment of logistics. And it was speedy. Therefore a blitzkrieg. He was planning to conquer land, which is against the blitz tactics of trying to surround and cut the enemy off, but he did both: he laid waste to cities and cut off enemy troops. Genius. March to the Sea had been studied carefully by Liddell Hart and Guderian when they came up with their books. Thats why i placed sherman on the list. Im not american so dont feel like im biased please.
          7.Feodor Rostopchin. Sergey Being a russian you can understand why i placed him here.
          6. Alexander the Great
          5. Hannibal
          4.I decided to take out Ghengis Khan. Instead I added Gustavus Adolphus. He was a true military genius. he nearly defeated Wallenstein’s army completely during the 30 year’s war. Close only because he died in the end.
          Please review my list anyone but please read the previous comments first. This list only makes sense in context.

        • Did you know that Julius Caesar wept when he reached the age of 32 because he had not achieved what Alexander had? Why the hell is everyone so obsessed with Julius Caesar?!

        • Caesar’s great talent is not his generalship. It’s getting himself out of scrapes that he should never have got into in the first place.
          I wonder how many military schools teach the following?
          Get yourself caught between 2 hostile armies each as large if not larger than your own.
          When attacking a numerically superior enemy ensure that you leave half your army behind on the other side of the adriatic. This cuts you off from re-inforcements and re-supply.

        • Zhukov, are you serious, he repeatedly beat up on weak opponents, who were numerically inferior in almost every aspect. When Zhukov faced a serious opponent like in operation Mars, he was so badly beaten that the Soviet Government hid the fact up until 1991. Anyway you list is pretty good. I would replace Pirrus with Thomas Jackson and move Alexander the Great way down just because of who he was fighting.

        • hhhhhhhhhhahhhhhhhhhhhhahahahahaha muwahahahah Khalid bin el Walid 10?Man I rolled on my floor laughing nearly lost both of my two lungs.First of all I would remove Alexander position and lower it mainly because,of who he was fighting.Second Khalid bin el Walid position is 1 why?,simply he fought serious opponents and beat them,he beated and finished offfff the Persian empire,something Hannibal couldnt achieve against the Romans,something Napoleon could achieve in Europe,Caesar is overrated.Alexander the great couldnt excute the final thrust to the Persians so who did Khalid,Hence his truely position should be number 1.Zhukov dude number 9 this demonstrates to all of us that you have no idea what are you talking about,.He only beated the Germans in very specific areas where he outnummbered them 10 to 1,in operations mars when he fought them,on two dual equally terms he had his ass handed to him by a brilliant German commanders,who where inferior to him in terms of ranks,the Soviets Gouverment under Stalin regiem hid this from the public and military so to keep that fake reputation of Zhukov,in which 1991 the Russian gouverment revealed all this top infos about Zhukov stupidtidly….ehmmm no I dont like you list it lacks RICHARD the Lionheart and Hannibal real position should be 2 and 1 is for Mighty Khalid bin el walid the true father of the Blitzkreig Pincer movements,or what ever you want to call it…..Guderians Blitzkreig tactics were stolen from the Mongols and Arabs we ^^

        • ANY of even second tier western generals could beat ANY muslim general. Khalid bin el walid (if that was really his name) beat absolutely no one.

        • I don’t agree with some of the suggestions. Scipio Africanus defeated Hannibal, who made countless costly mistakes, the biggest ones being bringing elephants, which creates a massive burden and crossing the alps. He would likely have lost less men if he risked it through the Mediterranean or prepared his men better for the cold. Hannibal might’ve been a good tactician but not a good enough strategist to be on the top 5 of the list. In my opinion, Von Manstein is better than Guderian as he was the one using the blitzkrieg to its fullest potential on the global campaign map. For number 10, most might disagree, but I would say Richard the Lionheart. The man never lost a battle in the middle east, where he was at a major disadvantage against Saladin as he didn’t know much about strategic locations like an oasis compared to the Muslims and had virtually no reinforcements due to the long supply line. He had to leave in the end though due to the fact that he was going to become bankrupt.

        • Sheila Lanz-Jimenez on

          What a ridiculous list they put on here. How can anyone forget Charles Martel? Did he ever lose a battle? He fought many huge ones. Joan of Arc should not be on this list, neither should Washington and many others. Alexander the Great should be on it.

      • GreenHolyKnight on

        Well first of all Joan of Arc was the one who knew what strategies and tactics to take against the enemy. Besides as General is also someone who can inspire and motivate troops to their fullest potential. She was a master at it with help from the lord above : )

        It doesn't matter who wins the battles it matters who wins the wars. George Washington won the war. That's why I disagree with Lee being on this list. You can be the master of battles but again its who wins the war. Plus you have to take into consideration your Enemies Strength. So Patton should be first on this list. Its like comparing today's football players to the ones in the 20's. The more difficult the enemy, weapons ect the more brilliant the general.

        Napoleon was brilliant as a tactician and as a strategist and creator but his enemies were not as impressive as pattons.

        • Are you saying in 1944 the Germans were strong enemies?! The Wehrmacht was shattered, the Luftwaffe non-existent and the German high command was a shambles… The Wehrmacht was a shadow of it's former self and reserves were practically non-existant. Undoubtedly the list should include the likes of Rommel, Zhukov,Wellington and Hindenburg.

        • it has been acknowledged that Hindenburg was not a military genius. he had many talented staff members and field commanders. He just rehashed their victories as his since he controlled the direct line to the Kaiser

      • I place General Michel Aoun as a great General of all, he was able to fight huge numerous Syrian army filled with all kind of weapons and after 20 years of occupation, using old weapons and few elite soldiers, his army was surrounded from all sides no way to get more ammunitions. He was very talented was able to oppose all conflicts and free his country. His name will be in history he is now still living and I think when someone dies people will remind him.

      • I totally agree. This list is a horrible. Joan of ark, really??? washington got his tail kicked almost every battle when he met the british head on. It was Gates at saratoga that convinced the French to help and Morgan down south that kept Cornwallis busy.
        Douglas macarthur was the most gifted man at arms America ever produced and he was no arm chair general, he deserved a spot on this list.
        I would also agree that napoleon relied on his marshal’s too much but to his credit he was always fighting against an allied army.

      • It is WESTERN GENERALS, but I still don’t think he made all the right decisions, agree with some, but not all

      • Actually Ghengis khan was also undefeated and he conquered more territory than any general in history. He also built his army and empire from scratch. Alexander was handed the best army in the world that his father philip 2 created and used to defeat the greeks. Alexander was a great general but he had the best army in the world at the time and he fought against darius who was a horrible general.

      • I agree except for one thing Napoleon was a very good general and didn’t make much mistakes at all except at Waterloo but that wasn’t much of a mistake he was surrounded and outnumbered by increasingly difficult odds. Alexander should be number one!!!!

      • Actually ghengis khan was undefeated too and the best general of all time. Of course hes not western. I’d have to say ghenghis khan had the greatest dissadvantage in numbers and technology then any general in history when he attacked China and he still won. 150,000 troops vs armies numbering in the millions, bows and arrows vs rockets.

      • not a bad list, good job on Washington, who’s usually underrated, and Frederick the Great, who’s less well known than should be the case. Alexander, Genghis Khan, Grant, Gustavus Adolphus and MacArthur should take the place of Joan of Arc, Patton, Attila, Saladin and Patton, all of whom are vastly overrated and whose skills are unique to their time and opposition. Grant’s Big Black River campaign was probably the best ever fought on American soil; MacArthur’s island hopping and crowning achievement the landing at Inchon were very different sets of skills, GK though limited to light cavalry and lack of substantial fortifications was virtually unstoppable on the right terrain; Gustavus Adolphus more than anyone else made artillery and small arms effective in combined movements against Russians in the East and then against everyone else in 30 Years War; and Alexander’s victories were simply too many against too many generals not to be included.

      • Sun Tzu and Alexander were not the only two undefeated generals. There was count Suvorov at least (63-0) and I believe a couple others. Second; Sun Tzu was a skilled military theorist, but never faced nearly the adversity that some of the others faced. And as for Napoleon; when asked who the greatest commander of his time was, Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington) repiled “In this time, in past times, in all times, Napoleon.”

        • Suvorov 63-0? You must be counting every tiny skirmish in the Russian campaign against a starving, freezing shell of a grand army. (And didn’t Napoleon score at least a tactical victory at Borodino?

          I think some of these guys overrate Caesar a bit

          MANY historians list John Churchill, Duke of Marlbough (undeafeated) as number one over even Alexander (who tops most lists).

          If you like Wellington quotes try this – (A parphrase but the gist is correct) – “It is hard to conceive of anything as formidable as the Duke of Marlbough at the head of a British army.”

        • I believe you might be referring to Kutuzov… Suvorov never fought the Grand Army and was not present (and probably not even alive) at Borodino; Suvorov served in the 18th century; and possibly the very first years of the 19th in some capacity, but he wasn’t around during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. I do believe you have a point about Caesar, many here are remarking on his political aptitude, which is not really the issue at hand.

      • David, you are forgetting FOUR great UNDEAFEATED commanders. Scipio Africanus who beat three Carthginian armys in Spain with his one small army and then later in N. Africa beat Hannibal who was better than any opponent Alexander faced.

        Secondly John Churchill, Duke of Marlbough has been rated by many historians as No. one of all time going unbeaten in 15 years of the War of Spanish Succession. As Winston Churchill, his great descendant said – “He never fought a battle he did not win – He never besieged a city he did not take.”

        Honorable mention – Oliver Cromwell who never lost a battle and HIS opponents were English.

        Second Honoranle mention – The Duke of Wellington – Never lost a battle.

        • Marlborough IS a good choice. He was undefeated, though Malplaquet might as well have been a defeat since his army was so badly mauled compared to the French that it saved France since he couldn’t continue the campaign. The only thing that saved him at all was Villars was wounded and command fell onto his second in command, who eventually withdrew in good order.

          Wellington is a good commander but remember he did suffer a small number of defeats and quite a few “draws.” He fought a lot more battles than Marlborough, however, so his number of victories is higher..

        • Sultanpet Tope, 1799, India

          Pombal, 1811, Peninsular War

          Redhina, 1811, Peninsular

          Second Badajoz, 1811

          Siege of Burgos, 1812 (what Wellington called his greatest defeat)

          Battle of Tordesillas, 1812

          None were large scale events like Talavera but they were battles with Wellington in direct command on the field. And of course there were a fair number of draws, like Quatre Bras, which arguably could be a defeat but it’s usually considered a draw.

          Just an aside but Waterloo would have been a defeat except for the timely intervention of Blucher but the plan all along was to hold his ground until Blucher arrived since neither alone could defeat the French–so the strategy worked.

      • I don’t think this is a very good list either. Scipio Africannus who WAS UNDEAFEATED by the way, is the guy who beat Hannibal.

        John Churchill, the Duke of Marlbourgh is number one on many lists. Winston Churchill wrote of his ancestor…. “He never fought a battle he did not win and he never besieged a city he did not take.” Also UNDEAFEATED.

        Oliver Cromwell is very underrated. He never lost a battle, though he was unsuccessful on a couple of sieges. And he was fighting Englishmen.

        Also, any list without Alexander (probably at number one) is just silly.

    • Julius Caesar, by al means.

      Never lost a battle. Never attaced with men superiority.

      A MASTER of war!!!!

      Commanded form the front line,risking himself.

      Crossed the Alps disguised as a monk, wit three more monks, to fell in winter on the enemy to command his legions. And win!!!!


      • What about the failed expedition to Britain?

        Sorry, he deserves a second or third, but what about Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, or Charlemagne?

        They were probably the best for their time

        • He did not lose that war. He was not bale to finish the conquest of Britania because he had more urgent things in France. However, he did won all battles there and tribes promised to sent annual tribute and gave him hostages. That was pure adventure not a serious planned war of conquest.
          Alexander did not fought same kind of opposition Caesar did. Caesar fought Romans and won. Alexander fought Persians which cannot be compared to Roman army of the late republic under Pompey. Charlemagne doe snot deserve to be mentioned among great captains. His tactics and strategies were barbaric and rude. I doubt he would be able to stand against Roman legions lead by Caesar 😉
          Chengis Khan was a serious opponent. But it was is generals who were brilliant.
          I mean Subedei Bahatur. Chengis himself was more of strategist, leader and organizer rather than tactician. Anyway, at the time of Mongolian conquests opposition was weak in leadership and unity.

        • Alexander did have serious compitition. He attacked persians, and won, he attacked Egyptians, who were the most advanced civilization at the time, I might add, and won, and he even fought all the way to modernday afghanistan, founding cities along the way, while Julius Ceasar fought gauls in modernday france and also some germans, he did not fight another civilization as advanced as his own, and not at such a young age as well.
          Charlemagne was a good general because he fought against simular civilization to his own and conquered them, and then later in a reign even founded trade along the north sea, creating prosperity. When he came to rule his knigdom was faceing harsh compitition, but his succeded, credit to him
          With Genghis khan I have to agree, because he face weaker opponents and his armies were led well, but I give him credit for being able to marshal them in the first place, because to unite the mongols would have been a difficult task

        • Alexander the Great is the best General of all time!! He never lost a battle and conquered thousands of miles in eleven years and with only 30,600 soldiers that is just Total Alexander and Greek power!!

        • Um no. Caesars victories were mostly against barbarians other than the civil war against other romans. Thats like taking a modern army and fighting spearman in africa. The romans had the best troops in the western world in tactics, training and equipment. Any general with that advantage would be able to conquer gual and britain. Chengis on the other hand had the disadvantage in all his fights. He took on China a country with 60 million people and rockets with 150,000 men with bows and arrows and won. Then he went into kwarezham and defeated the muslim empire at the height of its power with a standing army of 400,000. Yes he had good generals under him but so did caesar and all the other great generals.

          To put it in perspective, caesar conquered gual and britain and about 2 million people with an army of 50,000. Chengis conquered 1/4 of the entire world and over 100 million people with an army of 150,000.

      • Julius Caesar wept when he Reached the age of 32 because he didn’t achieve what Alexander the great did so how can he be so much better than Alexander!!

        • Because he fought better opponents. Alexander very nearly lost to inferior armies, which takes some doing. Examining Alexander’s battles one is forced to conclude that he would have been a footnote in history on at least two occasions for being an idiot and only isn’t thanks to very quick-thinking lieutenants.

          His personal qualities leave a lot to be desired also. Caesar would have probably wiped the floor with his hero had it come down to a battle between the two.

        • Please explain to me why Julius Caesar would win a one on one battle? And thats not the question here. Julius Caesar wept when he reached the age of 32 because he didn’t achieve what Alexander had in 32 years. Alexander took virtually no casualties and never lost a battle. Julius Caesar got his ass kicked in England. Alexander fought the Persians who had the immortals which are the deadliest fighting force in all of Asia.

        • I think Scipio Africannus – Victor over Hannibal or the Duke of Marlbough could very possibly beaten Caesar or Alexandor.

          Caesar beat barbarian armys that he deliberately picked fights with that consisted of maybe 50-60,000 barbarian warriors who were trying to protect their women and children. Then he would send word to Rome that he had prevented this huge HORDE of barbarians from invading Italy (where they had no attention of going in the first place). These slaughters were most of Caesers “victories” – Alesia excepted which was impressive).

          Alexander might have lost if Darius had not been a coward and run away every time. I don’t think the Persians qualify as top oppenents.

        • “Julius Caesar got his ass kicked in England. Alexander fought the Persians who had the immortals which are the deadliest fighting force in all of Asia.”

          No, he did not get his “ass kicked” in Britain. He wasn’t even defeated. He realised that he hadn’t done his scouting properly and hadn’t brought the right forces and resources to do whatever it was he had in mind and so he packed up and left. The man was smart enough to know when to cut his losses and leave and this is what made Caesar so dangerous an opponent because you didn’t get a second chance when he came back.

          And spare me about the Persian “Immortals”, they were hardly the ninja they were portrayed to be in 300.

        • “Please explain to me why Julius Caesar would win a one on one battle?”

          Because Caesar wasn’t dumb enough to lead the charge and remove himself from making command decisions thus relying on his lieutenants to pull his butt out of the fire. Had it been Caesar across the Issus River his cavalry wouldn’t have stopped when it drove the Greek cavalry from the field believe me, it would have had orders to pile into the Greek rear.

          “Julius Caesar wept when he reached the age of 32 because he didn’t achieve what Alexander had in 32 years”

          I don’t think you understand Caesars motivations for weeping. Had he had the early start Alexander had (which he couldn’t simply because his era and his political system didn’t allow for it) he would have been able to surpass Alexander. He’s not going “oh woe is me Alex is so much better than me” he’s going “damn, I wish I’d have been able to start my career at 19”.

    • no alexander the great, scipio africanus or charlemagne? and since when was salah ad din a general described as part of 'western history'? Very poor choices here, especially placing two american generals who had not even fought outside their own country!

    • You forgot Grant. I think Lee might have been a better tactician but Grant was a better strategist..Lee never co-ordinated all his armies at the same time.Lee's master stroke was Chancelorville-credit of which he had to share with Jackson. Grant's most brilliant campaign was Vicksburg. He used amphibious operations to transfer his army from the west bank of the Mississippi to the east bank and fought 5 battles ,winning them all. He was between 2 armies that would have outnumbered him 2 to 1. The 2 Generals Grant faced were Pemberton(not very good) and Johnston( very good).Grant fought Pemberton and destroyed the rail lines to Vicksburg so Johnston could not use them.Lee had Hooker.The more you study Vicksburg ,the more impressed you will be I promise you.It says something about Grant that Lee never tried what he did at Chancelorville with Grant.

      • Steve Johnson on

        Rubbish! Zhukov won WW2.
        Patton and the American involvement was neither here nor there.
        But don’t take my word for it:

        “Marshall Zhukov.”
        General Eisenhower’s response to the question, what single person is most resppnsible for winning the Second World War

        • Lol you mean the russians that lost 20 million to the germans as they ran over russia? You mean the russians that the americans were supplying with food and every other thing so they could continue to fight? Please. Without the americans russia would be eastern germany and everyone knows it.

        • I could easily refute this but Bob has already said it so well. (See just below).

          Zhukov was a butcher who simply threw his huge hordes at the Germans heedless of losses.

    • I rather put General Michel Aoun as a great General, he was able to fight huge numerous Syrian army filled with all kind of weapons and after 20 years of occupation, using old weapons and few elite soldiers, his army was surrounded from all sides noway to get more amunitions. He was very talented was able to oppose all conflicts and free his country. His name will be in history he is now still living and I think when someone dies people will remind him.

  2. Just two more, Wellington beat Bonaparte.

    And Lee, owed a great deal to (my number one)

    Thomas Jackson. Stonewall was definitely one of the best generals.

    Patton is a little overrated, (sorry)

    • Wellington, when asked who was the greatest general of the day, answered: "In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon."

    • GreenHolyKnight on

      Patton overrated? He's the best ever considering his enemy and the modern warfare factor. Go back to preschool.

      • @GreenHolyKnight:

        Patton is totally overrated. He made no higher command decisions in his life, he was always the subordinate to someone and always following their plans – though occaisonally he ignored those plans in the persuit of personal glory – and he has no great battle victories to his name.

        Patton is not fit to shine the boots of Erich Von Manstien or Alexander Vasilevsky (to name two WW2 general who were lightyears better than him) and he is not fit to be mentioned the same breath as Napoleon, Marlborough, Wellington, Suvorov, Eugene of Savoy, Ceaser, Alexander, Hannibal, Gustavus Adoplhus or the many other generals throughout history who achieved far more than he ever did.

        If you view Patton through the lense of anything other than that of an American Patriot or Patton Fanboy then he clearly accomplished nothing in comparision to the great generals of history and in truth he accomplished nothing in comparison to Montgomery, Bradley, MacArthur, Zhukov, Konev, Vasilevsky, Von Manstein, Von Rundstedt, Kesselring, etc.

        In fact Patton wasn’t even the best American Army Commander of the WW2 as Patch and Simpson performed to a higher standard than him and did so without trying to gain all the publicity for their achievements. Litterally the only time in his career that Patton achieved something exceptional was the turning of the 3rd US Army at the Battle of the Bulge but beyond that his resume is supremely mediocre.

        • Patton was the best and most successful American general in WWII. His so called superiors were far less impressive battle commanders. Eisenhower, Bradley and others were quick to rein Patton in at the needless cost of many lives including US soldiers and Jews in concentration camps as well as slaves to German industry throughout their occupied lands. This was mostly due to envy and a difference in philosophy about war making. Patton understood the psychology of warfare more than any other American general. Him and William Sherman would have been kindred spirits. A lof of his bravado was carefully scripted showmanship to rally GI’s to fight vigorously. His third army is unrivaled in their performance during the race across France. Do your homework. Bradley and Montgomery were very tenative and lackluster compared to Patton. His ability to outflank German forces was unrivaled. He rescued entrenched allied forces at the Battle of the Bulge. His tactical brillance of keeping the third army on the move led to more casualties and prisoners than any other US army in the field. Patton was feared by the Germans and that should tell you something about his effectiveness as a general. Do your homework about Falaise and you will be move respectful of Patton. Read The Soul of Battle by Hanson for powerful insights of this remarkable man. Okay, here is a vote for someone no one else has mentioned – Epaminondas of Thebes, the general that defeated the Spartans on the battlefield and set their slaves free after a successful invasion of Laconia.

        • Eisenhower and Bradley tried to reign in Patton because of Logistics. Because Eisenhower had foolishly tried to follow an advance over a 240 mile front he quickly found out that he didn’t have the logisitics to support everyone. He and Bradley told Patton to halt for a bit so they could build up his supplies, Patton stopped but sent forward units to scout and when those units came under even the lightest of fire he would charge forward with the whole 3rd US Army to support them and thus continue advancing. He was really surprised (note sarcasm) that he was running out of feul and began stealing feul meant for Hodges’ 1st US Army. Then he ran out completely before the Moselle River and blamed everyone but himself.

          The 3rd Army’s statistics of having cause over 50% of the German casualites and having taken over 70% of the German prisoners are not reliable let alone realistic. For them to be accurate 1st US, 2nd British, 1st Canadian, 9th US, 1st French and 7th US Armies would have to have caused less than half the casualties inflicted and taken less than a third of the prisoners taken between them and this is very unbelievable considering 1st US and 2nd British Army were one the main line of advance into Germany and took part in the main fighting against the German forces in the West. Further officers who actually served in the 1st US Army disputed the 3rd’s statistics but were disregarded because the 1st wasn’t as high profile as the 3rd nor was Hodges as colourful as Patton – Hodges couldn’t be made into a mythical god of war by the American media, Patton could.

          Patton at the Bulge was charged with taking the pressure off of 1st US Army by getting Von Manteuffel to redeploy part of his 5th Panzer Army against the 3rd US Army. To do this he was to aim to relieve Bastonge. Patton’s initial turning movement was impressive but his attack was weak and stalled and got no where until Bradley managed to get a couple more divisions behind it and the air began to clear. Patton relieved Bastonge – even though the troops inside didn’t think they needed rescuing – but failed completely to take any pressure off of the 1st US Army. Further his premature attack into a snow storm after relieving Bastonge caused more casaulties to his own side through adverse weather conditions that Patton hadn’t prepared his army for than they took from the enemy. Von Manteuffel rated Montgomery’s contribution to winning the battle as being more important than Patton’s and considering Von Manteuffel’s position as the main German Army Patton’s was supposed to be attacking that doesn’t say much about Patton saving the Allies does it?

          When 1st US Army achieved the break out from the beaches Patton and the 3rd Army were activated and Patton proved to everyone his area of expertise – exploitation. With no German units of any real strenght at all before him he charged all over France and managed to get behind the Germans rear near Argentan. Bradley, without orders from or consultation with Eisenhower or Montgomery, then ordered him to go no further north. Patton object but Bradley would not be swayed and Patton, robbed of his opportunity to close the Falaise Gap, decided to go for Paris instead leading Montgomery, who knew nothing of Bradley’s orders to not close the gap, to remark the Patton “coud ruin your battle in an afternoon.”

          Patton was an expert in exploiting gaps, in maneuvering around the enemy to avoid battle and to move around their flank and appear to their rear, but he was clueless when it came to set piece battles and cost tens of thousands of lives needlessly through poor planning and bad command decisions.

          At Brest he found the Germans strongly entrenched and decided to try to remove them, he boasted he would take Brest in two days. The way he decided to do this was to attack frontally in a wide, piecemeal fashion. He attacked Brest on the 5th, 7th, 8th, 11th and 12th of August 1944 and got no where. Having failed to take Brest and caused 10,000 US casualties through poor command decisions he decided to give up and leave it for someone else to deal with.

          When Patton ran out of feul before the Moselle he blamed everyone for it but himself – despite the fact that he had completely ignore logistics and any advice regarding Logistics – then once he had feul again he decided he would take Metz. This decided he did nothing to plan for the capture of Metz, he just sent his army forward. He tried to bounce the Moselle river with no preparation while the Germans were behind it and capable of resisting him, then he repeated his tactics from Brest as he attacked Metz frontally, with no real plan, peicemeal on a wide front. For over four months he was stuck before Metz achieving nothing. The German defenders eventually pulled out when preparations for the Ardennes Offensive had been completed and Patton took Metz then. The caputre of Metz had cost the Allies between 33,000 and 35,000 men all because he didn’t plan or command properly and failed to concentrate force when it was needed.

          There is no contemporary source from WW2 that claims the Germans feared Patton. The closest you can get to it in a series of interviews with German Generals post war who state Patton was the best American General – not Allied but American – and Von Rundstedt is usually quoted as saying “Patton was you best” but his acutal quote was “Montogmery and Patton were the best I met”. Respect for his aggressive nature does not equate to fear

          I stick by Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke – the premier strategist at the Allies disposal from 1940 to 1944 when SHEAF made CIGS redundant in Europe and Eisenhower ignored him in favor of Marshall – assessment of Patton. He said “I had heard of him, but I must confess that his swashbuckling personality exceeded my expectation. I did not form any high opinion of him, nor had I any reason to alter this view at any later date. A dashing, courageous, wild and unbalanced leader, good for operations requiring thrust and push but at a loss in any operation requiring skill and judgment.”

        • Wow, what a bolluxed view of Brest you present. See for a much better presentation of the issues surrounding Brest.

          Alanbrooke was such a joke. He had no clue about mobile offensive operations. Alanbrooke simply didn’t understand Patton’s methods. Patton didn’t simply send armoured columns out recklessly. He sent out a great number of aerial reconnaisance missions and TAS missions to guard the flanks of the columns. Patton’s run through Brittany was responsible for the command by Hitler to form a static defense which made reducing the Germans much easier. Patton attacked the command and control of the Germans. Who do our military schools study today? Alanbrooke or Patton?

          Patton had logistics problems (, but it’s important to understand that Patton was testing the limits of armoured warfare to see where doctrine needed to be changed. This shows up at Metz in logistics questions and in force concentration. As a result of Patton, American doctrine now advocates traveling diffuse, but focusing force for offense and counter-offense. Of course, Eisenhower favored First Army over Third Army when fuel ran short. Patton was innovative in getting his men supplied, including having them use railroads to move fuel and using captured artillery when ammunition for American artillery ran short.

          If Patton had had ground intelligence available via Special Forces under his command, likely he would have made better decisions as regards reducing fortress cities as he would have been more aware of the defensive strength opposing his armoured columns. Again, this is a lesson that Patton has taught us.

          Patton’s casualty ratios were very favorable overall despite the fact that he took risks.

        • @Tom H

          Patton tried to take Brest 5 times. He failed. Having failed he moved on and left it to Middleton to deal with. Not matter what way that’s spun its still a failure.

          Patton used the method you described – using aerial reconnaissance, using TAS to guard his flanks, etc – when he was advancing over open country in tanks in pursuit of a foe who had been beaten or was on the cusp of being beaten, when confronted by concentrated defensive position he failed to do this more than once. The Germans were totally unimpressed with his amphibious flanking attack in Sicily and accused him of failing to concentrate against the crucial point and he would be criticized for that again during the Lorraine Campaign.

          Alanbrooke was not a “joke”. He was the most respected soldier in the British Empire, even Americans who hated him respected his judgement even if they didn’t agree with him. The main criticism they had of him was that both WWI experience and his experience in the two BEF’s of 1940 – where to all reports he had performed magnificently – had left him pessimistic about Britain’s chance of beating the Germans in a face-to-face confrontation and thus preferred to strike at targets all along the German border and wait until the Germans had been worn down before fighting the decisive battle Marshall had wanted since 1942.

          Tthe Americans believed that they – unsullied by either a horrific death toll of WWI or spectacular earlier defeats by the Nazi’s in WW2 – were far bolder planners and that the British planners were too pessimistic to the point of avoidance, inaction and even defeatism – this, of course, ignoring the fact that Brooke had agreed with Marshall on their first meeting in 1942 that the cross-channel invasion would be the decisive moment of the war in the west and had Roosevelt and Churchill not conspired behind Brooke and Marshall’s back to invade North Africa, something that both Brooke and Marshall were sceptical over, the cross-channel invasion would have occured in 1943.

          Brooke understood first hand how mobile Blitzkrieg style warfare could be conducted and how effective it could be – he had to fight against Guderian, it’s architect, in the battle of France – but he didn’t rate Patton anywhere near the German’s level when it came to that style of warfare. And had Patton been German he would have hardly have been a note in the history books, Patton-like generals were a dime a douzen in the Wehrmacht.

          Eisenhower favoured the 1st US Army over the 3rd US Army but Bradley – against Eisenhower’s orders – split his logisitics down the middle and gave Patton equal priority of logistics that he gave to the Hodges. It was bad generalship from Bradley no to choose the most important area his Army Group could advance into – regardless of whether it meant supporting Hodges or Patton over the other – and support it fully. This equal split between 1st and 3rd US Armies led to 12th Army Group being spread out across the Ardennes and in a very weak condition when it came to the Hurtgen Forest Offensive, the Lorraine Campaign and the Ardennes offensive.

    • Wellington beat bonaparte because the prussians who napolean thought were days away came in the rear because napoleans scouts sucked. Also some orders were wrongly sent and ney charged a hill with no cannon support and lost his calvary. Even with these blunders napoleon almost won. But sure wellington bean bonaparte.

      • Wellington’s victory over Bonaparte counts. A win is a win. There are many battles in history that could easily have gone the other way. For instance, if Darius had not been a coward, Alexander might not even be on the top lists. (He might have even been killed).

        Alexander would go straight at Darius – Daruis would back out taking his huge bodyguard with him and the rest of the Persian army would conclude that the battle was lost and break.

        Should we then belittle Alexander’s victories?

  3. C. Vincent Barbatti on

    In compiling the list, I kept myself to a few criteria. In general, they had to be a field commander with a high degree of autonomy; second, they had to have been somewhat successful in the field; third, their opposition had to have been significant and somewhat difficult to beat; and fourthly, I tried to limit myself to the perceived best of any given conflict.

    Stonewall Jackson, Sherman, and Wellington all made my initial brainstorming list. Jackson was certainly a contender, I just felt that Lee and his victories were slightly more iconic. Sherman – well, no one can possibly doubt Sherman's efficacy, or his ability to make hard choices. But in his famous March to the Sea, he faced little to no military opposition.

    Wellington, particularly, was difficult for me to leave out. Nelson and Wellington are heroes of mine, and I am keenly aware that Wellington proved himself Bonaparte's foil several times. In defense of Napoleon in the top spot however: Napoleon defined the time period with his conquests. In his battles, Napoleon won stunning defeats against upwards of a dozen nationalities and leaders, where as Wellington almost exclusively fought the French. And the two only met directly in the field once.

    • only an american would include 3 american generals to the top ten of all time. and in such a small time scale of a little over 200yrs. USA USA USA

      • I may be a flag waving American, but the combination of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on the same battlefield was a lethal combination.

        Also Grant was a master stategist -(See Vicksburg campaign).

        Sherman was great.

        Patton was great.

        Washington has always been underrated and was a better man than almost anyone in history (George the third said that he was “the greatest man in the world”). There was something about him that makes me think that he could have beaten better generals than himself. The history channel even had him beating Napolean!

    • peninsular wars , india?? maybe the reason wellington didnt fight as many nationalities as napoleon was that he was a general in the british army and therefore a tool of the government and not a dictator and emporer like napoleon who only answered to his own ego! your list has created a wealth of good and bad debate on generals but i believe that your criteria is too romantic and a touch too much bias, hence the 3 americans, when i think it would be hard to put one in a top ten. as ive said before i believe very difficult to have an outright top ten but a list for each period or generation is more realistic given that education and social attitudes change from era to era.

  4. Vincent, Great comment on your excellent article. It's always nice with the author gives more details on why the list contains who it does. And even more importantly, why it doesn't contain some people that others thought it should.

  5. Why is Alexander the Great missing? Because he comes to us through "dubious sources"? When every ancient source, including many nonWestern sources (like the Bible – Maccabees 1 – and various Indian works) is unanimous regarding his military brilliance, it's hard to argue that it's "dubious."

    "In compiling the list, I kept myself to a few criteria. In general, they had to be a field commander with a high degree of autonomy;"

    No one disputes that in Alexander's case.

    "second, they had to have been somewhat successful in the field;"

    Conquering most the known world should probably fit that criterion.

    "third, their opposition had to have been significant and somewhat difficult to beat;"

    Facing an immediate revolt by the Athenians, the Thebans, and various Thracian tribes, Alexander conquered them all within a year's time. He ended the Persian empire, which had been the dominant military force for the two and a half centuries prior to his conquest. And he infiltrated India, a land most Greeks had not even heard of at the time.

    "Fourthly, I tried to limit myself to the perceived best of any given conflict."

    That certainly wasn't Darius III.

  6. C. Vincent Barbatti on

    I did mention Alexander in my "might have beens" list at the end of the article. It was not through any ignorance or dismissal of his exploits that he didn't make the final cut. Yes, Alexander was a pivotal, autonomous, decisively victorious commander – no arguments there. A number of factors suggested, however, that he might not be the best choice for a slot in this list:

    While no one can doubt he was successful, the historical accounts are so varied, apocryphal, anecdotal, and otherwise conflicting that we have no reasonable way to measure his opposition. Many of his wars of conquest were against "barbarous" enemies – small provinces, kingdoms, or principalities that had were not major players on the world stage. In fact, thanks to his relentless eastward push, most Hellenic or Hellenistic peoples would have had no idea who his later opponents were. And while the Persian empire under Darius probably posed a significant challenge, Darius' consistent failures as a general don't recommend him as a worthy adversary.

    The numbers arrayed against Alexander, and the scale of his victories, are also difficult to measure. In my studies of Alexander and his successors, I've read Plutarch, Arrian, Diodorus, the book of Maccabee, and Quintus Curtius Rufus. The difference in the estimated opposing army at any given battle is often as large as a diversion of several hundred thousand, and occasionally more. Alexander's losses and enemy casualties are also fundamentally divergent guesswork. Arrian, in particular, lists Darius' casualties at Issus at 100,000 of his 600,000 troops, where as modern estimates reduce both numbers by about 75-85%.

    Finally, most of Alexander's campaigns were against Eastern powers and generals. It is true that Saladin, Hannibal, and Attila are not in the strictest sense Western European generals, but they fought primarily in what Western History would have called the known world, against Europeans, and with much better documentation in general. This is perhaps the crucial argument to my mind – Alexander was a great general, and from the Western World, but few of his exploits happened anywhere near Europe or the Americas. In straying out of those bounds, I would far exceed my knowledge of military history, and tread into the murky waters of eastern tradition, a subject which I have much less knowledge of. Including Alexander might thus have been a slight to the great commanders of Japan, China, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and what was to become Russia.

    • Sorry, but I think your reasoning is inconsistent. If you think the Persian Empire wasn’t enough of an opponent to include Alexander, how can you say the woefully outnumbered Crusaders rate as a top flight opponent to Saladin?

      And how can you possibly have Joan of Arc on your list and not Alexander!?

      To those who disparage Washington….he may or may not deserve to be on this list as a military commander (though I have always thought him to be underrated as a general), but he was a GREATER MAN than any on this list.

  7. Three Americans in an 'All-time' list? Im sorry, but I dont think so.

    Patton was not only far inferior to Rommel, he was inferior to just about every General of the Second World War. Guderian, Zhukov, Montgomery, Slim, Von Manstein, Alanbrooke and dozens more were all far greater than Patton.

    Thats before we even start on other periods of Western History.

    Just from a British perspective I would say that Gordon, Wellington, Wolfe, Cromwell, Henry V, Richard the Lionheart and William the Conqueror all deserve to be on the list more than Washington or Patton.

    And if Julius Caesar is on the list, then the men who were considered better Generals by contemporaries such as Pompey the Great, Marius and Scipio Africanus deserve a mention.

    In reality, there wouldn't be an American General in the top 50, never mind 3 in the top 10. American military achievements are hugely overblown. American generals have never had to prove themselves without allies against an equal or superior foe. The only time America went to war on its own, in Vietnam, it lost. Despite overwhelming superiority. And as Americans are taught almost exclusively American history, the reputations of Lee, Jackson and Washington have been wildly exagerrated and distorted.

    A European, African, Arabian or Asian historian wouldn't even consider American generals when compiling a list of the greatest generals of the last 200 years, never mind the entirety of Western History.

    Im sorry if I sound a little Anti-American but I really do think we need some perspective here.

    • Monty??? Cromwell? Henry V? Wellington I understand but you forgot the good old Duke of Marlborough who would make a much better top 10 general than Cromwell, Wolfe, Gordon, Henry V, Richard the Lionheart, and William the Conqueror. I can't even understand why you included William the Conqueror whose sole conquest was Britain. And Zhukov over Patton my god look at the casualties the Russians suffered. The entire Russian war effort was a disaster and should rightfully have concluded in absolute Russian defeat had Hitler any military mind. I understand Zhukov was one of the only Russian generals with any military know-how but he is not even a top 50 where Patton is. The argument against Robert E Lee being on the list is understandable and George Washington should not be on the list but your statements art far too anti-american to be even considered legitimate where you can not accept the military prowess of Patton and other Americans. Patton who certainly deserves a top ten.

      • I put Zhukov lower than Guderian due to his disdain towards soldiers lives which is common among Russian military, safe Alexander Souvorov. But to compare Patton to Zhukov is a joke. Who was Patton?, Some little general and how many fronts and armies did he command and what was the scale and success of his operations?

        He could barely fought exhausted Germans who lacked resources and man power and still had troubles against them.

        No American general belong neither in top 10 nor in top 20.

        American soldier doe snot compare well to that of Germany or Russia. I would not even mention Romans. The fact is that Germans and Russians were capable to make huge sacrifices to win and I mean bloody sacrifices. American was not capable of this even then and now it is completely gone. Remember that USA used nuclear devices to avoid losing men. That was ultimate in dishonor for military men. The moment USA meets real determined equal foe it will break.

        • @Sergey

          Wow, where does one begin with this nonsense? It doesn't even make logical sense. You say you put Zhukov lower than Guderian due to his "distain towards his soldiers lives", but then later you say that using "nuclear devices…was the ultimate dishonor for military men" despite the fact that they were used to save soldiers lives (they also saved Japanese lives).

          Patton may perhaps be overrated, but to say he was "some little general" is a complete joke. The fact is he succeeded where ever he went – North Africa, Sicily, Western Europe – all against your beloved German generals and fighting men.

          As for your idiotic comparisons between American, German and Russian soldiers, you're just showing your anti-American bigotry. Thousands of Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, unlike Russian and German troops.

          You're also, in an obvious attempt to degrade American generals and soldiers, completely overblowing the differences between German troops on the Eastern and Western front. The fact is that many of the "German" soldiers on the Eastern Front were actually Italians, Hungarians, Romanians, etc. who were often weak units that got easily overrun.

          You also seem to have forgotten how much weather played a part in stopping the Germans and not any Russian general.

          Finally, you say "the moment USA meets real determined equal foe it will break." Then why didn't that happen against the Germans in WWI or WW2 if the Germans are such superior soldiers and such superior generals?

          The fact is you're an anti-American moron who can't except the fact that the USA has been extraordinarily successful in warfare despite the fact that it is such a young nation and is also a free, democratic nation which puts severe political limitations on it that Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Imperial Rome didn't have.

        • The fact that it saved lives is a good reason. In war japanese killed hundreds of thousands of CHinese, and they use eccuse of war, but when USA kill hundreds of thousands of them, people say that the USA should have suffered greater losses and Should have killed more Japanese to avoid usinf the nuke.

        • Touche Jack both now and above. Sergey have some vodka and shut up. When Hitler invaded Stalin was so terrified he refused to believe it was happening, even when he knew Germany was amassing troops at the border. The only thing that saved Russia was the winter and Stalin begging the Allies for help so he could have time to organize his Army. As long as Germany was on his side Russia acted like a bully. Sorry sergey. By the way I aint american.

        • In World Wars I and II if USA would have alone fought the Germans its soldiers would have ran like cowards.
          Russia and France bore the brunt of the Germans in WW1
          USSR bore in WW2

          USA just sends its boys to clean up the mess
          And don’t forget, 7 times more supplies, well rested soldiers, trucks to move them, artillery and aripower the Germans could only dream of and not to forget immense firepower.
          In return, the Germans had WILL, COURAGE and TECHNOLOGY

          A nice analogy
          USA vs Germany
          in World War 2
          is like
          100 Army grunts with machine guns VS 20 Navy SEALS with knives

        • Hey No_One – Have you ever heard of Sgt. York?

          ONE American who killed 25 Germans with 25 shots and captured 107 more.

          One American takes out 132 Germans in one engagement. Sounds about right.

          And what nation has kept the Germans and the rest of Europe from speaking Russian for the last 55 years so that “No Brain and “Sergey” can speak freely (no matter how silly they are)?

          The USA. Sergey if America collapses into the dustbin of history in the next ten seconds, it will still have been history’s most glorious nation and worth a thousand times the combined worth of Russia, China and Germany combined.

      • I agree Patton made the most progress in the allied breakout from normandy but this was mainly down to the british and commonwealth forces holding down the germans best troops around caen, which was for the sole reason of allowing the americans to breakout of their sector. as for the battle of the bulge, no member of the 101st airbourne, who were trapped around bastogne has ever agreed that they needed to be rescued by patton. really, his achievments during ww2 have been greatly exaggerated

        • Read The Soul of Battle by Hansen to expand your knowledged about Patton. He was a giant on the battlefield because of his war fighting spirit and tactics he learned from studying history and the geography of northern Europe. Have you ever asked yourself why the Germans would place 250K troops where they thought Patton would attack? They feared Patton more than any American general. His so called reckless style and ego created the kind of persona and results the other allied generals could only read about in history books. The other high profile general Montgomery was tenative and too cautious to be effective. Patton’s Third Army led to the destruction and capture of more German troops than the other senior generals in the field. Patton was ordered to divert his forces to save the allied troops in the Battle of the Bulge. He preferred to continue his attack into Germany far ahead of the other Allied Armies. If Eisenhower and Bradley would have given Patton the green light on his superior tactics, WWII would have ended a year earlier. You are confused about the conduct of the war. Patton’s Third Army lightening thrust across France is what took the pressure off and not the other way around. Do your homework and I don’t mean watching the movie Patton. That movie was a sham in presenting Patton. Bradley was a consultant for the film and he was extremely jealous of Patton. He worked hard to discredit Patton after the war and after his untimely death. History has a way of presenting the facts and Patton will be remembered long after any of his peers. He was Amerca’s top general and deserving to be on the all time list. One more comment. This brillant leader also forshadowed the problems with the Soviets way ahead of any other military or political leader. He realized that Eastern Europe was replacing one facist with another. Patton scared his enemies and the butt kissing politicians in the US Army. It was shameful that people like Eisenhower and Bradley spent time and energy discrediting this man in the public sector. No one helped them achieve their aims more than Patton because of his leadership on the battlefield. He led from the front unlike both of these men and most other allied generals.

        • hi randy, i agree with some of what you have said but yet again feel like you are a touch blinkered in your support of patton . there is no doubt that he was a very good and successful general, however he did not win ww2 singlehanded , as none of the alllied generals did but a team effort. so many factors need to be understood with regard to ww2, it wasnt like waterloo, austerlitz etc battles fought in a different sphere. patton was a very positive general and this was good but at times also too stubborn and blinkered himself to see the overall picture and very much like monty too preoccupied with himself to think of others, and yes i have done my homework!!!!
          i do say without the likes of monty and patton the allies would have struggled because you need these types of leaders just as you need the eisenhowers, alanbrookes, bradleys, bomber harrises etc when you are involved in such a large theater of operations that we saw from 39 to 45.

        • I don’t see Randy saying anything approaching “Patton won World War 2 single handedly”, not even close to that. He’s just saying Patton really was a great general, and he was. World War 2 was so massive it was almost like all the previous wars in history combined- and it had many of histories great generals, simply because it was so massive and taking the top 10% of that war’s generals would be a very large number!

          The administrative generals, like an Eisenhower are needed and serve a great purpose, but they are not combat generals and unfortunately, they often let politics get in the way of winning battles. How many lousy generals remained in command because their superiors didn’t want to remove them, or how many great generals had support pulled from them due to jealousy, or because some other general made more noise demanding those resources?

          It’s not the sole method of gauging a general, but when the enemy is impressed and fears an opposing general, that’s definitely high praise and the Germans were quite impressed with Patton. But he’s a controversial figure and there will always be those who rate him down, simply because they don’t like him.

        • hi roger well that is what is called a sarcastic turn of phrase when if you have read all of randy,s post you would have seen a blinkered attitude towards his feelings on patton just as art has on napoleon, im not saying it is a bad thing and am by no way denegrating either of their achievements as these have been two of the greatest generals we have seen , however they were mere men like you and i and made mistakes just like we do!!! and they did, the measure and mark of someone is knowing their weaknesses and we all have them as they did , for me that is one aspect that people seem to overlook with these two generals but are quite happy to see in others! it is very difficult when viewing a general from your own country as we all have a natural bias, rule of the jungle, but randy says such things of monty as tentative well i wish he had been more tentative then market garden would not have happened, i wish at times patton had been less full of bravado then so many american troops wouldnt have died, i wish eisenhower had man managed both of these generals better and used them to achieve the total victory in 44 that he wished but he didnt the irony is both wanted to do the same which was effectively what the germans had done in 40 and blitzkrieg, if the allies had done this and made a powerful thrust instead of the broad front who knows what would of happened but then foresight is an amazing thing. one comment i would like to address that randy said about bradley and eisenhower discreditng patton, they worked with him and were there we werent!! we can only read books etc to gain our knowledge of these people not as good as the real thing eh!.

        • saxan, of course, the very top generals of all time were men and not perfect and there never will be a military leader that is perfect. In fact, one of the best ways to see just how great a general is, is how he deals with his mistakes- and he will make mistakes. But great generals are able to turn their mistakes into victories, whether within a battle or, learning from a lost battle, doing better in the next.

          I do believe, however, that the greatest generals of history saw that in most cases, being aggressive and constantly pushing your enemy, especially when they’re on the run, is far less costly in the long run, than frequently stopping to “consolidate”, thus allowing the enemy to form a new, well defended line. Patton saved lives by forcing the enemy to give up much ground, while running and unable to stand and put up a good fight. Some of his men and other generals may have hated him, but personal feelings have nothing to do with how good a general is. I think that in most cases, even if he was disliked, he still had a great deal of respect, at least from those who counted.

          I also think that many British Generals, such as Alexander or Slim deserve to be rated above Montgomery. And for that matter, many generals in all the armies, who aren’t as well known as those handful of highest ranking, who were very talented and did extremely well. But I think that during those war years, each country focused on the Montgomeries, Pattons, Bradleys, Zhukovs, etc., as it’s good for a country’s morale to have high ranking leaders to appear as the best, yet each of them got much credit that belonged to subordinates. Just as “History is written by the victor”, many top commanders were able to write themselves up as being responsible for all the brilliant actions that occurred under them.

          In more ancient times, it was simpler! Two armies, with little or no immediate outside contact beyond what a rider on horseback could deliver, would fight with each commander often being a king or such, thus not able to blame lack of support, etc. on someone else, and his subordinate chosen by him. Winning or losing the battle was pretty much squarely on his shoulders.

          With the larger battles of modern times, politics enters and through my reading of battles, I’ve felt that there were many great generals who have been treated poorly by history because they weren’t given adequate support, whether because their nation didn’t have the resources, or due to politics. To the extreme, if you give one of the greatest generals of history a force of 100 men armed only with spears, in a vast, flat and open plain, and a mediocre general a force of thousands of modern tanks, the great general isn’t going to do very well- no amount of genius and talent can overcome deficiencies in men, equipment, etc. if they are too great.

          I think that all too often the talk of greatest generals looks too heavily at battles won or lost, rather than what is more important- how did each general perform with what he had against what the enemy had. It would be wonderful if someone created a complicated program, then rated histories generals and their battles in a way that we could calculate each and every one based on a truly unbiased look at their whole career and what they had to work with against what their enemy had to work with, against the rating of each opponent, etc. And though it would be difficult to find anyone truly unbiased in any way, it would help to have those people create work with the data.

          I know that my own views of top generals can change over time, because it really is tough to judge something so complicated!

        • Roger:

          I’m afraid your wrong. Alexander doesn’t deserve to be rated above Montgomery. Alexander didn’t exersize and kind of control over any of his armies or army groups, he was incapable of giving clear direction from above when it was needed and didn’t make any plans for anything. How can you rate the man who made a total mess of Sicily and Italy through command neglect highly?

          Alanbrooke – CIGS during the war and far better placed to understand the qualities of the British officers than you or I – said of Alexander that he was a nice guy, brave with an inspirational appearance and good at the political side of his job but a total imbecile when it came to strategy, tactics and command control who coasted to success on the back of the work of Montgomery, Leese and McCreery and once they were removed from his he proved very unsuited to high command.

          Alexander got his high command position because Churchill liked him and the American’s likes his unintruding personality but he was one of the worst generals of the war.

          Slim’s a matter of opinion when rating him higher than Montgomery but it is undeniable that he has been very underrated and unpreciated in the history books.

    • Wow, Seriously?

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but if it wasn't for my country's investment; you would be speaking German.

      As for the other stuff-make you're own damn list! (Can't do it? not suprised here).

      • come on really? first of all since the battle of britain (which america played no role in) there was no threat of a german invasion. In fact Germany was consistently vying for piece, and secondly it is fairly accepted that though it would have taken alot longer Russia would certantly eventully beat the germans.

        I am not however down playing the help America gave especially through trade however Britain certantly was not saved

        • Russia would NEVER have beaten Germany if the U.S. had not been in the war.

          No Murmansk convoys with the 50,000 trucks made in Detroit that they brought? They wouldn’t have been able to make nearly as many T3 tanks if they would have had to make their own transport trucks. What about the planes and technology we sent them?

          No American Spam? (See the memoirs of Nikita Kruschev – He seemed to think they would have lost without America).

          No, Russia could not have beaten Germay by themselves in a THOSAND YEARS!

      • Once Britain, aided by Czech, Polish and pilots from many other nationalities (yes even American), had won the battle of Britain there was no possibility of a German invasion.
        Even with the combined power of the British and American navies the generals had doubts about the success of D-day.

    • I'm not even going to begin to detail the multiple fallacies in what you said about there being no great American Generals. Your bias to everything British is ridiculous and you are defending a handful of men who faced off against opponents who were inferior making their accomplishments lacking. You fail to recognize any of the leader's during the American Revolution as being adept militarily but let's put this war into perspective shall we? A numerically, financially and experience superior force comes to a nation-to-be to quell an uprising and is defeated by a ragtag group of men with no funding, no experience, et cetera. So maybe Washington himself had more defeats than he did victories but in the end the war was won by men like him with vastly inferior forces against a force far superior. How's that for perspective? You also fail to mention men such as MacArthur, Eisenhower and Churchhill, more great examples of military genius. Maybe not in the same sense of the word as others throughout history but still great leaders nonetheless, together the decisions these men made dictated the outcome of a war that if lost would have forever changed how most countries around the world are controlled. How's that for perspective?

      • Well this is a first, American's thinking of only themselves… American generals have skill, no doubt, but none come close to making this list, though Eisenhower might come close…

      • The Americans were almost entirely funded, trained, equipped, supported (army and navy) and often, dare I utter it, led, by the French. America was a sideshow for Absolutist France to tickle Britain, distracting it while it dealt with its allies (Prussia and The HRE) in Europe, as well as attempting to gain control of far more economically important colonies than the 13, like Jamaica.
        # Prussian army 100% best at the time, not British.
        #France probably the world superpower, after gains of Louis XIV had eclipsed Spain.
        # British navy not greatest, mainly due to failures of investment and the feckless Lord Sandwich. Probably a toss between the French/Spanish for best.
        #13 colonies really not counted as important even by the time of Napoleon.
        #Saint-Domingue (Haiti) is most lucrative colony – makes more than all others in the world.
        #British king mad, Parliament split. Weak nation. Scots have just rebelled.
        #Distance far, far more important than today. At least 1/3 of soldiers die of disease on the journey. Brits simply don’t have the manpower anyway – never had, have or do.
        The colonies did not take on and defeat the world superpower. They took on a stumbling, drunken chancer, who had nabbed various lonely spots while important countries like Spain and France took the good spots. Which is why the 13 states won free – Britain had simply never been that strong by this point.
        It is after the Napoleonic wars that Britain gets her “Great”.
        Just thought I’d help with your endeavours in perspective.

        • Interesting article..but

          Where is Rommel?

          How can the man that created the largest empire the world ever saw with barely 50000 soldiers spanning thousands of km through hostile lands who never lost a battle, always lead from the front and never had a numerical advantage not be on this list????

          Alexander the Great should be number the very least he should not be left out for Joan of Ark and Washington????? really Washington come on….

        • Sorry Josh your “facts” are just not accurate.

          1. British infantry by far superior to any other nations. The Hessians were easy meat for Washington’s army.

          2. The British navy had recently trounced France at the battle of Quibron Bay. The Spanish? Don’t make me laugh!

          3. The British were easily the dominant superpower of Europe. Perhaps you have heard of the Seven Years War sometimes called the French and Indian War? You know where the “weak nation” you called Britain kicked Frances butt at Louisburg and then at Quebec and then took all of Canada fro them as well as some of France’s Carribean islands.

          Even in the American Revolution, Britain thrashed both France and Spain in India and the Carribean (again) and come out of the war very well.

          I guess one doesn’t need perspective when one has facts.

        • Steve,

          At the time of the Revolution Prussian infantry was arguably the best in Europe. The British Army was decent but small and simply not on a par with the continental armies at the time as far as training.

          The Royal Navy was good, maybe the best, but not dominant until the Napoleonic Wars and the UK didn’t become the dominant power In Europe it did until after the Napoleonic Wars. The French Navy was comparable until the French Revolution destroyed its officer corps.

          You do realize what a backwater North America was during the Seven Years War, right? While neither country paid a great deal of a attention to it, Britain paid a lot more attention (and devoted a lot more resources to it) than France. The UK had more TROOPS in North America than France had people here. The wonder is the French held out as long as they did considering their troops were heavily outnumbered but they were better led for a long time and they mastered unconventional war with the help of their Indian allies.

          The key role the French played in our independence is undeniable.

        • Josh,

          Though your arguments are eloquent, the historical record just doesn’t support them.

          1. Though the Prussian infantry was good with Fredrick the great leading them they were no where near the man for man equal to the British.

          The difference were that the British were FREE men while the Prussian troops were merely well drilled slaves.

          This is why Wolfe’s men at Quebec were able to scale the heights to the Plains of Abraham and defeat a French force under Montcalm (a VERY able commander) of twice their numbers. Though the Prussian soldier of the time was superb against inferior troops (meaning not British) and inferior commanders (meaning not British commanders), it is inconceivable that they would have had the individual inititive needed to pull off the Qubec victory. (Other examples of The same type of superior fighting man was shown individually in WWI by Sgt York’s defeat of 132 German/Prussian solders single handed and collectively by the American’s Omaha beach in WW2.

          The Prussian soldier was not able to handle the unexpected as well as the troops of some other nations as Washigton’s victory at Trenton showed.

          The British had a saying – “One British soldier is worth two French soldiers and four of any other country’s.” They KNEW they were going to win so they usually did.

          In anything like equal numbers, I would cheerfully pit a British army under Marlbough, Wellington or even Sir John Moore or Wolfe against a Prussian army under Fredrick the Great.

          2. The Royal navy WAS the best. Please feel free to list the sea battles that he British lost to the French and/or the Spanish. I think I could come up with a lot longer list of Britain’s victories over them both.

          3. You might think America was a backwater but that doesn’t explain how Britain whipped it’s rivals in the Carribean and India as well as North America. Britain WAS the strongest power.

        • Other people have already answered the UK’s fairly minor role in the Seven Years War on the Continent. The UK didn’t have much of an army to speak of, they were a naval power. As far as the Royal Navy, yes, they may have been a little better (first among equals perhaps might be a way to describe it) but the general historical consensus is that they weren’t leagues ahead of anyone else until Trafalgar. Their army certainly wasn’t.

          As for Qubec, yes, Wolfe’s victory on the Plains of Abraham was quite an achievement. A desperate, last minute gamble to win before the British lifted the siege–they were literally days from giving up. And it paid off.

          Montcalm was good but that day he was stupid, no doubt. No one knows why he marched out to face Wolfe. He was heavily outnumbered and should have stayed entrenched and fought from there (just as he defeated a British army at Carillon that was 3 or 4 times his size). French forces under Levi were a few hours away approaching Wolfe’s rear and he would have had to lift the siege but Montcalm marched his men out and the rest, as they say, is history.

        • Josh, your “Facts” are all wrong.

          1. British infrantry easily the world’s best. The Prussian “Hessians” were easy meat for Washington’s army.

          2. British navy had recently trounced France’s fleet at the battle of Quibern Bay.

          3. Britain was BY FAR the dominant super power of Europe. Perhaps you have heard of the Seven Years War sometimes referred to by us rustic Americans as The French and Indian War when Britain Kicked Frances butt first at Louisburg, then at Qubec and THEN kicked their butts out of Canada altogether? THEN the took some of France’s Carriben Islands as well. Spain? Don’t make me laugh!

          4. Evan after Britain lost the colonies, they STILL kicked France’s butt (along with France’s sidekick Spain) in the Carribean and in India.

          Funny how one doesn’t need perspective when one has historical record on one’s side.

        • Steve,

          1. British infantry being the world’s best is an unsupported assertion, especially in the context of the seven year war. They lost most battes to the French in America even though they had superior numbers. They finally won at Quebec with superior overall numbers and double the number of regulars (french fielded mostly militia). Look it up.

          Also, British soldiers were not free men, they were mercenaries, often not from Britain (many Germans). They could not vote as only landowners could vote. The Brits fielded well trained troops but this was before the age of nationalism, so all drilling, not much passion.

          2. British navy was indeed top notch at the time, France not behind in numbers and ship building but could never get the right officer corps and seamanship. Reason is probably that the French fielded a larger and relatively more prestigious land army that sucked out talent from its navy. Spain was only a shadow of its previous might by the 1770s…

          3. 7 year war was not won by Britain. Britain did well in the Caribbeans but poorly in America. They eventually won there through overwhelming numbers but only because France could not send more troops. The reason why France could not send more troops was because of Britain’s allies. The French never intended to fight so long in America or the Caribbeans as their objectives were in Europe. They were supposed to win on the continent and then get everyone to the negotiating table. Frederick the Great, one of the greatest generals in history, made sure this would not happen. The British really cannot take credit for Frederick the Great’s victories.

          4. Caribbean and India were not the primary theaters of the US war of independence.

        • John,

          1. “The 7 year war was not won by Britain.” Seriously??? Then exactly two sentences later you admit that they did win only they apparently didn’t have good style points.

          John, are you kidding? The British took all of Canada, plus the disputed territory known as the Northwest Territory, plus Florida, plus Cuba, plus islands in the Carribean, plus INDIA. They won at Louisburg, Qeubec, Plassey (in India) and the sea battles of Lagos and Quibern Bay. They also won battles on the continent at Warburg and Minden. It’s true they lost some battles when led by imcompetents like Abercromby or Braddock, but when compentently led they won almost every time on land or sea. It doesn’t sound like the British did as poorly as you say.

          2. The British WERE much more free than soldiers of any other army. There were no mercenaries at Quebec and you will find that the British people embraced nationalism far earlier than the other nations of the time. Thus the incredible feat of scaling the heights at Quebec. By the way, print copies of Wolfe dying in the arms of his officers were all the rage in England and were being bought up at a penny apiece at all the street corners in London were the church bells were rung to commerate the great victory of the fallen national hero. The bells of victory often pealed in England in those days and 1759 was known by the people as the “Year f Miracles. THAT John shows that nationalism had indeed arrived in Britain.

          3.By the way, I looked up the battle of Quebec as you suggested and we were both wrong. Both sides fielded 4,500 men. You were right in saying that the French troops were inferior in Quality to the British Regulars involved (I say again – no mercenaries), but that only proves my point that EVERYBODY’s troops were inferior to the British as I have said

        • Art,

          We are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. If the long list of British victories in the seven years war (to say nothing of the final result of the war) doesn’t convince you than nothing will.

          That war is coming to be called the first world war among historians and there was a lot more to it than the war on the continent. The main result on the continent was Prussia’s survival ad little else. The war left Britain with a world wide empire and the worlds most powerful nation.

          “First among equals” on the sea? I am still waiting for your list of either France or Spains victories over Britain on the sea during that worldwide conflict. I will be surprised if your list has more than one victory on it. (If that).

          Until Trafalger??? What about Quibern Bay? What about Lagos? What about the naval aided capture of both Loisburg and Quebec? What about Saintes? What about Camperdown? What about the Battle of the Nile? All BEFORE TRafalger, though the last few not much before.

          As for on land, I never said that the British were the most powerful on land and you are right to point out that their army was not large and that they were primarily a sea power.

          What I DID and still do assert is that man for man Britain had the best infantry in the world at that time. I also said that they had to be competently led like at Quebec not like at Carillion were they were led by a criminally imcompetent general (Abercromby I think)..

          I looked up the battle of Quebec and Montcalm was NOT outnumbered. Each side had about 4,500 men in the battle. The British fighting men took care of the rest.

          The results of the war and the status of the opposing nations at its end speak for themselves.

          Game, Set, Match.

        • The British soldier was good but not worth two of any other. Man for man they were the equal but certainly not the superior of any other European forces. They were treated like dogs, not free men, under brutal discipline comparable to the Prussians, discipline that for example horrified the French, who viewed the British as automatons like the Prussians and not free thinking men. They volunteered but that was their last act as free men. If you want armies of free men allowed to think and show initiative you want the American Continental Army or the French armies of the Revolution or the early Napoleonic era.

          As I noted, at Quebec Montcalm was heavily outnumbered, it was stupid to march out on the field when he did. If he had stayed put Wolfe would have been compelled to retreat. While on paper Montcalm was only outnumbered by 500 or 600 (about 4,400 men to Wolfe’s 5,000) , only 2,000 of his men were trained regulars and he deployed them pretty poorly. All of Wolfe’s men were regulars. Of course it was a non contest, (though casualties on both side were comparable with dead and wounded combined). The militia might have been useful in the forests but in a European style battle line to line they were useless, though they did prevent a British pursuit into the city. At a similar battle the following spring, Sainte Foye, the French under Levis trounced the British but the city was relived soon after.

          As noted before, America was a backwater and France didn’t put a fraction of the men resources the British did. In no battle in North America did the French have superior numbers but they outfought the British man for man and often had superior generals.

          As for Louisbourg, it held out longer than the British expected considering the forces arrayed against it with no hope of relief. They held out long enough to prevent an attack on Quebec for another year. You make it out to be some great victory against overwhelming odds. It wasn’t. If you want to talk about an impressive victory at Louisbourg you should look at the colonial victory there in 1745.

          As for naval battles, after Trafalgar Britain was dominant and no one challenged them at sea. Before that they were not dominant. During the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars the French and Spanish navies for the most part stayed bottled up. Before that it was still a contest for the seas, the battles you mention were not overwhelming victories like Trafalgar and the British did lose large scale naval actions, such as at Chesapeake, which sealed Cornwallis’ fate and made us a nation.

        • Art,

          This is fun talking to a fellow history buff! My answer is:

          1. I never said the British soldier was worth two of any other. I said THEY claimed that the British soldier was worth two French soldiers and four of any other nations. This was to refute the argument that someone on this site (was it you?) put out stating the British had no nationalistic ferver and I put this very common saying of theirs at the time to show that they that they did. (Along with a list of other facts on that point.
          By the way, please tell me why, if their army was so much more brutal than other countries than WHY did they volunteer? The opinions of the French would be totally irreleveant to the Brits who would have sneered at it.

          2. First you say Montcalm was “heavily outnumbered”, then two sentences later you say he was “only outnumbered by 500 or 600”. You can’t have it both ways. And for the THIRD time on this site I will say that I looked it up and two different sites said that the opposing forces were numerically equal at 4,500 each but that the British were the better soldiers which is of course what I have been saying all along. Take it up with them not me.

          3. As to Your “America was a backwater” and “France didn’t put a fraction of the resources that the British did” statements – France COULDN’T send more resources because the British navy had all of New France cut off from help. By the way, British Naval Superiority was what doomed Louisberg which is EXACTLY why it had “NO hope of relief” as you yourself said.

          To Summerize – NAVY

          A. British were BY FAR number one sea power. Your comment that the battles of Quibern Bay,Lagos, Camperdown, The Battle of the Nile, etc. were ALL overwhelming victories where the enemy had virtually no surviving ships.

          At Cheasepeake the French did win a vital (for us not for them) strategic victory
          when a fleet of 34 French ships of the line were able to fight 19 British ships of the line to a tactical draw (which strategically was all we needed) and prevent them from rescuing Cornwallis. Britain then proceded to THRASH that very same fleet of of ships under the same Admiral (DeGrasse) at the battle of Saintes. At that battle ,despite being reinforced by 12 Spanish ships of the line giving them 47 big ships to the Brits 34, the French lost 6 ships including DeGrasse’s 104 gun flagship which was captured with him in it.

          Britain was number one on the sea – all you can say is that after Trafalger they were even more number one. (I never said they were the ONLY sea power, just by far the best).

          Summerize – Army:

          The British man for man, had a long history of beating everyone else in anything like a fair fight WHEN COMPETENTLY LED. All the way back to Crecy and Poitiers, the Brits/English had a long tradition of victory that made them more confidant than their opponents. Any army of any country is going to lose if commanded by a dolt like Abercromby when he marched is men if tight formation and went straighta t Montcalm’s dug in forces and got them slaughtered. If Wolfe had been there that day, the war would have been all put over.

          The Key is the commander. Look at the War of the Spanish Succession in the 1690’s and early 1700’s. That’s where the saying “A British soldier is worth two French and four of any other countries” got started.

          Why? About Fifteen years of whipping French and German armies ON THE CONTINENT. YEAR AFRTER YEAR- (Bleinem, Ouandarde, etc.) How about the Battle of Dettington in 1743 when 51,000 Brits and Germans defeated 52,000 French and Germans ON THE CONTINENT?

          How about the Battle of Mindon when the outnumbered Brits and Germans deafeated the French and Germans ON THE CONTINENT?

          How about Warberg, when the outnumbered Brits and Germans defeated (again) the French and Germans ON THE CONTINENT? These last two victories along with Quebec in America and Plassey in India were all in the Seven Years war when you say the Brits weren’t the best.

          Again, we will have to agree to disagree. They sure look like number one man for man to me.

          P.S. “It is difficult to think of ANYTHING more formidable than the Duke of Marlbourgh at the head of a British army.”


          Art, argue with Wellington and tell him the Brits weren’t the best. Again:

          Game. Set. Match.

          You want people to bel

        • Steve,

          At Quebec 2,000 regulars vs 5,000 regulars. That was the real battle. You’re padding the French numbers with militia. The militia did fine in irregular warfare, that’s where they shone, but not in line battle. That’s why I say it was stupid of Montcalm to march out when staying put would have won him the battle.

          It’s true the British fleet made things difficult but not impossible to reinforce Quebec, though the Battle of Quiberon Bay might have convinced them not to make a final effort. Unfortunately the real issue, which had dogged that colony since its founding, was the lack of interest in it by the French crown, which is why they had less than 60,000 inhabitants vs 1 million plus in the British colonies, and only a small number of regulars under Montcalm who wanted to be anywhere but there. To France the war was in Europe–the British were intent on conquering and colonizing North America.

          I digress but Canada was holding out fine until Montcalm was put in overall command and not just as a field commander. He wanted to concentrate all his forces at Quebec and fight European style and not fight in the wilderness, keeping the British at bay, like Vaudreuil wanted to. The Canadians mastered guerrilla warfare, thus the rise of units like Rogers Rangers which tried to beat them at their own game, never entirely successfully.

          Several of the sea battles you list were not overwhelming British victories like Trafalgar with virtually no ships surviving. Lagos–14 British ships vs 12 French. French lose 5. 7 survive (those ARE heavy losses, the heaviest of the battles you mention).

          Quiberon Bay–29 Brits vs 27 French, French lose 7, 20 survive.

          Camperdown and The Nile (against the French Revolutionary Navy, which wasn’t much to speak of) were overwhelming, however.

          The only French victory I mentioned, Chesapeake, was 24 French vs 19 British. Only 1 British ship lost. And yes that same reinforced French fleet was beaten by a reinforced British fleet. The 36 British beat the 33 French with the latter losing 6 ships.

          As for the land battles mentioned, I could thrown the French victory at Fontenoy in, where the slightly outnumbered French decisively beat the British and their allies.

          I wasn’t overly familiar with Dettingen before and several sources list widely varying opposing forces but from I can determine from various sources is that the French were fairly heavily outnumbered, their army only being 2/3 the size of the British and German forces.

          You’re right, the key is always the commander and the British have had some good ones. And I’m not dismissing the British Army. Because it was small and usually stayed off the continent, it was very well trained and well drilled but it was never big enough to win a conflict on its own. Marlborough, Wellington, always led large contingents of allies.

          Why did they volunteer? In Wellington’s words they were the scum of earth, the dregs of prisons or escaping prison (the army or jail). Probably because the army beat the alternative. They were flogged like slaves, just like the Prussians and unlike the French. He had a hell of a time keeping his men in line when not in combat and complained about it all the time.

          You’ll enjoy these words by Wellington about Massena’s army when it retreated from Portugal after not being able to break the lines of Torres Vedras: “It is certainly astonishing that the enemy have been able to remain in this country so long; and it is an extraordinary instance of what a French army can do. …They brought no provisions with them, and they have not received even a letter since they entered Portugal. With all our money, and having in our favour the good inclinations of the country, I assure you that I could not maintain one division in the district in which they have maintained not less than 60,000 men…for more than two months.”

          Talk to you later,


        • I am glad that we seem to agree that the commander is the most important thing.

          The numbers of heavy ships at the battles you name do not match the sources I read (nor the numbers at Dettington which had the Brits/Germans at 51,000 to the French/Germans 52,000. By the way Camperdown was a British victory over the DUTCH navy, not the French. I also neglected to mention the first (1801)and second (1807) Battles of Copenhagen where the Brits deafeated and or destroyed the surprisingly formidable combined Danish/Norweigian navies.

          Anyway, I think we have both made our points. I feel that the huge won lost record in favor of the Brits in battles (and especially in winning wars) on both land and sea makes them overall number one in the time periods under discussion.

          Art, it has been a pleasure. Maybe we can chew over other time periods if you have any suggestions.

        • Maybe French had to march out to break the siege because of other issues, not because of the General’s ego or bad decision making. What usually beats sieges is not the fighting itself but it’s almost always a logistical issue – if supply lines are cut you can’t stay inside forever when your men are out of food or water.

          Constantinople was invincible for a hundreds of years and the only way to get in was usually someone was bought off and opened the doors to let the baddies in.

  8. Three (modern) Americans in an ‘All-time’ list and Alexander the Great in the "might have been" list? I think you should go a litte bit deeper into strategy, and realise the value of real strategic achievments of all the above generals. The way of adapting an army to the theater needs, conducting successfull expeditionnary operations and finaly achieving strategic effects (of Alexander)over the armies he defeated AND the peoples he conquered, not only inspired allmost all of the above generals, but still constitute THE example of a superior strategy (very often failed by modern generals).

  9. With respect and a nod to the other posters, the list doesn't necessarily specify that these are the author's (for example) "best strategist" choices.

    One might argue that Washington belongs instead on the "persevering" and perhaps "honorable" and "revered" list, and Lee might might make also make the "well served" list.

    But an overall "Top 10 Generals" list is unlikely to have enough room for any Americans.

  10. Interesting list–thanks for taking the time to put it together. Just a minor note–Hannibal was not son to Hasdrubal, but to Hamilcar. Hasdrubal was Hannibal’s brother-in-law under whom he served in Spain. It was Hasdrubal’s death, I believe in 221, that caused Hannibal to ascend to the role of general of Carthage. I would also agree with a previous poster that Scipio Africanus deserves a place on the list, in my humble opinion.

  11. I would put Lee, Patton and Washinton in the top ten best dressed generals, but to rank them higher than the 80s or 70s is truly an illusion. Ulysses S. Grant is the only American General that should make the top ten. I am constantly amazed that Grant's strategic victory over Lee is often forgotten. I am glad that Lee was for the south and Grant for north for had they been reversed the war would have gone on much longer and the outcome… who knows?

    • He was a fighting man and the only Union general besides George Thomas to show any level of competence during the Civil War, but I think his victories would've easily been utter disasters had Lee's army not already been torn to shreds by 4 years of war and a huge dip in morale following Gettysburg. The war was going against the Confederates but Grant did make sure they remembered it. If any general should be in the top ten in should be Robert E. Lee who maintained his army for nearly two years following Gettysburg and the winter of 1864-1865. The fact that Lee's army even walked from Petersburg is incredible. That and he destroyed Grant at Cold Harbor and other battles.

  12. I too think that three Americans in the top ten is way too many. Where is Belisarius? What about Adulphus Gustavus? Marlborough? Alexander I of Russia? Wellington? Scipio Africanus? Zhukov? And these are only the ones that I can think of off hand.

  13. Hey it said WESTERN history thus russian achievments belong on another list. I think you either forgot about Spain's conquest over the Aztecs with 600 soldiers. (Cortes) or Geronimo's generalship with a band of Chiricahua Apaches.

  14. I think this is pretty poorly though out list. I mean Joan of Arc? She was a mascot not a general. I would definetly rank Rommel, Richard 1 (Lionheart), and William the Conqueror ahead of her.

  15. Scott, where do you divide east and west? Russia is traditionally a part of Europe, and Alexander kicked Napoleon's *ahem* hind quarters from Moscow to Paris in something like 18 months.

    People say that Wellington beat Bonaparte. Wellington faced his marshals in Spain, not the master himself. Alexander was facing Napoleon himself, and his Grand Army, and stopped them cold.

    And at Waterloo, Napoleon's defeat came as much to Wellington's skill as Napoleon deciding that the Prussians wern't going to show up, and commiting his reserves. . . then the Prussians showed up.

    • Even high school history students learn that Napoleon was stopped cold mostly by the WEATHER, not a general.

  16. C. V. Barbatti on

    A few follow up notes to more recent comments:

    I am an American, and if any bias towards American generals has crept in, I apologize. It is not from any assumption that Americans are the most militarily accomplished of nations (we're not), but rather from the quantity of education and source material available to me.

    Here are brief notes on why I personally did or didn't pick suggested or criticized generals.

    WWII – Rommel was a contender, as was Montgomery. However, Patton has become the iconic tactician of the conflict. Rommel was defeated, and Montgomery suffered some humiliating setbacks that left him struggling for prestige over the American tank commander. Zhukov and the others mentioned are not to be scorned, but in more limited theaters.

    Alexander – I love him, know a lot about him, and am impressed by him. But, as before stated, much of his conquest was in the East, and against enemies hard to measure. Finally, his tactics were hardly inspired. He had better trained, motivated, equipped, and disciplined troops – he had a very solid strategy. But he almost never innovated.

    Macedonian phalanx, Sacred Shields on the right, whichever contingent was "2nd best" on the left, Companion Cavalry on the far right, charge with a mass of hoplites, Alexander leading the cavalry. It was a competitive ethos and overwhelming concentration of force that gave his army success rather than any guile, innovation or quick thinking.

    Grant – I picked Lee, a fellow Virginian, over Grant because Lee plucked incredibly victories from unlikely circumstances, and because Lee was in command either of the Army of Northern Virginia, or the overall Confederate forces, for practically the entire war, whereas Grant was relegated to the West for a few years, and only given overall command in the last part of the war.

    Scipio Africanus – yes, defeated the Carthaginians on their own soil. But Hannibal was the monster the Romans feared for a whole war..Scipio ended it decisively, but lacks the same sheer quantity of battle.

    Alexander I of Russia I will admit I had not considered. The argument is an interesting one. It is true, he faced Napoleon in the field more than Wellington. It is also true that he pushed Napoleon decisively out of Russia in short order.

    However, I note that at the time, Napoleon was occupying Moscow and much of the rest of Europe, and Russia had desperately given ground all the way TO Moscow. The Russian winter, the thin stretching of Bonaparte's armies, the paucity of supplies available in what was envisioned as a quick campaign to topple decadent Russia all played a significant role in Alexander's successes. Once again, Napoleon is the defining man of the times.

    • The results of Alexander's campaigns speak for themselves.

      How can Joan of Arc(really?) or Robert Lee ever even remotely be compared to the legend that was Alexander? His ability goes far beyond just tactical genius. Being able to maintain morale half a world away, winning consistently, and just his sheer audacity earn him a place at the first top of the list.

      "Finally, his tactics were hardly inspired. He had better trained, motivated, equipped, and disciplined troops – he had a very solid strategy. But he almost never innovated."

      Well Greece would always have ruled Asia if that were true.

      • It is a shame Alexander died when he did, for all his strength were let down by one problem.
        He had no heir. If he had had an heir and had lived a full life, he would have conquered Europe as well as Asia, made a massive empire, and if he was smart, introduced a system of government that was sustainable

    • That was all very well put.
      As a note on the Persians, and to help qualify Alexander’s accomplishments, it has to be said that they had been considered the best for a long time, until Alex got mardy. Their empire fitted into that category “greatest the world had ever seen” up to that point.

  17. How can you not include MacArthur?

    He was the founder of the "Rainbow division" in WWI, and would lead his men into battle armed only with a swagger stick and taking no precautions himself. He didn't even wear a helmet. When asked about this, he said "The men wouldn't follow if they thought their general was afraid."

    In WWII he conquered the southwest Pacific with far less loss of life than either Nimitz or any of the European commanders.

    His invasion of Inchon in the Korean war was nothing short of genius.

    Sure he blew his own horn, but by golly he delivered.

    • Yes, MacArthur should definitely be included.

      Dont we all blow our horns given the slightest chance?

  18. Jason Lefebvre on

    I do not agree with this list. I agree there are to many American generals, that do not deserve the position.

    Also I have great respect for Hannibal but even HE said Alexander the Great was a FAR better tactician then he was. Also Hannibal was not deserted by his government. After Hannibal lost he actually became a politician. IT wasn't until Rome called for his execution that Hannibal fled Carthrage.

    I believe Pyrrhus deserves a spot, if not, atleast and honorable mention. Even though his tactical ability cost many of his own troops, his ability to achieve victory, even with untrained troops as his, was excellent. He gave early rome a good run for his money and took the throne of Macedonia by force. His only weakness was his treasury.

    • I have read many accounts of Hannibal, and have several biographies in my own library. I do NOT recall that he said anything in particular about Alexander, but I DO KNOW that when asked about the greatest general, he said PYRRHUS. Subsequent historians have puzzled for years about this as Pyrrhus was mediocre at best, judging by results. The saying a “Phyrric victory” is a very common and well known description of a win which costs more than it’s worth. They eventually have come to the conclusion, at least those whom I have read, that it was in strategic concept that Hannibal meant.

      Hannibal is regarded by the vast majority of military historians and experts, as the Father of strategy and tactics, ruses and surprises, who’s soldiers were completely attached to him personally by virtue of the way he treated them and led them.

      Having read through all the above comments for the past hour or more I did not see ONE single mention that Hannibal raged up and down ALL ITALY for over 16 years with NO REINFORCEMENTS from Carthage, where there was a considerable politiacal opposition to the influence of his family, and NO elephants (only one elephant survived the crossing of the Alps) always outnumbered, to such a degree that eventually the Romans for YEARS refused to face him in pitched battles.

      You may know of the name Fabius the “cunctator” (the delayer) who got his name by spending years hovering on the fringes of the Carthaginian army but never facing them in battle. Hannibal’s greatest victory-at Cannae was achieved with less than half the numbers of the two combined Roman Consuls. They STILL teach Hannibal’s enveloping tactics of Cannae in modern Military this very day. He is declared to have killed and captured over 60,000 Romans, with an army totalling about 37,000. You can read up on the plan and tactics of Cannae ANYWHERE. It’s probably the most famous battle in history.

      There is no doubt that as I believe that Napoleone Bonaparte was the greatest modern General and Army leader, that Hannibal was the greatest of Antiquity.

      Come on guys, Fair is Fair, and Facts are Facts.

      • The most famous battle in history is probably waterloo but the rest of your points are well taken except that Hannibal couldn’t follow up on his victories.

    • I have read many accounts of Hannibal, and have several biographies in my own library. I do NOT recall that he said anything in particular about Alexander, but I DO KNOW that when asked about the greatest general, he said PYRRHUS. Subsequent historians have puzzled for years about this as Pyrrhus was mediocre at best, judging by results. The saying a “Phyrric victory” is a very common and well known description of a win which costs more than it’s worth. They eventually have come to the conclusion, at least those whom I have read, that it was in strategic concept that Hannibal meant.

      Hannibal is regarded by the vast majority of military historians and experts, as the Father of strategy and tactics, ruses and surprises, who’s soldiers were completely attached to him personally by virtue of the way he treated them and led them.

      Having read through all the above comments for the past hour or more I did not see ONE single mention that Hannibal raged up and down ALL ITALY for over 16 years with NO REINFORCEMENTS from Carthage, where there was a considerable politiacal opposition to the influence of his family, and NO elephants (only one elephant survived the crossing of the Alps) always outnumbered, to such a degree that eventually the Romans for YEARS refused to face him in pitched battles.

      You may know of the name Fabius the “cunctator” (the delayer) who got his name by spending years hovering on the fringes of the Carthaginian army but never facing them in battle. Hannibal’s greatest victory-at Cannae was achieved with less than half the numbers of the two combined Roman Consuls. They STILL teach Hannibal’s enveloping tactics of Cannae in modern Military this very day. He is declared to have killed and captured over 60,000 Romans, with an army totalling about 37,000. You can read up on the plan and tactics of Cannae ANYWHERE. It’s probably the most famous battle in history.

      There is no doubt that as I believe that Napoleone Bonaparte was the greatest modern General and Army leader, that Hannibal was the greatest of Antiquity.

      Come on guys, Fair is Fair, and Facts are Facts.

  19. Dimitris Zaharopoulo on

    Lee and Patton over Belisarius, Alexander the Great, Scipio Africanus, Subutai, Heraclius, Timur Turks,Aleksandr Suvorov,Cyrus the Great …I can go on and on.

    Do some research mate, then rethink your list. Imo Belisarius alone was a better general than most of people you have on your list.

  20. Phyrrus does not deserve a spot on a top ten list. He did win, but his victories were so horrible they have become a byword for a victory so horrible that defeat would have almost been better.

    And Belisarius does deserve to be listed. Look at what he did, and in the face of Justinian's paranoia of successful generals. Narses the Eunuch should also be considered, though he probably would not make my final cut.

    • Do not forget whom he fought. He fought Romans and Roman soldier was famous for his hardiness at all times.

      • Please with this garbage about the hardiness of Roman or German or Russian soldiers! Give me a break! Any well-trained, well-equipped, experienced soldiers from any country are hard men who are difficult to beat in battle as long as they are competently lead, so take your biases and stick them where the sun doesn't shine.

        As for Belisarius, he definitely should be considered.

  21. Rob Mitchell on

    Theodore A. Dodge lists three generals as the greatest of all time, as follows: Alexander the Great, Hannibal, and Frederick the Great. All three of these generals were who they were and what they were to become because of the groundwork established by each one's father—Philip of Macedon, Hamilcar Barca, and Frederick's father–forgetting his name. Anyway, T. Dodge served in the American Civil War as an officer and has written many books on the subjects of military history and some of histories most famous military figures, so I trust his assessment because he relies on the most reliable recent (as of his time) as well as ancient historians.

    • Napoleon paid tribute to Fredrick the Great after he conquered Prussia at the battle of Jena. Standing before Fredrick’s tomb Bonaparte said, “If he were alive, we would not be standing here now.”

  22. Rob Mitchell on

    Alexander, Hannibal, and Frederick the Great, according to Theodore A. Dodge are in the six greatest captains of history because of the groundwork put in place by each one's father. I imagine Caesar, Napoleon, and Gustavus Adolphus, are the remaining three from history included in the top six.

    Next would be Scipio Africanus (learned his strategy from Hannibal, as did other contemporaries of the 2nd Punic War), Robert E. Lee, Pyrrhus, and perhaps Stonewall Jackson.

  23. do u have no respect for real tactical brilliance you left out Admiral Yomamoto who successfully planned the attack on pearl harbor and crippled the american fleet and and he revolutionized japans airforce and navy into one of the most powerful in the world

    • Really? Japan lost the war. This tactical "brillance" was resposible for hundreds of thousands of deaths(just counting the nukes).

      Pay attention–Japan is not allowed to have any military (beside coast guard), because they started and lost a war.

  24. you could have also added Darth Vader, who for most americans achieved much more than Alexander or Wellington (he conquered most of Hollywood's deep space). sorry for been sarcastic, but the comparison is too "american" to be credible. It's a pitty to compare the action and the thinking of Lee with Caesar's,and make realy worthy and historic generals to loose by a "hair" 🙂

    • George, you underrate Lee. Chancelersville was one of history’s master pieces right up there with Austerlitz and yes even Cannae.

  25. I am going to join the chorus of people ridiculing you for your exclusion of Alexander the Great. He did not fight "barbarians and savages" as you put it. He fought the best-armed and largest military in the history of the world to that time in Persia. The Persians were a far more ancient culture than the Macedonians and had learned a thing or two about warfare in their many centuries of conquering and ruling over the known world. Alexander wiped them off the face of the earth in under a decade. Persia essentially constituted the known world and Alexander– an 18 year old military genius– devastated them time and again. The mere fact that he never lost a battle speaks to the fact that he was history's greatest general. You do realize that Caesar and Pompey were fighting savages and barbarians too, right? Why include Saladin's conquest of a tiny chunk of the Middle East at a time when it was far more of a backwater than it was when Alexander conquered them, but leave Alex off?

    Alexander showed his acumen for war by fighting not just traditional war, but also one of history's first guerilla wars and a campaign against the Afghanis in which he defeated them, something that no other general has managed to do in the last 2,000 years.

    Your view of history is ridiculous. Why include Hannibal who eventually lost at Zama and failed to achieve the goal he set for himself? Why include Washington who is considered by most people in the know to have been a second-rate general? Why include Saladin who never set foot in the West on a list of great Western generals (the Mideast is not the West, my friend).

    By not including Alexander you make your list a joke and you deserve all the ridicule the comments section is full of. Read a little history and see if you understand the magnitude of what Alexander accomplished. Were it not for him, the entire history of Western civilization would be different and in fact it might not exist because if he had not taken Persia apart, the Persians would eventually have conquered the squabbling Greeks (who, oh yeah, Alexander actually united) and set their sights on Italy, thus preventing the Roman Empire from forming and giving birth to the republican form of government that inspired the Founders of the United States.

    I shouldn't be so worked up, but your list just makes me mad in its ignorance.

    • I am sorry to disagree with you, but the Persian “Army” was a huge, disconnected mass of dozens of subject peoples who’s “troops” were normally peasants and farmers, all speaking different languages, and so completely unwieldy that not the greatest genius who ever lived could have managed to get them to obey an order. At the slightest sign of unrest at any part of the horde, it would and DID rapidly spread until they were running around, not even knowing what happened or where they were going. I have read many accounts of Alexander’s victories by critical and acclaimed historians and they all say the same. Alexander had what was basically a homogenious, easily commanded, expert, professional army, which could carve it’s way through ANY number of undisciplined, terror-stricken serfs. It is reckoned that the vast majority of Persian casualties, were caused in EVERY battle (there were only 2 of any historical note) by themselves running over each other to get away from they knew not what.

      How did Xenophon with his 10,000 manage to march all the way across Asia Minor losing practically not a man????? EH??? The very same way that Alexander’s guys were able to walk through the vast hordes, most of whom NEVER even saw a Greek soldier. They ran away, leaving only those they trampled on the ground.

      Sorry fellows, but critical FACTS are never-the-less….FACTS.

      By the way, in my comments above on Hannibal and Cannae, I forgot to mention that with less than half the numbers in his army, he managed to SURROUND 80,000 TRAINED Roman soldiers. I seem to recall that less than 10,000 managed to get away. Sorry for that digression.

      • I agree that the Persian army was not homogeneous and not a professional one. However they were able to create a huge empire, and defend it with that same type of military.

        You cannot discount the numerical advantage especially in ancient times on open ground

      • If the Persian army was so bumbling, then please explain how they conquered the largest land empire the world would see before Ghengis Khan stormed Asia and the Middle East, and held it for hundreds of years. If their soldiers were as incompetent as you claim then they would never have conquered the entire Middle East, Egypt, and Asia Minor (which had been colonized by Greeks). And they certainly would not have been able to hang onto it for so long. There were plenty of well-trained armies in the region that would have marched through Persia if it really was as easy as you say for Alexander to do so.

        • Persian empire had been formed by the conquests of Cyrus the Great – another guy who deserves to be on the list. But that was 250 years before Alexander and he wasn’t facing Cyrus (Who would have been a much tougher proposition, believe me.

      • Facts are facts? Can you please explain the “facts” that have Joan of Arc on this list and not Alexander?

    • well said sir..the internet is a great tool but it is also the greatest bane to true history…

      people need to read real history books before commenting

    • It’s funny. Caesar did fought Pompey and other Romans and you cannot compare Roman army of late 1-st B.C t Persian army of Alexander time. Roma army would turn Persian army of Alexander time into ground meat. Considering the intensity of warfare Caesar fought Alexander cannot be compared. Caesar won more pitched battles before Napoleon than anyone else in ancient history.
      According to Greeks Persians were barbarians too and Alexander never fought any general of Pompeus the Great caliber and army of Roman army level which doe snot mean I do not consider Alexander out of top 10. I just consider him under Caesar and Hannibal.

  26. Lee on November 21st, 2008 4:15 am

    Sorry but you are anti-American in this for sure. Montgomery better than Patton? Please. If it was not for American support in all areas, Montgomery would not have had the equipment to waste and be able to not win an overwhelming victory. As for Rommel, well the Brits puffed him up beyond his abilities to say "See Monty beat the German's best."

    Zhukov? please nothing but a butcher, if it was not for numbers he would never have won a battle. Now to those that seem to think Jackson was better than Lee, sorry Jackson was a great commander but needed the guiding hand of the master. Salah ad Din as #3 sorry no way, no how.

  27. I agree, Alexander is #1. If I were to guess, Hannibal is #2 (mostly agreed to by the military historians). Doesn't matter what you think, Garrett, its what the scholars think that matters most. Hannibal opened his school in Italy as the father of strategy. Most of the Roman generals learned the tricks of the trade from the master himself, Hannibal, and that includes, Scipio Africanus. Hannibal undoubtedly learned his trade from his father Hamilcar Barca. Hamilcar was the only true strategist to come out of the First Punic War. The only other Roman general so daring would be Caesar, and he is considered in the top six strategists of all time. Marcellus is also on equal terms with Scipio or Caesar. Napoleon and Frederick the Great and Gustavus Adolphus, studied these ancients in the arts of war.

    • “Most of the Roman generals learned the tricks of the trade from the master himself, Hannibal, and that includes, Scipio Africanus”


      No it doesn’t.

      Scipio opened his account with Nova Carthago. He didn’t learn that from *anybody*, there is no school that teaches that.

      • Scipio opened his account at Cannae, where he witnessed first hand the genius of Hannibal. Multiple sources assert that Scipio used his experiences with Hannibal to develop his own strategies.

        • “Scipio opened his account at Cannae, where he witnessed first hand the genius of Hannibal”

          The fact that he just happened to be present at a battle in no way means he somehow “tutored” in that battle. How many generals in history were present at battles as junior officers, went on to have successful careers and no thought is given to the notion that they were somehow “tutored” by their initial experience? I’ll tell you how many – ALL OF THEM. It’s only in this instance where the purblind apostles of Hannibal, constantly fapping over the hero try to claim some extra credit for him by supposedly schooling the man who beat him. Hannibalites produce a long, long litany of excuses for their idol’s failure at the last hurdle and are desperate to explain it away by any other means, any other means at all, other than holding their hands up and saying he was beaten fair and square, with the advantage of superior numbers in his own backyard. But oh no, this cannot be, it’s always:

          1. Scipio had more backing from Rome (not true)
          2. Hannibal didn’t have his best troops (he damn near matched the Roman army man for man with his best troops, it’s just the excess that were new recruits)
          3. The Roman soldier was just better (really? Trasimene, Trebbia and Cannae were flukes were they?)
          4. He had a cavalry disadvantage (he had a massive elephant advantage, which Scipio cleverly negated, and he had the cavalry disadvantage because of Scipio’s superior human relations skills, if you can help win without fighting by depriving the enemy of allies so much the better)
          5. And failing all that, Scipio was just the student of Hannibal and therefore can’t possibly be better nyah, nyah, nyah.

          No dice. We don’t accept special pleading in other fields of debate, I don’t recognise special pleading in this instance either.

          “Multiple sources assert that Scipio used his experiences with Hannibal to develop his own strategies”

          Multiple writers writing centuries after the fact trying to claim some reflected credit for Hannibal do indeed assert that. A study of Scipio’s battles reveals this to be a nonsense. In pitched battle there are really only two ways of winning – central penetration vs envelopment. That Scipio utilised envelopment as did Hannibal is no great coincidence, it’s not like there are lots of options. Since we know Scipio studied Alexander and that Alexander used envelopment it would make more sense to assert that, if he was a student of anybody’s, he was a student of Alexander. And since Alexander was a great taker of cities and this is exactly how Scipio opened his account this only lends that theory more credence.

          But to credit either with being a tutor of Scipio is just a means by which the idolators of Hannibal seek to diminish Scipio’s own impressive list of achievements. By contrast I’d say the pair of them were very evenly matched military geniuses and Scipio just edges it, mostly down to personal qualities off the battlefield in addition to prowess upon it.

    • Actually we did a long 3 month debate on a history forum i’m on and the end result was ghenghis khan as the best general of all time. We’re talking 20,000 history buffs debating with thousands of pages of posts over 3 months. The amount of territory and people he conquered while being the least technologically advanced and having the smallest army in the region is just to much to ignore. Think about it. His army started at about 150,000 and was never larger than 250,000 and he conquered 1/4 of the worlds surface and over 100 million people. China had huge armies, sun tsu’s art of war and rockets and he beat them.

  28. joshua sedgwick on

    heres a genral whos always over looked bt if you looked at his abilities he should be a well noted general : oliver cromwell he never lost a battle.

  29. Such a list should only consider those who were ultimately successful – those who kept their eye on the prize and attained it, whatever the duration. The closers in military history are as follows, though not in any particular order:

    1. Scipio Africanus – a great general and statesman. It was his campaigns that sent Rome so far upon the road to greatness.

    2. Alexander the Great – I personally can't stand this one, but his record is undeniable. While he lived, he was supreme.

    3. Julius Caesar – great general and statesman, he had the rarest gift a military commander can have – he could improvise and adapt his way out of his errors that his original improvisations and adaptations caused.

    4. George Washington – you can justly question his military acumen but of anyone in history, this is the man with the most iron will, unshakable eyes on the prize, and strongest character. His influence is pervasive and do not forget – he succeeded against some of the most impossible odds of any war.

    5. U. S. Grant – a great general who learned as he went, had excellent character, and shared the same trait mentioned above with Julius Caesar Historians credit Sherman as one of the first modern military commanders, but I think Grant justifiably earns that title.

    8. Cortes – What? Cortes? Absolutely! Talk about against all odds! Outnumbered, little supplies, heterogeneous force, Cortes is one of the ultimate closers in history. The sheer audacity – and ultimate success – are incredible.

    9. Epaminondas – The great man from Thebes proved to be one of the most versatile and inspiring commanders who built a unique army. It all fell apart when he died, but while he lived, his campaign(s) were a success. Read Victor Davis Hanson to really appreciate this general.

    10. Themistocles – Saved Athens and probably Greece from Persian tyranny. A supreme strategist who doesn't often get his due.

  30. Mike,

    Let me respond to your to your top eight with my top eight: 1)Alexander the Great, 2)Xenanphon 3)Hannibal Barca, 4)Scipio,5)Marcellus, 6)Claudius Nero and 7)Juilius caesar For the ancients.

    moderms: Jackson, Lee, and Sherman and grant, don;t exclude the William Bedford forredst who onc said: "get ther the fastest with the mostes"

    • Any list should include John Churchill, Duke of Marlbourgh who has often been listed number one by many historians. His campaign and victory at Bleinam was one of history’s master pieces and his fifteen year UNDEAFEATED record makes him one of the grats of all time.

  31. Great List, Rob – though I'd add Marcus Regulus for ancient generals. True, his campaign ended in a fiasco but the strategic fruit born from that operation was almost unimaginable in its far reaching consequences. I'd also point out that Jackson, Lee, and Forrest were ultimately failures and their primary objective was never attained. Jackson fails Lee spectacularly in 1862 during the Seven Days (historians Freeman and Foote aptly portray Jackson's weirdly uniquely and uncharacteristically case of the slows); While I freely admit Forrest was spectacularly impressive – though he did create a terrorist organization after the war (KKK), he did have to surrender and his cause failed. Have you ever heard that the German General Staff used to study Forrest and apply some of his style when developing blitzkrieg?

    • Forrest never founded the KKK. The original Ku Klux Klan was founded by 5 middle class ex-Confederate soldiers in December, 1865. And Forrest even being in the Klan hasn't yet been proven, as he always denied membership and leadership. And if the Germans used his ideas, good for them. They were smart to recognize his genius. And Jackson's command problems (such as never giving information to his subordinates) are pretty hard to remember after looking at his 1862 Valley Campaign and his performance at Chancellorsville. And what do you mean they failed? There job as soldiers and generals was too win battles and kill Yankees. And they did that to perfection.

    • Mike, by that reasoning you would have to take Hannibal off your list. Are you willing to do that?

  32. Ok first it is Nathan Bedford Forest and he did not create the KKK. Now as for Lee Jackson and Forest not making their primary objectives, I should point out that napoleon lost in the end and yet I would find it hard to find any one not putting him in a top 10 list

  33. Tony,

    First, I apologize for misspelling Forest's name – very embarrassing!

    Second, Napoleon is one of the most overrated generals in history. Anyone can have a great run when you are handed a brand new, unprecedented war machine based on some 80 some odd years of reform while all of your opponents for the first ten years are from an outdated, ineffectual system led by generals sometimes in their 70s.

    Napoleon also had a bad habit of abandoning his own men when things went south. First in Egypt, then in Spain (turned it over to second stringers), and then in Russia.

    He reminds me of Montgomery in WWII except that Montgomery actually had to face excellent generals early as well as later in his career. As long as there was a massive preponderance of men and supplies, things normally went fairly well. About the only time I can recall reading a battle with Napoleon when he was outnumbered prior to 1813 was his campaign in Italy.

    It also helps when many of your principle lieutenants are first rate performers. But the real reason I didn't consider him for my list was that in the end, Napoleon is a loser, a failure – his creation collapsed. Although his administrative governmental reforms were extremely far reaching and beneficial. And yes, his influence on later generations was massive. Maybe too massive, since by the 1850s the technology in war removed many of the strengths of Napoleonic warfare.

    • Mike, Study the young Bonaparte’s actions in ending the British siege at Toulan and especially his campaigns in Italy. The “unprecedented war machine” you described was a band of ragged, starving, inexperienced men commanded by equally inexperienced officers who had survived the terror that had claimed most of France’s experienced generals for the guillotine.

      The young Napolean, especially was on a par with Alexander.

  34. First off, Forest did not creare the KKK. Second, he quit the Klan because he did not approve of the violent actions. Third, he never said "Get there the fastest with the mostest." Forest was an educated, articulate man and did not speak using such gibberish.

    Had Lee been in command of the army of the Potomac, the Civil War would have been over in months. Lee repeatedly defeated Union generals and did it with far fewer men and supplies. His final defeat was due to attrition not tactics.

    • I agree with your comments about Forrest, the only Confederate general who was an acknowledged genius and undefeated. he actually NEVER surrended, he went home. I don’t know where you get your idea that he was an educated man. He was totally illiterate and this has been described by EVERY historian (except maybe the onew you read) and by memoirs of his times some of which were by men who served under him. This illiteracy and self taught military prowess, has been a large reason why he has attracted so much attention from historians, since he really played mainly a peripheral part in the war, and never commanded more than a few thousand men at any time, maybe 1,500 to 4,000. (except, I think, once when he had to take over command when the commanding general was wounded, anout 15,000 men I believe) He was a plantation owner who organised his own contingent for the war.

      Unfortunately for the South, Lee was not given command of the WHOLE Southern Army until comparatively late in the war when it was too late to do any good. He was the commander of the Army of Virginia for the majority of the war.

      Although there is no doubt that he was a great general, and fully deserves his high position in the lists, critical examinations and histories of his expertise say that his BIG failing was that he would get carried away by the spirit of battle and become “over-bloodthirsty” and becoming sometimes overcommitted… at Gettysberg, a good example. This has even been admitted by himself in an essay of self criticism, which I have also read. I have it somewhere. This trait has also been written about by many prominent Civil War historians.

    • youre right the Klan i believe was created by a small group of hal a dozen ex confederate soldiers, bedford forest, became grand wizard and alomost self proclaimed leader of the klan, i think this is where people get confused and believe he created it. im not too well up on klan history but believe that this is how it began. i do believe the original incarnation didnt last long, it was the re-emergence in the twenties after the first world war when it had its best support. again anyone want to correct me please do , im more a ww1 and 2 and napoleonic war man ! i am reading about gettysburg at the moment, excellent read, also for ww2 officionados “operation mincemeat” ben macintyre, great book and superb read.

  35. James,

    Look up the quote. You will find that it was in fact Bedford Forrest who said, "Get there first with the most"!

    All you have to do is google that one. No brainer!

  36. "Get there first with the most" yes. "Get there the firstest with the mostest" no.

  37. James,

    I never wrote that Forest said, "Get there firstest with the mostest".

    General Lee was defeated by General Grant because General Lee was a mediocre strategist and his defeat is not due simply to attrition. Grant was a better strategist with a far better big picture mastery. Lee was a superb tactician, but that was not enough. Lee was not the omniscient great commander. Even Hooker and Burnside stole a march on Lee and surprised him.

    Attrition did help, but Lee's blunders helped even more. If Lee had been in command of the Army of the Potomac, well, it would depend on who he wound up fighting. If he fought Johnston, than you are probably right. If he went up against Jackson, who was a superior field commander, I don't think Lee would have beaten him.

    Both of Lee's two great offensives were failures. Worse, he seemed to have absolutely no appreciable clue as to the importance of what was known as the Western theater. And while I have always admired Lee's style of non-micro management – he might have been the most non-micro manager in military history – it proved a failure by the summer of 1863.

    Nothing Lee accomplished carried the strategic significance that could touch Grant's Vicksburg campaign. Come to think of it, almost every single one of Grant's victories was a measurable nail in the Confederate coffin. Lee's performance never matched it.

    • WTF are you talking about? Lee was one of the greatest generals of the 19th Century. Grant was a druck if anything. Now lets see who Marse Robert fought and defeated: McClellan (Peninsula Campaign and he held him off at Antietam), Pope (Second Battle of Manassas), Burnside (Battle of Fredericksburg), Hooker (Battle of Chancellorsville), and Meade and Grant in several battles (Battle of the Wilderness, Battle of the Crater, Battle of Cold Harbor, Battle of Deep Bottom, and the Battle of Spotsylvania). The only reason Grant beat the Confederates at Vicksburg was because he starved the town until they had to eat rats. It doesn't take a genius to lay siege to something. And even when Grant laid siege to Lee at Petersburg, Lee was still able to get out. Grant also made a terrible President.

      • Hunter,

        Are you kidding? Grant’s Vicksburg campaign was awesome. Reread the history of the war. Where Grant went, victory followed.

        By the way, although Grant wasn’t much of a president, he was still a THOUSAND TIMES better than Obama.

  38. James,

    Forrest's southern vernacular was "firstest with the mostest". Ever heard of idiom's? Quoting Shelby Foote, well known scholar on the Civil War!

    This was southern idiomatic use of the language!

    Look it up, please!

  39. Grant was not the better strategist, it is easy to win battles when you out number the other army and fight by attrition. Jackson was a fine commander but never better than Lee. Lee's worst problem was he never disciplined his commanders and was to easy, his lack of a sufficient staff and his giving orders like "Take that hill if practical" while meaning "Take the hill" was a disaster like Gettysburg showed. Picking Ewell over Stuart to command Jackson's Corps was a wrong decision, as was promoting A.P. Hill to Corps command. Lee was ill served by many of his generals but failed to control them they way he should have. As for his plans they were very good both tactically and strategically. Forest did speak well but could not write in fact when he wrote he spelled the way things sounded. His education lacked but the man was a military genius.

  40. Rob,

    I am familiar with idioms. I am also aware that many scholar's, including Bruce Catton, Paul Ashdown and Edward Caudill have stated that Forest absolutely did not say Firstest with the Mostest. That quote first appeared in 1917 in an article in the New York Times. Many people that knew Forest have also stated that he did not speak that way and, while not greatly formally educated, he was learned and articulate. It's good to see so many still care about the study of history.


  41. James,

    Though the "disputed" statement: "Firstest with the mostest" is believed to be the summation of Forrest's strategy during his campaigning in the Civil War, the plain English version means the same thing or vice versa. If you have ever visited the deep south (for all I know you are from a southern state) then the former expression is not far off. I am not from the deep south, but from the west coast. My relatives are from the south, though. My interest in military history are more along the lines of ancient history a la Rome, Carthage, Greece, and Persia.

  42. Rob,

    I agree that the meaning is the same and it does sum up Forest's basic military philosophy. I just never liked the portrayal of Forest as someone that spoke as an illiterate hayseed. Yes, I am from a Southern state. My family moved to North Carolina in 1967, when I was three, and I've lived here ever since.

    I've read Herodotus three times. Any recommendation on another good book on the Persion Wars?

  43. Hi Mike,

    I know you didn’t say the “Firstest” comment. I was referring to another poster that wrote earlier in the thread. I apologize for it coming across as it did. The nicest thing about that thread is seeing how many people still have an interest in military history. The western theater does seem to be the “forgotten war”. I appreciate you taking the time to write to me and I will definately spend some time thinking about your points. I may have to alter my outlook somewhat.


  44. James,

    Look up Kagan or Victor Davis Hanson for excellent ancient military Greek works.

  45. Rob Mitchell on


    Holland's book, "Persian Fire" (Greek/Persian wars)is worth a look. His other books are goo, too. "Rubicon" is another noteworthy title—fall of the Roman Republic. Also, I recommend Xenophon's Anabasis- on his retreat with the 10,000 from Babylon, circa 399 B.C. It can be tough reading, but is worth the look.

  46. some other notables missing:

    duke of marlbourough

    prince eugene


    moltke the elder

    Michel Ney

    erich ludendorff


    Stonewall jackson


    alexander the great


    scippio africanus

  47. I find it so frustrating that i frequently see Patton mentioned in these lists. He was not a great General;

    He wasn't the best General of WWII – that was Rommel.

    He wasn't the best American General of WWII – that was McArthur.

    He isn't even one of the best Generals in US history – Jackson, Longstreet, Bedford-Forest all ahead of him.

    I think his persona seems to be greater and more famous than his ability.

  48. Mike,

    Saw your comments on Napoleon and just had to respond. When considered in perspective, Napoleon is far above any other military commander in history. He faced multiple enemies, multiple fronts, and numerically superior opposition in almost every battle and every war he participated in.

    How do you conclude that France was a brand-new war machine superior to all the other powers of Europe at the time? France was not much more powerful than Austria, Prussia, Britain, or Russia and yet Napoleon managed to dominate all of them for over a decade.

    Napoleon "abandoned" his men? In Egypt, he returned because he was called back by the Directory to defend France as she was on the verge of defeat against the Second Coalition (yet France was light-years ahead of the rest of Europe, right?). In Spain, he "abandoned" his troops because Austria declared war halfway through his campaign, and France would have possibly fallen if he had not returned to defeat the Austrians once more. In Russia, there was a genuine coup being attempted in Paris and he also had to return to raise a new army against the coalition being formed.

    Don't recall Napoleon being outnumbered before 1813? Austerlitz, Marengo, Jena-Auderstedt, Ulm, Friedland, etc. ring any bells?

    Napoleon is a loser because he had a 98% win rate and only achieved victories for 15 straight years against all of Europe, lost his army to weather, and then still managed to win every battle he was involved in after that (including the six days campaign) except Leipzig and Waterloo? Yes, a loser indeed.

    • France, apart from having Napoleone, was the most populous country in Europe with a population of that time of nearly 30; million, therefore could supply enough troops year after year. This doesn’t mean that Bonaparte outnumbered his opponents, On the contrary, but, because of his screening devices, and secrecy, he was generally able to bring a superior force to the vital spot he’d chosen for the breaktrough. Then, of course in prolonged campaigns, it was his strategy and tactics which saw him through with fewer troops and NO commisariat. His troops lived “off the land”.

      Everyone who has written about Napoleone fighting in Spain, are all wrong. He commanded troops in Spain only ONCE in his life and that resulted in the defeat (and death) of Sir John Moore and the retreat to Corunna, a VERY WELL KNOWN EVENT , both in story and song, as well as history. When the retreat of Moore’s troops was under way, he handed over the command and went back to France where he had more important matters to attend to.

      Before his abdication, in 1814, when he was trying, -with a very small army- to get to Paris ahead of the Allies, the campaign he conducted, where he had numerous victories with small forces against large Allied armies is well known, and brought back the brilliance of his earlier days, which everyone thought he had lost. This campaign is taught in most Military Academies.

      Unfortunately, a day too early, the city was surrendered, never defended actually, by his old lifelong friend Marmont, who, to this day is execrated in France… is Grouchy, who, following the defeated Prussians along the wrong direction, was urged to turn around and march to Waterloo.”March to the sound of the guns” was a military discum of that time, and generally followed, often bringing about victory. He refused, and his 33,000 troops were never used at Waterloo. There was another Armee the commander of which whose name I temporarily have forgotten, with over 20,000 men, marched from one direction to another during Waterloo, but never persevering, doing exactly NOTHING.

      These huge mishaps, as well as Ney, without orders, going crazy and throwing away all the cavalry in attacking British squares UNSUPPORTED by foot troops a HUGE “no-No” (he had 6 horses shot from under him) made a French victory nearly impossible from the word “GO”.

      But they gave it their best try, losing almost 40,000 casualties.

  49. Tim,

    I'm eyeball deep in a thesis right now so this will be brief but you should consider the following points:

    1. For about 80 years prior to Napoleon's putsch in the streets of Paris with his artillery, the French army's record was horrible. The string of defeats initiated a massive reform program for the entire war machine which was only lacking the levee en mass and the removal of many restriction on promotion. So that is what I am referring to when I wrote that Napoleon was handed an unprecedented war machine compared to his enemies. He shares this lucky break with Alexander the Great – Napoleon inherited his army from 80 years of reform and one massive revolution and Alexander inherited his unprecedented army from his dad, Philip. I will say that Napoleon introduced several innovations to warfare and I'm at a loss to come up with any innovations from Alexander.

    2. You seem to be rating generals based on field records while I am rating them on causes. And if you are going to rate by field records than Wellington would beat out Napoleon. – just like his cause.

    3. Isn't it convenient to be called away from enterprises that sour? Poor Napoleon was forced to "leave" his men in Egypt, Spain, and Russia just when things went south in all three campaigns. If you wan to admire something form the Napoleonic era, admire the French engineers at the bridge of Baressino (sorry about the spelling) who jumped to their deaths in the freezing river in order to be able to work ten minutes on a bridge to save their abandoned army from destruction before their corpses floated downstream.

    Back to my insanity as the due date looms – I kind of feel as if the Yorktown steaming towards Midway with the civilian engineers till working on her


    • Sorry Mike, you are wrong. Any history will tell you that there was NO real French Army after the Revolution, and for several years afterwards. Most, if not all of the commanders and officiers had either been executed or skipped the country. Just after the Revolution, when all the European Kings and Emperors joined together against France and invaded, there happend to occur a miraculous by hordes of completely untrained Frencmen at VALMY, which sent the Allies retreating out of France. They then had some time to try to organise an army. But they needed armies on several Fronts.

      When Napoleone came to the fore he was given the command of the so-called Army of Italy, at age 26, Mainly it has been averred, through the influence of Josephine with Barras,a former lover.

      EVERY history book describes the Army of Italy, as a disorganised rabble of half starved shoeless, ragged, weaponless, completely discouraged rabble. Massena was shut up in Genoa, and had been for months where they were selling rats and grass for unheard of sums.

      Napoleone speedily took control, organised things, issued proclamations and speeches- something he was very good at- and things looked up from there. But at that time there was hardly any real French Army, just an often defeated, discouraged, dispirited army, on the defensive everywhere.

      One last little thing. When it comes to great Generals of the Napoleonic period, no one has mentioned Suchet, who ran things independently and VERY successfully in Catalonia all through the Peninsular War, and was one of the very few who was never defeated.

  50. I saw the comments on Napoleon, sorry but he was far better than Wellington, Wellington won at Waterloo because Napoleon made mistakes in assignments for his marshals and Blucher saved Wellington. Now as for Patton, he was better than Rommel, Rommel was not the best German commander von Manstien was. Patton was better than MacArthur, in fact so was Sandy Patch and Vinger Joe Stilwell. I would even put Davout over Wellington

    • How can you put Davout over an undeafeated Wellington who has a win over Napolean on his record? No matter how you try to argue away Waterloo, a win is a win.

    • I am not so sure Alexander should be on this list. I, at least, question it. Yes he won many victories, but with an army already prepared for him by his father Philip of Macedon. His father originated the idea of an invasion of Persia, but with very different objectives and goals. I don't like or respect Alexander's megalomania, nor his tactics for subjugating his new empire. His paranoid reactions and subsequent murder of the old guard within his officer corps was much like Stalin's. The myth of Alexander the Great, along with his bright and shiny reputation, do not stand up to scrutiny when looked at more closely. It is a good thing he died young.

      • I’m sorry and with respect for your view but your personal opinion isn’t what makes a general great. A good thing he died young? Alexander had a good dream and just to clarify some things about his personality, he had a good heart. Myths don’t just pop up, they are based on reality. Try watching in the Footsteps of Alexander with Michael Wood, i think you might find it interesting. And about Alexander inheriting his army:true, but you what they say: ”it’s easy to get an A but quite another to maintain it.”

        • With respect I must disagree. Alexander has been both mythologized and romanticized( had a good heart). There is a significant historical scholarship out there that I agree with in regards to Alexanders motives, paranoia, and megalomania. He was not the Jesus christ of generals and statesmen. As to strategy and tactics, there is no doubt that Alexander was a gifted soldier, the most gifted of his generation. Hannibal was the most gifted of his time and Caesar was the most gifted of his generation. I don’t think you can burn this arguement down to a cliche or an anecdote: “easy to get an A….”
          Nice try, though. My father was a history teacher and I minored in history when I was in school. Ancient history has always fascinated me and always will.

        • He had a good heart??? A good dream???

          Alexander may be one of the greatest military commanders of all time, perhaps even the very greatest. But he was a classic case of Meglomania run amok who murdered one of his closest friends in a drunken rage – (He was constantly drunk – he would work all day than party all night till he passed out).

          There’s only one Alexandria today but that he named literally hundreds of places he conquered Alexandria. What a jerk! He also loved to sleep with boys like Michal Jackson. (Today that would probably be a resume enhancement to run for office in the Democrat party).

          Alexander was used by the God of history to move the world in a new direction but he did NOT have a good heart.

  51. I feel Caesar should be number 1, he actually left a legacy, keeping that territory maintained unlike many of the other nominees. napolean was inspired by Caesar and never matched him, Alexander the great should also be on there but then again he never left a culture or a legacy, just a legend, so you could argue that king arthur should be on there if that is the case. My reasons for thinking Gaius Julius Caesar sould be first as he is not just, most likely, the most famous person ever (I mean who hasn't heard of Caesar?!!), but also was a renowned politician, although that dos not persuade my decision, but he used motivation as well as military genius and practically invented phycological warfare. Also where is arminius of the germans? Sun Tzu? genghis Khan?

    • ‘Alexander the great should also be on there but then again he never left a culture or a legacy, just a legend’ umm have you never heard of the hellenistic period? the great expansion of greek culture. ever heard of cleopatra or ptolomy? well those are not egyptian names. because of him the near east was ruled by greeks not there native rulers.

    • The most famous person in history is the God Man the Lord Jesus Christ. He is about to get more well known still.

  52. Hi, Kenz:

    I'm not sure if you were commenting on the original list above or the one I provided which is in the older comments section. If the latter, let me say that I did not list my top ten in any particular order. While I mostly agree with your assessment of Caesar (his best talent as far as I am concerned was being able to get out of the trouble his unconventional, non-conformist methods got him into in the first place) he did not invent psychological warfare. Scipio Africanus was already carrying out a strikingly successful campaign in Spain and one could probably argue that the Greeks or even the Israelites under Joshua were carrying out psyops well before Caesar. Further, Caesar seemed to think everyone loved him, which always proves a dangerous assumption especially for a politician.

    Genghis Khan is probably the number one military general since he conquered the most with a legacy that spanned centuries. But what can we emulate from him? Drinking fermented milk and running a horse army? I didn't include him because I am at a loss of what lasting military principles to emulate from him. Sun Tzu is a great philosopher but like many philosophers, his ideas need to be adapted. Have you noticed that some of his maxims are unrealistic? Like when he says that if a general doesn't like the ground or the situation, he should fight the battle. That's great if you have the luxury of making that kind of choice but how often does an adult, let alone a general have that luxury? Often, the commander must carry out an objective or fight his battle regardless of whether or not he likes the ground.

    Arminius carried out a successful strike and altered the strategic growth of the Romans but I wouldn't say he was a military powerhouse. I'd put him in the same group as Red Cloud, Admiral Togo, and Shaka Zulu – one battle or single campaign winners who are worth studying but not to the same level as the top ten.

    My top ten are cause winners who may not always have been as tactically or strategically proficient as others but won the war and had their eyes on the prize the whole time. This is why I never included Lee, Jackson, Forest, Rommel, Manstein, or Napoleon. These were incredible military commanders but they lost. My list contained the winners. Advocates for these men will write how great they were but never touch on the reality of their being losers! They lost. Well, Jackson died before he could lose but his performance during the Seven Days in 1862 may well have cost the Confederacy their one best chance at destroying the Army of the Potomac (see Douglas Freeman, Shelby Foot, possibly Bruce Canton about that).


  53. What!- No Marlborough??!! Outrageous!

    Also, what about Georgi Zukov, or does he not count as playing a part in Western History

    • I was thinking about him too actually.

      Patton, Zukov, Rommel,William Slim,Erich von Manstein are the best choices for WW2.

      Also no Monty wasn't all that and a bag of chips.

  54. @Frank Smith

    "I am constantly amazed that Grant’s strategic victory over Lee is often forgotten."

    Yeah I know I"m amazed that Grant was able to beat Lee so many times(and by that I mean no more then 3-4 times the rest being inconclusive or Confederate victories). I mean geez he only outnumbered him 2 to 1 at every battle at worst . Plus he only lost 55,000 wellfed,supplied, constantly reinforced troops to Lee's 32,000 tired, unsuplied, underfed troops.

    You do realize that Grant won because he had ridiculous numerical advantage and could just continue to attack Lee no matter what, right? Lee on the other hand was barely getting reinforcements.

    Washington definitely doesn't deserve to be on here. Patton can be debated to some extent however I would argue that there are other generals who got as good results as him. Lee however does belong here.

  55. Reading all your comments, I have been shocked by some of them. The sheer ignorance and stupidity of some of them.

    First of all, about the way Lee kept wipping Grant, some people forget that Lee was an Army commander. rant, on the other hand, was commander of all US armies, and was responsible for not only defeating Lee but the entire Confederate state. It was George Meade who had control of the Army of the Potomac. And the Confederates fought the entire time behind very well built defenses. It was thanks to Grants strategy and planning that cost the Confederates in the end, along with his earlier victories in the west. Also, this whole thing about Grant losing 55,000 men against Lee's 32,000 is a load of bull. Statistically, the Confederates lost a lot more men to the Union than the Union did to them. If Grant was a butcher, that Lee deserves the title as well.

    But if you are going to put in Thomas Jackson, you will also have to put in James Longstreet. Yes, Jackson was a genius, but it was the total force of the big three, Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet, that gained the Confederates most of their victories. Longstreet, the silent partner, has mostly been forgotten by history.

    Belisarius is another great general left out. It was he, not Justinian who rebuilt the Byzantine empire. And when he was getting too popular, he was abandoned by Justinian, but still managed to hold on and gain a few victories.

    Alexander the Great was a brilliant general, but he would have not have done anything had it not been for the genius of his father, Philip of Macedon, who took the crumbling, poor, weak state and with it conquered most of Greece and was preparing for his own invasion of Persia before he was killed.

    But if you are going to put Patton in, then you have to put in perhaps the best tank commander in history, "Fast Heinz" Guderian. It was he who helped samsh Poland and led the strike through the Ardennes. It was he who smashed Russian defences, closed the ring around Kiev, and stalled in front of the gates of Moscow. If Hitler had listened to Guderian, the Germans would have defeated Russia and won World War 2. But it is also to his credit that when he was Chief of Staff he helped hold the army together.

    Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is one that should definitely make the list. Undefeated in WW1, he built a new army and nation from scratch and retook Turkey. Not only that, but he is the person who handed the British and the Commonwealth one of their biggest defeats in history at Gallipolli.

    Also, other people who should have made the list: Alexander Suvorov, Subotai, Genghis Khan, Omar Bradley, Dwight Eisenhower, Georgi Zhukov, Norman Schwarzkopf, Richard the Lionhearted, Edward the Black Prince, Charlemagne, the Duke of Wellington, Charles Martel, El Cid, Cortes, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Cyrus the Great and William T. Sherman.

    Alas, not enough room, either on this list or the one above, to name them all.

  56. Another thing.

    All this about Lee being a poor strategist. Lee, during most of the war, was only responsible for the Army of Northern Virginia. He wasn't meant to be a brilliant strategist- he was meant to be a brilliant tactician. He was only responsible for his area of battle, North Virginia, and it wasn't until the war was almost finished when he was made commander of all Confederate Armies. But by this time, he was holed up within Petersburg, he had barely any contact with the outside world, and he was soon forced into a massive retreat to Appomattox, through which he could not possibly have controllled the armies, which were disintergrating anyway. Sure, he could have stayed in Virginia instead of invading the north and preserved his forces, but it was his superiors who gave him the orders. Lee wasn't meant to control the conduct of the war, he was meant to destroy enemy forces and concentrate on tactics and going where his superioirs ordered him to.

    Other names for the list: Carl Gustav Emil von Mannerheim, Russian and Finnish general who saved Finland three times

    William Slim, victor of the Forgotten War

    Creighton Abrams, commander in Chief through the last years of the Vietnam War

    Aleksei Brusilov, Russian commander during WW1

    August von Mackensen, German general during WW1

    Scipio Africanus, Roman general who defeated Hannibal

    Winfield Scott, US General, the "Grand Old Man of the Army"

    Flavius Aetius, West Roman General who defeated Atilla the Hun

    • Woolydridge,

      That's not entirely true regarding Lee as just the simple soldier who had to concentrate on his own little world. From the very beginning, Lee was an immense influence, advisor, and ready audience for Jefferson Davis and the various Secretaries of War. Lee was asked several times for his opinion regarding just about every military matter you can think of including the Western theater and the viability of detaching troops from the ANV to the West; who would a suitable army commander for the Confederate forces, and even agricultural topics!

      Lee was already an icon before the war – impeccable family, a veteran, former super intendant of West Point, offered Scott's place – and he was an educated man who knew better than to focus so narrowly on Virginia.

      Here's a different question for you – do you honestly think Lee would have been half as successful out West?

  57. Yes, that is true. I was merely pointing out that it was not Lee's job to become the master strategist of the war, it is because it was expected of him, due to his friendship with Davis, his good reputation before the war, and his string of victories. It was expected of him to become a master strategist, even though it was, strictly speaking, not his job to be. But even though he knew not to concentrate on Virginia, the only reason he had joined the Confederate Army was because his native Virginia was threatened.

    But also, on the subject of moving troops west, when that came up because of the suggestions of James Longstreet, that Lee detach his corp, the corp was indeed detached. But it was sent to southern Virginia, just when Lee needed it the most.

    As for the subject of Lee still achieving a great deal if he was assigned to the west, well that could only be achieved if he was given competent commanders. If Stonewall and Longstreet had been with him in the west, he may very well have been able to beat the Union. But the result of the war would be the same. Indeed, with Lee not in the east, the Confederate capital might have fallen sooner.

  58. What about Sun Tzu? For him not to even be mentioned? Not that the others on the list are not great, but he has to be on the list. Also, IMHO, Hannibal is number 1. For 15 years, he had the great Roman armies trembling in their sandals. All of this without reinforcements from Carthage. The Double Envelopment maneuver. The ambushes and other guerrilla tactics. Forcing the Romans to use a style of combat completely opposite of what they were known for (Fabian tactics). Alexander the Great has to be in the list also.

    If I had to remove someone from the list to get those 3 on it, it would be Patton, Joan of Arc, and George Washington. But they are definitely Top 20.

  59. Well, the thing with Sun Tzu is that yes, he should be on the list, but there are too many unknowns about him. Napoleon should not be at number one, that I agree with, but I question the act of putting Hannibal or Alexander there.

    One thing about all of this is that we can't include all of the great generals on this list, therefore starting this arguments. Which, of course, I cherish.

  60. I have not laughed this hard in a long time, I thank you all for your complete ignorance. Americans in the top 10, It really is just too much, goog luck to you all!

  61. I will come into this argument and say that I agree with precisely two of the names on this list, and to follow it up I have some definite bones to pick with a few of the comments.

    The two generals that the creator of this list has picked out who belong here firmly and decisively for me are Gaius Julius Caesar and Napoleon Bonaparte, in that order. Caesar will for me be the number one by a long, long way. I am pleased to see that his name has been picked up by a few of those who have commented, but not nearly even nearly enough, and with quite a few errors at work.

    The statement that Caesar's greatest ability was to extract himself from his own mistakes is a fallacy. On the contrary the vast, vast majority of his campaigns (and there were many of them) were masterpieces of planning that establish that Caesar was, if nothing else, a genius for planning and organizing. Mistakes were made, and every now and then he suffered grave mistfortune, but the fact is that no general can ever claim a career entirely free of error, and what mistakes Caesar did make were more than rectified by his triumphs.

    As a tactician Caesar can more than hold his own against the likes of Hannibal, Alexander, Scipio, etc. Many people have an absurd tendancy to dismiss him in this regard merely because he fought with Roman Legions, against hordes of barbarians. This is to pass over the fact that those hordes of barbarians frequently managed to overrun Roman Legions, and that Caesar displayed the utmost skill in vanquishing them. During his war in Gaul, such triumphs as his relief of Cicero from Ambiorix, his Amphibious Landing in Britain (the first amphibious landing in history), and above and beyond all others his brilliant siege of Alesia, place Caesar the tactician on a level with the finest that a Hannibal or a Scipio could ever produce. And after he was done in Gaul Caesar went on to fight a second war that spanned the length and breadth of the Mediterranean, and pitted him against Africans, Spaniards, Egyptians, Ponticans, and of course other Romans, in far greater numbers, with far greater resources, led by some of the most brilliant Roman Generals ever produced. Nonetheless Caesar was consistently victorious. Battles like Pharsalus, Thapsus, Ruspina, the Nile, and Zela, I would argue stand superior even to the likes of Cannae, and stand far above battles like Gaugamela.

    But while Caesar's tactics by themselves would justify a position for him amongst the Great Captains of the Ages, it is his strategy that for me establishes him as by far out and away the greatest military genius in history. As a strategist, whether Grand Strategy or Operational, no other general in the Ancient World – not Alexander, not Scipio, not Hannibal, can even lift a fingure against him. Triumphs such as his campaigns against the Belgae, the Veneti, and Vercingetorix in their strategy can only be approached by the finer achievements of Napoleon, Subutai, and a few other of Antiquity's finest strategic minds, and even they struggle hard indeed to find match for his extraordinary campaigns in Italy and Spain.

    Unlike numerous land generals Caesar was just as adpet on the sea as he was on the land. Throughout his career he would fight numerous naval battles, and they were triumphs as spectacular as many of his land battles.

    He was also a master of logistics, and undoubtably one of the finest leaders of men that history has ever seen, as well as being one of history's great multi-talented individuals.

    After Caesar would for me come Napoleon, in many ways as good as Caesar in tactics, strategy, and leadership, but far more prone to make disastrous errors.

    Following on would come Subutai, and Genghis Khan – the two Mongols. After these would come a multitude of names I have neither the time nor patience to choose between.

    I will say that I agree with the creator of this list in another regard – Alexander the Great would not appear on my list. Alexander was a good tactician, but his tactics were essentially repeated in each of his battles. As a strategist he cannot comapre with the greats of military history in this regard. His Indian Campaign was a disaster, and at the end of the day he was a failed leader. He might appear in my top twenty, but that it about it.

  62. C. Vincent Barbatti on

    It's been a while since I commented, but I follow the comments on this article consistently. Thanks to all those who have left constructive suggestions, alternative theories, and reasons you agree or disagree with the inclusion/exclusion of particular generals.

    To answer some oft repeated themes on the more…dismissive comments:

    Yes, I am an American. I am a Virginian by birth, and had access to a high quality liberal arts education at arguably the best public university in the United States.

    For those who suggest that I "read some history", I have read a fair amount of it for someone my

    age. Any young man or woman who claims to have read all the history books he or she wants or needs is a fool, and I make no such claim; I merely state that I am not illiterate, and have made an effort to educate myself in this field.

    For those who suggest "only an American would include Americans", I cannot specifically refute that, as I have never been anything other than an American. I don't claim that America is anywhere near the top in overall military history, or even of the West. If there is a bias, it has crept in only because I have been exposed to a wealth of information on American military history, and it is hard to ignore entirely.

    For those who are confused or upset that a particular general didn't make the list, here is a list of reasons why:

    Is your chosen general Japanese, Chinese, Russian (not exclusively fighting in the European theater), Indian, Southeast Asian, or African? Then I probably know very little about them, could not do them justice, and so chose to make a list that is primarily concerned with Western Europe and the Americas.

    Is your chosen general a brilliant and often overlooked commander from a large scale multi-nation war whose exploits are often overlooked in favor of a "flashier" or more well-known man? I can only refer you to the fact that "greatness" is a subjective measure; your complaint would be more legitimate if the list had been "The Top 10 Most Tactically Successful Generals of…"or "The Top 10 Most Strategically Innovative and Significant…". As it stands, the iconic, popular, and public historic view of certain generals suggests "greatness" that may offend you if you are looking for pure tactical efficiency or win-loss ratio. [Consider the Napoleon/Wellington divide – both admirable tacticians, strategists, logisticians, both incredibly influential. Yet – we call those wars Napoleonic, and Bonaparte remains a familiar image to the general public. I'd hazard that only 1 in 4 of those who could identify Napoleon in some meaningful way could do the same for poor Arthur.]

    Is your general Alexander? As answered before – Alexander is well within my sphere of knowledge. Brief rebuttal:

    1.) Most conquests not anywhere near Western Europe.

    2.) May owe a great debt to father's army, strategy, etc.

    3.) Much of opposition difficult to evaluate, historical sources inconsistent.

    Sorry, that one isn't going to change, even if I rewrote this whole thing.

    IF I were doing this again today, there would be changes – Joan of Arc would disappear, reluctantly, as would Washington. Though he is certainly a great man in many ways, too much of his greatness relies on his character, and not on actual military acumen – some balance is necessary.

    Patton would likely slip a few spots. Hannibal and Salah Eh-Din might drop a few as well. Caesar might rise – some. Lee would not budge. Those arguing for Grant – I respect your case, but must respectfully disagree. Those who scream about American favoritism and my backwater education – I humbly suggest that perhaps your knowledge of American military history may be as incomplete as you believe my knowledge of European military history to be.

    Finally, at the end of this long response, many thanks to the many posters expressing thoughtful, well-argued agreements or differences of opinion. They are always a pleasure.

  63. You should have stated at the start that you meant to limit "Western History" to Western Europe and North America due to the scope our your own knowledge to avoid much of this mess. Western history clearly means much more than that from the outset. Historically speaking, Western history as we knew it began with the Greeks and Romans – with their associated empires covering Europe (except most of Germany, the Russian steppes and all the lands in between), North Africa, Asia Minor, the Levant and for a short period the Indus – and continued on by the kingdoms that succeed them and also including figures from non-Western civilisations that interacted with them – Like Attila the Hun who wasn't European at all when his people first invaded.

    That said if Saladin (Salah Eh-Din, Saladin is so much easier to type), who had only achieved resounding success in the Levant and had never so much as stepped into Europe itself could make the list, then all the more reason that Alexander's "loss by a hair" is a great reason to cry foul. Your first main rebuttal is his lack of conquests near Western Europe – Saladin conquered Jerusalem and Egypt, as near as W. Europe as he got. Alexander had the Siege of Tyre, the Battle of the Granicus and the Battle of Issus to his claim. Your second rebuttal is the lack of accurate information to determine how "great" his conquests really are. That, I agree, but c'mon. Military history has always been written by the victors, and the ancients, Romans not the least among them, are known to exaggerate figures for political gain or to smoothen out major defeats which the commonfolk, of course, were not there to see it firsthand.

    In terms of being an icon, Alexander would probably rank the first and the greatest of military icons. He inspired the Diadochi. He inspired Julius Caesar. He inspired Napoleon Bonaparte. He inspired the Western World. So many of those in the list had been inspired by Alexander. And the man himself is not to be underestimated either. By all accounts, in spite of his good fortune of an army revolutionalized by his father's reforms, what he had accomplished in those 10-odd years is truly nothing short of miraculous. Philip had lived long enough to see and use the fruits of his labour. That was how Philip became the Hegemon of the Hellenic League. Alexander inherited it, and improved upon it. Against the Persian Empire he brought to bear the Macedonian Phalanx flanked by the Companion Cavalry, a brainchild of Philip, perhaps, but that was insufficient against the vast armies mustered by the Persians in the major battles.

    He was largely outnumbered, as much as on a 10:1 margin on the most liberal estimates, but most definitely never on equal footing in numbers. In ranged combat like most European civilisations he had the disadvantage, being made up mostly of pike and horse, for the bow would not be given much emphasis until the time of castles and longbows long after Alexander's death. He had to face chariots, for which his answer was a tactic of his own innovation. He faced down elephants through sheer force of courage and determination. In the Battle of Gaugemela his strategy to draw the enemy flank away to expose Darius and thus charge at him and secure a victory was also due to his own ingenuity. Of all the phalanx-using armies of the world he alone had successfully complemented the phalanx with supporting units of cavalry and infantry so as to provide the flexibility – and invincibility – that had eluded other generals that relied too much on the phalanx. There's just so much about Alexander that everyone knew was why he was called the Great for me to explain in detail completely.

    If this Top 10 list is to consider only generals of Western Europe and North America, then exclude him by all means, but please exclude Saladin too (or at least explain why he could make it when Alexander could not). But to simply say he lost by a hair is too much; he deserves a far greater position of honour for being the man to inspire the other men who are in your list. Or, as I believe would be a more suitable soluton, make an exception and include Alexander the Great in the list despite the rebuttals you made. His achievements lie in Asia Minor and beyond, but they figure very strongly in Western History in the most basic sense. Ask a common man with a basic education in world history who he thinks are the greatest generals in Western History, and he will likely mention Alexander, Caesar and Napolean, among others. A man who is spoken of in the same breath as Caesar and Napolean – in higher regard too, in fact – should have reason enough to be given exception and be recognized that his place of immortality among the others – perhaps above the others in some ways – should be retained?

  64. A number of ever excellent points made by my two predecessors, particularly the grand and correct statement of Caesar beforehand. And the author of this, the one just above, who stated the ever obvious which, in my opinion, needed to be stated. I think some of forget the topic of discussion- Top 10 Generals of Western History. We could all put up good arguments for our candidates, but in the end we will never agree on a specific list. I do agree with most points on this list, though.

    Patton, even against the arguments of others, should be on the list, but a little lower perhaps. To find out what Pattons achievements really were, you should look at some of te statistics about his Third Army, or read General Omar Bradleys memoirs.

    Joan of Arc, gone.

    Lee, keep him there.

    Washington might have to be replaced.

    Alexander should definitely not be on the list. However, his father should possibly be near it.

    Some people do ot really see how difficult something like this is. You look at this and go "What about this guy? He never lost a battle." That does not mean anything. What is tactical skill, if not backed up by strategic and logistical skill. Case in point, Napoleons March on Moscow.

    But what a person doing something like this has to do is astounding. You have to weigh up everybody against all factors which contribute to make a good general, not just say "look hes a strategical genius, put him on the list." Some of these comments should be more relevant, realistic, and researched. You have to look behind the scenes, not just on the battlefield, to find out how truly great a general or leader really is.

  65. Yes, Alexander the Great was great, but lets please stop this great overexageration of him.

    • alexander not using tactics, and that his father, Phillip II ,deserves a place on this list more than him? I havent the time to give you a history leason. Granicus, Issus, Gaugamela and Hydaspes show his tactical genius. His Admin comes in the form of crossing the Gedrosian desert,Reaching India ( i find it realy hard to imagine companion cavalry and Hypaspists marching through indian jungle, yet, they did).

      im afraid it is a very uneducated opinion if Alexander the great is left out of this list.

      Alexander never lost a battle thats right, but his administration of his empire and army outside the battle field is what makes him great not just good.

      Aryan states "nothing in the field of war, was beyond the power of alexander"

      Hammond adds to this by writing "In statesmanship,too,he was inconpareable.No man in history has combined such vast conquests with the power to weld them into a pacified and unified entity"

      By all means id love to hear why you dont believe this man is worthy of a spot on this list, let alone the number one spot.

      32 yr old when he died

  66. If it was not just Western History, then yes, Alexander the Great should be on the list. But the area from the edge of europe to the end of Persian lands can be more precisely described as being part of the Greater Near East, not the West. And you forget that it was Philips army and Philips nation that gave Alexander his victories. What if Alexander had come to power instead of Philip? Without having a stable Macedonia and a subjugated Greece, and an army which was both seasoned and far superior to anything that it had encountered, including the Persians. It was only possible for Alexander to gain his empire with these tools. But, nevertheless, if it was a list of generals from all history, then yes, he should be on this list.

  67. If you look closer to the details of Leipzig and Waterloo you can understand more of Napoleon's brilliance. Granted the Russian campaign was a disaster but to think that the record of a general speaks to his brilliance than you have no idea of warfare. For example Scipio Africanus did beat Hannibal and never lost a battle but was not a greater general than Hannibal. As well Napoleon did fall victim to Ney's incompetence (though Ney was an incredibly loyal and brave general) before Waterloo.

  68. The great commanders in military history were those who were able to capitalize on their victories (or come back from catastrophic defeats) and win their cause. It does not matter that a commander such as Napoleon or Robert E. Lee were brilliant because ultimately they were losers and their causes fell apart. The unfortunate reality, driven home by the comments from this site, is that it is increasingly clear that the brilliant in military history are not usually the ultimate victors – their character or philosophical flaws prevent them from attaining their ultimate victory.

    There are many supporters of recognized military geniuses but military talent is not the same thing as a victorious commander deserving to be ranked as one of the top ten of all time. If you are one of the fans of Napoleon or Hannibal, you should be going to a list of great strategists or tacticians, not great commanders. There is a great deal more to military success than strategic and tactical talent – a command of politics, logistics, finance, administration, and technology is also required.

    Further, there does not exist one region of the world that has monopoly on great commanders – something the anti-American commenters should consider before they arrogantly display their gross ignorance on the internet…

  69. Mike said, "The great commanders in military history were those who were able to capitalize on their victories (or come back from catastrophic defeats) and win their cause." This just is not the case. Hannibal could have easily beaten Rome — if the Carthaginians back home had supported him. Because they did not (they feared a too-successful general) he had to face Rome with only the men he brought over the Alps, what troops his brother-in-law Hasbrubel (sp?) could spare from the Spanish colonies, and mercenaries.

    It is only by his nearly unequaled skill as a general that he was able to keep his army in the field for twenty years without a loss and without a mutiny. Hannibal not only belongs in a top ten list of western generals, he belongs in the top 5 of world generals.

    In many ways, Lee falls in the same category. He was beaten by superior numbers and material. Grant was a good commander, and knew how to use his men well. But he was not quite in Lee's class. This is not a knock on Grant. I believe that he would make it on a list of top 50 western generals. But Lee is the only American that I think has a real chance to make it onto this list.

    Napoleon is another great commander who fell not to a truly great general, but to lack of support outside his base and overwhelming numbers and material. Wellington was good, not truly great. Same with most of his opponents – Alexander I of Russia is a possible exception. He got schooled at first by Napoleon, but he learned quickly, and as I said earlier, whipped him from one end of Europe to the other in less than 18 months.

    Alexander the Great is another guy whose cause didn't "last". I think he should be on this list, if only because of his gigantic impact on history. Without him, no one would even remember the ancient state ofs Macedonia outside academia. He is generally hailed by great generals as a great general. IIRC, he was one of Julius Caesar's role models. To say he is not a top ten just because his empire fell apart AFTER he died ls laughable. You cannot blame the man because his generals messed everything up.

    • Aaron,

      "Hannibal could have easily beaten Rome…" Really? At what point could Hannibal have easily done that? I seriously doubt Hannibal himself would use the word "easy" or "easily" to describe fighting the Romans. The reality is that Cannae, Lake Trebbia, and crossing the Alps was meaningless. None of it defeated the Romans. That's because Hannibal was a loser – he was militarily defeated at Zama. Defeated, beaten, whipped, and conquered. Rome lost battles to Hannibal- some of them the worst tactical defeats on record in military history – but Rome never beaten. Hannibal failed. He failed to translate his tactical brilliance into strategic victory. Perhaps worse for him, his inability to master the politics necessary to marshal enough support and resources from either Carthage or defectors in Italy clearly demonstrate why he will never be a top ten candidate. Scipio Africanus was a far greater strategist and his campaigns in Spain show his political ability to gain support from the indigenous tribes. Hannibal never possessed that kind of vision. If I was to compile a list of the greatest tacticians that ever lived, Hannibal would clearly have a place – perhaps even #1 – but a top ten military commander of all time? Not him!

      Lee was beaten as well and not just by overwhelming numbers. While I have always appreciated his non-micromanaging style, it proved catastrophic when his subordinates were unable to handle the responsibility due to a variety of factor – take your pick, sickness, lack of talent, worn out, jealousy, etc. And that's the point because its no excuse to say that subordinates let down the commanding general. The commanding general is always responsible, regardless of his lieutenants' shortcomings. Lee was not an excellent army commander – he lacked the big picture mindset as well as the ability to grow. Lee lacked the flexibility that Grant possessed to learn new lessons instead of masterly applying outdated Napoleonic methods. Lee chose the wrong strategy to protect Virginia and lost. What exactly did Lee accomplish as militarily valuable as Grant's Vicksburg campaign? Nothing Lee did won the war for his side. Almost every battle Grant fought brought the Union closer to winning the war. Lee's battles wore out his resources with no long term gain. Lee does not merit a place on the top ten military commanders of all time.

      Napoleon, again, if we were talking solely about tactics and strategy, he would be a must but I was talking about the top ten commanders of all time – the winners. Napoleon is a loser – his tyrannical regime collapsed. He was beaten in battle. He also liked to abandon fields that go south – like Spain, Egypt, and Russia. That's an unfortunate character flaw to have when you are responsible for sustaining your cause. Napoleon didn't possess what he needed to posses in order to attain the final victory.

      Alexander the Great achieved a lot with his daddy's army. Technically, you are correct that he was never defeated and his empire remained until after he died. I would argue, however, that Julius Caesar was the better general since he had to operate in a far more sophisticated political environment. Caesar also possessed far greater improvisational talent than Alexander. The one shining talent that Alexander seemed to posses was the ability to consistently deploy what became a heterogeneous force successfully in the field which probably any commander in chief of allied forces can vouch for is a very difficult task.


    • Terrible list!

      Grant was a far better general than Lee. Don't take my word on it:

      "We all thought Richmond, protected as it was by our army of veterans, could not be taken. Yet Grant turned his face to our Capital, and never turned it away until we had surrendered. Now I have carefully searched the military records of both ancient and modern history, and have NEVER found Grant's superior as a general. I doubt that his superior can be found in all history" -Robert E. Lee

      • That was the only problem with Lee. He was too humble, kind, and respectful. He bowed down in gracious defeat, even to a druck. And Mike, Vicksburg! Vicksburg! Vicksburg! Play a new tone, PLEASE! Pemberton sucked, and thats why Grant won. And it doesn't take a genius to lay a siege. He sieged Vicksburg till the inhabitant were eating rats. He besieged Lee at Petersburg, and Lee was still able to get out alive.

        • Hunter,

          I mention Vicksburg often in these posts for a very important reason for me – not just because it is one of the greatest military campaigns in history ( when I mention Vicksburg, I am talking about the entire campaign not just the siege) but rather due to the campaign providing the best illustration about why Grant is great and Lee was not. Departing from my war winner standard I have written about in these posts, Grant stands toe to toe with any great commander and here's why. If you study the great commanders in history they share certain traits and one of these is to depart from the contemporary military standard of the day.

          Now Lee was the consummate Napoleonic general – he would have done Napoleon proud in 1796 to 1815 but the American Civil War started in 1861 when the technology such as it was made Napoleonic tactics suicidal and the strategy of trying to annihilate your opponent's army was not suitable to the Confederacy's endurance capacity. Lee never improved as the war went on – he stayed the same. Grant underwent change often during the war and while he sometimes learned the wrong lessons (I suspect that Cold Harbor was due to the ease in which the union broke the center of the Confederates on Missionary Ridge and Grant took that ease to mean the rebels were done so he launched the disastrous attack at Cold Harbor thinking the rebel would cave in ) he was always learning.

          Back to Vicksburg – your favorite! Grant's genius decision not to have formal supply lines, what we would call a fat tail but what was a standard operating procedure during the Civil War, and push on attacking the support centers of Vicksburg first and then going after Vicksburg was show the skill and vision of a great general. It would not just have been Pemberton chasing and concentrating after a phantom supply center!

          It's easy to summarily dismiss commander's achievements by saying well, their opponents were idiots. If a real opponent was there it would have been different. In these posts, some have suggested that if Lee, Longstreet, and Stuart had gone west, Grant would never have achieved what he did. just remember, their quirks and drawbacks go west with them. Stuart could have just as easily failed to show up and provide intelligence to Lee about Grant as he did regarding Gettysburg. Longstreet could just as easily dragged his heels as he often did throughout campaigns and Lee would be fighting someone who would love nothing better than to stand toe to toe.

          You tell me who would have won Vicksburg then.

        • Hunter, you really need to study Vicksburg. Grant not only defeated Pemberton, he DEFEATED GEOGRAPHY ITSELF. Trying to say any idiot can lay a siege shows terrible ignorance of the facts.

    • I don’t know why you talk about Alexander 1 of Russia. Others have also. I think that you all are confusing with Alexander the “Great”…. Alexander the Russian wasn’t either a soldier, a strategist or a tactician. He was a Czar, an Emperor a half-baked politician. . His battles were fought by generals like Kutuzov and others. He didn’t command armies in the field, although he might have been there sometimes. However, if he ever was I don’t know which, where or when.

      I believe that one of his brothers grand Duke or Prince “so-and-so” (can’t remember the name) was a top Russian general, which really wasn’t saying much for the times.

      • Edgar you are right on! Alexander the first was NOT a military commander. Napolean said of him: If Alexander was a woman, I would make him my mistress.”

        By the way, Alexander WAS present(with the Emperor of Austria) at AUSTERLITZ (also known as the Battle of the threeEmperors).

        As everyone knows, Bonaparte kicked their butts.

    • As for Alexander being Jukius Caesar’s “role model” well……consider carefully, for THOSE times who else would he have as a role model. Julius was going strong about 50 B.C.E. and there were not many great examples that he could even talk about, let alone read about. If it hadn’t been for the fact that they absorbed Greece completely, both in territory, population and history, we might never have heard anything about Alexander, as he was not fighting against Romans.

      On the other hand, everything we hear and know about Hannibal has come to us through Roman historians, and we certainly know that they are normally not charitable to their enemies, which gives us a bit of an idea as to how really great Hannibal must have been.

      Military men today rarely if ever talk about Alexander, they talk about Hannibal, Napoleone Wellington (not Wellington personally so much, but his Peninsular campaign, which is contained in a 2 volume set used by the British Military Academies. I happen to have a set) Wallenstein, Gustavus Adolphus, Lee, Jackson, Von Lettow Vorbeck, (whom NOBODY has mentioned on this page yet) and probably a few others from WW2 of whom I know little or nothing, although I lived right through that whole war period.

    • Aaron, Alexander the first Czar of Russia never so much as commanded a battalion in battle. He was an observer only. His generals and mostly the Russian winter did his fighting for him.


  70. I'm sorry but how does George Patton get on a list of top ten generals of the Western History in front of Wellington, Marlborough, Eugene of Savoy or Suvorov? All of those men accomplished greater victories than Patton.

    Wellington and Suvorov are considered by many to be Napoleon's equals, perhaps not as inventive as him but certainly his equals on the battlefield and on campaign. Marlborough and Eugene are considered the greatest generals of the 1700's. All these men led armies on the continent and defeated their foes time and again and had a greater impact on the conflict they fought in than Patton did.

    Patton has no victory to his name to equal Wellington's Salamaca, Vitoria or Waterloo (I would have added Assaye but that was in India), or Marlborough's Blenhiem, Ramillies or Malplaquet, or Eugene's Chiari or Oudenarde, or Suvorov's Cassano, Trebbia or Novi. Patton's greatest achievement was his turning of the Third Army at the Bulge and its drive north but that hardly equals any of the afore mentioned victories.

    And if we're entirely honest with each other, Patton isn't even the most controversial of WWII generals as both Montgomery and MacArthur raise greater debates about their worth and their actions that Patton does.

    I dont mean to be too aggressive here but Patton doesn't deserve a place on a list of top ten generals of western history. He was, without a doubt, the best tactical American General of WWII and arguably the best of all the allies but his achievements aren't enough to warrent him a place on said list, especially when it is at the expense of men like Arthur Wellesley – 1st Duke of Wellington, John Churcill – 1st Duke of Marlborough, Prince Eugene of Savoy and Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov.

  71. Mike, You and I seem to have differing definitions of 'General.' When I use the term, I am meaning the commander of a given nation's military forces. You seem to mean a 'Great Man,' someone who is both a great military commander and a great political leader. Naturally, there are those who are both — Julius Caesar comes easily to mind, as does Napoleon. But there are great generals who made lousy politicians and great politicians who made terrible generals. My understanding of this list is to consider only the military prowess of the general, and not their political skills.

    ""Hannibal could have easily beaten Rome…" Really? At what point could Hannibal have easily done that? I seriously doubt Hannibal himself would use the word "easy" or "easily" to describe fighting the Romans. The reality is that Cannae, Lake Trebbia, and crossing the Alps was meaningless. None of it defeated the Romans. That's because Hannibal was a loser – he was militarily defeated at Zama."

    From Wikipedia, "Most of the sources available to historians about Hannibal are from Romans. They considered him the greatest enemy Rome had ever faced." In other words, they Romans themselves considered him worse than Pyrrhus, worse than Mithradates. This tells quite a bit about the man. And he could have beaten the Romans. After Cannae, some of the Roman "allies" deserted the Romans — Hieronymus of Syracuse, the city of Caupa (then the second city of the Roman Republic), the Samnites, all revolted from Roman rule. Had the other Italian cities revolted, or if the Roman generals overseas run into difficulty, or had Hannibal managed to catch another Roman army, the war would have been lost, and we would all be speaking a descendant of the Punic language.

    "Lee was beaten as well and not just by overwhelming numbers. . . . Lee lacked the flexibility that Grant possessed to learn new lessons instead of masterly applying outdated Napoleonic methods. Lee chose the wrong strategy to protect Virginia and lost."

    Lee was basically faced with two options: try for a war of attrition or go for a knockout punch. In a war of attrition, he would have to adopt Fabian tactics and hope that the North would loose interest in the war, or that a foreign power would intervene on the CSA's behalf. With the knockout punch, he attack all out, and try to inflict such a decisive defeat as to force the US to acknowledge the CSA. In other words, he picked the least bad option.

    Or do you really think that with Lincoln in charge of the north that it would have lost interest in fighting the war? Do you think that if the CSA had refused battle, that the US wouldn't use it's superior numbers to wear the CS down, to divide it, occupy it, and leave the Rebels with less and less room to maneuver, fewer resources, and less hope in a foreign intervention?

    "Napoleon, again, if we were talking solely about tactics and strategy, he would be a must but I was talking about the top ten commanders of all time – the winners. Napoleon is a loser – his tyrannical regime collapsed."

    I'm glad that you agree that Napoleon is one of the best generals in history. But like Lee, he was beaten more by superior numbers and a pretty good general in his own right (the Russians and Alexander I) than because he was a "bad" general

    "Alexander the Great achieved a lot with his daddy's army. Technically, you are correct that he was never defeated and his empire remained until after he died."

    Funny how you change the criteria when you come to Alexander the Great. It goes from wining, which he certainly did, and having his creation outlast him, which even you say happened, to he did it with "daddy's army" so it doesn't count. What do you have agains him? Nearly every great commander and military historian has listed Alexander in their top 10. Most of them list him as #1 or 2.

    Every general uses an army created before him. No one creates one from scratch. Julian's legions were developed over centuries. Napoleon used the organizations of Loius XIV and the Revolution. Lee's armies were modeled after the US armies he fought. Hannibal's came from his father Hamiclar Baraca. And on and on.

    • Hello, Aaron:

      Your posting is saturated with phrases like "if only", "could have", "should have", "one more" – if you have to put "if only" with your great commander(s) than they do not warrant a place among the top ten list of great commanders of all time. Great commanders do not need "if only" asociated with them. That is why Hannibal, Napoleon, and Lee should never be on the top ten list of greatest commanders of all time. You don't have to say "if only" with Scipio Africanus, Julius Caesar, Ulysses S. Grant, etc. because they won their wars.

      The strongest disagreement I have with your posting is the idea that politics do not comprise a key element in considering great military commanders. Politics is inseperable from miltiiary matters on a strategic and grand scale. You cannot win your wars or causes without mastering the politics involved. Hannibal failed to politically exploit his victories – especially when entire regions came over to him – and lost. In fact, perhaps no greater illustration is available as to the crucial improtance of poiltics than Hannibal's political failure. Here were some of the greatest tactical victories in military history which in the end counted for absolutely nothing since it could not bring about victory. Miltiary success without political explotiation is just so many dead.

      Hannibal, Napoleon, and Lee were all beaten in the field. Napoleon was militarily whipped by the Coalition, exiled, came back, and was militarily beaten again. Naploleon has very few defeats to his record, but notice his lack of resiliency and how only a few defeats brings him down?

      As a suggestion to you, I would advise quoting a different source other than Wikipedia to back up your arguments. Refering to Wikipedia is like saying you saw something on TV.

      As to Alexander, you may have a point – technically I cannot really exclude him from a list of top ten mitliary commanders. A study of his campaign(s) does show a slide once he reaches India. I don't think it was an accident or the luck fo the draw he died in his last campaign, he seemed to have deteriorated by then. But that's an "if", right?

  72. Mike, I think you forget the details of the Sixth and Seventh Coalition. Napoleon defeated numerous Allied armies with tremendous emphasis during the war of the Sixth Coalition and was eventually forced back to France because the odds were heavily in favor of the Allies even with Napoleon's brilliance. Napoleon lost at Leipzig because the Allies had a 2 to 1 advantage on Napoleon. And during the 100 Days Napoleon was facing a Coalition that had a million men in the field while Napoleon was only able to muster 300,000 for a campaign. Napoleon had to win at Waterloo against a superior army to make a statement to the coalition and stand a chance against in the war so I don't know how Napoleon's abdication 4 days later points to a lack of resilience. I understand your points and would otherwise agree with them if I did not think Napoleons incredible tactical brilliance against incredible odds and remarkable success in numerous battles warrant his spot as number 1.

    • Brenton,

      I think your point about Napoleon and the odds underscores one of the points I was trying to make regarding great commanders of all time – all the spectacular victories in the world don't count for anything if you lose everything in the end. I'm uncertain as to the merit of listing being outnumbered as a valid reason for ultimate defeat since there are numerous miltiary examples of generals being outnumbered and winning their causes, not just battles. In fact, I'd say the best legacy of Napoleon was his administration and civil/legal reforms some of which have lasted to the present day; whereas a gread deal of his military tactics were already outdated by the American Civil War.

      You probably are correct that Napoleon belongs on a top 10 greatest generals of western history list like the original one at the start of this web page, however, a few months back I suggested to the the site a different criteria for judging great commanders in history and listed my top ten. I assume that those who send comments regarding what I write on this site are speaking to that list rather than a purely strategy/tactics list.


      • I mean I understand that ultimately he lost, but I don't know how you can really include any great general at number one if the spot were to be concluded only by ultimate and final victory. In the end even Alexander and Genghis Khan never realized their ambitions. Every truly great general was bested in some way either by their own mortality or political circumstances. I don't really think anyone on this list concluded their life the victor other than Saladin. Every final victory is fleeting for people like Napoleon and Genghis Khan and Alexander and Caesar so they continue on a path of conquest. I think the list of greatest generals has to be based off of reasons purely tactical because I don't see any other way to judge a general.

        • Actually, George Washington, U.S. Grant, Julius Caesar, Scipio Africanus, the Maccabees, and Admiral Togo all won their campaigns and realized their strategic victories. That's just off the top of my head and mostly Western centric. I'm sure there are other examples worldwide.

        • Julius Caesar had yet to campaign against the Parthians, but I'm talking about people like Caesar and Khan and Alexander and Napoleon who set out to conquer and never were able to stop because they were so egocentric. I was just saying that they were bound to have failures because they would've continued on as long as possible. I understand US Grant and George Washington and others achieved an overall strategic victory but I was not referring to those individuals.

        • He was going to but his life was cut short. He was actually heading to fight Parthians just few days after he was murdered. His plan was to fight Parthians and then come back via Dacia.

        • I would like also to add that this was probably one of the very few moments when Romans could truly conquer Parthia. Later, after Augustus military reforms Roman army became limited in terms of ability to rise more legions. The number of legions through Principat history was around 30 + same numbers of auxilia.
          Hence Rome always was limited in its ability to conquer Parthia and concentrate enough forces to do so permanently.
          During Caesar times legions were raised as necessity required.

  73. You forgot Subotai, he was not a king or emperor, but was a great strategist, he probably would have taken the italians, holy roman empire and french by storm!

    and he was 60 ish at the time he defeated hungary and poland!

  74. angrypinkmenace on

    Coming in very late but, after reading the long line of reasons (and some un-reasoning) I'm glad I am.

    Any list of "Top 10 Generals" cannot be accurate because the nature of warfare radically changes every so often. The most blatant was the beginnings of industrialization. Before then you have men like Sun Tzu, Alexander and Hannibal. After that you have Gustavus, Napoleon. Then you have the next radical improvement of mechanization, giving rise to men like Rommel, Montgomery, and Patton. Montgomery would have reeked trying to lead a Mongol Horde, and Alexander would have been easy meat in the trenches of World War One.

    While some might say "war is made by men, not machines," then I point out that each of these three phases were accompanied by radical shifts in government involvement in warfare. It would be unthinkable for Alexander to stay home while his army marched into India, but it would be equally unthinkable for Lincoln to personally lead the charge at Fredricksburg. The later in time you go, the less an able leader is a "Leader of Men" and more of a "Leader of Somebody Else's Men On Loan."

    Does America have any Great Generals? Within certain time-line contexts, yes. The U.S. missed out on all of the ancient and most of the Industrial periods. The fact that America could have produced any generals that could be seriously considered for the top ten in such a short time is rather impressive. Top ten, maybe not. Top twenty five, most certainly.

    With this in mind, I suggest a rather simple point: Under the conditions set by the original poster, there is no general in any nation who can claim a place in the top ten after 1900 ad. Possible 1800 as well. After this time, every general is the political plaything of governments, always had to keep one eye on the newspaper reports from his capitol city, and had to judge every battle (win or lose) by what spin his government backers could make out of it. Battles were fought and won by his subordinates, and wars were won by the production rates of his home nation. Generals had become little more than coordinators. Head Coach rather than Team Captain.

    But I also submit a rather shocking thought that several people may have missed. No general, regardless of how many battles he's won, can truly be considered a Great General until he has lost a major battle. Until he's proven his ability to pull his fat out of the fire and save his army from destruction, he's nothing more than another Golden Boy that has yet to show his true mettle. And if he's skilled enough (and lucky enough) to turn away from certain doom and still achieve a victory, then you've got the makings of a Great General. Alexander did this on occasion, as did Caesar and Adolphus and Lee.

    Let's assume…

    Yob the Neanderthal raised the largest army the world had ever seen (about fifty men), and lead them in subjugating all the neighboring great tribes. He united under his banner (a goat skin on a pole) the entire Known World, all eight hundred square miles of it. His victories were achieved through intelligence (having mastered three-syllable words), charisma (Yob had most of his teeth) and the technological innovation of throwing small semi-rounded river stones that flew farther and more accurately than spears and carried in greater numbers (the idea behind the modern assault rifle). Yob is also known for developing the "Yob Sack", the first known example of a portable water supply. Yob retired from his military career and spent the rest of his life studying the mating habits of beetles until he died at the very advanced age of thirty five.

    Is Yob a Great General or not? Technological innovation (rocks and canteens), tactical effectiveness (he won), strategic effectiveness (the other guys stayed beaten), and socio-cultural achievement (world's first multi-national empire). Would Yob make the list?

    Although it pains me as a native Texan to say it, I highly advise those of you who are truly serious students of military history to look at the career of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. He's another general who had operated in a limited area and came to a rather unfortunate end-of-career, but otherwise fits all the criteria laid out here.

    Oh yeah, and did America produce any great generals regardless of time-line or condition?

    Chennault, Chennault, Chennault.

    Very prejudicial not to include the sky-generals in this discussion. And he's not just American, he's a By-God-Texan too.

    Frankly, if we want to have a real list of great war-leaders, we really have to stop looking at contemporary (post-1900) generals and focus more on the colonels and majors. That's where modern military brilliance is really found.

    • Yea, that's a really good point but I'd also have to think that a man like Napoleon or Alexander or Hannibal would just have easily attained prominence in other generations before or after their time. I still think war is made by men, not machines, but other than that I must say that is some impeccable logic that makes me reflect more on the subject and whether a proper list can truly be arranged.

      • I agree with Mr. Rehm – men wage war and not machines. Technology can play a crucial role in warfare (Martin Van Crevald and Max Boot wrote excellent works on that very subject) but all the greatest technology in the world is useless without the men employing it (and not as a can opener).

        Take the Battle of France in World War II: The French possessed better tanks and more of them than the Germans but the latter adopted a new method for leveraging their tanks. In this case, the Germans successfully adapted their organizational philosophy in order to enable a collaboration though integrating radio communications with air power, tanks, and infantry. The irony is that during the prewar years the French and the English were the first to develop the ideas that would eventually become known as Blitzkrieg but they lacked the organizational flexibility to implement them. The new ideas could not find a receptive, comprehending audience among the Allies' reactive, conservative leadership who were too focused on the Maginot line to consider departing from their established, outdated dogma.

        The point is that technology is only as good as the men/organizations who use it.

  75. As I'm an utter and complete amateur at military history I'm not really qualified to make my own list or bring up generals I think you ought to have included or left out. I'm just here to say that I've really enjoyed reading all the comments here. very interesting stuff.

  76. Good list but it's completly unbalance.For instance,how do assign patton on top of the list while he was the dumpest if not the noobest General in ww2,Von Manstein is better,Rommel,Monty as well,anybody could defeat patton in a 1on1 fair fight,he had no sufficent skills in the battlefield,he just ultilized the americans mass productions, and superior numbers to defeat the Axis.(there is no skill in defeating your enemies at such ways).And about Manstein why he aint mentioned on the list.He saved the entire west wing after the German6th army was surrounded and later annihlilated,able to push the soviet again at kharkov,and achieve some victories in 1943,regardless to hitler ignoring policy to Manstein.Dont Forget about guderian please for god sake,there is no German nor American or anybody else in the world who commander an armour division that dont read about the innovation of Heinz Guderian the brilliant of this age.People please FFS.Stop over rating Zhukov,I never saw a dump General who thraw his own men into a mine fields then passes his tank,this is the most idiot General the world have ever seen,regardless to the 10los to 1 German loss inww2,fought the Germans with ww1 tactics.nothing is special about this donkey.

    • Guderian was a student of the British military genius Liddell Hart. It was from Hart that the Germans got the idea of the panzer division and was the inspiration for Guderions book, Acktung Panzer!

      If only the British had paid attention to one of their own, the war might have been shorter.

      • As far as I can recall, and I haven’t heard mention of Liddell-Hart’s name for many many years, he only rose to a captain’s rank, and he made his reputation between the Wars with his books, the best known of which was a good training treatise. (He was also an innovator in tank warfare). He was a military historian and analyst. I believe his first name was Basil. I often used to come across his books and have a few somewhere. I don’t believe that he was regarded as a military genius, rather, competent and analytical.

        • I think Guderian considered Hart a genius as he said Hart’s book inspired his own book and tactics. I admit that my use of the term genius is purely subjective but since so many seem to think Guderian was a genius, I simply thought the term might apply to his “teacher” so to speak.

        • Heinz Guderian wasn’t a student of Basil Liddell Hart. They were acquaintences after the war and Guderian added Hart’s name alongside J.F.C. Fuller’s in his books as an influence only after Hart specifically asked him to do it. Guderian had never mentioned Hart’s theories as an influence before that. There is evidence that Guderian read Fuller’s theories and was influenced by them but no evidence that he read the theories of Hart.

          Now, this is not a slight against Liddell Hart’s abilities as a theorist of strategist because he was, in many way, brilliant and a man ahead of his time, but the idea that he was the conceptual creator of Blitzkrieg is largely a myth that he himself concoted in the immediate post-war era.

          In fact, the man Guderian went out of his way, and at his own expense, to keep up-to-date with on tank theories was the legendary Percy Hobart – the first perminant commander of a Tank Brigade in the World and the leading force in developing Armoured warfare within the British military, and where practical deployment of tank warfare was concerned. If Britain should mourn the treatment of any of their tank theorist in the inter-war year then it is in how much they diregarded and mocked Hobarts efforts and how, in 1940, Archibald Wavell forced him into retirement, a retirement which he didn’t take lying down as soon enlisted in the Home Guard and was returned to active duty a year or so later when Liddell Hart wrote an article complaining about Britain’s “wasted brains” and Hobart’s plight.

  77. The numbers in Alexander's campaign may be hard to measure, but by all acounts read the Persians could bring to bare a hundred thousand or so a battle and Alexander's force from, what we can estimate, numbered in the 40,000s.

    To include Hannibal but not Alexander is like slapping military history itself in it's face, as Hannibal himself named Alexander as one of the greatest if not the greatest general of all time up until that point of course.

    Besides, Hannibal's battlefield superiority is just as muddled, who's to say Scipio, the victor, wouldn't play up Hannibal to secure his place in legend.

    As I'm sure you're aware, the most detailed account of Hannibal's campaign comes from Polybius who was friend and counselor to Scipio.

    Playing nice with a wealthy and powerful family has it's perks.

    • “The numbers in Alexander’s campaign may be hard to measure, but by all acounts read the Persians could bring to bare a hundred thousand or so a battle and Alexander’s force from, what we can estimate, numbered in the 40,000s.”

      Hans Delbruck’s “Warfare in Antiquity” has a section on numerical estimates of ancient battles. He points out that Persia was feudal and agrarian and the one thing we can concretely say about the armies of feudal and agrarian lands is that they are always *small*. There’s a knightly elite and whatever peasant levies can be scraped together.

      Delbruck calculates that Alexander was probably only ever outnumbered at Gaugamela and then not by much and that for Issus et al he likely had a small numerical advantage and a massive advantage in troop quality and organisation.

      “As I’m sure you’re aware, the most detailed account of Hannibal’s campaign comes from Polybius who was friend and counselor to Scipio”

      Oh dear – you have the wrong Scipio. Scipio the conqueror of Hannibal was dead by then.


    • angrypinkmenace on

      It would be ridiculous… if this was the Top Ten Generals in "Eastern" History. He's no more a Western general than Sun Tzu was.

      • BS

        Alexander was a Macedonian, a Greek, considered the foundation "Western" civilization. Sun Tzu was eastern.

        As for the list. Amen, it is pathetic.

        Alexander, missing … Alexander. He is the paradigm.

        Napoleon, Hannibal, Caesar, of course, all merited. Where is Scipio?

        If you are going to pick Attila (a bad choice) why did one not pick Gheghis Khan and his nearly as great subordinate Subotai.

        What of Marlborough (you picked (Fredrick right)?

        Joan D'Arc … at least pick Charlemagne!

        RE Lee, what of Grant, Jackson, Thomas, Sherman? Unsupportable choice.

        Heavens Marshal Davout Napoleon's able subordinate blows all but three off your list.

        If you are going to put Patton, then why not Zukov or Montgomery or Rommell or Kesselring or Guderian. You get the point, none belong on the list. If you want WWII, you got to go with Manstein or maybe the unassuming Bradley.

        I can go on. This is a BAD list.

        • Hey, Saladin wasnt too bad. He was also very respectful to his adversaries and respected all religions. He COULD have been a self loving tyrant and gone further with his campaigns. But ofcourse, the list is about generals, not gentlemen. Non the less, I’m pretty sure Napoleon’s able subordinate would have a harder time blowing him off the list.

        • Having Saladin on ANY list is a joke. All he had to do was beat the crusaders who he had out numbered 100 to one. For the most part, except for Richard the Lion Heart, the crusaders had no brains either. You could sit back and let those clowns beat themselves.

  79. Your list could double as the 10 most overrated generals in history. But anyway… How exactly are Attila the Hun and Saladin considered Western? Patton is your only general from WWII? Joan of Arc over Edward III or Henry V? Robert E. Lee had a greater impact on Western history than Alexander the Great? Are you kidding? No Gustavis Aldophus? No Marlborough? Do you know ANYTHING about military history? Here's what your list should have said, IMHO:

    1. Alexander the Great

    2. Scipio Africanus

    3. Napoleon

    4. Gustavus Aldophus

    5. Hannibal Barca

    6. Fredrick the Great

    7. Marlborough

    8. Helmut von Moltke the Elder

    9. Heinz Guderian

    10. Vauban

    Honorable mention: Epaminondas, Julius Caesar, Belisarius, Edward I, Duke of Parma, Maurice of Nassau, Turenne, Wellington, Winfield Scott, U.S. Grant, George Marshall

    • I like your list as opposed to the original sponsored on this site. I would include in the top 10 some other ancient names(or honorable mention, anyway), including Pyrrhus of Epirus, Mithridates the Great, Pompey the Great, and Xenophon. I would also add that there have been no great generals in the last 50-60 years. The last decent general was Matt Ridgeway who led the UN forces in Korea. I am glad nobody has recently mentioned McCarthur. He was overrated, as well.

  80. why isn't Erwin Rommel up there he was an awsome general and my personal favourite next to shaka zulu and william wallace

  81. terrible list…where is Alexander the great? the best of all?? shows that whoever created this list doesnt know history…

  82. Brilliant list, very controversial except for the top-Napoleon deserves it.

    Obviously it is disliked because you left out the fabled Alexander the Great, but if you look deeper you find that he wasn't necessarily that "great," he was a conqueror, not an innovator. On my list he would have been second or third. Napoleon is the greatest general of all time, nobody can deny that.

    • Napoleon lost in Baterlo Alexander didnt lose … he won many times with less soldiers…

      • Alexander the great did not lose? That’s what everybody here thinks.. He came to India (much bigger than today) and was surprised to see how advanced their weaponry was. He did not even try to conquer India. Why do you think it abruptly end his march towards east and he returned back only to die of illness?

        Not saying he isn’t number one or number five though.This list is BS.. the author has read two books american history and western civilization.. Civilization started from Africa.. Even if there was a top 100 list I doubt if a single american would make that list.. unless we’re talking about some native american general some 1500 years ago,..

        • Tej,

          Alexander turned back because his army wanted to go home after being away from home for ten years NOT because they were worried about being able to beat the Indians.

          Civilization did NOT start in Africa (some people say it hasn’t yet arrived there to this day) – this is an evolutionist fairy tale that has a lot of opinion but very little documentation.

          Lastly, ANY of the prominent generals in American history could have thrashed ANY commander from India or the Arab world.

    • Not sure I agree with your assessment, Julian. Napoleon should be in top 10, but not in the top spot, and he was certainly no more of an innovator than Caesar, Hannibal, or Scipio.

      Napoleon was certainly himself a conqueror, like Alexander, but he was not an negotiator, or diplomat.

    • Wellington, when asked who was the greatest general of the day, answered: â??In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon.â??

  83. guys better know that Alexander the great didn't want to negotiate he wanted to take revenge for what happened in Greece due to the invasion of Kserksis, the persian emperor…have you heard about 300? i am talking about this invasion. So he wanted to burn on the ground the persian empire simply no negotiations …a very famous answer of him after the question of the persian emperor if he wants to rule together the persian empire was that: asia can't have 2 kings and he continued so as to destroy once and for all the persian empire…he must be definitely at the top 3 and he isn't even at the top 10…remember that he lost no battle fighting huge forces of the persian empire. one example is the battle of Gaugamila go to wikipedia or other sources to find out the numbers to this battle…

  84. The fact that Joan of Arc is on this list and Alexander the Great is not discredits this entire list.

  85. In the scope of world history,Washington and Lee have no business whatsoever being on this list.

    To put them over Ghengis,Alexander,Frederick II and SO MANY others is not only insulting but makes your viewers dumber by reading it.


  86. I don’t think Washington should be top 10, but he was a great General. He took the little he had in a very bad situation and made the most of it. Most generals spoiled with a well trained and well supplied army would have fallen to pieces trying to keep an army in being, when there was little to entice the soldiers to stay, to starve, to freeze…

    You cannot judge every general by the same standard. You have to look at their era, their situation, etc.

    Some on here argue that winning every battle is important. Do the very best athletes win every single game? If the second best general the world has ever seen had only gone up against the very best general the world has ever seen, then he’d have lost battles, but still been NUMBER 2 in all history. On the other hand, a mediocre general could be blessed with opponents who are far worse and win most all his battles, but he’s still only mediocre.

    Germany of World War 2 had a massive number of very good, and some very brilliant generals, but Hitler buried them under too many fronts, where everything was stretched too thin- like Rommel in North Africa, being able to accomplish miracles with an inferior force, until supplies would run out. No matter how good a general is, if he isn’t being given enough ammo, fuel, etc., there’s a point where no amount of genius is going to keep things going.

    But, that said, you can still see a great general reduce the effects of disaster- it takes more skill to take a lost cause and keep it from collapsing, than to have a far superior force and win.

    In the end, it is very hard to come up with a top 10, even when limited to Western generals, as there are dozens if not hundreds that have a shot in that position, and it’s very difficult to measure more modern generals with the more ancient ones.

    Though, I’d have to say Alexander the Great seemed to be the one that many, including many of histories great generals themselves feel should be number one. He was a Westerner, even if his battles took him farther and farther to the East. Despite his father leaving him with a first class army, it was still up to him to use it to advantage and he happened to be a great strategist, a great tactician and a great warrior- running the wars, the battles and wielding the sword. And he accomplished so much at an early age and in a very short time.

    The only one on the list I am truly horrified by is Joan of Arc. Some other can certainly be questioned, but they are all great generals- whether top 10 or perhaps only in the top 100. But she was not a general. She accomplished much as a figurehead, a rallying point, but she was not a strategist, not a tactician and not a warrior. I think she only gets place in the ranks of generals to please the politically correct crowd, to have a woman on a list. But I’d think an Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great or even a Margaret Thatcher would be more apt than Joan.

  87. "In our modernized, mechanized age of warfare, where decisions are made by civilians, officers far from any line of combat, congressional committees, and unknown military strategists in committee, an army is a faceless thing. For the last six decades, the idea of massed armies doing battle has been considered a curiosity of the past, and warfare is often viewed more as an endemic state of some sort rather than a series of events.

    Once, however, responsibility and consequence were not so diffused. Brilliant strategic, tactical, and logistical minds had immediate and total control of large armies, and those armies became victorious or defeated because of one man’s ability. In our attempt to survey the great generals of history, we must limit ourselves, or at least agree to common terms. For the purposes of this list, those eligible for inclusion must have been field commanders, with undeniable autonomy in their battles; no armchair generals or errand boys here"

    Despite disagreeing to the top 10 list I really liked the introduction part.

    Here lies the root of practically all problems that fail to be addressed, resolve and finally put to sleep. The lack of leadership on all levels and hijacking of leadership by the cohort of managers.

    I do not mean only military affairs but practically everything. When someone starts speaking that war is unwinable and other problems cannot be resolved but should be managed instead I see that we immediately have a huge problem with current civilization direction. Social issues fail to be addressed, climate change fails to be addressed, military issues cannot be resolved instead more talk and more waste of time and blood while letting conflicts which should have been put to the end by determined swift and ruthless measures simmer for decades costing more in terms of blood and resources that it would have happened under determined talented leadership.

    I think this obsession with managing everything is the root of all problems afflicting our civilization.

    Managing generally speaking is about keeping it safe and stable without resolving anything. It is not about making bold decisions and showing leadership.

  88. Sergey, you really show your ignorance when it comes to the US in WWII, you even show ignorance when it comes to, who I am assuming are your people, the Russians role in the same war. You should read up on that. Maybe Patton wasn't that great of a General but to trivialize what the US did in that war, when they were the entire reason the Allies WON the war is ridiculous. You talk about how the Russians were better fighters, more disciplined and faced harder challenges but I don't ever recall hearing about Russians fighting in the South Pacific with the US Marines, I don't recall hearing anything about the Russians jumping into Normandy with the 101st Airborne during D-Day or with the 506th Infantry Brigade when they took on multiple German armored Divisions. Come to think of it, I never hear anything about the Russians in the war at all, EXCEPT for the fact that 20 MILLION of them died. Between the Revolutionary war, the war of 1812, the civil war, WWI, WWII, Korea Viet Nam and Iraq and Afghanistan the US hasn't lost that many. So I'm guessing that whatever "tactics" the Russians were using against Germany were all a waste of time.
    I also find it funny that you bash Americans for being "cocky" and "over confident". Yeah, that's orginal, join the rest of the world in the same insults. The fact is your jealous of all we have accomplished. You couldn't keep your government or economy from collapsing in on themselves and when they sent their so called "army" into Afghanistan, they got their asses handed to them. I can guarantee that if the US went in there now with the same committment that Russia did, it would be over in 6 months. I think it's pretty obvious that if anyone has a bloated ego, a cocky view of themselves, it's the Russians. Why else would they bother to write whatever the hell they wanted in their history books? So that they could brainwash their own people into believing how great they thought they were. Russia is no more than a giant 3rd world country and that is all they will ever be.

    • From the moment the first Wehrmacht tank crossed the Soviet border in 1941 until the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-43, German victory in World War II seemed inevitable. The fighting on the Eastern Front took place on a scale never seen before or since, a colossal undertaking that consumed three-quarters of all combat forces in Europe, and cost the lives of over twenty-five million Soviet citizens.[1] The war could not have been won without the Soviet front, and even after the Red Army had successfully defended Moscow and Stalingrad, while holding out in besieged Leningrad, victory was far from certain.

      The summer offensive of 1943, culminating in the Battle of Kursk—the largest tank battle ever fought by man—finally pushed the Germans onto the defensive. It was not until Operation Bagration, the 1944 summer offensive, that the German ability to conduct offensive operations was curtailed once and for all.

  89. Comparing WWII USSR and American forces is absurd. In no way could the Russians project power across the globe like the Americans of the period. Its an apples to oranges comparison. The Russian military seperated from there land mass wouldn't be nearly the fighting force the Americans were.

    • Soviet army did not need project power capability because it was fighting close to Soviet borders.
      It is US army needs to project power capability because of US habit to stick nose where it doe snot belong.
      Otherwise it would fight Mexico, Panama and other worthy opponents to creat more US generals for our Top 10 list 😉

      • But Russia NEVER sticks it’s nose where it does not belong right? Ask the Latvians, the Estonians, the Lithuanians, the Finns, the Poles, the Czechs (remember 1967), the Bugarians, the Hungarians (remember 1956?) the Romanians, the Albanians….

        You get the picture.

        • You get the picture. All the countries are on Russia borders. None 6000 miles away. Baltic countries were part of Russia for 300+ years since Peter the great and parts were part of Russia even during Kievan Rus until Swedes and Germans took them away using Russia weakness.
          Also, some of these countries also were invading Russia, like Poles and Swedes for example so there is nothing special. Special is US going to Iraq, Lybia and countries where it has no business to be. Get the clue.

  90. Still not sure why Washington and Lee are in the top 10
    Washington had no incredible military talents but rather good leadership abilities and a good understanding of the overall situation.
    Lee is an incredibly overated general. Although he had talent, his record is very decieving. At the time of the Civil War, the armies were fighting using 18th century tactics, but 19th century weapons. in this situation, the odds were incredibly stacked in favor of the defender (Ever wonder why Gettysburg was the most devastating defeat Lee suffered? It was because he was in the rare situation of attacking.)

    Also, there is no way in hell that Joan of Arc is anywhere near the top 10 (maybe top 50). Joan of Arc was a mainly religious figure with very little military ability.

    I would suggest in these people's stead: Wellington, Belisarius and Scipio Africanus
    Sorry, but Washington and Lee are definitely not the best samples of American military talent. General Winfield Scott would have been a much better choice

  91. Hi, good fun site. But your top ten generals is a joke. How you could include Joan of Arc etc whilst omitting Alexander and Gengis is farcical.

    Alexander was the first man to conquer beyond the world known to his people at the time, never lost a battle though usually outnumbered in hostile territory, and had he not been poisoned at 31, would almost certainly have turned west and conquered Carthage and Rome as they were the only entities left. Some believe as I do that the religous entities who followed (ie Christ), owed their concept of humans becoming gods to Alexander, who believed he was descended from the gods. In any case if you look at the world before 336 bc and compare it to post 323bc …..different worlds.

    Gengis was similar in that he also united reluctant peoples under one ruler and conquered most of hid known world. Steve.

    • Alexander is a great general, but he fought too little pitch battles and against not the most dangerous enemies.

  92. 3 out of 10 are Americans. I'm an American, but I'm still pretty skeptical that this list is just a way of patting ourselves on the back.

  93. hello all of you, im not a big internet user however a great lover of history , especially all wars from as early as are recorded. this list has certainley stimulated much comment and bravo for that. however during the course of me reading the many comments it saddens me that so many of you get personal and at times rude to one another, often a cause for the start of a conflict!! the list is just an opinion, these thing s are subjective and will always have an element of bias depending on the nationality of the creator!! to create lists of any type that will receive an understanding from the reader it is essential to explain your definition of great in this instance!! is that to win a battle or war or campaign, or to motivate a people to revolt or to unify armies of different nations, so much to be considered and i feel so much in many of the comments that has been but also that hasnt!! please discuss rather than insult it is much healthier for us all! contrary to what many may think , there are no winners in warfare!
    the shame is we still make the mistakes of the past even though we have so much history to
    remind us!! please many of you take of the blinkers and research your history better so that you write informed responses rather than the incorrect ones!! many facts are missing in your comments on all fronts , regardless of that politeness costs nothing . as much as all of us on here obviously have a passion for this historry it would be great if we only now had this to talk about rather than the fact , war history is being created as we speak!
    how do you measure greatness? by lives taken or saved ?
    good wishes to you all in your quests for your lists of greatness .
    From a proud ex-serviceman who respects all who serve their countries with pride.

  94. What about Rommel? Or Alexander the Great? And why Joan of Arc? She was only included so this list is not accused of being sexist.

  95. First off, Mike is totally wrong. Saying that a great commander has to be winner is not correct. Why don’t I use a great source to back this up? “You can be considered a military genius while not actually winning the war campaign,”. This is coming from military historians themselves. Lee fought against many odds, the battles that come most to mind are Chancellorsville (133,600 Union versus 60,000 Confederates) and Overlord (can’t state numbers exactly here, but was very close to being outnumbered 2 to 1). And to say Alexander the Great was an amazing general? Tell me, if you’re a Greek soldier with a 20 foot sphere and a shield going up against a sword that is 2 feet long and maybe no shield, can you even come close to the Greek soldier without being killed as long as the Greeks line up together in a phalanx? No. They had so much better material, that sometimes it only took a frontal assualt to round up the Persians. And he faced terrible commanders. Lee and Rommel definitely deserve to be on this list.

  96. Sergey I just want to point out, not only did the U.S.A meet Nazi Germany in the height of a Nazi power in Europe, but they faced them while entrenched in there fortifications and defences, that they assembled after conquering most of Europe. Not to mention the U.S.A was facing another enemy at the peak of there power on the other side of the world ( the Imperial Empire of Japan)…with a diminished Navy!

    • USA never met Nazi forces at peak of their power. When USA actually met Nazis those were just remnants and not the best parts of German army most of which fought against Russians. Forces Allies met were under equipped and did not have the kind of leadership that was present in the East. You also should not forget that when Soviet army attacked the best Japanese forces located in Manchuria (Kwantun army) it was eliminated within few days.
      You just cannot compare the war that was happening in the East to the West,. Not even close. The operations were huge and backed by huge forces with a lot of equipment and best of the best generals and soldiers. Nothing in modern times can be compared to what was going on between Soviets and Germans. Japanese were not on same level as USA. it was foregone conclusion that it was only a matter of time that USA would win. Germany was a different opponent and USA fought Nazis only when most of their forces were occupied in Russia and weakened by major defeats also in Russia.

      • You fail to realize that Soviet Russia and Great Britain were surviving on American material. Both would have collapsed had it not been for FDR’s Lend Lease program that gave the Red Army half of the trucks that they would use to transport and supply their troops on the front.

  97. Oh and also Gen. Washington, Faced the Greatest Army in the world at the time the Empire of Britain with no navy and a Rag tag force…his method was to wear down the British army and then hopefully corner them…with French help. This is exactly what he suceeded in doing. I think his spot on this list is fitting. But i think his stepping down from power as a President was his most important accomplishment!

    • well , it seems some comments on here just do not get read!! as much of what sergey says is thought provoking and aimed at stirring up american readers on here, eric you really need to study things in a bit more detail, especially with regard to the assistance recieved in the war of independance or revolutionary war depending on what side you were!! the french, spanish, slaves,etc supplied many troops and the french a navy and to call the americans a rag tag force is silly and ill thought!!
      another pointer. i agree with you with regard to the state of german forces in ww2, but do remember it was an allied force that defeated the axis powers and not an american one fighting alone!!
      most importantly to remember is in all of these wars the losers are the gallant young men found in the cemetarys, ive just come back from a trip to normandy and it makes you feel humble and sad, i suggest all go and visit , it may make you think differently on what you consider successfull!!

  98. I’d also like to add that from a tactical standpoint, Hannibal had the best plans. Cannae is #1 all time, and that I incorportate some of his battles into my battle plans for airsoft. Very successful. Caesar was good too, from that POV.

  99. Where the hell is khalid ibn Al Waleed he is a general that was never defeated over a 1000 battles ?

    • well i suppose Ali the reason for that is the heading is top ten western generals and you would say as with Genghis Khan that they were eastern , but they would both definately be in my top 20 of all time. just one thing though it was about 100 battles and skirmishes he was involved in not 1000 sorry to be picky .

    • He was a great general, but he did not fight 1000 battles. In truth, before Napoleonic times Caesar was the man who fought the most of pitch battles. His record was only broken after almost 2000 years.
      I put Caesar over him because Caesar fought better opposition. Arabs only were able to get out from Arabia and conquer those territories because Byzantium and Persia exhausted themselves in serious of never ending wars over few hundred years., Also, the quality of those armies are far from Roman legions of the late Republic and Caesar outside of defeating barbarians also beat Roman armies of the period led by Rome greatest general of the time Pompey. Al Walkeed despite being a great general did not face that kind of opposition, neither did Alexander the great or even Chengis han.

        • Speed over Persian cataphracts? Persians had superior cavalry over Arabs. Even Arabian word ferusia which means cavalry exercises comes from Farsi. Both Byzantium and Persia were mortally exhausted after fighting each other for few centuries and few decades before Arabian invasion their conflict reached its climax. Firtst Byzantium almost got eliminated than they turned tables on Persians. as a result they could not stand up to fresh Arabian forces.

        • No Sir, it also takes time to learn about what state Byzantium and Persia were at the moment when Arabs invaded. Both were completely exausted after decades of recent war that had just ended before arabs invaded. Persiand possessed superior cavalry and Byzantium’s clibanarii also were not bad at all.

          “The expense of resources during the Roman–Persian Wars ultimately proved catastrophic for both empires. The prolonged and escalating warfare of the sixth and seventh centuries left them exhausted and vulnerable in the face of the sudden emergence and expansion of the Caliphate, whose forces invaded both empires only a few years after the end of the last Roman–Persian war. Benefiting from their weakened condition, the Arab Muslim armies swiftly conquered the entire Sassanid Empire, and deprived the Eastern Roman Empire of its territories in the Levant, the Caucasus, Egypt, and the rest of North Africa. Over the following centuries, most of the Eastern Roman Empire came under Muslim rule.”

          Now, can you imaging Arabs invading Roman empire in the first or second AD or say late Roman Republic an having this kind of success against slower Roman legions? I seriously doubt Arabs would get further than Siria or Egypt and would be crashed. As Julius Caesar told, luck is very important and Arabs ultimately got lucky. Al their further history proves this.

        • My personal Top 5 (in two lists):

          By Tactical Innovation:
          1. Hannibal (Echelon Formation)
          2. Genghis Khan (Feigned Retreat)
          3. Frederick The Great (His version of the Oblique Order)
          4. Whoever invented Blitzkrieg
          5. Napoleon (Central Position)

          Then by judging the resources supplied for the general:
          1. Robert E. Lee (He was facing an enemy superior in almost everything)
          2. Erwin Rommel (He was constantly arguing about his supplies)
          3. Hannibal (Roman Infantry was the most dominant Infantry Formation for a LONG time)
          4. Napoleon (He was facing pretty much all of Europe)
          5. I’d have to think more on this one.

      • sergey, may i say you can as in sport only beat who is infront of you at the time, just because certain generals may have seemed to be fighting lesser opponents that doesnt always mean its easy and it still has to be done!! the other very important point i have tried to meke to several people on here is that it is very difficult to be judging over such a large time period, there is nothing to say that in ww2 napoleon would be any good just as patton may be rubbish in the gulf war as opposed to schwarzkopf, etc etc, do you see my point. i believe judging on a campaign is a far more fairer way and therefore to have a single number one is so difficult. also i believe many people mix political leaders with generals , again the criteria for establishing the so called best has to be more defined, but as i have said before at least the list has sparked a good debate!!

  100. Where is the Iron Duke?
    How can he not be on the list?
    He took a scrappy handful of men, cowering in Portugal, and brought them to victory after victory through Spain and France.
    With those once defeated men he formed an army which became the most feared in the world.
    He largely paid his own way and was constantly blocked by the Horse Guards.
    Yet still he defeated every Marshal he faced, and usually he faced three at once.
    And then, after victory, the peace was bungled by the politicians, and so he was sent back. This time, he had only a handful of the skilled veteran army he had created and demanded to be kept together, but had been dissipated by the government. Yet again he was terribly supplied. Worse, half his troops and allies had been subservient to Napoleon just months before. Yet still he fought Napoleon to a standstill, and even the Imperial Guard were defeated, and so Blucher’s Prussians could ride the French from the field.
    And, what is more, all other leaders acknowledged his prowess. The other nations of Europe named him their Field Marshal. Europe did not fight again while he lived, because it wasn’t worth it.
    Finally, this: If a man is to be judged by his enemies, then we can see he fought and beat many other great Generals and foes:
    #the British Politicians who didn’t want him to win, or didn’t want to spend any money on the war
    #the French Marshals, who had ridden down all of Europe
    #that other “great” General, who would not dare face Wellington through all of the Peninsular Campaign, from Portugal to Spain and then the successful invasion of Southern France, even though his Generals begged it.
    Anyway, just saying, maybe he should be in the list.

    • Josh,

      The Iron Duke (so named because of the Iron shutters on his house, and his unpleasant and uncompromising demeanor as a politician in later years, not because of his soldiering) was a good, even excellent general, but not in Napoleon’s class. I’m not sure I’d rate him in the top 10. While respected by his men, he was not liked by them and his views of them as being scum of the earth are well known.

      I will say again, the wonder isn’t that he won in Spain, the wonder is it took him so long. He had pretty much all the advantages–the Royal Navy which meant he would always have supplies coming when he needed; superior numbers on the battlefield generally; and a hostile population which kept the majority of French forces tied down. His victories in Spain were almost always when he was on the defensive, with a numerical advantage over his foe, which were usually second line French troops and the marshals, many of those a sorry lot. Waterloo was just such a victory, when Napoleon, with only 50,000 men available (25,000 had to be held back to fight the Prussians both sides knew were coming) still nearly defeated him. Of course he did go on the offensive, such as Vitoria, when he had forces of nearly 2-1 in his favor.

      He was not a master of maneuver, like Napoleon (Italian campaign, the great sweep into Bavaria culminating in the defeat at Ulm, Austerlitz itself, the Campaign for France in 1814, the 1813 campaign in Germany leading to the victories at Bautzen and Lutzen). Napoleon, who unlike Wellington, was usually outnumbered, often badly. Remember how the allies won in 1813, besides simply overwhelming numbers. They kept attacking his marshals and avoided fighting Napoleon himself. Bernadotte (then Crown Prince of Sweden and part of the Coalition) told them to do just that. “You cannot beat Napoleon but he cannot be everywhere at once. Attack the marshals and wear them down. That is how you will win”

      Yes, he was inspirational, he was admired by his men and that wasn’t a “healthy publishing network.” Those were men in the field who knew him. This obsession with Napoleon being a work of his own propaganda is pretty much a British phenomena, still put forward by hacks like Dwyer (though Schom is an American) who can’t simply acknowledge talent. I will put forward it’s because the British funded those wars and kept them going far longer than they needed to and then insisted they saved Europe rather than create a bloodbath. Maybe it’s an innate sense of guilt? (sorry if I am incorrect assuming you are English or Australian by your style of writing and tone)

      He wasn’t perfect, Russia being an example, the Continental system another. In Russia you’re right, he could have learned from Hannibal, (a general who overstretched himself and could win battle after battle but didn’t know how to win a war). By 1812 he wasn’t at the height of his game though the Campaign for France is one of his finest, the fire was still there.

      As for “Napoleon’s prescribed method of subjugation as well as the way to supply his army was a process of institutionalised rape, pillage, theft and murder.” This is simply rubbish. There was no *institutionalized* rape, pillage, and murder in the French army, though theft of *foodstuffs* was not discouraged when the army was on the march or in hostile territory (there are plenty examples of French soldiers being executed for pillaging, which was forbidden). The lighter supply train is why the French army of the time was far more maneuverable than any other army of the time, outmarching any other at distances of 2-1.

      In Spain the guerrillas were not a response to any mythical French institutionalized rape, pillage, theft and murder, they were a response to a call by the church for a holy crusade against the “Anti-Christ.” There were many atrocities committed by both sides in that war, which got worse and worse (and DID create more guerrillas) but the French didn’t come in committing them.


      • Art,

        It is a pleasure.
        I attempted a similar discussion on a different site and had to stop as it degenerated into abuse.
        I am astonished at your assumption that I am English or Australian. Being English would be obvious, but how did you get Australian? Mightily impressed.
        I am from Adelaide, but have lived in various European countries. My mother is English.
        Is this important really? Where are you from?

        I am aware of the origins of Wellington’s nickname and the Corn Law disputes. They are not truly relevant to the blog. If they were, we would have to remember that 1,000,000 lined the streets at his funeral, as with Nelson, so he was hardly a hated figure.

        His soldiers were the scum of the earth, as he said, with a very large percentage of conscripts. However, they respected him. They knew that was what they were, but he gave them his trust again and again to stand in the face of the enemy. He rallied them upon both of his arrivals to Portugal.

        Which raises my second point. You appear to argue that England couldn’t lose due to supply.
        Supply may have been more easy, but supply of what?
        Funds were repeatedly blocked, and England was constantly negotiating for peace against Wellington’s wishes. This is why Wellington’s relation to William Pitt is so important. When Pitt was ill (frequently) supplies disappeared. The navy also drained much of the resources, especially for artillery.
        It is true that supply was easier because of the navy after Trafalgar, however, there was less being delivered by far than there should have been. It is why it Wellington sometimes had to pay for things himself, only paying his debts after capturing a French baggage train.

        You also argue that Wellington generally faced enemy troops in smaller numbers.
        Which was the plan!
        Wellington did not have the French Empire’s seemingly inexhaustible supplies of troops (obviously after Napoleon’s disastrous decision of 1812 the troops dried up for France).
        He had one small army (small – starting with 30,000 British, whose numbers grew very slowly, with the eventual addition of 30,000 more British, 30,000 Portuguese and then 20,000 Spaniards).
        The Amy of Spain, which of course had other concerns than just Wellington, was 280,000, reinforced up to 350,000. I repeat, I’m not saying Wellington directly had to face these… But he would have to eventually.
        We add to this specific expeditions to Portugal with French armies consisting between 30,000 and 65,000.
        You also argue one of the reasons that French troops were missing from the battle field was that they were defending lines of supply etc.
        And this is true. But it was a self-inflicted injury, and a self-exacerbated one, because the way of dealing with Guerillas was the institutionalised murder and rape I spoke of.
        I accept that I should have been clearer when I first made this point, my apologies. The Guerillas began as a response to requests from parts of the Spanish Catholic church and the Nobility, though it must be remembered that after the conquest of Italy the Pope free to call for such things.
        A point – this did not happen to Wellington in France, because he encouraged careful treatment of the French people. He paid for food.

        Yes, Wellington very often fought on the defensive.
        And why not?
        He was lacking in cavalry due to poor supply, as well as cannon, which were earmarked for the navy.
        And he understood the most affective way to use his men, utilising their superior rate of fire in the line, especially against dense French formations.
        And, he believed in preserving his men, mainly because he had so few.
        It made sense facing superior numbers of artillery and cavalry.
        When he did attack on the field it was decisive – the oft repeated example being Salamanca.

        In fact, I will be the first to argue that Wellington’s major failing was when he lost his characteristic patience whilst storming fortifications, and is the reason I would probably rate him down near 7 or 8 rather than 4 or 5.
        Poor manoeuvres? Wellington almost constantly faced two French armies, who together would seriously outnumber him, and yet managed not to let this happen.

        The Marshals he faced became known as a poor lot only after he had defeated them. Napoleon would send them with praise, and then refuse their requests for help, or for him to come, and then denigrate them in defeat. They had been proved more than good enough up to that point.

        What Wellington did was oversee the overall strategies of his campaign excellently. He chose when to fight, and wouldn’t allow it any other way. He would rather march away.
        Which is why Waterloo is quintessentially Wellington. He chose where and he knew why, and he trusted his men.

        ? That a lot of Napoleon wasn’t hot air, and his own excessive penmanship?
        The French have argued since the Battle that Waterloo was lost due to the failings of the Marshals, and Napoleon’s illnesses. This would not be an excuse for any other general. He selected his subordinates, he gave the orders, he misjudged the mood of the Prussians, he misjudged the Coalition army’s determination, and most importantly, he held back the Old Guard for too long.

        I think part of my defence of Wellington is that very often the aggressors are remembered as great generals, but Wellington was fighting for an end to war and to avoid any form of European Hegemony, something Britain has always ought to avoid.

        Art, you are obviously very well read and know your subject, and I feel we aren’t going to change each other’s opinions.
        That is no bad thing, these rankings are subjective, and debate is healthy and constructive.
        I would like to know who you put as number 1?
        I can’t decide!

      • You saved me the trouble of replying to Josh, I was on the verge of doing so. Everything you say I agree with 100%……except that Grouchy had 33,000 men, and there was another Army of reserves which was ordered and counter-ordered during Waterloo and finally faced nobody. Over 20,000.

        In Spain the Marshalls were kealous of one another and several battles were lost because, although close by, one wouldn’t come to the suport of the other. Not only that, but even when placed there by the Emperor, they refused to subordinate themselves to each other. The command turmoil this caused has to be imagined to be believed. These are all facts which have ample corroboration. The only success in the Peninsula was Marshall Suchet, who kept complete control of Catalonia right to the end, never was beaten, and never capitulated. He was not effectively used by Naploeone. Davoust was another who was under-used, whereas Ney was overused, and generally in the wrong positions.

        A case in point about Ney, who, being under the Emperor’s deep displeasure for seeking employment with the Bourbons after 1814, absolutely went crazy and threw away7 all the wonderful cavalry they had. If MURAT had been accepted back into favour by napoleone, and in charge of the cavalry as usuual, this would have meant all the difference between defeat and complete victory.

        There were too many things against napoleone that day. For instance, since it had poured rain all the previous night, he couldn’t commence operations the next morning until the ground had dried out a bit, at around 11.30 a.m.. The cannon were best employed by landing in FRONT of the enemy and bouncing through them moving down whole rows. When the ground was soft, they didn’t bounce and just stuck with a dull “PLOP”..

        So also, in truth, the enormous cannon barrage preceding soldier contact ( a HUGE part of napoleone’s tactics) was completely USELESS and did no damage at all.

        I can stop right there…………

        By the way, the soldiers’ nickname for Wellington was “NOSY” because of hiis very long nose.

        • Hi, Edgar,
          I didn’t mention Grouchy or his numbers (around 33,000, you are right). When I refer to 25,000 men being held back, I am referring to Napoleon holding back 25,000 men from his own 74,000 men on the field of Waterloo. He knew they would hit his flank and needed them there to meet the Prussians he knew were coming. That only left him 50,000 to deal with Wellington. Grouchy’s 30,000 men were as you noted nowhere near the field of battle and did not follow Murat’s dictum to ride to the sound of the guns.

          As for Murat, perhaps he would have made a difference at Waterloo, but he was a disloyal ingrate and Napoleon prized loyalty.

          There was no other force of 20,000 available that day I am aware of, though what you describe, a force of 20,000 who were ordered and counterordered sounds familiar. I think you refer to an event 2 days before when the 20,000 men of D’Erlon’s corps were ordered by Ney to reinforce him at Quatre Bras, then ordered by Napoleon to reinforce him at Ligny. In the end they ended up marching a lot and not being used anywhere. In either case they might have made the difference, finishing off either the English or Prussians. Instead both were able to retreat more or less intact.

          Yes, you are right, Suchet was brilliant, and during the Hundred Days was wasted guarding the Alps when he could have made the difference at Waterloo. (certainly Davout would have) Unlike Davout though he did taste defeat. I can think of at least twice, in 1809 when the outnumbered Spanish general Blake defeated him at the Battle of Alcañiz, and in 1813, when the Spanish and British under the British general Murray defeated him at Castalla (he was admittedly heavily outnumbered in this battle).

        • Art, i was wondering where you are from . i myself am english but feel you are not , as you said to josh in an earlier message by his style of writing you assumed him to be english or australian, by your tone in your writing you would surprise me if you were british as you come across with a very anti-british feeling. i apologise if i am doing you an injustice. i will not deny that at times i have a bias for my country as most people do but i do try and see both sides of the coin as clearly as i can, i am not infering you dont but was intrigued to know where you are from and if this era of warfare history is your main passion?? also how many of this list do you think should be in the top ten?
          i know you are passionate about napoleon, i am not but would have him in my top ten but am struggling to put more than two more from this list in it if i had to make one!

        • Saxan,

          You are right, I am not British, I am from the U.S. (of French and Irish descent) Don’t apologize for your bias, we all have them. 🙂

          As I recall I I assumed Josh to be English or Australian because it was obvious English was his first language but he used a few spellings and phrases unique to Commonwealth Countries. Also he was so anti-Napoleon. For some reason Australians share the antipathy their English cousins do but Canadians do not, so I did not believe him a Canadian.

          Yes, this era has turned into my passion, for the past five or six years especially, it’s why I jump in when Napoleon gets mentioned, though I have had an interest in the period since I was quite young.

          As for the rest of the list, well there are many periods I am not as well versed in and am afraid I would miss someone. I think Alexander should be included if only for his impact in Hellenizing so much of the ancient world and the speed of his rise and how far he marched.

          There are too many Americans on the list. I would remove Washington, keep Lee but put him near the bottom. I am a great admirer of Patton but agree he doesn’t belong in the top 10. From WW II I would be inclined to include von Manstein.

          Caesar belongs here and I believe Julian should be considered, despite his short life.

          I actually am not a fan of Hannibal, a great tactician but not a strategist. In combat he was nearly unbeatable but as his brother said, he knew how to win a victory but not use it. Despite his victories he marched up and down Italy achieving nothing in the end. The Romans outlasted him. Maybe he is top 10 but not near the top.

          Remove Joan, add Marlborough and Belisarius.

        • Hi, Art, thankyou for the response and i have an apology from an earlier comment i made you certainly know your history.
          i can see that you are a strong defender of Napoleon, as a general without doubt one of the very best, as a national leader well not so great, i believe.
          i agree with you re the US generals, lee in but lower down , washington would struggle to get in my top 100, patton in a top 30 not sure where.
          my word also another agreement, alexander definately hannibal again relegated to a top 30 spot! marlborough definately top 20 not sure in the top 10.
          again the major problem with all of this is criteria, i believe you need to look at 20 year periods or campaigns over an era and rate the top 20 then take from that the top ones to make a definitive top 10.
          the list says top 10 western generals but its hard not to look at them as a whole over the world, as an example MacArthur who fought out east for so much of his time yet is a western general, i am not saying he should be in the top 10 by the way just using him as an example, im sure you get that.
          one thing is certain this list has created some good debate, and although most here do not agree with his top 10 at least he had the belief to put it up for us to discuss.
          i have several areas of warfare history but this has made me view others i was not as knowledgable about and is leading me to put together a listing for eras such as WW1, WW2, Napoleonic Wars, civil wars ( us and british) etc however firstly i want to set up a criteria on what is a great general if you or anyone else reads this please feel free to offer your ideas!
          you mentioned Patton earlier and as i said i would have him in a top 30, but would put Bradley over him, i believe he was more of the complete package where as Patton was the great maverick . its funny Patton and Monty were so alike in so many ways and for me would be so close together in a list , yes they made mistakes but their self belief was impressive. this seems to be a common trait in many of the greats we discuss, a touch of arrogance but then that is no different to relate to great sportsmen, that seems to give them the edge over us mere mortals!
          this year my friends and i are off back to normandy for a further visit to do more research, next year were off to waterloo and WW1 battlefields.
          Having stood last november on Omaha beach it was an though provoking feeling to be where so much happened and then to visit the cemetary there which i must say does credit to the US for the diginty it shows the fallen. many of my family were involved in action in WW1 and WW2 and a good friends father was on the beaches in “44 so lots of thoughts go through your mind when actually there.

  101. Arrrgh!
    I feel like I am baiting the bear, but…
    Re-reading everything, why does everyone feel this about Napoleon???
    Skilful? Innovative?
    He crushed failing monarchies, with old fashioned armies, using an army created by others before him which utilized mass conscription, totally out-gunning and outnumbering everyone, with more cavalry.
    And who was he fighting? Armies led mainly by inbred nobles, incompetent by the standards of any period.
    The Prussians had class, true, but were held back by their lack of reform, which left them attempting to re-fight the battles of Fredrick the Great against a totally different enemy.
    There is nothing skilful about moving men in a fat block directly at the enemy lines.
    And then, just for extra kudos, he invaded Russia, which everyone knew was just plain silly.
    Simple lessons, from the most ancient leaders – Caesar, Hannibal, Scipio- do not overstretch your lines in territory which you cannot live on or in.
    The point, surely, about Napoleon, was that he was an inspiration to all his followers.
    Plus, he is a point in case that a healthy publishing network which proclaims your glory can really do how history remembers you a favour.

  102. The Iron Duke, Wellington, when asked who was the greatest general of the day, answered: “In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon.”

    • thats because Wellington wasnt an egotistical arrogant man like Napoleon, he would never have said himself!! ask the same question to Napoleon!!!

      • Wellington WAS an egotisical, arrogant, unpleasant man by all accounts. For another his answer, besides being true, reflected well back on him because it made him appear better. He helped defeat one of the greatest generals in history, therefore the glory reflected back to him.

        • i think you should gen up a bit more on your history my friend, a general well liked by his men who fought for him with relish and wellingtons own record which is impressive without going into detail, take the peninsular war for example!! im not saiyng wellington didnt have an ego but wasnt to the extent of napoleons and remember napoleon conscripted and nearly bankrupt the french people. more impotantly i believe we would agree that both should be in a top 20 !!

  103. Hey, at no point do I suggest that he is No.1, I just think he is underrated, a man who fought and won a harder fight than certain other generals who inherited a supremely advantageous position, or at least a less crippling position.
    And how unpleasant was he?
    An example:
    Napoleon’s prescribed method of subjugation as well as the way to supply his army was a process of institutionalised rape, pillage, theft and murder. This led to the Spanish Guerrillas.
    Wellington made sure his army paid for EVERYTHING, on pain of death. The civilians of Portugal, Spain and France respected him. No French Guerrillas.
    And what better way to proclaim your own glory than to say how brilliant your rival was?
    On other occasions, Wellington mocked Napoleon as a pumped up Corsican with a lack of respect, whose propaganda covered his lack of true brilliance. His generals and his army were where the real skill lay. Napoleon was brilliant because he was the worlds best salesman, pitching himself and an ephemeral idea of glory.
    At home, Wellington may have been less easy to get on with – but this is a debate on Generals, and not politicians.

  104. I find it angering ones who are being honored because they beat the best. THEY’RE THE ONES WITH ALL THE ADVANTAGES ON THEIR SIDE. What I concieve more impressive is battles of annihilation (Hannibal, Lee to some extent, even Napoleon at Austerlitz), encirclements and decisive victories.

  105. The only strategy Napoleon contributed to warfare was the central position, although it was very effective.

    • And he promoted the mass artillery bombardment in Europe, though this wasn’t really new, he just took it to a grander scale in Europe than had been seen before.

  106. Just thinking, was re-reading my Napoleon, and he claimed Fredrick the Great was probably the best, saying that if he had been alive then he would have never reached Berlin. He held a special ceremony at his tomb.

    • at last a historian and someone who understands the questions!!! exactly right Josh as you said this is about who were the best generals not politicians or salesmen or civil inspirations but men who led armies. was wondering where you are from??

      • Adelaide and Sheffield!
        Thank you saxan66. Who is your No.1?
        I’d like to state again, I don’t think Welly is No1, but neither do I think Napoleon is.

        • been to both those places!! its funny i came across this site by accident am only realy just getting into the internet! im more of a book man. ive never really been into lists as most of it is subjective and has a bias according to where the author is from. i tend to believe if you do list top tens it should be on a decade basis in sport or in the case of warfare maybe by conflict as so much changes. as can be seen by so many of the comments as to who is the best, weapons, tactics, personnel , communication, all these things change and some deal with it in a different way . whats to say on successful general in one era would be so successful in the next! a good debate never the less. for instance the author of this list i would imagine is american and has a love of what i call popular history hence the choices he made. that is not to deride them, they are his choices and has done an excellent job in stimulating debate. as i said before you need to set a specific criteria then canvass people on their opinions and their lists from that you may get a more definite list to really debate, one im sure that woulkd be very different, only that way will you remove the biaas that we all have just some more than others!! so who are you supporting in the recent war? which general strauss or ponting??

        • Nice last question!
          As a supporter of Australia all my life, I can’t change sides now! But Its bad times for Oz.
          As I write Oz have lost the second test.
          The Punter isn’t and has never really been a captain – Warnie especially had a big say in things, but he didn’t really ever have much to do.
          Strauss is ok, I’m undecided. If anything he’s impressive because he has managed to handle captaincy and batting, which English captains haven’t managed recently.
          Any way, maybe we shouldn’t have this discussion here!
          Yes, the top ten choices do appear very subjective (with a US bias) – but I think it would be an amazing effort to manage to make a list that wasn’t!
          I mean, there must be amazing Aztec generals who led the flower wars, but I have no idea about them.

    • Fredrick II fought a war in which he took on Austria, France, Russia and Sweden, as well as many German states, and he held his own due too brilliant leadership, such as allying with Britain, as well as a bit of luck with Peter III ascending the throne, he still fought 4 mighty countries, and most thought that it would be a short war in which he would be crushed, seeing that most of the countries would have backed themselves to beat him by themselves, seeing it had a relatively small population and few natural resources. Very few Generals on the this list of the best of the best would be able to do what he did, winning the War as well as gaining the vauable land of Silesia by the terms of the 1763 treaty.

  107. Frase, Alexander faced terrible opposition. First , the Greeks had the Phalanx Formation. What they did is Had their big swords go against the lightly armed Persians. The Persians couldn’t move in because of these big swords. Therefore, all the Greeks would do is SIMPLY move up until the Persians had no room to maneuver and were simply cut down, i.e. Thermopylae. THE EGYPTIANS AS THE GREATEST CIVILIZATION OF ALL TIME? Maybe 700 years before the events of Alexander, but the Greeks themselves were better. Think about this: Democracy, great Arts, divided City-states, etc. The Greeks were the greatest innovation culture of the ancient age.

    • Matt: “THE EGYPTIANS AS THE GREATEST CIVILIZATION OF ALL TIME?” wrong quote mate, and they were the most populous, and had many of there own innovators as well. It is not realistic to say that the Greek’s formations are better. I mean, look at the romans later, they had tactics better then the the Greeks, thus completely destroying them when they went up against each other, as they did to Gauls later under Julius Caesar. To see show that the phalanx could be beaten so easily by the Romans shows that Alexander did not completely rely on the Phalanx, because if Alexander did rely on it then he would become too predictable and so his many opponents would find his weakness and destroy his formation. As it happened, he was a brilliant strategist who conquered some of the biggest civilizations of his time, both which were as big as him or bigger when he came to power. If it had been so easy, then it would have been done a hundred years before Alexander. You can not claim that the rise of Macedonia,( not Greece or Athens, which are the genesis of Democracy and enlightenment you were referring to,) was inevitable, because if there had been a general as good as Alexander before Alexander’s time, it would have been conquered before he got the chance

      • If you could find a book that says Alexander didn’t use the phalanx, I’d be suprised. The Gauls didn’t use the phalanx. They suported the idea of being professional fighters by using short swords for mobility. And yes, the Persians were incompetent forces led by a terrible commander. The mass of their numbers came to hurt them because of the short battlefields and because of the reserves tey used couldn’t deploy in time to contest Alexander’s oblique thrust. So saying that they were big came up to hurt them. Also, Alexander had a great general that he also relied on, Parmenion. Alexander’s Hammer and Anvil couldn’t be done without Parmenion because he was the supressing unit of the Greek attack. Lastly, the Roman Legion didn’t come up against the Greeks until about 50 years after Alexander the great. He didn’t know an effective formation against his. There was one Greek who made an understandable contribution against the Romans: read about Pyrrhus of Epirus.

        • I never stated that Alexander never used the phalanx, I just stated that the phalanx is NOT an overpowered, I just said that Alexander was a better commander, and that the Persians were better opposition then the Gauls in Italy. If Alexander used the terrain to his advantage, then that is another plus for him, because you are making it seem like numbers did not matter or were even disadvantageous. If you look at his battle you will be able to see his tactics, as shown in the Siege of Tyre which he successfully conquered and Battle of Issus, which was when he destroyed Darius’ army, and both events would have been thought nearly impossible 10 years before

  108. As have been said several times during this tread, the list is, in my opinion, reflective of national interests. My list would be severely different, but I’m not going to bother anyone with it. Also, during World War 2, as Sergey has said, the world have never, ever, witnessed such an titanic struggle between two sides as it saw during the German invasion of the Soviet Union, I am sorry, but the facts in the number makes this a war of epic proportions that dwarfs any other conflict.

    The main reason why the Eastern front are so notorious is because unlike the western powers, democratic states who were unwilling to fully commit to the war, both the German state and the Soviet union were in a state of Total War, Meaning every aspect of their societies were geared towards aiding the war industry. While in comparison; America never did gear up towards a Total War and it is unlikely that it would have beaten the Germans without momentous changes in its domestic production thinking and a full commitment to Total War, had the Eastern Front remained peaceful. The fact is, Athoathorian states will produce better military than a Democracy given equal opportunities due to the fact that it can direct recourses to the sector much more efficiently than capitalist countries can, also, Authoathorian regimes command often a more devout and patriotic soldiers than A democratic country will, given equal opportunities. Now the struggle between Soviet and Germany was an all-out conflict, A conflict of both ideals, races, political doctrine and personality It was Hitler vs Stalin and this theatre was were the war was really won.

    Now in the aftermath of World War 2, about Patton’s “We’ll reach Moscow in 3 weeks” statement, well if he was serious about that, it shows a blatant fool unwilling to see facts and numbers on the table. The Soviet presence in Europe at this time were a momentous monster of war, battle hardened, smart, incredibly well-equipped and motivated. Unlike the Hollywood-eque cliché of soviet soldiers being useless cannon fodder, a notion derived from the desperate last stands in Stalingrad, by the end of the war the Soviet army was a battle hardened machine, with the best artillery and tanks in the war.

    Notion, I am a Norwegian studying history in England. My main sources for this comment is the works of Antony Beevor namely: Stalingrad, D-Day; The Battle for Normandy and Berlin: The Downfall 1945.

    • hi Eirik, i agree with some of what you are saying and it is good to hear from someone looking at things from a different national perspective, however to think that the british people werent involved in a total war is hard to understand when you consider the blitz, the ultimate loss of an empire and most importantly so many lives, also all the other nations involved in a world war! i think you would say the japanese were pretty committed as it took two a-bombs to make them surrender!
      we all have our biases and our national pride kicks in but i feel that you cannot say those two countries alone were fighting what was the ultimate decider, it was many factors not just one or two that resulted in germanys and the other axis powers defeat, just as it is more than winning battles that defines a great general!!
      also, yes you are correct the soviet army was a battle hardened machine at the end of the war, as was the british, american , canadian, australian, etc etc
      the war was fought on so many fronts and in many different ways , so many people with regard to ww2 get set on one aspect but not just one aspect was the deciding factor in this global war and that musnt be forgotten. the supremacy in the air is as vital as the ability on land to achieve success as is the command of the seas and battles for all these arenas are a factor in the final victory if you can call it that when the dust had settled on millions of graves!

  109. Two of the Greatest General’s in history were:

    1. Subutai
    2. Timur-Lenk (Tamerlane)

    I find it difficult to understand how they failed to make the top 10 and yet someone like Saladin or Joan of Arc made it.

    • Note: Both of these Generals fought in Europe. Timur-Lenk destroyed the Golden Horde which significantly altered the course of history in modern day Russia.

  110. Perhaps this list should be extended to top 15. I can think of 3 others just off the top of my head who are defiantly worthy of being put into this list:

    Alexander The Great
    Sun Tzu
    Genghis Kahn

    • I normally don’t allow outside links, but when they are not commercial and seeking to expand on information on I will usually allow them. In this case, I will allow this link unless I get feedback to the contrary. The site looks legitimate if unorganized and poorly designed for reading. God bless anyone who will actually read all of it. 😉

  111. #1. Chinggis Khaan. He is a strategist and organizer, great leader. But he is the greatest general too.

  112. terrible, terrible list..

    Joan of Arc? (Was a figure used to inspire the French, who believed she was sent from God, never a military commander comparable to any in the above list)

    George Washington? (Forced a much smaller, underpowered British army to surrender only through French, Dutch and Spanish aid, despite losing consistently when facing the British in open battle)

    Napoleon? (Repeatedly defeated by the British, including by the Duke of Wellington in India, Spain and at the pivotal battle of Waterloo, and by Horatio Nelson in Egypt and at Trafalgar)

    Any list in which the likes of Alexander the Great, Scipio Africanus, Pyrrhus of Epirus, Edward III and the Black Prince, Henry V and the Duke of Wellington are not mentioned doesnt even warrant a read.

    • Stephen.

      Who was the greatest general? “In this age, in any age, Napoleon.” Wellington

      Repeatedly defeated by the British? Napoleon only faced the British twice as as general and was 1-1 there, and on the second occasion (Waterloo) the British had lots of help from the Prussians. During Napoleon’s one personal foray into Spain he drove the British into the sea–quite literally–though he should have stayed for the coup de grace instead of leaving it to Soult, though it still didn’t turn out badly. If he had returned to Spain with the Grande Armee even Wellington admitted he would have would have been toast. In case you didn’t know, Napoleon wasn’t at Trafalgar, he was accepting the surrender of the Austrian army at Ulm that very day– unless you are going to hold the defeat of his subordinates against him.

      Wellington was a good general but not in the same league and while I agree with you about Alexander, some strong arguments have been made that he doesn’t belong there either.

      Napoleon was never in India, that was a pure non sequitur.


      • Art, Napoleon realized he’d made a massive mistake in trying to conquer the Iberian Peninsula, that’s why he never came back to it. On the Iberian Peninsula Armies starved or were swallowed up, and a hostile Spain and Portugal made the Iberian Peninsula just unbarable to the invading French. If Napoleon had return to the Iberian Peninsula he would have no more success than Soult, Marmont, Massena and the all the rest. It became an unwinnable situation for the French by 1810, by 1812 they had effectively failed and at that point Napoleon made his next great mistake, he marched on Russia in winter.

        Wellington had a great admiration for Napoleon, there’s no getting away from that, but the only documentation I’ve ever seen that says that Wellington would have been beaten by Napoleon if the Emporer came to the Iberian Peninsula is Wellington’s own opinion. Given his great admiration for Nepoleon I dont think he is an unbiased source. There is absolutely no way to know for certain that Wellington would have been beaten if he had fought Napoleon between 1809 and 1814. The only rime they ever fought each other Napoleon was ill and blinded by arrogance so that isn’t a valid comparison either.

        • well made point martyn, the problem we have is so many people are blinded by napoleon and seem to want to put him on such a pedastal that he was so perfect when in fact he made some serious errors, most seem to dismiss the march into russia . a great general is not just a great tactician and strategist in a battle but also someone who can plan and organise lead and care for his troops when not fighting because let us all not forget it is the troops which give them their success, napoleon alone on his horse would not win any battles as would any general alone, but ultimately he lost the most important battle waterloo due to many reasons but chiefly his errors of judgement not just the old flog it to death it was all down to the prussians!!

        • Martyn,
          The general train of thought among historians why Napoleon didn’t return to Spain was that he considered it a “sideshow” and he had other things to do. He left because things were starting to heat up with Austria, which was a threat to France. What was going on in Spain was not a direct threat. Holding Spain was generally a war of pacification, not fighting set battles. I can why he didn’t return to fight what was in essence a guerrilla war. The occasional battle (Salamanca, etc, etc) didn’t play as much of a role in driving out the French as the guerrilla war.

          If Napoleon had returned he would have brought the Grande Armee, not used the second line troops (for the most part) that were left to fight in Spain. He would have used overwhelming force. I don’t think there is the slightest doubt Wellington would have been defeated. That being said, it likely wouldn’t have made much of a difference, as the main struggle was with the entire Spanish people. He would have won those battles but still lost the war.

          I was responding to specific points where Stephen was talking about Napoleon being defeated in India (?!), personally in Spain, etc.

          And Saxan, what is it with people not wanting to acknowledge the Prussian’s decisive role in Waterloo? Simple math. Without the Prussians Napoleon would have had 25,000 additional men to use against Wellington.

        • Art, im not denying that without the prussians victory at waterloo may not have been achieved however with grouchy and 33,000 men off chasing the prussians and a great rear guard action by the british holding the french back prior to the main battle , napoleon went into the battle with greater numbers than the british who fought a terrific battle , yes the french had pushed them back in many areas but also many held and it was not till such resistence as had been seen and the realisation that the british were going to stand firm that despite Gneiseneau,s objections to Blucher that the british would not hold and they should withdraw that Blucher overrode them and entered the fray. the problem i have is that you and so many others seem to believe that no matter what napoleon did he would be successful and yet he wasnt, wellington and many other generals have fought and won and lost battles with more and less men at times.
          i do not say napoleon wasnt a great general he was, but also he made mistakes, but to say that with such and such a force he would have won is so foolish , if history tells us anything it is you cannot presume that a greater force will always be succesfull, so many people here forget these men were the conductors but not the orchestra, without the orchestra the conductor has no music !!
          generals are no different than managers of a company, napoleon made errors prior to waterloo in his delegation of duties and key personnel and that is all part of the make up of a good, bad or great general or manager. davout should not have been left back in paris , ney should not have had the command he had and soult should have been on as a field commander instead of being miscast as chief of staff, so yes napoleon a great general taking into account his abilities and impact he has had on warfare and history but on this occaision he wasnt, they were fundamental mistakes along with what happened on the day and his belief they couldnt be beaten but they were.
          you imply people like me dont see his mastery , but i do but i also see a man , so many of you though who adore him are too blinkered to see his failings just like all of us have in us. a greater quality to admit your weaknesses and then try to overcome them than be so arrogant that you think you are untouchable.
          as to your comment on simple math , Rorkes Drift! a greater number does not always win the day!

        • Saxan,

          My point is, to repeat, Napoleon DID NOT go into the battle with greater numbers than the British (who yes fought a terrific battle). Napoleon faced Wellington’s 68,000 men with about 48,000-49,000 of his own 74,000 men. The remaining 25,000 were left to face the Prussians he knew were going to hit his flank. (which they did)

          With that deficit he still nearly beat Wellington (by the latter’s own admission). Imagine if he had used his entire force and and thrown them all at Wellington? If he nearly beat him with a deficit of 20,000 men, it seems reasonable to think he would have beaten him with a slight advantage in numbers. But of course 50,000 were still coming…

          The question is should he have used his entire force, then turned on Blucher? I suppose he felt there was always the danger of being hit in the rear while finishing off Wellington. Another sign of Napoleon in decline?

        • Art, the battle is the entire thing wether you leave them in reserve or not on the day he took to the field with a larger force, fact! that he decides to leave them to fight the prussians thats his choice, however you seem to forget it wasnt a given that the prussians would arrive as grouchy was supposed to be attacking them with 33,000 at wavre! blucher made the right decision to leave a rear guard and take the main thrust with him to support wellington. i feel you did not read all of my main reply earlier.
          i do not think we will agree re this battle or probably any involving napoleon. if he had been such a great general in fact the greatset as so many believe then he would have seen what would transpire and not been drawn into the battle also his subordinates didnt seem to learn much from him! if he haad been so great he wouldnt of gone into russia, where he lost over 300,000 of his men , irony is he had prussians fighting for him!! and that inturn ended the grand armee! as ive said before in posts you can only beat what is infront of you! you keep saying in your posts though how great the french army was and that their first tier soldiers were the best if these men were so much better then they would have overcome, the weak and pathetic british, dutch, prussians. im sorry but napoleon although a great general was not a god and by his actions it led to british imperial dominance for best part of 100 years culminating in the largest empire the world has seen so for all his brilliance maybe he should have taught a few of his countrymen better then maybe it would be french that is being spoken more or used as the internatinal language which im sure is what he wanted or why try and destroy all the nations in europe through countless campaigns!

        • Art..

          I made a mistake saying earlier that Napoleon had been defeated in India, I got confused with Wellington’s prior victories in India, but not against Napoleon or France itself.

          Also, I am aware Wellington did not personally defeat Napoleon in Spain, however it was the latters choice to leave generals such as Soult behind, and Wellington did do a fantastic job taking on and defeating some of Napoleon’s finest generals during the Peninsular war. Like Saxan66 said, a Generals ability is not based solely on his performance in battlee but on strategic planning too, and leaving part of his forces in a country alight with rebellion, and aided by the British, does not seem a wise move his behalf.

          On that topic, while Napoleon himself may have been 1 – 1 with the British when he took to the field, he was also the Emperor of France, therefore i believe the successes and failures of his entire military (both by land and sea) reflect on his overall ability as a commander. On that note he was defeated by the British in several pivotal battles; stranded in Egypt by Nelson (battle of the Nile), a combined French and Spanish naval defeat at Trafalgar, and a pivotal, decisive defeat at Waterloo by Wellington (with a lot of help from the Prussians i do not deny).


        • Hi art, I think you are getting to caught up in saying waterloo wasn’t a fair battle, while in the argument who was better napoleon or wellington you can use this, you cant if your trying to argue he’s the best. Ceasar, Hannibal, alex the great ect all battled armies larger than there own and won. Plus Napoleon didn’t have to fight at waterloo, perhaps he could have out manoeuvred wellington so the prussians wouldnt enter on his flank. or when the prussians arrived he could have retreated and kept the remainder of his army.

          Napoleons down fall was his arrogance causing him to make mistakes. I do think people give him to bad a rap about russia, im sure not many people would have guessed the russians would burn moscow to the ground to deny his army shelter, plus people seem to forget hannibal lost half his army crossing the alps, which is well frankly terrible just to out flank the roman army he had to fight anyway.

          Definitely best general of the last 1000 years though

  113. Also the likes of Flavius Belisarius, the General who reconquered much of the old Roman Empire for his Emperor Justinian from the Barbarians?

  114. Also what about the likes of Flavius Belisarius, the General who reconquered much of the old Roman Empire for his Emperor Justinian from the Barbarians?

  115. Most of the grt soldiers tend to ‘ve a -ve climax, but all in all Napoleone is still ahead……!!!!

  116. Alexander the great is by far the greatest there ever was …. no need to go into it, everyone knows the details – if his men had not half mutinied at the Ganges and he had more reserves it is not only conceivable, but in my opinion probable that he would have gone on to conquer india and marched on china (and would have been successful, his army was invincible with himself at the helm)

    Napoleon would not make number 1 for me – made his name through cannons and ultimately was to reliant on heavy weapons and artillery – needless to say he is certainly high on the list.

    I do not like it when good debates brake into who’s country is better, pissing contest type things…. however, i think it very harsh to knock monty ! – and with that i’ll have to, albeit begrudgingly, enter into it myself

    At the beginning of American involvement – towards the end of the war in europe – the us had a torrid time – heavy losses and slow progress – it was only after the battle at hill (i forget what number hill) that the americans could really hold their heads up with the other allied forces.

    Furthermore – American arrogance and guns blazing attitude typified their further involvement. D day is a prime example, no one else suffered such fatalities and although it is arguably down to america taking more beach space lets not forget the numerous mistakes made:
    – floating tanks, which sank
    – Blotched special ops/ parachute operations behind enemy lines
    – forcing the allied assault to halt so your ships could bombard the beach to make holes for allied troops to hide in, however the missiles simply landing in the sea.
    – Laughing at british ingenuity, chiefly the tank designing to get rid of barbed wire… where the british soldiers could overcome the german obstacles the americans were left mostly defenceless on the beach.

    And again on the western front the americans initially took a beating … simply put, at this time the americans were not ready to face such a war, they had never faced such an enemy and their attitude was completely wrong, they though war was like a Calvary charge!

    Monty may (does not) make the top ten list – but he didn’t sacrifice his men! At the heart of his strategies was always a desire to safeguard his army – whereas his american counterparts sacrificed their armies to make a deadline!

    And although i really do not want to start a pissing contest again between the yanks the brits – in the war of independence it must be noted that the bulk of the british expeditionary force was stationed in asia, india and africa!

    Wellington certainly makes it … as defensive generals go he was one of the greats, behind caesar and yet both i mentioned were also offensive, especially caesar

    and on that subject – caesar certainly makes top 5, but regardless he may never have lost a war but he did lose battles.

    Themistocles – his naval victory was a great but his power lays in politics – does not make top ten.

    Joan of arc ….. each to ones own.

    Talking about Americans…. robert e lee for me takes it – its a shame the guy was on the wrong side! Im not fantastically versed in American history of that period – but if my memory is correct the guy barely lost a battle

    Hannibal def gets there, Cannae is still taught in military schools to this day – Scipio was better suited to beat him because he was present and lucky enough to survive that massacre first hand.

    But im now confused as others are naming non westerners… is it best western generals or simply anyone who has had an influence on the west?

  117. iso the great on

    my list of top ten generals of all time:
    1. darth vader: how can you compare him with the others, he conquerod galaxies man, not some terrain you humans call earth.
    2. obi wan kenobi: he was the ultimate mentor, and a more than capable commander and laser-sword user. he was also handsome, too, as he was portrayed by ewan mcgregor
    3. darth maul: just look at his face and you can do nothing but escape and fill with feeling of ultimate terror!
    4. me: i mean really me, it’s iso the great. i have conquerod many girls’ hearts with my blistering style and ultimate charm. nobody can resist me if i want something or somebody.
    5. francesco totti: “il gran capitan” what more can you say about him, he’s the final roman.
    6. that guy from next door: i hold myself in high regard, but this guy from an outer perspective seem like a solid threat to my ambitions and i cant get off the feeling that he’s a vermin with some deep strategic and tactical charm. i see him with different girls every couple of days. damn he’s hard!
    7. my mother: she’s the one that made me who i am today. a wise visionary woman with ultimate love in her heart
    8. stffler’s mom: she’s way hot to outclass any man in any army in any world and galaxy.
    9. i cant think of nobody for this spot; maybe woofie, my pet dog.
    10. it’s jesus of course. how can he compare his 2 billion faithful populated army when he confronts the ultimate badasses in the apocalypse. he’s the saviour and eventual laugher.

  118. Obviously, you all presume that people are ignorant of history. How do you rate a general? You rate him/her by the way he conducts a war, the justness of the cause and its impact on human society. First we should know what was the greatest war in history. Any school boy knows that in terms of sheer magnitude and scale, not to speak of the cause, the cause of freedom and democracy, II Wolrd War is the greatest war fought against fascism for freedom and democracy. The greatest general in that war was Generalassimo Stalin. Sir Winston Churchill did not present Stalin with a sword in Teheran Conference without reason. Stalin was the man who taught the importance of ‘the rear’ in a war. His will could not be broken by tremendous losses because he and his Red Army knew what they were fighting for and his short ( less than five minutes) speech, perhaps the only speech he made during the war, on 3rd July,1941 predicted the course of the war.

    France fell in a matter of days. The entire Eurpoe was under the jackboots of Hitler. But for the English Channel, Great Britain would have faced great distruction. Hitler sent 200 divisions of his highly experienced and battle hardened army into USSR in a blitzkraig attack. After 1941, the major battles of the Second World War was fought on the Soviet soil. Battle of Stalingrad, in which nearly six million Nazi soldiers surrendered to the Red Army was the real turning point in the war. The one man who led a five member ‘Stavka’, the military HQs of the Red Army, that conducted the war and ensured victory was Stalin. The presence of Stalin gave the world the courage to face the Nazis. Eastern European nations wrested their freedom from Hitler with the help of the Red Army. With the emergence of the Socialist Camp as opposed to the Imperialist camp, liberation struggles in colonies and semi colonies gained momentum and achieved their goals before the end of forties of the century.
    No wonder 53 nations, including the mighty France, dipped their flags in honour of Stalin when he died in 1953. Tell one single military personality who impacted human history in such an immense scale.

    • hi, Ramanujuan, i do agree with you with regard to how you rate what makes a general great as i have said many times on this site. however i do not follow what you say re Stalin, there is no questioning he led his people with passion but also he abused his power as so many do when in that position. let us not forget the pact he made with Hitler prior to the latter turning on him. after the end of the war the millions falsley imprisoned by him and executed. as a general, although he gave himself many titles, marshal of the soviet forces etc, i do not put him up there , sacrificing millions doesnt make you a greeat general, thats why not many people on here have mentioned any generals from ww1 due to their actions. a small point of order on numbers the germans suffered losses of approx 850,00 and the soviets 1.1 million. i appreciate you must be a Stalin fan and i am not denouncing his influence on history and there is no doubt that without the russians then hitler would not have benn defeated but i say the same as the british, americans and their allies , without them hitler would not have been defeated, i do not believe it was one more than the other but a combination of all their efforts. he was no question for the time an influential leader of his people but not a great general, there were many better ones under him Zhukov, in particular the most decorated soldier in russian history.

    • First, Stalin was not a general, he was a warlord, controlling events from afar. Most of his effects on the Soviet military, such as his purges of the officer corps, crippled the Soviet military leading to tremendous losses.

      The justness of his cause and the impact on human society? His impact was all negative. Stalin was the greatest mass murderer in history, responsible for murdering between 30 to 60 million of his own people. I tend to go with the higher number but many say he only killed 30 million, so I give the full range. Then along comes World War II, and the world pretended he wasn’t that bad but in the end he was a murdering tyrant no different from Hitler, and worse if you count number of people he killed. After the war Soviet Imperialism had its boot over the neck of Eastern Europe until barely 20 years ago.

      Oh at Stalingrad 90,000 Germans surrendered, not 6 million! About 500,000 were killed during the battle. Of those 90,000 who surrendered, only 5,000 made it back from the Gulag camps.

    • I think the russian winter was as much a barrier as the english channel. and @saxan66 I reckon hitler would still have been beat even without direct intervention of the other allies, the russians were able to accept high casualties where as the germans could not. also the russians where in possession of some pretty good tanks and had a much larger workforce than the germans.
      Even if germany won russia would have been a very hard country to occupy properly. But then again if much of the luftwaffer had not been destroyed by the RAF who knows.

      Same goes the other way though, the industrial might of america may have certainly grinded the germans down, the germans were short on many materials needed to fight a war properly, mainly fuel (part of the reason for invading russia) and the americans could make ships tanks and aeroplanes faster than the germans could destroy them

      • hi alxus, thankyou for your comment but like i have said many times it was more than just one person or country that defeated the axis powers in ww2 as it truly was a world war fought on so many fronts and countries. the problem we seem to get here is the pissing contest of who was best, american, russian , british etc, it was not one but all that defeated them including so many other nationalities. we can suppose all we like about what would of happened if this had happened or that but we will never know because of the way it did end. we all have our bias and i do too but also try to see the influence all had on the war and its outcome.
        for all the ifs buts and maybes i prefer to deal with what happened and the consequences.

        • dont worry I fully realise that all countries had there importance in bringing down the axis I was just being purely hypothetical

      • The Germans may have been able to defeat Russia if:
        1.They had attcked earlier in Spring, to give them a longer campaigning season
        2. They had gotten the support of the locals. It is well known that the Germans treated locals brutally, and that the russians had hundreds of thousands of resistance fighters in the Germans conquered territory, even though they were originally pleased to have been freed from communism before they realized Nazi policy towards Slavs.

    • Ugh. Where does one begin with this Stalin-worshipping, revisionist history garbage? How about the fact that the Soviet military would’ve been a lot better prepared if Stalin hadn’t murdered much of the officer corps during the purges of the 1930’s? How about the fact that Stalin was shocked that Hitler attacked despite being constantly told by the officers he had left that Germany was about to invade? How about the fact that Stalin wasn’t a general?

      It’s not even worth going further.

  119. lightnessss on

    “Napoleon didn’t possess what he needed to posses in order to attain the final victory. ”

    what final victory ?
    the only final victory for a general is retirement or death… no general win eternally

    and what is a general ?
    Patton was a general: he made war with other generals to win a war
    Napoleon wasn’t a general for long, he became quickly a ruler who gave orders to many other generals
    not the same job nor the same responsabilities, they cannot be compared
    if yes so Hitler must be in the list too, because each time Rommel won its Hitler who won too
    so if we consider each general’s victory according to his ruler, Bonaparte is far better than Wellington in term of victories
    that’s why, like Patton, Wellington cannot be compared with Napoleon, same as Hitler or Stalin cannot be compared with an adversary general, who is only a “tool” in ruler’s hands
    Napoleon and Alexander can be compared for example, same league, even if I don’t know who is better and why

    and what is western ?
    when I read comments I see American generals, European generals and oriental generals !
    so what is the west exactly ?!

    I consider myself Joan of Arc one of the best general of all time:
    – she was the youngest of all (a teen !)
    – she was a woman (she wore an armor and leaded men !)
    – she was a simple peasant (and she made with trained soldiers !)
    – she made war with a conquered and despaired nation
    – even nowadays she still a symbol of courage and hope, the most important qualities for a general !

    with these criterias, I can consider that Leonidas is a one of the best generals too, leading troops to a certain death is really more glorious and difficult than leading troops to a certain victory, that’s why Napoleon could have more glory than Wellington after Waterloo…
    the CAUSE make the best generals

    • why leonidas has gone down in history as a great general i have no idea. he is known for one battle which was lost, phyrric victory it might be, but after the battle half of greece was burned and sacked including athens. lets also think of his glorious last stand, the only reason he stayed was the oracle told him he would die in battle and so save sparta. so to save sparta he must die, in doing this he wasted the lives of 1000 men instead of saving them to fight another day. glorious maybe be a bit wasteful. the man who won this war wasn’t leonidas it was Themosticles and it was won at sea at salamis.

      I dont see anything glorious about napoleons defeat, throwing thousands of men at the british lines to be slaughtered at the slimest chance of victory isnt glorious. especially when there others lives.

      • lightnessss on

        It was glorious because it was a last chance for him to rule again
        I don’t understand why you are taking care of the men who were “slaughtered”, EVERY general risk the others lives ! If you don’t like wars, men deaths and destruction, why are you here on a top list like that ? lol
        and the chances to win a battle is UNKNOWN until the battle is over, many generals in history won being outnumbered (and vice versa)
        for Leonidas, you are certainly right, I don’t know yet his story by the detail…
        but you can see one thing however, that is Leonidas is still a SYMBOL nowadays, and symbols don’t win battles I agree but they are the engine for men to fight for a cause, you can kill men but you cannot kill symbols…
        like said Napoleon: “He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat”, that’s how you enter or not history, and Leonidas entered history, all the same

        • you miss understand me , when i say wasteful of men im looking at it as a trait of the general. this is the reason that there are not going to be any ww1 generals here.

        • i agree with you alxus on that point, a great general is made up of many talents and that has to include how you treat your men and we have seen so often how generals have needlessly wasted mens lives when there has been no chance of victory, as you pointed out with ww1 and the lack of any generals being mentioned by any of us from that period making the list. yes generals will make mistakes but they must learn from them and history which has to be one of there best tools yet somany havent!!

    • I think he meant make a sustainable nation.
      eg. Roman Republic, Han China did make a sustainable nations
      Roman Empire and Alexanders empire were not sustainable

      • you would think that but actually it was. it was only due to the greed of his sucessors that his son never ruled. but the empire was still ruled by greeks until the romans took over. pontus, egypt, the selucid empire and others were all ruled by the ancestors of alexanders generals, cleopatra (the mark antony and cleopatra one) was the first egyptian ruler since alexander took over to actually speek egyptian the rest all just spoke greek

        • Hey, I am not saying it was Alexanders fault that his emplire wasn’t sustainable, it just wasn’t because he died young and the other generals dove for patches of his empire, and I do know Ptolemy dynasty was Macedonian. Just the ones I mentioned did fall, if only because of bad luck. I have said earlier that Alexanders only flaw was that he died young and his heir was not old enough

  120. Ghengis khan is hands down the greatest general of all time. He conquered 1/4 of the worlds land mass with a small army of barbarian horseman that had no written language. He destroyed the 2 greatest powers of the time china and the kwarezham empire of the middle east both of which had bigger armies and better equipment.

  121. My history forum debated this for months with hundreds of historians debating good points. The final tally for the top 5 was:

    Ghengis khan

    These are considered the best generals in history no question.

    • Excellent list – I dont think anybody can deny that these guys are among the best. The same cannot be said about the original list – It was ridiculous: Attila (who knows any details about his battles and strategy), Joan (as for Attila), Patton (winning some battles as a subcommander in a war where others plan the grand strategy and your side has supreme air superiority and better equipment doesn’t make you a all time top 10 commander) are the least convincing – Lee and Washington also appears to have been included for patriotic reasons.

  122. horrible list. Their are many generals far greater than these people. For excmaple why was Subodei not included? The man conquered 32 nations won all his battles(65 pitched battles) engineered a brilliant spy force and succesfully invaded russia and europe destroying the greateast calvry in eastern europe.
    Where the heck is Gustavus adolphus? Adolphus was a genius who transformed sweden from a backwards euro nation into a great power he was one of the founders of modern warfare and his gustavian infantry put an end to spanish Tercio superiority.
    Or how about Philip augustas. Philip was the man who controlled ille de france. The angevins and burgundy ruled nearly his entire kingdom. Yet this man was able to break the angevin power in france and laid the foundations for french rise to power.
    Classical generals Cyrus the great should be included otherwise i agree with the lsit alrready listed by other posters.
    what happened to prominent byzantine generals such as Heraklius. The man who retook within a decade the entirety of byzantine possestions from Khosraou II and broke persian power. what about Alexius Komnenos the man who restored the empire and started the komenoi restoration. or Manuel who made byzantium a great power. Where is Mehmet II or even Sueleyman for that matter.
    For wwII what happened to rokossovsky the man who brke the german army and one of the greateast wwii genrals. he was bloody brilliant far better of a general than Patton or Zhukov for that matter.
    I wont even talk about eastern generals due to the great many of them people like Zhuge liang, sun ce, Zhang liao, Uesugi kenshin, takeda shingen, sun tzu and many others.
    Plus let us talk about generals like Baibars(he was a far greater general than Saladin) the man who halted the mongol advance, engineered the mamuleke slave revolt and put an end to the crusader states.
    So IMO this list is very badly researched and im sorry to say not really accurate.
    George washington was a good general but were it not for french, spanish, german help the rev would have failed.
    just my two cents.
    BTW the generals i listed are not all of them their are many generals just as good i felt no need to list.

    • Well, as for the Eastern generals, this is posted as a list of top WESTERN generals. There’s plenty to debate over those listed, but one thing that can’t be attacked is the idea that great Eastern generals aren’t being listed among the top Western generals.

      • I know but I was only saying if he wanted eastern generals. Read my list I talked about many westerngenerals as well and all of them are a great if not more than the ones on this list. Just read through my explanations.

    • 1.Caesar. Before the modern time he actually fought more pitched battles than anyone else before Napoleonic era. He did suffer few losses and made mistakes like Gergovia and Dirrahium, although but the point is that he always realized when he was wrong and was able to change his plan in a blink of an eye. He never missed opportunity to finish off his opponents. Incredible abilities and personality.

      2. Alexander the Great. He did not fight as many pitched battles as caesar, but many times less, probably 10 time less and his opponents were weaker than those of Caesar. Caesar did not win just ovver gauls, Germans and other barbarians. He was able to defeat the greatest general of the age Pompeus and numerically superior Roman forces on many occasions.

      Nevetheless Alexander is a superior general and is the number 2.

      3. Napoleon. He is very similar to Caesar but unlike Caesar he did not learn well from his mistakes and was too arrogant which caused his down fall.

      Cannot be number 1 as he lost at the end.

      4. Hannibal.

      Amazing talent. Huge victories over dangerous Roman armies. He however lacked Caesar’s killer instinct and did not finish off Romans when he had a chance. He lost.

      5. Alexander Souvorov. I have no idea why this general is being overlooked but this is the one who had as many pitched battles as Caesar himself and never lost a battle. i consider him military reincarnation of Julius Caesar, very similar tactics and behavior. Had he met Napoleon history might have been different. He did beat all of Napoleon best generals.

      5. Scipion Africanus. What can be told. He changed the way Roman army fought and using this change he was able to defeat Hannibal in only battle Hanibal ever lost. He is very underrated but also never lost a battle.

      6. Subedei Bahatur. This is the general of Chengis Han. Some call Chengis as a one of the greatest but Chengis was not a general but a strategist and organizer, great leader. Subedei actually was the best of his generals and his brilliance is unquestionable. His raid from Central Asia with Jebe Noion across Caucasus into Russian land and defeat of so many people along the way including superior Russian forces is a fit that hard to repeat. Superior cavalry commander, no one was better at planning and executing cavalry battles.

      7. Pirrus. The relative of Alexander the Great. Brilliant tactician but bad strategist.

      Won all the battles against Romans but his lack of strategic abilities and obviously Roman toughness prevented him from victory.

      8. Guderian. I think it must be obvious. Applying Mongol tactics to tank warfare. The guy was brilliant.

      9.Zhukov. I put him as low because of proclivity to sacrifice so many soldiers to achieve his goals. I doubt he would survive as a Roman commander. One of centurions or soldiers would run a sword through him for not taking care of his men. Russian soldier is a meek and lazy and they allowed to use them as a fodder. Otherwise, brilliant planning of great operation like Stalingrad, Kursk, Bagration.

      10. Have no idea whom to put here. First 9 stick out, the rest. I do not know. It might be Gai Marius, Sulla, Khalid ibn al-Walid or some other.

      Read more:

  123. 1. Alexander- never lost
    2. Wellesley- never really lost a real battle, only his small night attack outside Seringapatam early in his career
    3. Caesar
    4. Napoleon
    5. Scipio (Africanus)
    6. Hannibal- can’t put him in front of Scipio, tough to put him in front of Quintus Fabius Maximus
    7. Lee- Though i love Washington, he is the greatest of the Americas
    8. Alfred of Wessex- defeated the Danes against the worst possible odds
    9. Flavius Aetius- The Last Roman- if you’re going to say Attila, you have to include the guy defeated him and salvaged Rome a bit longer until after his death
    10. John Churchill

    It says a lot if my #3 guy broke down at the foot of #1’s statue and cried because at his age, Alexander had conquered the world while Caesar had basically done nothing. There is no debate- any list without Alexander has no merit whatsoever.

  124. This is a difficult list to make as there are so many varying factors in the vast timeline in which these figures lived and fought. So I think in order to do this with any semblence of objectivity one must single out certain accomplishments or characteristics that make one General better than another.
    For example, general knowledge of field strategy, leadership ability, intuitiveness, number of successes, mitigation of losses, size and capability of foes in comparison to their own forces, land mass conquered compared to before start of campaign and enduring legacy.
    My personal favourite is Alexander the Great but I’m not a historian to know whether he was better than all others, also like the conquests of Sulaiman “the Magnificent” and Cyrus the Great.

  125. IMO one the best generals in history would have to be Sigismund of Poland Sigismund the Great was the man who established the PLC as one of the storngest and largest nations in Europe. He was King of Poland, HRE, and claimed the Swedesh and Russian thrones taking the later after a successful campaign. He was the man who basically gave Poland Great power status and made him one of the most strongest monarchs in the world at the time.
    A great classical genera other than Alexaner would have to be Aetius Flavius. Aetius was the one who defeated the Huns and saved the roman empire from Atilla’s wrath. he was a brilliant general who accomplished amazing things given the resources he had. Why dont you recognize him. He was universally known as the last great Roman.

    As for early medieval look at Heraclius. Heraclius inherited a roman empire on the brink of collapse. The Persians had conquered egypt, levant, and Anatolia and were besieging Constantinople, the slavs had control over the balkans. But it was HEraclius who would lead a brilliant invasion and soon reconquer all the lands from Persia in a lightning campaign. He would also destroy the Slavs and conquer the balkans as well as push back the lombards. He was one of the greateast Byzantine emperors.

    Now how about we look at the general Gustavus Adolphus. Do you people even know who this man was? He was the founder of Modern warfare, ended the Tercio supremacy in Europe and turned Sweden into a great power.
    Have you people forgotten Louis the great of Hungary
    As for ROme why doesnt anyone remember Trajan the man who extended ROme to its greatest borders in 117. Jeez such a sad list

    • I have to disgress my friend, Gustavus Adolphus is indeed considered the father of modern warfare, his infantry tactics marked the beginning of the end of the tercio formation. but we must take into acount that tercio composed armies still won many victories, the end of the tercio and spanish supremacy came with the battle of rocroi. but you probably know that.

      personally i would remove Robert E Lee, Washington, Joan de Arc, Patton why you may ask:

      Robert E Lee was indeed a very good general, but one of the 10 best? i doubt it he has a history full of controversial decitions and failures like Gettysburg. he is good but there are many better

      Washington: Great Politician and Visionary, but lets get real he sucked as a general, he lost almost every major engagement.

      Joan of Arc: good leader and general, but i think its career was rather short and tragic.

      Patton: He is a Great genera, one of the best in history with flawless militaty victories, but WWII had lots of great commanders Manstein, Rommel, Monty, Zhukov, Rokossovsky etc. choosing Patton over them its just a matter of which general you like more.

      My list would be

      Cyrus the Great
      Frederick the II
      Attila the Hun
      Julius Caesar
      Subotai: i know Ghengis was the leader of the mongolian army but Subotai was his prime strategist and advisor
      Alexander the Great: It simply cant get better that this Period, all of the mentioned above with the exception of maybe subotai, respected Alexander as the greatest general of history

    • OK, pass Sigizmund.
      Heraclius almost lost the whole of Eastern Empire before making his move. Then he lost to Arabs. All in all. He is not same caliber as for example those I mentiuoned on my own version of first top 10. can you imagine Heraclius standing against anyone of the men I have mentioned.
      Trajan was a good general. Solid. But no flare of genius. Adolphus is also good, but frankly, no one of those you proposed would stand against generals of my version. Against Caesar? Alexander? Hannibal? Africanus? Subedei? Suvorov? Napoleon? Come on. Not same level. No genius which you cannot miss in case of the above mentioned names.

  126. Hannibal’s father was Hamilcar, not Hasdrubal. Hasdrubal was the name of his older brother in law and younger brother.

    An interesting choice would also be Xanthippus, the Spartan general that helped Carthage during the first Punic war.

  127. Johnny English on

    Just like the one who put this here is obviously russian!Of course “Attila” deserves to be there!Very underrated commander!

  128. Here is my list of military leaders. I am changing the parameters a little by not limiting myself to ten, allowing for naval geniuses, and letting others put them in order. We have over 3,000 years of history to go over, and just talking about those who put boots on land and limiting them to 10 is ludicrous….Here they are, in the ORDER I THOUGHT THEM UP…

    1)Alexander the Great (men have been trying to equal him thousands of years later and never succeeding.)

    2) Scipio Africanus-Delenda Carthago est. Nuff said.

    3) Julius Caesar-All Gaul divided unto three parts, and he even got to wander into Britannia and form a key role in the First Triumverate. Hail, Caesar!!

    4) Lysander-I am surprised people forget him. The man was the hero of the Peloponnesian War. Brilliant commander.

    5) Charles “The Hammer” Martel-against all odds this man rebuffed the Arabian advance while Spain and Portugal had to endure centuries under a Caliphate because of failure. In a manner of speaking, he was one of the founders of France.

    6) Jeanne D’Arc: I think people whining about a peasant girl who rose to be a rallying cry for a beleaguered nation sadder than her actual career: she was a woman living in the 12th century whose prospects were to marry, bear babies, and die at age 37. She instead helped a king get crowned, a nation beat the English, and be the inspiration of millions of female soldiers to date. She was also only 17 or 18 when she fought, and in spite of being illiterate, showed signs of being a military genius.

    7) Charlemagne: like grandfather, like grandson.

    8) Napoleon Bonaparte: Anyone who has ever listened to Beethoven’s Fifth, originally dedicated to Bonaparte, even if he does not know the historical facts, will understand the thunder and lightning tactics he wrought upon Europe that defined the rest of the century.

    9) Boudicca: the Queen of the Iceni fought to the last man standing and was willing to lie in a pool of her own blood before letting the Romans take over her home. Gets a spot on my list for being the most courageous.

    10) John Churchill, duke of Marlborough: his descendant, Winston, wrote in great detail of this man, and deservedly. The only sad thing is that British students do not study his tactics at the Battle of Blenheim more in school.

    11) Horatio Nelson: The greatest admiral ever to have lived. To not include him as an equal to the people on this list is scandalous. Lord Nelson fought

    12) Bernard Montgomery: A lot of people have been squabbling over this man’s legacy, but the fact of the matter is that he, even while sick as a dog, began the turn of the war for Britain in North Africa even when outgunned and with the heart of a nation riding on his shoulders. Full stars for Monty.

    13) Dwight David Eisenhower: No man in history ever asked for the kind of power that Eisenhower held during the planning of Operation Overlord. He was very different from Patton in style and in temperament (Eisenhower had a lot more patience and a low key presence among the men who stunk as a field commander, Patton was the inverse) but he was an excellent chess player, so to speak. He also had what a lot of men didn’t on this list-humility. He was scared of making mistakes because he knew the risk and devastation to the men involved if he failed…he wanted that failure to be his alone if Rommel kept Normandy. If Patton had been given supreme command of Overlord or the Bulge he would never have been able to get all those men (with considerable military expertise) to work together and he would have not been able to keep his impulsive side in check. Being full of p*ss and vinegar is one thing, but intellect and humility are also a must. Full points to Ike.

    13) Francis Marion: I am going to get a lot of flak for putting this guy on the list, because he never made it past brigadier general and the rules of engagement he used were very different than the standards we use today (the man was born in 1732.) However, he was a better leader than Washington was. Marion had a ragtag group of men to work with and no Von Steuben to save him, but he and his men often gave a walloping on the enemy , which were often in larger numbers. He rarely was in a frontal attack formation, but he was much better at hiding himself and coming out of nowhere, pouncing like a cat. Cornwallis himself said Marion scared the bej*sus out of his soldiers.

    14) John Paul Jones-here was a man who would not quit. Even when the ship was going down, his men would have to practically carry him kicking and screaming away from the helm and his fight on the Bonhomme Richard is legendary (and both boats are still at the bottom of the old briney just off the coast of England.)

    Honorable mention:

    Simon Bolivar

    Giuseppe Garibaldi

    Brian Boru

    • bringyagrogalong on

      Montgomery was rightly held in contempt by the Americans for always procrastinating and only ever moving into battle when he had overwhelming superiority.

      Rather like George B. McClellan in the American Civil War.

      But don’t take my word for it…

      “Eisenhower had wanted Montgomery to go on the offensive on 1 January to meet Patton’s army that had started advancing from the south on 19 December and in doing so, trap the Germans.
      However, Montgomery refused to commit infantry he considered underprepared into a snowstorm and for a strategically unimportant piece of land. He did not launch the attack until 3 January, by which point the German forces had been able to escape. A large part of American military opinion thought that he should not have held back, though it was characteristic of him to use drawn-out preparations for his attack”.

      In short, he was an incompetent, jumped up little ponce who wasn’t a commanders arsehole.

      • Your wrong.

        Montgomery was held in contempt by the Americans because of his superior atittude and extremely difficult personality. The American Generals also had available to them far greater resources than Montgomery had available to him – particularly in manpower – and few realized let alone recognized the manpower restraints he was operating under.

        Very few people, however, questioned his abilities as a competant soldier.

        Bradley, who hated Monty, stated that OVERLORD could not have been won without him, called him irreplacable to the execution of the cross-channel invasion and stated that he was the perfect boss.

        James Gavin stated that while Monty may not have been as aggressive as the likes of Patton he had a high level of respect for Monty’s abilities. He praised Montgomery’s handling of the northern sector of Battle of the Bulge but criticized him for not attacking earlier.

        Eisenhower stated that Montgomery was undoubtedly a highly competent and effective soldier and general but added that he needed a strong immediate commander to keep him on track and away from politics of inter-allied relations – then singularly failed to be that strong immediate commander and relied on Alanbrooke to keep Monty in his place.

        Hodges and Simpson – who both spent extended periods of time under Montgomery’s command – never said one bad word about him as a military man and Robert Hasbrouck praised Monty as the saviour of the 7th Armored Division and held him in high regards for the rest of his life.

        Walter Bedel Smith got extremely fed up with the American press and historians taking shots at Montgomery post-war and said that for all his personal faults Monty was an effective commander and, whatever else was said about him, he got the Allies across the channel and nobody else could have done it.

        Montgomery was called the finest tactical general Britain had had since Wellington by Field Marshal Alanbrooke and Gerd Von Rundstedt named him as one of the two best generals he ever faced – the other being Patton. Furthermore Rommel stated that Montgomery did not rely on military theory or intuition by on tried and tested methods that he had experianced personally that worked and as such was a totally professional commander who did not take risks similar to those that had so exposed his predecessors.

  129. I enjoyed reading the information on generals and learned from it.

    The text is well-written; however, sentence structure and punctuation errors remain that make some of it hard to follow.

    Thank you for such an interesting and informative page.


  130. Great list! But what about Cromwell (over Washington – whom I admire greatly), Grant (over Lee – whom I acknowledge as a brilliant tactician) and and Eisenhower (over Patton)?

    • Lee was the better soldier and won more engagements than Grant. Robert E. Lee had everything: he had a pedigree of military command going back many years (Charles Lee) he was well regarded in his military institute days, and he was a decent commander in the field-the men respected him.

      But it is my private opinion that the cool, clinical eye Lee had when it came to planning was also his downfall. Grant, in terms of temperament, was a lot of things that Lee wasn’t. Beneath the surface here was a more emotional man. There is an account of Grant during the Wilderness campaign going into his tent and bawling like a baby, after a huge battle he became completely unglued. He was not prone to becoming a blubbering mass of goo, mind; for weeks he’d been solid as a rock and the next day he was totally steady-turning into a jellyfish would have made it impossible for him to do his job or keep it. But Grant allowed himself to be human: he drank like a fish, smoked like a chimney, and poured himself an extra glass of whiskey after another round of arguments with Lincoln. He was a loser. He was far from the teacher’s pet or the straight A student and didn’t take for granted that he’d always triumph. With losers, sometimes, you have to remember that they’ve lost so many times that in the end they may just take that and learn how to win: Robert E. Lee expected a classical old style battle and had been conditioned to see war that way since he was a teenager. U.S. Grant understood that in a state of modern total war the rules change and it would be very bloody but it would end in victory.

      As for Patton vs. Eisenhower, here is another contrast in both style and approach. I have already outlined it a bit above. But to say that one was better than the other, well, is disingenuous. Do I think that Patton could have done a better job than Eisenhower if he was in charge of Overlord?-Absolutely not. Handing command over to him would not have been a good idea. He was just too wild. My other choices for Supreme Commander would have been Marshall (if Eisenhower, say, got blown up by a landmine he’d be the guy I would want replacing Eisenhower at the helm, although prying him out of the paws of Roosevelt in DC would take a lot of pleading on the part of Churchill.) As a second choice it would have been a coin toss between Ridgway and Bradley.

      If it was too late to rearrange their positions in battle, I would have done the following: I would have gotten Bradley, Ridgway, Ironside, Brooke, and Churchill all in the same room (Roosevelt would be listening in over the phone.) I then would have all the men tell Monty that he was going to get Supreme Command, congratulations. But there would be a catch or two. He had to stick to the battle tactics and Brooke would be delegated matters on interallied politics. He also had to subject some of his ideas to a vote. (I know in the military this is almost unheard of, but for Monty, a must.) His mistakes would be pointed out to him…and it would be explained that repeating them would not be an option.

    • Kerby Telemaque on

      General Toussaint :the only Black general to defeat three of the world’s biggest armies: French, British and Spanish.

    • Jeanne very well may have been schizophrenic, but more likely she was just deeply religious-who listens to you when you are a 17 year old girl who should be making plans to get pregnant and die of plague like all the other peasants?!. However, schizophrenic, sinner, or saint, she gave soldiers something they needed desparately: a reason to BELIEVE, and someone they could believe in. That can be more powerful than a hundred tanks and thousands of weapons. OTT, she was excellent in battle : the victory at Orleans was wondrous because, unlike the approach of the generals before her arrival, her approach was to be much more aggressive: something the enemy didn’t expect. She liked to use cavalry to break lines, which was successful and helped convince the dauphin to keep her on….eventually, thanks to her, they managed in the end to throw out the English.

    • 2 things. 1 – debatable point, 2 – The list is about “Generals”. A General is specifically a commander of Land based forces, a General can strategically command Land, Sea and Air but his main role is with the Army not the Navy or Airforce.

      Nimitz was an Admiral and therefore does not fall into the category needed to be part of the list. The same would be true of any other Admiral or Naval Commander throughout history from Thermistocles to Togo Heihachiro and beyond

      • Gee,thanks so much for clearing that up. I always thought he was a general. When I was in the Navy he was the Fleet Admiral (there is no higher rank) but I thought he was a general or maybe a corporal–Who knew? You must really be smart.

  131. This list is a COMPLETE failure.
    I agree with most of the generals here but the order of this list is terrible. As much as I adore Napoleon, I must agree with another reviewer in saying that he eventually lost his entire empire. But never mind that, where are Themistocles and…ALEXANDER THE GREAT!

    Themistocles was an excellent strategist and analyser, showed by the fact that he prepared Athens well for a war and knew that the city’s supreme advantage lay at sea. Thus, he had the city more directly connected with the sea and built a superb fleet of the most advanced ships. He saved Greece from Persia more than once and showed his practicality in successfully commanding both naval and land battles that changed history, most notably the Battle of Marathon and the Battle of Salamis. He also showed an outstanding understanding of the importance of terrain and used this to defeat the Persians although far outnumbered. He sent the Persians FLEEING from Greece!! His victories also left an important legacy as they protected democracy and propelled Athens into a Golden Age. Thucydides says he was “a man who exhibited the most indubitable signs of genius; indeed, in this particular he has a claim on our admiration quite extraordinary and unparalleled”.
    Diodorus:”What other man, while Sparta still had the superior strength and the Spartan Eurybiades held the supreme command of the fleet, could by his single-handed efforts have deprived Sparta of that glory? Of what other man have we learned from history that by a single act he caused himself to surpass all the commanders, his city all the other Greek states, and the Greeks the barbarians? In whose term as general have the resources been more inferior and the dangers they faced greater? Who, facing the united might of all Asia, has found himself at the side of his city when its inhabitants had been driven from their homes, and still won the victory?”
    Thus, Plutarch rightly calls him “the man most instrumental in achieving the salvation of Greece.”

    Now, the real problem with this list: Alexander the Great.

    Alexander killed his first man at 12, fought his first battle at 16 and became a general at 18. At 22 he led an invasion of the Persian Empire and by the time of his death, ten years later, he ruled the biggest empire the world had ever seen.

    At the Battle of Chaeronea when he was 18, Alexander led the entire left wing of his father’s army in a spectacular cavalry charge against the invincible Sacred Band and utterly destroyed it. Not only did he defeat the Sacred Band but also ensured his father’s victory over the Athenians and Thebans by carrying out the cavalry charge which was of paramount importance in the strategy of the entire army.

    In the Persian invasion, Alexander fought four great battles: Granicus, Issus, Gaugamela and Hydaspes. He made the impossible possible when he crossed the deep Granicus river which had a steep bank to encounter the enemy on the other side and then routed them. At Issus he demonstrated excellent usage of the terrain, using the sea to cover his left flank. He also led a terrifying cavalry charge directly at the Darius III of Persia who fled. Darius was himself a respectable swordsman and quite courageous; that Alexander caused his flight is significant proof of what a brilliant general he was.At Gaugamela Alexander was again outnumbered at least five to one. Again he led a decisive and risky cavalry charge, stretching the Persian line until a gap appeared at the Persian centre, at which point he changed direction and charged into the gap, straight at Darius who once again fled. It was a decisive victory.At the Hydaspes he fought an enemy so brave that he spared his life. He deployed superb manoeuvres and secrecy tactics and fought against something very new: elephants and still won.

    Alexander’s real genius lay in his versatility. He fought not only battles but commanded sieges and was able to adopt guerrilla tactics when fighting nomad tribes. He commanded an extremely disciplined army and what has been agreed to have been the best cavalry force in history. Throughout his reign he was constantly fighting and received many wounds, some which almost claimed his life. He always led from the front and did everything his men did. He earned the title ‘the Great’ from his military brilliance and despite being typically outnumbered, never lost a battle. This was due to terrain use, the love of his troops, his versatility, tactics and bold manoeuvres.

    Julius Caesar cried because at 33, the age at which Alexander died, he hadn’t achieved anything great; other leaders such as Napoleon, Augustus and Trajan admired him, he was the standard to which every general has compared himself and always fallen short. After his death all other great generals venerated him and his tactics are still taught in military academies worldwide.

    No-one on that list has the epitaph ‘the Great’ due to military success. No-one on that list has been as rightly admired Alexander and therefore it is a terrible scandal that Alexander is not top of that list.

    While I don’t disagree with all the names on that list I think these generals deserve to be on that list.

    • I put Caesar above Alexander. Yes, Caesar wiped when seeing Alexander’s statue. However, you should not forget that Alexander was a king and inherited well trained and equipped army my from his father Phillipus II. Caesar on the other hand came from ancient and noble but not very successful at the time Roman patrician family. Everything he archived was due to his own efforts and genius. He built his own army which in my opinion was the best there is and far better than that of Alexander. Caesar also faced much tougher oppostion in another Roman armies led by the better generals than Alexander met.

      • Well, there’s a saying: ‘It’s easy to achieve an A but it’s difficult to maintain it.” That certainly applies to the Alexander inheriting from Philip. Philip trained the army,yes, but what would’ve happened if Alexander didn’t maintain it? Alexander drastically improved the army which Philip created. The army created by Philip was so steeped in training that when it faced guerilla tactics it failed miserably but with Alexander it adapted- thanks to Alexander’s genius! The Macedonians would’ve been slaughtered in Scythia if Alexander hadn’t been their commander! Also, Alexander did train men from scratch as it’s well know he received many reinforcements which had firstly been trained and then brought into battle, not mention the allied troops he employed to his style and usage. Caesar….well he spent 9 years in Gaul alone,constantly being defeated before having the Gauls surrender. 9 years! That’s how long Alexander took to conquer half of the world’s largest continent! Yes, Caesar’s opponents were tough but they were all Gauls. He had enough time to figure out how to defeat them but no, he took nine years to figure it out and even then nearly failed. Unlike Caesar, Alexander didn’t do half victories. He faced varying opponents constantly, having to develop innovative strategy after strategy to defeat his enemies. Caesar only faced one enemy, one population, one fighting style. But he took NINE YEARS to figure it out! Alexander didn’t take 9 years to conquer one people, in 9 years he conquered the largest empire the world had then seen.
        Caesar should be after Alexander, not above, because he simply was very slow and didn’t adapt quickly and well enough.

  132. I would think that General Halftrack should be on this list somewhere. I mean,he has to deal with Sargeant Snorkel and Beetle and a nagging wife on a daily basis. That’s gotta be tough. The man’s a hero.

  133. I’ve come back to this list and the comments below several times and have been impressed with many (but not all) of the arguments made here. It’s been interesting and fun reading what a number of obviously intelligent and well-read people have to say.

    But I must say that in the end trying to come up with a list of the top 10 generals of all time is a completely asinine exercise.

    Quite simply, it is absolutely impossible to claim with any real authority or proof that Great General “A” is better or worse than Great General “B” because in order to do that you would have to put them both in the same exact situations, during the same exact time period with the same exact training and men and then judge how they performed based on some subjective ideas about what makes a general “great.”

    All else is just complete conjecture and mere opinion.

    • Jack–I agree with you 100%. There’s noway to know how Alexander and his men would have reacted to fighter plane straffings or how Patton would have done with a sword on the back of a bucking steed (although he did claim to have lived back then-haha) Best post so far.

      • Not a valid point. Your opinion based upon premise that fighter jet must be more frightening than wall of spears and swords pointed at you. In reality it is much more frightening to fight this kind of combat than to face jets. It is immediate and unavoidable danger from which you cannot hide in fox hole. Wonder why almost every ancient battle ended in such bloodshed that barely any of losers survived?
        I also want to point that we can see someone dancing and we know that he/ she has got a talent. Not much difference in war art. When you have someone like Napoleon, Caesar, Suvorov, Hannibal, Alexander, Subedei, Guderian, Zhukov and know that each of them fought a very large number of pitched battles statistic becomes unavoidable and you can also see talent behind decisions and combat behavior.
        Each one of the acted in his own era but we do not have to put Alexander vs. pancer grup to see if he is up to the task.

        • actually, I have been. but it is we who had jets. Modern combat is dehumanizing. it is machine like environment and there is no place for heroics.

        • I’ll stand by my statement–You were never in 20th century combat-It’s obvious from your own words.

        • It is pointless anyway. In modern warfare you can hide. Try to imagine yourself standing still in line and firing at each other and not been able to even move, it is 17-19 th centuries combat. Not frightening? or same but with swords and spears? It is obviously very frightening to be under jet fire, but psychologically you at least can hide. Well, my grandma was hiding from German planes.

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  135. Men can be drilled and conditioned to any circumstances. This thread is about great generals not about imaginary situations putting ancient Macedonians under German planes.

  136. Quite right Sergey, but please everyone lets remember a few basics! without many men to fight their battles these men wouldnt be great, their accolade is dependant on their individual ability and the collective of their men! secondly all warfare is frightning, trust me! regardless of the era , anyone who has faced losing their life in combat knows this, just ask them! whether its spears, jets, bombs it doesnt matter…….whether you can see your enemy or not, it is all frightning, having fear doesnt make you weak, but you have it in that situation, those who have been there know what im talking about ! those who dont , be respectful with your comments!

    • saxan66, you are absolutely right and there is nothing to add.
      I think it was diversion and it would be better now to follow the topic which is top 10.
      I am personally of very low opinion about modern commanders and even 20th century in my opinion did not produce genius comparable to previous epochs.

      • Thankyou Sergey, and I agree.Now onto this list is ,its a great list! What i hear you all scream, no not for the people on it but the way it has stimulated some great debate on the abilities of the generals of so many eras and the knowledge many have on here.
        I have to disagree with you Sergey my friend, I think there have been many excellent modern commanders its just where do they fit in a top 10??? thats the problem I have! The more history I study the more I can do a top 10 for eras but not the entire history. again a good debate, maybe we should start that topic?? say best generals from napoleonic wars, ww1, ww2, crusades, etc……..or the best one from each era??? the possibilities are endless!

  137. as for patton…. i consider him to be the “edison” of the military world…

    thats NOT a compliment, rather to look at edison and the acclaim he got,
    well he got all the acclaim but actually acheived next to noithing, no funtioning patents at all!
    Militarily he( patton not edison lol) did well with what he had ,his way, which worked!
    but taking all into account, he would have been shot if he had not been victorious over an enemy in which he had 1 total air superiority , total man power advantage , total material advantage..
    he had EVERY advantage.. so to rate him high is wrong.
    we have to look at those who were on an even or of tilt playing field to their opponents.

    • This is the best description of this supposedly “great” general.
      I can only add he was a crazy dude.
      He should have proven his mettle by fighting Germans in the East and few years earlier not in the West in 1944 when Germany was already on the brink of losing war and practically defeated by Russians. His experience would have been quite different.

      • Congrats Sergey, you’ve written the stupidest comment so far.

        How the hell is supposed to prove his mettle by fighting Germans in the East? He was an AMERICAN general. Was he supposed to defect to the Soviets? Unbelievable.

        Furthermore, Patton began fighting the Germans in Africa in March 1943, not 1944.

        And now a rant from Sergey in which he completely overrates the Soviet generals of World War II and denigrates every other countries’ contributions in 5…4…3…2…

        • LOL, I am actually of pretty low opinion of Soviet generals you can see it in my Top 10.
          But I am equally of pretty low opinion of US/British generals. I do not think any of them makes top 10. May be only Zhukov and only by default.
          Patton was not a great general he is depicted in US history. He was pretty exentric and this is his main virtue. Just a lucky one considering in what state he met Germans. Europe of 1944 or Africa of 1943 difference is not that big.
          War theaters of secondary importance compared to Eastern front with battles that had no decisive importance.

  138. By saying Patton should have proven his mettle on the Eastern front I just used hypothetical example. Of course i know he was American general. I also like his remark regarding getting to Moscow in 3 weeks.

    • Sergey, my friend im a little confused could you explain what you meant by your previous post on “war theaters of secondary importance ……… decisive importance” ???
      Please , i hope you are not refering to Overlord ( Neptune) etc ……….i do realise we all have our bias towards generals, battles etc and so far although on some things we do not agree , i do respect what you have to say as i feel you study this material, but if you are refering to those operations with that comment then my respect will be seriously eroded for you! this is at times a great debate now, but there does have to be common sense in what we say not stupidty, of which im not accusing you , unless you are saying that the operations from neptune, overlord, goodwood etc from 6 th june into normandy werent decisive or of any importance, because they were!
      Lets talk patton, whilst i would not put him in a top 10, he was an excellent general , great motivator and achieved , also against very good troops, people stop belittling the german troops, they conquered a large tract of western and eastern europe in an amazingly short time, in 3 years they didnt just become bad soldiers! they lost many, and struggled due to lack of resources at the end but still fought with great skill and courage, just as the russians, americans, british, canadians, australians etc did!

      one front did not win ww2, fact! the reason hitler was beaten was because he had to fight the ALLIES!!! not the soviets alone, or the british alone or the americans alone!

      if we are going to be subjective and so many on here want to be then think of this , britain signs a peace treaty with germany in 1940, hitler attacks soviets as he did, he can now deploy his entire and vastly superior airforce against them, there are no convoys from britain to russia………..think how it pans out!!! oh yes and as the americans are at that time extremely anti-communist they support him with materials etc just as they were going to as even at that time they werent sure of supporting britain as they didnt like the imperialist attitude it still had, and the americans even had a plan to invade britain !
      Sergey as i have said before in other posts the soviets needed the americans and british just as much as they needed the soviets to defeat herr hitler!

      • Saxan, Overlord was too late. It happened after Stalingrad and Kursk and after German military machine was already broken. 2/3 to 3/4 of all German forces were on the Eastern front. The best everything was there. It is no doubt that Eastern front was the most important and decisive front while Africa, Italy and yes even Western Europe after Overlord was launched still were side kicks..
        I consider German army the best army of the WWII> You clearly stated reasons why.
        Regarding German air force deployed against Britain, Soviets lost practically all aviation in the beginning of the war. More or less German planes would not make any difference at the time. I also notice that you put a lot of importance on British shipments. i also think that was important but you should not forget that over the period of this war Soviets overproduced Germans by great margin.
        Obviously the victory was achieved by combined efforts but main fighting was going in the East and Western front was opened after the war had been clearly lost by Germany. It would simply taken more time for them to lose.
        The Eastern front was the place where the destinies of the war were decided, not Alamein or Sicily and certainly not the battle of Bulge/ Ardene.

        I am actually more interested in ancient generalship.

        • Sergey, this is a waste of time trying to discuss with you, as your bias goes beyond all boundaries!!! it was a WORLD WAR !!!! not just the eastern front , and that was not the decisive battle at all! but from all your comments so far regardless of anyone elses opinion mine, or anyone else let alone historical fact , as far as you are concerned the only people who really decided the outcome of world war 2 were the magnificent russian troops who defeated the german army singlehandedly, except of course for the odd little insignificant skirmish that the american and british were involved in! if you employ your ideaology to ancient generalship as well then what is the point discussing any of them either because your opinion is obviously the only one that matters ! im not going to bother responding to anymore of this as you are clearly so blinkered and biased beyond all reason its frightening!
          good luck to you in your research of ancient generals……………….a few for you to consider
          noggin the nog
          harry potter
          the wizard of oz!
          hagar the horrible!
          p.s maybe read what you just said re more or less german planes wouldnt make any difference!!!! so carpet bombing of every major soviet city un defended in the air and allowing the great german war machine continuing into russia ! extra planes would make all the difference, the soviets would have been annihilated !
          the first war where air supremacy was vital was this war, fact !
          and the germans never had it , fact! major reason why they were defeated because on that front they were out fought, fact! not a front the soviets had to fight on then as you so rightly said their airforce had been so depleted! my friend , at least i know this conversation is going nowhere, because, your response is inevitable and i could write it!
          yes saxan you are right but the decisive battle was the eastern front, cos these were the only soldiers that fought any really good german soldiers , none of the other soldiers of the german army were any good blah blah blah…………
          and stalin never asked for any help from the allies it was all just a smoke screen because the great soviet people could free the world from the german and japanese tryanny all by themselves and thereby give a beautiful peace back to the world, a world in which they would then make so happy and nice and there would never be a war again and we could all live happily ever after knowing how wonderful life would be under the stewardship of dear old uncle joe! the end!

        • It is you who are biased. Stating that the war was won through Western air superiority and not on the battle fields of the Eastern Front is like being totally blind and biased.
          Have no idea what you have been smoking but keep at it.
          anyway, this discussion is obviously dead and I am done here. I did not insult you or Jack.

        • The battle of the bulge was so important and strategic!! If the 101st airborne weren’t rescued and didn’t punch through Bastogne the war may have been delayed and possibly lost!!

    • Sergey, your list is one of the best I could think about.
      But I think you committed a crucial mistake not to put Genghis Khan on the top 5.

      A fact that not many people know is that Genghis him self owns most of his great conquests to his General Tsubodai who was recruited at an very early age and was able to adapt to many bad circumstances, most of the times the Mongols were largely outnumbered.

      I recently searched for the best Snipers of history and unfortunately most of the sites putted many Americans on the list, many times even on the top of the list.

  139. firstly, read what i say sergey, i said air superioirty won that front not the entire war or was the decisive battle in the war! i always say and maintain it was an equal combined effort of all the allies! the key word being allies!!!
    secondly until now you hadnt insulted me but when you insinuate that im smoking some sort of drug then i am offended. i have at no time said you are or called you anything insulting. i respect you for your views and opinions i am just baffled that someone like you who obviously does a great deal of research in historical warfare comes up with your theory!
    obviously we will nevrer agree here on this subject so i am happy to agree to disagree and move on that to me is the way to move on, however i do not like being accused of being some drug taking loony! i served my country well and am proud to have done so and will again, i treat people decently and protect many in my current role . people who want to take drugs that is their choice but do not accuse me of it because i dont!

    • Sergay all that saxan is trying to get you to see is that other theatres played importance in in the war not which one is the most important. I think you have a very hard point to prove if you are saying it is all down to the eastern front. for example the defence of north africa meant that the germans couldn’t secure an oil supply, so they had to make a break for the russian oil leading to the turning point battle of starlingrad. no matter which theatre of war was most important they all interlocked and had some influence on the war, even if its drawing away man power and resources.

  140. I know this is kind of random but….you guys CRACK ME UP INTO MILLIONS OF PIECES!! This is really great viewing all these passionate arguments, much better than this list anyway! And history lessons….!
    Thanks guys for keeping up this debate, I’ve learnt so much, I ‘d like to thank every one who’s commented here for broadening my mind…thank you!

    • Hi Issy, well im glad we are helping not only with the history but also the entertainment!!
      I agree with you the passion is great , and i am the first to admit sometimes we all get a bit blinkered and lost, what would be really great would be able to one day meet people in person and have one to one debates and then of course a beer or three!!! or wine!!
      We all have our bias and favourites but to me the great thing is that we are all interested in the topic and we have to thank the author of this list because although flawed and of course as he has said only his opinion, it has stimulated some marvellous debates on here!!

  141. ok, i see you’ve been arguing here for quite some time, but this crossed my mind a few days ago and here’s my list:
    1. Subotai
    2. Alexander the Great
    3. Augustus Cesar
    4. Heinz Guderian
    5. Flavius Belisarius
    6. John Churchill, first Duke Of Marlborough
    7. Napoelon
    8. Hannibal Barca
    9. Alexander Suvorov
    10. Robert E. Lee/ Eugene De Savoy

    the first 3 are pretty much even for me, Subotai just got the nod on the account personal preference. I almost added Zivojin Misic at 10, on the count of him being great, and me being from Serbia, but I believe he lacked the sheer number of battles to be here. I made the list taking into account the ratio of wins vs defeats, the number of battles in which the generals were involved, technological superiority (or the lack of it), the overall warfare doctrine at the time, the role of technology in the war and how the general used it, the losses each of them had in their battles, and the long term goals they accomplished. Subotai did venture into Europe just enough to put him in the list, and that’s the only reason Vo Nguyen Giap isn’t on my list (having only fought in Vietnam). hope to see your comment soon

    • of course, I meant Julius Cesar, a momentary lapse there… Also, Suvorov might have been a few places higher..

    • I like your list, the most important thing is that you put Tsubodai as the best general, unfortunately not many people know him.
      I would still put Genghis at 9th or 10th.

  142. Agree with most lists. If generals leading armies of 3,000 to 5,000 men were included, no cavalry general could match the “Wizard of the Saddle”

    His greatest adversary William T. Sherman called him “the most remarkable man our civil war produced on either side’ & ‘he had a strategy which was original & incomprehensible. There was no theory or art of war by which I could calculate with any degree of certainty what Forrest was up to’

    While engaging with Forrest & his horse cavalry, Sherman stated ‘That devil Forrest must be hunted down & killed if it costs 10,000 livws & bankrupts the federal treasury. No soldier ever has won more sincere recognition from those against whom they fought.

    Nathan Bedford Forrest at Brices Crossroads!

  143. Why wouldn’t Alexander the great be number one? He united all of Greece’s city/states who were at war with one another. He also conquered the formidable and much larger Persian empire, some of India and some of Egypt(he did all this with 30,600 soldiers and in 11 years). He is famous for his quick thinking and tactics(feign retreat) which are still studied today in military academies today. Alexander was also an incredible leader on the front and led his troops into battle, his troops absolutely loved him and he ate meals with his companion cavalry(he knew many of his troops by name). He became king of Macedon a part of greece when he was only 20. He founded the Egyptian city of Alexandria where the great lighthouse was built(one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). He hellensized or made Greek much of Asia. Also Julius Caesar is said to have wept when he reached the age of 32 because he had not achieved what Alexander had achieved in his 32 years, so why would Julius Caesar even be on here instead of Alexander? And Napoleon Bonaparte used the same strategies as Alexander (Alexander was his hero).

    • “He also conquered the formidable and much larger Persian empire, some of India and some of Egypt(he did all this with 30,600 soldiers and in 11 years). ”

      And if you read Hans Delbruck’s “Warfare in Antiquity” you will find that he most likely outnumbered the Persians in most of his battles except maybe at Gaugamela, that at Gaugamela the Persian numbers were only 1000% higher than what in reality the Persians could have mustered and that most of the Persian army was peasant levies that stacked against a professional fully armoured hoplite is just grist to the mill.

      Yes, massive land grab.

      The man was a drunkard with very able lieutenants and a good army his father built. By the time he mastered his craft there was precious little you might term serious resistance so his career is a list of siege actions against little tinpot hill towns until his troops got bored and voted to go home.

      • i think your being a bit harsh, the persians had one of best cavalry forces in the world. he also caught afgani guerrilla worriers and a very professional indian army with elephants that he crushed. and so what if most of his battles were sieges some of the ingenuity he put into take cities that were supposed to be unconquerable still makes him a great general.

        • “i think your being a bit harsh, the persians had one of best cavalry forces in the world”

          Granted, they had a knightly elite at the top of their society that knew it’s trade. However, like other feudal kingdoms you had a comparative handful of knights and whatever peasants they could put under arms. And when you’re dealing with roughly equal numbers having 3000 knights and 40000 peasants you’re still going down to 36000 professional hoplites and their companion cavalry.

          “he also caught afgani guerrilla worriers and a very professional indian army with elephants that he crushed. ”

          Not saying he didn’t. Just pointing out that by the time he’d started to show what he could do his lieutenants had already managed to dispose of the best opposition.

          “and so what if most of his battles were sieges some of the ingenuity he put into take cities that were supposed to be unconquerable still makes him a great general”

          Makes him a good general, I wouldn’t say great. People just seem to be impressed by the massive land grab and seem to swallow wholesale the fantasies about the sizes of the armies that he faced when in all likelihood he held the winning hand in most battles. We have to remember that the sources we have for Alexander are from the 1st century AD some 400 years after he was doing his thing. Plenty of time for exaggeration to take hold. It’s not like his exploits were recorded by a Polybius, able to interview the participants and visit the battlefields.

          The size of the army he supposedly faced at Gaugamela would have had a march train so long that the end of it would still be in Baghdad while the vanguard was fighting Alexander. This is the kind of thing you’re asked to swallow (and look how many here do) when considering Alexander.

        • I totally agree with you on the romanticism of alexander and Greek/persian wars in general, especially since we are getting all our information from greeks. it should also be noted that most of his land mass came from him conquering one nation. however his strategy must be admired, the distance he managed to keep his army together is amazing when you consider the land he was conquering. the roman much more disciplined troops on several occasions lost whole armies in the area.

          I do not think he is the greatest general however i do think opinions of him seem to polarise from greatest ever to nothing special, which is a bit unfair.

        • As a grand strategist and logistician Alxus, I’ll grant you there are few to hold a candle. It does take serious skill and talent to get a force and supply a force for that long over that varying terrain. I’ll even grant you that as a beseiger he was one of the best also.

          It’s his set-piece battles though that just don’t do it for me. I positively wince at Issus. How people look at that and call it a tactical masterpiece is beyond me. He came within a whisker of going down in history as Alexander the Pigheadedly Gung Ho. By rights he should have. I’m sure faced with an opponent of more merit than Darius his career would have ended then and there if it hadn’t already ended at the battle preceding it (Granicus? I can’t recall off the top of my head it’s name). Both times lieutenants hauled Macedonian rear end out of the fire.

          He did later get more competent, but by this time the flower of the Persian army was already dead on distant fields and his own men battle-hardened.

        • no it is true that he should have died at issus if it hadn’t been for his lieutenant (if i remember correctly alexander later killed him in a drunken rage), however i feel i may be much more lenient than you on some of his early battles and look more at his later ones especially the battle of hydaspes.

          as i said before i do not think he is number one, he was in possession of one of the great armies, evidence of this is that they continued ruling his empire fine without him after he died. but i do think he still deserves his great general status.

      • dunno whether he was a drunkard or not, but his opposition was very much diminished by the time he started his conquests.. that’s why i placed him at #3…

  144. My list:
    1. Alexander the great
    2. Napoleon Bonaparte
    3. Sun Tzu
    4. Erwin Rommel
    5. Genghis Khan
    6. Robert E. Lee
    7. Julius Caesar
    8. George Washington
    9. Leonidas (he could lead and fight!)
    10. Hannibal of Carthage

    • Sun Tzu isn’t western. And we don’t know much about his actual career.

      Leonidas isn’t a great general. A brave one yes, great no.

      George Washington? Ah, I see this is a comedy entry. As you were.

    • Leonidas fought one major battle that he lost, not really sure why you put him on your list. as for fighting so did a lot of generals, alexander the great always lead from the front and so did most medieval kings. their isn’t even any evidence that leonidas would have been on the front line. don’t let pop fiction/culture influence your knowledge of history, try and only comment on things you know as a fact.

      and as for george washington, Hannibal outnumbered won 3 major battles and only ever lost one. Washington never really won a battle he shouldn’t have and lost a lot. as an american who has studied him there is nothing remarkable about george washington its just national bias and ignorance that makes us put him on his pedestal.

    • just to follow up on what the guys said – Napoleon? really? top 2 ? the guy lost his army (some 80% of troops) on 2 separate occasions! Napoleon had some brilliant moves, but with 2 such fatal defeats ( the Russian campaign and Waterloo), i really can’t see him above 5th… a great tactician but not much of a strategist… agree with the rest about, leonidas, sun tzu and washington…

  145. Ravnemesteren on

    Wow, that any american is on that list is idiotic. Washington was a great statesman, but he has no place on such a list, anyone who has studied any war history knows that his strengths was not on the battlefield. And Patton? Are you serious? He was not even half the general Rommel was. And Robert E Lee? Yeah, he was a great general when it came to boosting morale, but he had little sense for modern tactics.

    Where is Suvorov? He is one of the greatest generals by far. Where is Turenne? Karl XII? Scipio Africanus? Phillip II? Gustav II? Etc etc ….. so many, many great generals you could put up on that list instead of some of the weird choices.

    @Nikola: You dont count Napoleon as one of the greatest? You are ignorant. He instigated very few wars, but battled all the great powers of Europe on every front. No other general has defended as well, against those odds. He inspired morale like no other, and he actually developed tactics, he didnt just use textbooks like alot of other “great” generals.

    • that’s arrogant of you, but i’ll let it pass… You have my list a bit above this, and I put Napoleon somewhere around 7th place.. as I said, he can’t be above 5th, not with his casualties in Russia and Waterloo. Frederick had worse odds, by far, and possibly even tougher opponents, and yet he actually came out victorious at the end of his wars. Napoleon didn’t. He was directly at fault for loosing the bulk of the French army. While he was a brilliant tactician, his strategic knowledge is very disputable. A good strategist would have seen the pitfall which Russia became for Napoleon before it actually happened, and changed his approach. Instead, Napoleon lost some 500.000. troops, which was what, 80 percent? 85%? of his total army. And, by doing so, he lost the war. Then, in an act of incredible arrogance, the man made his comeback with one of the bloodiest battles of the era, which he again lost with horrific casualties. And Waterloo had to be a total rout of the English army, if he was to have any hope of actually waging another big war. Anything other that annihilation of the British forces would just mean a delayed defeat for him. A brilliant tactician, if not the very best, but very shortsighted. That makes the top 10, but not the top 5 in my book, sorry…

  146. Maréchal de l'Empire on

    Overall, this is not a terrible list. But the absence of Alexander the Great is a mistake, and the addition of George Washington is one also. Washington although a brave man and one to rally his troops, was not the best general, a good one, but not deserving of this list.

    My list would go as follows:

    1: Alexander The Great
    2: Napoleon Bonaparte
    3: Julius Caeser
    4: Ghengis Khan
    5: Charlemange
    6: Robert E. Lee
    7: George S. Patton
    8: Hannibal
    9: Saladin
    10: Fredrick the Great

    Anyone who says in here that Lee doesn’t deserve to be on here, I suggest you do some reading… The man was a genius in the field and lost often times because Grant threw numbers twice his size at him, and he was still able to inflict massive amounts of casualties.

    • good list, probably would not be not be my own but everyone on it has a case to be there. only problem may be patton, definatly a very good leader but it is very questionable whether he was even the best in WW2. you should check out Alexander Suvorov only general apart from alexander the great to have fought a significant number of battles and one them all. as they were in the same time him vs Napoleon has always been a great what if.

  147. There are generals and there are generals. I wonder why this particular general was generally ignored but for a few side comments? Perhaps he does not belong to this list because he is in his own class far beyong anyone mentioned here…

    He was a general who fought hundreds(yes hundreds and in fulll glare of ducumented history) battles great and small without loosing one.

    He was only undefeated general who in all the great battles he fought was greatlly outnumbered in both men and material.

    He was the only general who had never used mercenaries from other people besides his army formed from his native people unlike the Alexanders who used others as cannon fodders to exhaust adversaries.

    He was the only undefeated general who had no formal training in military academiy or taught by any one.

    He was the only undefeated general who had not inherited military tradition or standing army.

    He was the only undefeated general who faught physically in the midst of all the hundreds of battles he commanded.

    He was the only undefeated general who built an army from ragtag group of nomads to become the most powerful war machine in the world in less than a decade.

    He was the only general who vanguished two better equiped and more numerious world superpower armies(Roman and Persian) and sealed the coffins of their empire for good.

    Who is it but Khaleed bn Waleed, the Sword of God! Check his records and marvel. He is being studied in all modern military academies of the world, yet paradoxicaally the western honour givers always choose to hide his attainments. Nevertheless, who that single general who can conbine his credits and credentials in terms of military achievement?

    Do not forget he was the one who librated the near east, the middle east, the levent from over a thousand years of Western domination.

    It was the resounding multiple defeats he meted on the greco-roman byzyntine armies that forced the unification of the western catholic and eastern orthodox empires after hundred of years of split. He changed the course of world history from relative obscurity.

    He was like you and me, an ordinary man from the begining and died in his bed an ordinary man just as we might.. He sought neither title nor wealth. Even now am sure he won’t complain not making your list. That’s Khaleed bn Waleed.

  148. Dear God what a horrific list. Joan of Arc is on here but Alexander the Great isnt????? WTF am i reading?

    • Yeah i couldnt agree more. I dont think this guy actually studied the battles of these people at all, all he did was go for the biggest names he recognized. George Washington was a great man and a great president, but he was not a great general.

  149. In my own opinion i believe their were probably better and less known generals than the ones above. For example, i was looking upon one named Skenderbeu named after Alexander the Great by the Ottomans revealing his brilliance as a General. The man managed to defeat the Ottoman Empire at the height of their power by uniting a few princes in the small province of Albania. He successfully held the Ottoman Empire out for 50 years in the 16th century. The Sultan himself died at the siege of Shkodra. This man managed to defeat the Ottomans countless times out manned and out supplied. He was betrayed by his own allies, the Venetians, and still managed to defeat the Venetian army to the North and the invading Ottomans to the west. He deployed a flawless guriella campaign and scorched earth policy against Ottomans and revolutionized terrain warfare. Only until a few years after his natural death did the Ottomans finally invade. He forced the Ottomans into 3 armistices and denied them any land for over 50 years. He at least deserves an honorable mention or even top 9-10.
    Also others such as Oda Nobunga or Gustavus Adolphus who led the Swedes,single handily, to become a major power within Europe for a period of time, deploying a flawless military campaign against his neighbours. RESEARCH these guys if you want (:

    Also as stated as above Joan of Arc, Washington and Patton doesn’t deserve anything, only most probably an honorable mention.

  150. 1. Alexander the great
    2. Julius Caesar
    3. Napoleon Bonaparte
    4. Philip of Macedon
    5. Genghis Khan(not western i know and i dont need any trolling from people that dont know what they are talking about and think they do)
    6. Sun Tzu(not western i know)
    7. Gustavus Adolphus
    8. Erwin Rommel
    9. William Tecumseh Sherman
    10. Augustus Caesar

  151. Americans should be banned from writing historical lists.

    1. The Duke of Malborough
    1.4 Nelson
    2. The Duke of Wellington
    3. Bernard Montgomery
    4. Henry V
    5 Alexander
    6 Trajan
    The kings and generals of Eastern Europe and Spain/Portugal who stopped and reversed the Muslim conquest of Europe………..

    • Apparently Brits should be banned also, if that’s what you are, as 5 of your 7 are Brits and only one of them, Marlborough, belongs in or near the top 10. Montgomery? Far from even the best general of WW II. Nelson isn’t even a general, he’s an admiral. Wellington, while a great defensive general doesn’t belong on the list either alas.

      Alexander is certainly worth considering and he’s been debated hotly. Certainly he gets thrown in most top 5 lists, along with Napoleon, Caesar and Hannibal.

  152. How in the hell are George S. Patton, George Washington and Joan of Arc better than Frederick the great. I mean Joan of Arc and Washington can be excused but if Patton is somehow better than Frederick THE GREAt, then go commit harakiri right now.

  153. it is a shame and unforgiveable offence and tragically disappointing that there is no mention of ALEXANDER THE GREAT among the list of generals….who is proably most succesfull millitary commander of all time.

  154. 1) Genghis Khan (I know, not really Western but almost). Started from absolutely nothing (ie was positively homeless) and knocked down the biggest empires of his time, including massive China and the most modern civilization at the time: the Arabs. He did not just have a horde of horseman but also excelled at politics and siege warfare.

    2) Napoleon. Fought almost 200 battles personally he lost only two in which he wasn’t severely outnumbered. This shows clear, consistent, unambiguous, superiority. Also developed much of modern warfare.

    3) Ceasar: Not number one or two because wrote his own history. The Gauls weren’t really a country, more like a rebellion of already partly subjected tribes. His victories against Roman troops are however extremely impressive, both militarily and politically. Won an impressive number of victories but unlike Napoleon or Genghis Khan much (but not all) of his superiority comes from innovations that preceded him.

    4) Alexander the Great: Not higher because a) profited greatly from the military genius of his father who unified Greece for him and left him with a state of the art army. b) Toppled one huge Empire in a few battles, even if undefeated this shows less consistency than above.

    5) Hannibal: Did so much with so little. Essentially wondered around in Italy for years with an inferior army until the great Romans could get it together.

    6) Guderian: We have to be clear here: Guderian was not the first to theorize the Blitzkrieg but he was the one to make it happen. All the Generals above who innovated were probably not the first to think about their contributions to military history. But they were the first to put it in context, get the details working and convince others of following them. That is why Guderian is by far that greatest general of WWII. His Blitzkrieg shattered the armies of Poland, France, Britain (yes Britain was also defeated in France) and Russia (5 million Russians lost in the first moves of the war). Rommel was great too but I don’t feel like putting both.

    7) Frederik the Great: Also innovated a lot, mobile artillery, the idea of a decisive war, Prussian rigorousness etc… Still, was extremely lucky in the end (Catherine of Russia’s timely death).

    8) Suvorov: Impeccable record. Sad we never saw him against Napoleon.

    9) General Lee: Only American on the list. Greatest general in the first truly modern war. People don’t often realize to what extent the North was numerically and industrially stronger, Lee’s genius is one of the only things that made the war last so long.

    10) Henry V of England: The only Brit that deserves a place on this list (ok maybe Nelson too but the British navy’s superiority preceded his career). Defeated numerically stronger French armies repeatedly. New vision of warfare which went beyond chivalry, his tactics would keep France weak for much of the 100 year war.

    Attila: Not on there because was mainly a raider. Knew how to attack but could not hold territory.

    Wellington: A very good general but simply did not play in the same league. He had the numbers on his side in both Spain and Waterloo. Played prudently in the later, so definitely a competent man, but no Napoleon.

    Patton: IS THIS A JOKE? Patton held numerically and technologically superior forces. The Germans against him had NO AIR SUPPORT which makes the the modern equivalent of Taliban camel herders. He was childish and arrogant, I do not doubt that at equal strength he would have been annihilated by the Germans.

    Marlborough: Good but not good enough compared to the generals above.

    George Washington: Hasn’t won a real battle. Yorktown was French led and French fought. Even in the French-Indian wars, a victorious British war in which he fought, Washington was repeatedly defeated. A charismatic figure, like Joan of Arc, but not a great general.

    Montgomery: Was an AVERAGE general, even by modern standards. Even Churchill privately said so. Only eventually won in Africa with massive numerical and technological superiority and a lot of prudence. Performed poorly in Normandy (look it up).

    Philip of Macedon: could have made it frankly. Let’s say he shares his place with his son.

    • If you had just posted your top ten I would not be responding now but since you added people you didn’t choose and reasons why I am responding, because you have given rather suspect reasons for eliminating some and choosing others.

      Guderian first off. Guderian, short of Rommel and Patton, has the biggest fanbase of any WW2 commander and, as a result, his reputation increases with the fanboyism. Guderian neither came up with the concept of the Blitzkrieg style of warfare, nor was he the first man to put it into effect. Look to Edmund Allenby in the Middle East in WW1 for the man who first employed a Blitzkrieg style of combat. And even in Germany Guderian was far from the only man to develop the employment of the Blitzkrieg style – Hans Von Seeckt was the man who moved the Germany Army away from their old focus on encirclements and into the speed that Blitzkrieg demanded.

      Additionally, you clearly known nothing of the BEF in France in 1940 if you think they were shattered by Blitzkrieg. Alan Brooke’s II Corps held back every single German attack it faced on the BEF’s vunerable left flank and fell back to Dunkirk in order. Barker’s I Corps broke but was held in order for the withdrawal when he was replaced by Alexander. Adam’s III Corps organized the defensive line at Dunkirk when Begluim fell and Barker broke, and this gave the BEF a safe position to fall back to and to pull out from. Blitzkrieg only successed against the BEF where the BEF was poorly led.

      Robert E. Lee. Lee was audacious and daring but was helped significantly by the fact that the opposition commanders he faced were, prior to 1864, some of the worst Army Commanders of the Civil War. McClellan was so afraid of the phantom Confederate Troops outnumbering him two-to-one that the second Lee attacked he fell back and even when he had Lee’s plans delivered to him pretty much on a silver platter he failed to take advantage and hit the Army of Northern Virginia while it was divided. Pope was arrogant and overconfident and didn’t organize his army properly or his cavalry to guard his flanks, allowing Jackson to get behind him which resulted in him panicing and getting smashed at Second Manassas. Burnside litterally walked head first into Lee’s trenches and guns, Hooker cut his own army in two and failed to take control as he was smashed at Chancellorsville. Meade was the first Army Comander Lee faced who made no mistakes on the battlefield, who kept control and kept his army in order and, lo and behold, Lee failed to beat Meade in any significant engagement. Lee had a lot of success, undoubtedly, but Grant was a better general overall.

      The Duke of Marlborough was one of the great military men in history. He almost single-handedly was responsible for the downfall of Louis XIV’s dreams of a French Empire in Europe. His victories at Blenheim and Ramilles are as good as any Napoleon ever achieved, his impact on the wars he fought in was second-to-none and his record stands up against any of the other great commanders or history. He was the first man to inflict a major defeat on the French in over forty years and never once lost a single battle. When he rose to prominance warfare was conducted by digging trenches and moving forward slowing to bombard the enemies positions, Marlborough changed this by breaking his opponents armies in open battle and out-maneuvering them. The man is far more deserving on a place on a top ten list of great generals than Lee or Guderian or even Henry V.

      Bernard Montgomery. Who cares what Churchill thought? Churchill thought he was Marlborugh re-incarnated, a great general with a great military mind, but everyone who know anything Churchill knows that he was anything but a great general. Also Churchill was prone to claim credit when things were going well and accuse others of failings when things were going poorly – Alan Brooke relates in his Diaries that when the British/Commonwealth forces were winning or covering great distanctances Churchill always refered to Montgomery as “My Monty” and praised him to no end but when things weren’t going well Churchill always rounded on Brooke and called him “Your Monty” and cursed him to high heaven. Montgomery has a record of success that is un-equalled amongst the West Allies, he had his failure but his successes outweight them, and they cannot just be diregarded as a foregone conclusion based on numerical superiority and greater intell because other generals who enjoyed similar advantages during that was failed to achieve half the level of success he did – Auchinleck, Ritchie, Clark, Alexander and even Bradley.

      And Monty did not fail in Normandy. Even his great critic Omar Bradley admits this. Monty was Ground Forces Commander in charge of both the 2nd British Army and the 1st US Army, he was responsible for the campaign as a whole, not just the action in the British sector. Monty’s plan had been to take Caen early and use it as a base to anchor the British line while the British operated in the Faliase region drawing the German reinforcements onto them and preventing them reaching the Americans – Bradley called it the “sacrifical role for British pride” – the Americans meanwhile were to clear the Cherbourg Peninsula and take Cherbourg with its ports intact within the first two weeks then they would breakout into Brittany and France and turn the German flank, forcing them back beyond the Seine. Things did not go totally to plan but the overall strategy was employed in that the Germans were drawn onto the British sector and away from the Americans, the American did clear the Cherbourg Peninsula and take Cherbourg – though not with its ports intact – and broke out. Monty had predicted the operation, as he envisioned it in April 1944, would take 90 days, he was wrong, 90 days after the Allies landed they had exceeded what he had expected of them and were already racing to the German border. No matter what way you look at it Montgomery’s operations in Normandy were a clear strategic success story.

      • No no no and no.

        As I said, Guderian did not theorize the Blitzkrieg but was the first to apply it. No one did so in WWI because the Blitzkrieg involves the concentrate use of proper tanks and massive air power. Guderian and no one else convinced Hitler to build the appropriate army and to use it correctly (at least in the beginning). The BEF WAS shattered in France. Many French armies held too but if some of the parts collapse then the whole is a failure.

        As for Lee, the fact that his opponents, given the material and numerical superiority they had, were made to look completely incompetent is only a testimony to his genius.

        The Duke of Marlborough did NOT end Louis the XIV’s ambitions. That is a ridiculous statement. England was not a great power at the time and France WON the war of Spanish succession (Louis the XIVth’s grandson became king of Spain.) Marlborough won some impressive victories but is not anywhere close to any of the achievements of the above cited generals who all either won a few times against impossible odds (Henry V, Lee, Hannibal), reinvented warfare (Khan, Napoleon, Guderian, Frederick the Great), or won a massive number of unlikely victories (Khan, Napoleon, Suvorov).

        As for Monty, I don’t disagree with the argument that he was better than most Brit or US generals at the time (except Mc Arthur). But that’s not saying much and definitely does not put him in the top 100 in world history. His battles in both Normandy, Italy and Africa were failures. You have to understand that in all these instance a major German objective was to buy time and buy time they did. In the end, the allies never got far across the German border even though the Russian were coming from thousands of miles further. That poor result was thanks to generals like Monty. The allies got stuck in Africa, then stuck in Italy, then stuck in Normandy, even though their objective was GERMANY.

        • Shattered means completely destroyed and cohesion totally lost, that the divisions had no semblance of order and only held firm in isolated pockets – a example of this would be Hood’s Army of Tennessee at Nashville. And this does not, in anyway, accurately refer to the BEF in 1940 of which only one Corps, Barker’s, lost any kind of order. What the Germans did in 1940 was to break the Belgians and split the British and French, to get between them, and behind them and disrupt their lines of communication, but they didn’t break the BEF and they totally break the French either. The Battle of France was a failure for the Entente Corial but saying that the BEF was shattered in 1940 is an insult to them, its totally disregarding the way the majority of the BEF performed.

          And my point on Guderian is that he was not solely resposible for either the Theory of the Blitzkrieg nor its employment, and even if he was that is no reason to rank him in top ten all time great commander of western civilization when Blitzkrieg turned out to be so utterly flawed. Blitzkrieg was a shock method of war that relied on speed and maneuverability but it was not something that worked over an extended period of time and within two-three years its was fast loosing its effectiveness. The Blitzkrieg being a great changing theory of warfare is a myth, it was beaten by the good old WWI style combined arms bite-and-hold method every time.

          As for Lee, the fact that his opponents failed to take advantage of the numerial and logistical superiority at their disposal is not testamony to his greatness but to their incompetance. This is proven by the fact that once the Federals actually got competant commanders in charge in the east, men who would actually use thier advatages and not squander them, Lee never won a major victory again. The idea of Lee the Great overwhelmed by numbers was created by the Lost Causers who wanted to portray the Confederacy’s defeat as inevitable so they could excuse their own failings, and who raised Lee up to be a modern day infalable saint who only lost because his subordinates let him down and the other side didn’t play fair.

          England may not have been a great power during Marlborough life but he was not commanding English Armies. He was commanded armies of a Coaltion including England, Holland, the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, the Kingdom of Portugal, the Duchy of Savoy and parts of Span loyal to Charles VI. Blenheim change warfare, it changed it from trench warfare back to massive battles in open field. Louis XIV’s ambitions was to have a European Empire ruled from Paris – similar to the one Napoleon would build later – but defeat by Marlborough in every engagement prevented this, and forced him to give up his plans to unify Spain and France into one nation, and it was only when Marlborough was recalled to Britain after losing political favour that the French regained any ground at all.

          Are you delusional in regards to Monty? The German objective in Africa was not to buy time, it was ti sure up the Italians, Rommel chose to try and drive on to Cairo and Hitler supported him. Monty beat Rommel in every engagement and drove the Germans out of Africa – with aide from Torch – so thus Germans failed in their objective to surely up the Italians. In Italy the Germans were only delaying and managed that but Monty was only involved in the early part of that Campaign and by the time he left for Normandy he’s breached the Gutsav line. In Normandy the German’s aim was the beat the Allies and secure Normandy, and put a hell of a lot of effort into doing so, they failed and were driven back to the Rhine. The Allies crossed into Germany in 1945 and met the Soviet coming from the East on a line from “Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic” which was well east of the German’s western border.

          And how, excatly, did you expect the Allies to get to Germany without going through either Italy or France? To attempt a major invasion of Europe without securing the Mediterranean? Of course Germany was the ulimate objective but its not as if the Germans were opening their arms and letting the Allies walk up without resistance. The Soviets may have had more miles to cover but they also had a direct and easier route to take because they did not have to cross seas, or cross over mountains, nor, indeed, did the Soviets face half the amount of German Armour that the Allies did as they advanced from Normandy.

        • Hell, now i have to get included. I could get over Napoleon being #2, even though the man lost his entire army twice, but saying Marlborough “wasn’t that good” and that France won the war of the Spanish Succession is just wrong. Marlborough went undefeated during the war (with one dubious victory) but Blenheim and Ramillies were sublime! He was far in front of his peers at the time, and GB not being a major power at the time only underlines his military genius! To all that he had to work with an allied force consisting of Dutch and Hanoverian troops, as well as English, which made it twice as hard, and he was fighting the biggest superpower of the era. Saying the French won is just silly – they lost tons of their overseas territories (Newfoundland and other major sites), the Dutch keep their independence and forts (and even expand a bit), while Spain loses it’s hold of the Netherlands, north Italy, Sardinia (they go into Austrian hands), Sicily and Gibraltar (went into British hands). France never made any territorial advances on the continent, and Phillip does become king of Spain, but renounces his claim in the line for succession of the French throne. So how is that a victory for the French?? the war marked the end of France as the major superpower, as well as the rise of Britain among the top 3 powers of the world….

        • I’m guessing you two are Brits.

          A) Loss of all heavy equipment and flight across the sea is sufficient to call shattered. Had the Brits retired in good order it would have been a different affair.

          B) You could be right about the blitzkrieg not being a world changing strategy. But Guderian was still the most influent general in the war as he enabled the Germans to make their ridiculously disproportionate gains.

          C) Lee’s opponents failed to adapt to modern warfare, but the US civil war is the first of it’s kind seeing the use of trenches and heavy artillery on the battlefield. Lee’s opponents are only incompetent as compared to future generals with a new doctrine of war, but that is in hindsight. Lee was the one to see the potential of the new weapons and environment and to make this an efficient war machine. Moreover, the “his opponents were bad” argument can be made about most generals discussed here. Your great hero Nelson never faced a proper admiral, he’s still however clearly a genius because he beat greatly superior forces repeatedly using atypical methods.

          D) Marlborough: Again, I’m not saying he’s not a great general, just not in the top 10. So “wasn’t that good is not a good summary of my point” France was the great power of the time but was not locked into a small Anglo-French war. This was the usual “balance of power” situation in which the majority of European countries were bent on stopping French ambitions. Thus, France had to fight, the UK, Dutch Republic, Holy Roman Empire (which is a lot of German states), Prussia, Portugal, and Savoy. As ally, at only had Bavaria as Spain itself was divided between both camps in it’s allegiance. There is no need for a genious general to win that war and it’s true that this war cannot be seen as French victory. But Marlborough’s own goal (for which he kept the war going for while) was to avoid having a Frenchman on the throne of Spain notwithstanding any abdication of the throne of France. He failed at that goal. He did win some great victories but we are talking about the top 10 in the Western World. If I’m to include Marlborough then I should include another 30 generals in the top 10.

          E) Montgomery. Only the most nationalistic Brit could put that man in a top 10. His African campaign was prudent and slow when allied pressure was needed to relieve the pressure on the Russians. The Germans could barely supply their forces because of a British control of the Mediterranean and the Brits fielded double the numbers of tanks and planes than their enemies, that is BEFORE the US eventually landed to finish this eternal struggle. So on the grand scale of things, Africa was a diversion that Monty was not able to close. The help the Italians objective was at the beginning of the war, by the time Monty arrived, Hitler was just happy keeping the allies busy while he tried to finish the Russians.
          Italy, same thing. The only good result in Italy would have been to at least destroy the German forces involved. The failure is not just Monty’s but still doesn’t look good on one’s CV.
          Normandy, British take a month to get to Caen. Americans clear all their objectives and more by the time Monty is halfway there. Also primary German objective is to push the allies out to sea, keeping them stuck in Normandy isn’t too bad an outcome either. Also not just Monty’s fault but then what DOES he have to his credit???

          The goal of Germany was to get rid of Russia first and then to turn on the allies. In that context, taking one’s time wondering through Africa and Italy is NOT IDEAL. Neither is getting stuck in the Norman bocage. Also, yes, the Russians did face half the armor the allies faced in Normandy, have you ever heard of Kursk? The biggest tank battle in history? It’s true the Germans threw a lot of tanks into Normandy but without air cover, which is a recipe for disaster. The only time where allied air superiority didn’t matter (during snow storms in the Ardennes) everyone saw how the allies could deal with German tanks (not).

          Except for Monty, all the general above are great, but I think there is a lot of bias on this forum with the Americans wanting to put Patton and Washington and the Brits being obsessed with Marlborough and Monty.

        • Well, first of all, I’m not British. Not even close.
          Secondly, my list was something like this:
          1. Subotai (he did enter Europe, and he was majestic)
          2. Cesar
          3. Alexander the Great
          4. Flavius Belisarius
          5. Alexander Suvorov
          6. Marlborough
          7. Hannibal
          8. Napoleon
          9. Frederick the Great
          10. Robert E. Lee/Eugene de Savoy
          If you exclude Subotai , due to his birthplace (which makes sense), then just move everyone up a spot, and put the last two in any order (or add Charles Martel). I never argued Monty should be in the top 10. Actually, I read a comment here that probably no 20th century general should be included, and I could very well go along with that. I agree that Guderian was the most successful in implementing Blitzkrieg, and it might bring him the top 10 spot, but I can’t help but feel that other factors, not their abilities, played a key role in success of any WW2 general (I’m not even going to comment on WW1, because it was the theatre for some of the most unimaginative warfare ever). The German army was just in such a better shape than the English and French it’s hard to give too much credit to Guderian or any other general – they had better tanks, better ideas for their use and a superior airforce. It was the same story when they invaded USSR (the T34 was excellent, but it barely saw any combat until the winter), which was a total mess at the time. Later, the wheel turned, Soviets were crushing the Germans with sheer numbers, and the Allies exploited that in the west. In the end, it was a war far more determined by technology and resources than military prowess. Because of all this, I said I had my doubts about Guderian being here, and I don’t think Monty should even be considered (or Patton, for that matter).
          I also agree with you about Lee being on the list, simply due to the fact the Union had an incredible advantage in resources, but he shouldn’t be ranked too highly, because the people he faced on the battlefield were, more often than not, completely incompetent.
          Now, about Marlborough – why are you so against him being a top 10? Aren’t you a bit anti-brittish? The man never lost a battle. He won every major battle of the war which determined the face of Europe. The victory at Blenheim is the key moment of the war (a defeat there would mean the fall of Vienna, and probably Austrian capitulation), and Marlborough orchestrated a great victory against a numerically superior enemy. The fact it was an alliance of nations standing against France and Spain wasn’t a plus, but rather a minus for Marlborough during large parts of the war – he even had to sneak out the troops from the Netherlands and march them 600 km to Blenheim because the Dutch were ready to sacrifice the entire alliance in order to feel safer at home. Austria was on the brink of bankruptcy for the entire war, England was still only coming into prominence, and the small German (there was no Holy Roman Empire – it was some 30 duchies swinging between Austria and France; Prussia would rise to power some 20 years later) and Italian states shifted sides every so often. Balancing between the interests of such a number of states was a torrid affair for the generals. France, on the other hand, had a clear goal and a clear line of command. And they weren’t outnumbered in any of the key battles – apart from a few cases it was the French with the bigger army on the field of battle! And the war ended with Philip giving up his claim on the French throne, which made his French origin irrelevant. With GB gaining as much as they did, and with France not accomplishing anything, I can’t see how it was not a success for Marlborough. The party politics and the shift of political power in England made sure some people painted a picture of him prolonging the war for personal gain, but it’s more than a dubious conclusion, if you have in mind they also expected a decisive victory and the French capitulation from him. His a top 10 guy in every account.

        • I am an Englishman but that means nothing. Its not as if I’m saying the list of top ten should be full of British commanders is it?

          a) The British did withdraw in good order to Dunkirk but because the Germans had such better equipment, and because they were much better prepared and trained, and because they had aerial superiority they were able to isolate the British in a pocket where they could do nothing to help the French and their only option was to flee or await destruction. That still doesn’t change the fact that the Germans failed to break the II Corps and did not break the III Corps, it doesn’t change the fact that the BEF was still able to put up a cohesive defensive line around Dunkirk and fight an effective rearguard long enough for over 300,000 Allied troops to be evacuated. So again this cannot be described as “shattering” the BEF.

          b) Guderian’s was never high enough in the chain of command to be “responsible” for the German’s success. His operational theory contributed but not to such a level where he could be credited with enabling all the success the Wehrmacht achieved, and his influence was certainly not greater than Manstein’s was.

          c) Lee was far from a progressive general. He fought a Napoleonic style war and rode his luck when gambling and splitting his much smaller army in the face of a much larger foe. Truly progressive generals of the American Civil War were Grant and Sherman and even Forrest.

          Of all the Generals in the American Civil War only Grant show true adaptability and only Grant show the ability to consistently achieve victory. Grant is the only man of the American Civil War to have been tested against every top general his opponent could throw at him and emerge victorious – the only one he didn’t beat was Joe Johnston and that’s because Johnston refused to engage – Grant is the best general that War produce and superior to Lee, the only reasons people rate Lee higher is the myths of “Lee the infallible” and “Grant the Butcher” created by the Lost Causers, and this ridiculous assertion that you cant be a great general if you have most of the advantages.

          d) Crowley did a good job answering the stuff about Marlborough so I wont repeat.

          e) I’m not putting Monty in the top ten, I’m objecting to you calling him average and intimating that the Western Allies were all failures who wasted their time in theatres of no importance.

          Monty was well above average. Average generals were the likes of Lesse, Bradley and Alexander – steady hands but little else, guys who could follow a pattern but not adapt – Monty, on the other hand, pretty developed the modern British Combined Arms Doctrine, and developed the way it should be implemented but never bound himself to it and allowed flexibility within it.

          I don’t think you know much about the African theatre in WW2 because if you did you’d know that it had been a back and forth affair for two years before Monty arrived with the Axis and Allies trading victories, yet within four months of his arrival he had broken the Panzer Army Afrika and sent it’s remnants fleeing for its very survival, he had decisively broken the deadlock and would advance further and faster than any other army of any nation of the war his pursuit of a beaten foe, sometime going so far and so fast that the only way to re-supply was by dropping supplies by air. In no way can Monty’s conduct in North Africa be described as “prudent and slow” and there is no way he can be accused of “failing to close” that theatre.

          The Italian theatre had only ever been meant as a diversion. The Combine Chiefs of Staff – Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall and Brooke – only thought of it as a way to draw German forces away from Normandy and away from the Soviets into garrison duty in the South or Europe so as to weaken their forces elsewhere. The deployment of the forces in Sicily and Italy at a tactical level did leave much to be desired from the Allies but strategically they dragged more that half a million Axis forces away from the important fronts into a diversionary one thus significantly easing the task of attacking Germany-proper.

          Caen was a day+1 objective that wasn’t reached – a British objective – Cherbourg was day+9 objective that wasn’t reached – an American objective – so I hardly think you can claim the Americans achieved “all their objectives” on time. Regardless of which these tactical set backs were simply that, tactical, at a strategic level the Germans reacted exactly how the Allies had expected them to by throwing all their reinforcement against the British, in fact the only time the Germans didn’t react how the Allies had expected them to was when Hilter ordered them to attack when Patton was rushing to Argentan. This meant that the operational strategic plan which was stated in April of 1944, months before the invasion, to draw the Germans onto the British so the American’s could break out, was successfully employed.

          Another fact against your “Monty was a failure in Normandy” theme is that Monty wasn’t commander of the British 2nd Army, he was Allies Ground Forces Commanders. In reality this meant that he was commander of the whole campaign on the ground across the whole front, that his subordinates were Omar Bradley commander of the 1st US Army and later 12th Army Group, Milea Dempsey commander of the 2nd British Army and later temporary commander of 21st Army Group, Courtney Hodges commander of the 1st US Army, George Patton commander of the 3rd US Army and Harry Crerar commander of the 1st Canadian Army. Now what this means for Monty and the Normandy Campaign as a whole is that ultimate responsibility for success or failure was his, not just the specific responsibility for the British front.

          I can guarantee that if the campaign had been a failure Monty would have been blamed for all of it including the action on the American sector but because it was a success people have conspired to rob him of the credit he deserves for successfully overseeing the biggest amphibious operation in history, securing the Allied foot-hold in France and delivering the single biggest victory over the Germans the West Allies achieved in the whole war.

          So no, I don’t rate Monty as a top ten General but to say he was average is simply not true.

          Now, explain exactly how you think that the British and the West Allies could have gotten to Germany without going through Normandy, or how they would have secured the supplies needed to invade mainland Europe with more than half the American resources in 1942 and 1943 occupied in the Pacific and the British forces stretched from Malaysia through Burma and India and the Middle-East and across Africa and Britain itself, and with the Axis controlling Mediterranean air-space forcing Allied Convoys to go around Africa rather than the direct route through the Suez Canal.

          You might think Africa and Italy were a waste of time but securing them were vitally important to defeating Germany, not least because securing Africa and the Mediterranean eased Allied Logistics for the invasion of Europe, it provided the American with much needed combat experience and provided the Allies with experience of working together in wartime, and securing Italy opened the Foggia Airfield to Allied use allowing them to bomb the, vitally important to Germany, Romanian Oilfields, and both operation diverted hundreds of thousands of Axis forces from the more important front.

          And yes, Kursk was the biggest tank battle in history, but that occurred in 1943, not in 1945/45 when the Allies and Soviets were advancing on Germany, thus my point remains valid, that although the Soviets may have had more miles to travel they did not, on their advance to Berlin, have to face even half the armoured forces the Allies did in their advance on German, meaning that the Soviets faced a weaker level of opposition in their final advance than the Western Allies did.

          And as for the Battle of the Bugle, the German’s failed. They had success when they achieved their initial surprise attack but the individual American units quickly recovered and put up a concentrated defence, which forced the German advance to falter and eventually stall when SHAEF pulled rank and cleared up Bradley’s mess.

        • not all Brits as you say are obssessed with Monty and Marlborough, no more than the Yanks who are obssessed with Patton and Lee, top ten for any of these 4, definately no! and let us correct you over one thing most importantly regarding Normandy, all allied troops who landed on the beaches on D-Day were under Monty,s command including US, he was the overall commander so, you see your earlier comment re Americans achieving their objectives can also be attributed to Monty as he was their commander!!

  155. To Crowley:

    Could live with Belisarius and could trade Genghis Khan for Subotai but will have to still disagree for Marlborough.

    To repeat myself again I’m not saying he’s not a very good general but not as good as the others, or at least not proven to be as good. He just did not manage to turn around a generally desperate situation. Napoleon defeated 5 of 7 massive, overbearing coalitions, Lee resisted a massive army on an endless face-off. In Marlborough’s time, “war was an art” at least according to his opponent Louis XIV. Marlborough was part of a large coalition whose lack of unification was obviously not an advantage but whose victory was far from complete or not astonishingly amazing like that of the others. France was number 1 before Marlborough and it still was after. It would only really fall and England would only really rise after the fall Napoleon (and after France taking severe losses in the 30 year war as well). So while Marlborough did a few splendid battles, the war he fought in, or the result he got out of it, just doesn’t distinguish itself.

    Otherwise I pretty much agree on most other points, WWII generals are hard to distinguish from the technological context as war moved from the battlefield to the factory.


    a) The British lost all their tanks and artillery (that’s 64,000 vehicles by the way) in France, as well as almost 70,000K dead and prisoner. No one could ever claim that to be good order. Also this issue doesn’t really matter, they did well to get out, the battle was lost.

    b) Guderian was extremely influent in the German chain of command, at least until late in the Russian campaign. Read it up.

    c) Grant was a terrible Gereral, and a drunk. Read it up.

    d) Answered that.

    e) I’m not saying that the allies should have landing in Germany, just that they should have gotten there ASAP. In the grand-strategy context, an allied delay was a German opportunity. Germany was trying to finish with the East and then smash West (in WWI they were trying the same the other way around) and so the Allied goal was to attack as fast as possible. Getting rid of Rommel should have been a lot faster and a lot cheaper, because Rommel was a diversion (one that the allies could not ignore however). Getting rid of the Germans in Italy was also somewhat important (but maybe not vital) and was done in the worse possible way: taking a long time and letting all the Germans escape from Sicily first and from operation Anzio then. As for Normandy, we have the same thing: time was of the essence and they really did take their time.

    So had the Russians not done so well in the East the actions of Western Generals like Monty might very well have changed the entire war for the West. Oh and also, by the time the allies finally landed in Normandy, the German position in the East was already desperate. Germany had lost Stalingrad and Kursk. The Russians produced more and better tanks than the Germans and were getting close to their oil reserves. Russia had also finally learned how to counter the blitzkrieg and aligned massive, heavily equipped armies

  156. ah and Crowley, I’m not completely anti-british as I did put Henry V in there 😉

    For me he had that “wow” factor as he really put France on it’s knees, did it alone and when France was even stronger comparatively.

    • “ He just did not manage to turn around a generally desperate situation” – if Marlborough lost at Blenheim, or if he listened to his superiors and stayed in Holland, France would have conquered Vienna, and Austria would have capitulated, which would have probably meant the end of the Alliance and a victory for France – it was pretty desperate. By the way, his opponents were the cream of French generals, all of whom played a part in making Louis XIV’s France the force it was at the time. After the war ended, England had clear supremacy over France in the colonies (actually it was the end of the idea of a great French colonial empire – their politics would, starting with this war, be to solely focus on the continent, leaving their colonies to fend for themselves, and meant that, apart from colonizing parts of Africa, France would only lose colonial possessions from then on); it gained Gibraltar, and a reformed army which was a match for the continental ones. It was a clear shift of power, with France being forced to enter bigger alliances after the war, and England getting more and more enemies due to their rise in power. The rise only continued during the war of the Polish succession and the Seven years war (the 30 year war was over half a century before the war of the Spanish succession, and it paved the way for France’s emergence as the top superpower of the era – you got some dates mixed up), and so did France’s decline. By the time of Napoleon, England was already the dominant superpower, by some margin. The gap only widened after Napoleon’s defeat. As for the war not being a distinguished one – I could never agree with that. The war of the Spanish succession was one of the crossroads of history, and, had France won, it would have been a very different world today. The loss of territory in North America meant the later US would be formed under a very heavy (almost exclusive) English influence, not French. It also paved the way for the British Canada, and allowed Turkey to keep its position in the Balkans for an entire century! Eugene of Savoy demolished the Turks before the War of the Spanish succession started, first at Senta, than at Belgrade, and was well into today’s Macedonia, before he was withdrawn (with his forces), due to rising hostilities between the Austrians and the French. Had the war started a few years later (or if it had never happened), the Ottoman Empire would have effectively ended with the end of the 17th century, instead of lasting well into the 19th. The slow decay which then started in Turkey meant the British would address “the Balkan issue” during the Crimean war, against Russia, instead of it all being resolved then, in favor of the Austrians. The forced peace also left a lot of people on the wrong side of the border, and the ethnical tensions of the 20th century, between Serbs, Bosnians and Croats all have roots in the consequences of the Treaty of Karlowitz, which is directly linked with the expected beginning of the War of the Spanish succession. France also lost its position in the Caribbean, and that (plus the loss of territory in North America), combined with the trading treaty between England and Spain, signaled the end of the era of the privateers, and started the golden age of piracy. The war also marked the official beginning of the “status quo” theory (the balance of power) in foreign politics, with all of the European powers deciding to unify against any potential shift of power on the continent. This “unfortunate” practice meant that, by the time of the Seven year war (only some 40 years after the War of the Spanish succession), it was only Britain and Prussia against the rest of the continent, because they were seen as the factors which could ruin the balance of power. I said “unfortunate practice” because I feel it only lead to massive loss in human life, with the constant realignments of powers, and it was continued well into the 20th century, being directly at fault for the events in WW1 and especially WW2 (many politicians argued a strong Germany was a good balance to a strong Russia on the continent, and therefore it was okay to leave Hitler alone). I know I got carried away here, but the war of the Spanish Succession was one of the great wars in European and World history. And Marlborough was the star man. That’s why I placed him in the top 10.
      I wasn’t really serious about you being anti-britis 🙂 but it is funny how you argue Marlborough prolonged the war for his own interests, while you’re ready to forgive Waterloo to Napoleon, even though it was only about him maintaining his legend (after the torrid, and also very unforgivable Russian campaign).
      As for the WW2 bits, just to put my view on what you 2 are arguing – everyone likes to overemphasize the greatness of their own generals (be it Russian, American, British, German or whoever) but WW2 was just too big not to try and create heroes, even though the machines and the economies actually waged the war. And by heroes I mean the guys who were most deserving for the win. That’s why guys like Patton, Monty, Zhukov or Romel are such legends – you need to point out someone with a name and a face and say that he did it, instead of just reciting numbers about tanks produced, man recruited, lives lost and the like. People are used to creating heroes (and martyrs) in the aftermath of military victories, and, with such clear villains in the face of the Nazis, some guys just had to do, no matter how far they were from the great generals of old. Bear in mind the British were desperate for another Trafalgar in WW1, and instead they got a bleak and indecisive Jutland. In fact, with the whole WW1 being the uninspiring, bloody slaughterhouse with no genuine heroes, i imagine everyone were just ready to embrace whoever brought clear victories, no matter the greatness of the challenge.

  157. When rating generals, I don’t believe the results of the war should be considered. A tremendous general could be working for lousy politicians, put into a hopeless situation, yet be one of the most skilled generals of all history and do better in THAT situation than any other could.

    The rating should be based purely on how well they did with what they had- a general who barely loses battles with a lousy army is probably better than a general who barely wins with a far superior army. A great general can win every battle, yet due to the political situation, or the incompetence of other generals on other fronts, could see the war lost- yet losing the war has nothing to do with his competence as a general, but rather is in spite of his competence.

    • which is why I put in Napoleon and Lee who both lost their wars in the end. But the scale of their victories can only be measured by taking the scale of the war into account.

      • sorry, I put enter by mistake.

        What I meant was that the general in question does not need to reverse the entire result of the war to be seen as “a top 10” or “a legendary general” but he does need to reverse what seemed like an impossible situation. That is how you rate anything, if tomorrow I get full score on a third grade test, noone will be impressed, but if I were to finish university at age 7 however, then THAT would mean something. This is why I think Henry V’s achievement, being barely more than a French duke, is more impressive than that of Marlborough who led a coalition that included half of Europe.

  158. all of this list is 100%wrong Patton made me lol so hard,I nearly suffered from a heart attack why the heck is he doing on that list?caeser is Overrated, Saladin is not a western commander if I recall good he is an asian arabic hero,anyways top 10 would be like this :
    Von Manstein=simply the only general who deserves the title god of Generals,ask the Russians about him,they will tell you embarrasing stories of how 400k Germans fuked 1.5million Russian
    -2 Gerd von Rundestd,his record speaks of itself
    -3 Paul Hausser 250 stugs and p3,destroyed 1000t34 hallo how,?????Paul Hausser did it brilliant tactician
    -4 Albert Kesselring,fat sexy.but his mind works when he wants it to be.especially all the fucks up in Russia and Britian

    but if you want top 5 commanders in history included east and west so here it is:
    Khalid bin el Walid= UNDEFEATED,only commander in history alone with Hannibal who managed to execute a successful pincer encirclment vs a vastlty superior force,in numbers weapons gear,supply lines,oh yes ask the byzantine:P. 1v1 duels victories armies vs armies victories,destroyed the Persian empire for good ,something alexander failed to achieve,yes he destroyed it but the Persians made an epic comeback but when khalids struck.they just couldnot
    -2 Saladin,his record speaks of itself
    -3Hannibal,a good spot for Hannibal problem with Hannibal is that he played poker with the red team.
    -4 Von Manstein,if he Hitler lestined Germany in ww2 insisted of 60million pop would have destroyed planet earth then vs Non Germans of 6billions then.
    -5 Guderian ,applied mongols tactics on German Panzers undefeated in battle.his only mistake or drawback is that he should have shoot hitler as soon as he had the chance to, good night everybody if you need more info on my lists I will inform you later its just this time I am tired and I wrote everythin g in short

  159. I’m American and appalled to how many Americans got on this list. The only thing that has allowed the US to endure is due to its position on a map. Unlike in Europe and Asia there was always an enemy next door. Say if the US had been nestled along the borders of Russia, Germany, and France… I’d hate to say it but the US would be annexed as some principality. Kinda like how Britain has endures, simply due to location.

  160. To the Moderator. I have published a few comments dealing with different aspects of certain battles and each time I’ve received a response from you that the comment was blocked because it was similar to theprevious comment. This is NOT so, but, if you prefer to block, be my guest. There are many loooonngg ongoing disputes between several pairs or trios of commentators which you DID oublish. Just to rcord my objection. My first (as Austin) comment, the very first, you did not print at all……

    Anyway I suppose that I’m too late to the subject. I recall seding in a few posts a couple of years ago as well. An interesting topic,which actually requires much reading-and remembering…..

  161. it just occurred to me-silly me-that Sun Tzu, Saladin, Genghis Khan, Attila, and the various Indian generals are all Eastern World (yes I know that Attila dropped in to Europe for a visit) and the subject is “19 Best Generals of the WESTERN World”. Again….silly me.

  162. I can’t really take this list seriously without Alexander or Cyrus the Great, though I’ll admit that it’s exceedingly difficult to narrow it down to ten.

  163. How can von Moltke the elder not be on the list. I know he never performed a retreat, but like Scipio Africanus, he never had too!

    I think most of the list given here are without looking at details. As far as I am concerned, Napoleon gave up any right to a list like this with his Russian campaign. He needlessly sacrificed his cavalry and was a no show for most of the retreat. Ney held that army together.

    Lee should have never continued the attack at Gettysburg.

    Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson, doesn’t get mentioned in part due to most people don’t realize what great things he did before becoming Lee’s ‘right arm’. He unlike Caesar REALLY did fight and win while heavily outnumbered. His early campaigns were studied by the Prussians. He also personally snatched victory from defeat personally leading a counter attack at a critical moment. I would put him light years ahead of any other american commander. He losses points in he never commanded large armies, but he did defeat them!!!

    William the Bastard. The guy overcame everything and not even Napoleon could repeat it. Like Stonewall Jackson, he snatched victory out of defeat by taking a personal hand in the battle. J

    I would put Guderian on the list for the fact he changed warfare. His background in communications was a major influence. He fought and won the backroom wars to get the panzer division, sold it to Hitler, won the battles and too me….his greatest stroke was how he handled the assassination attempt on Hitler. Not convinced that Fuller and Hart had anywhere near the influence they claim. Britain was always behind Germany (operation and tactics) in armored warfare in WW2.

    King John will make no one’s list, but he had a very active mind and in many ways was before his time. He was a disaster with his french holdings but showed much spunk for keeping his crown. He did do what no other ruler during that era did and that was win a war without a siege or battle by simply preventing the nobles from being able to assemble. However he died that winter so it was mute. He is not by any means great, but not the fool he is portrayed as either.

    1. Philip of Macedonia – he overcame more than just about anyone on any of the lists and paved the way for his son’s conquests.
    2. Gustavus Adolphus
    3. Alexander the Great
    4. Julius Caesar, but I believe he only fought once outnumbered and that was against Pompey.
    5. Stonewall Jackson
    6. Helmuth von Motlke
    7. Hannibal
    8. Scipio Africanus (beat hannibal at his game,trickery in breaking the siege and then more importantly, exploiting his victory.)
    9. Crazy Horse – excellent campaign though the war was doomed from the start.
    10. Bertrand du Guesclin – showed an ability to think outside the box and would have been successful in any era.

  164. In response to earlier anti-American sentiments, All I can say is Envy is a terrible color on you. Leading the world in what can only be described as global military dominance, as well as complete social freedom (the American dream) . The United States of America today is the most powerful country in recorded history. I believe it’s greatest generals deserve mention

    • Oh dear. Jake, just becuase at this moment in time America is extremely economically powerful and has spent vast sums on its military power, does not give them a right according to the discussion on this forum to just put lots of its generals on the list! im sure many other American readers of this forum will agree with me this is about individuals ability in their leadership and skill as strategist etc on the field of battle as to why they merit a mention. we all have a national bias and this has been evident on here, but most comments and replies on here are trying to debate it properly, please dont start bringing in things like the American Dream etc as its not helpful, as many people around the globe may see it more as a nightmare!

      • Saxan, I’ve been following the list for years and it’s rather hypocritical of you to berate Jake, when it applies equally to you. Your bias is boundless.

        Perhaps you need to look in the mirror before bashing others for what you are also guilty of.

        • whoa.hold on there Roger, you say youve been reading this forum for years , well obviously not very well! i have always said we all have a certain bias, mine is certainly not boundless, no need for you to be so rude and provocative and personal with your comments , as far as im aware i have never done this to you and certainly was only pointing out the obvious to Jake in i believe a well meaning way that we were discussing generals abilities. i did not bash him at all , however if you want to be rude again send me your address and i will with great pleasure meet you and we can have a one to one!!

        • LOL! Saxan, over the years, your arrogant, self-righteous, snidely obnoxious manner always shines!

        • well your comment just goes tpo prove what a rude, ignorant, liar you are, you havent read this forum over the years because if you had then you would have read my posts and none of them are arrogant or snidely obnoxious, unlike the personal vitriol you are dishing out now behind your computer. i have never insulted anyone on here and didnt do that to Jake, you obviously have an agenda over something and your way is too insult because your not man enough for anything else. grow up little boy. send what you like now this is my last reply to you because anything else is a complete waste of time on such an idiot who just wants to antagonise people and be rude but can do so by hiding behind their keyboard!

  165. In response to Saxon, my usage of America’s current situation was not by any means a proving point for “lots of its generals to be put on this list”. I was responding to many opinions that Americans do not deserve to be mentioned at all, or that Americans should be banned from participating in these forums. I found those opinions confusing. Speaking for myself I believe the best way to measure any particular generals accolades are by taking a look at his respective nations situation following his service. Are they better off, are they worse off, are they non-existent? That is why I personally used the Untied States situation historically in defense of SOME American generals. Do I think this list should be dominated by U.S. generals. . . . No, do I believe the majority of generals on this list should represent the U.S. . . No. I only believe American generals very much deserve to be discussed with the others, specifically because some of the U.S.’s current situation is very much a result of it’s generals’ service.

    • I have to agree with Saxan here…

      The US’ position today is the result of many factors, mostly institutional and economic. Those are great achievement and could be debated on another forum but here the debate is about generals. America has not needed great generals to survive due to its geographic position, and relatively short history. In its interventions abroad, it has often arrived with overwhelming numbers, technology and allies making it hard to conclude that victory was the result of the general’s skills.

      I’m not going to go into details again about Patton, Grant, and other US general’s flaws, I think this was already discussed on the forum. But please stick to the skills of the generals, not the long-term achievements of the country.

  166. Thank you John for your response. I appreciate your explanation as to why you do not put any U.S. generals on your list, as oppose to just dismissing-them. I would argue back the circumstanses and supplies with which Washington found himself were by no means superior. Obviously the French played a pivotal roll in the war but Washington as a general still had to win battles in his respective regions against a far superior army with far superior supplies. Your talking about a colonial militia against the most powerful empire on earth. Even with British forces occupied elsewhere, and French involvement Washington displayed tactility, strategy, and out-monuvered his opponents. He was also legendary for moral boost.
    Eisenhower was selected supreme commander of all european allies for a reason, and he achieved victory, in a World War setting. I am surprised by how many of these “greatest western generals of all time” were ultimately failures. I completely understand the reason to talk about strategy, and military brilliance, but in the end the most important statistic is victory. Again as I mentioned with Washington not all American generals arrived at the battle with supior supplies or resources.

  167. when i was young i wanted to be a soldier, and would become a high ranking officer, but later on i have found out that i am just a chicken.

  168. How is Washington on this list,but not Alexander the Great. Washington was a terrible commander. Patton is overrated and should not be anywhere near this list, neither should e lee.

  169. Definitely have to put Zhukov on this list. And no you can’t blame him for wasting his men’s lives. He is quoted multiple times on protesting the hold the line at all costs tactics that were popular at the time in favor of mobility. Also, Zhukov’s routing of the Japanese earlier was why USSR didn’t have to fight a two front land war. Highly underrated and appreciated general, minimized because of his political threat to Stalin. (Just like Julius Caesar).

  170. I thought Belisarius should be on the list, I don’t think people know much about him and he was a very good general.

  171. Since this is an American’s list why isn’t Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter in number 1? If this were a Chinese guy’s list Crouching Tiger would have been number 1. Crazy how a less than 500 year old country can have 3 or four people in top 10..

  172. Damn there seems to be a lot of (ridiculous and misguided) anti American sentiment on this page. Just because small minded men have issues with the world’s greatest civilization doesn’t mean they ought to turn their vitriolic slander against t