Famous Military Comanders

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Just thought I would trial an idea on Famous Military commanders, what we thought of them; what they were good at and what in the way let them down. There are a lot to pick from both from ancient history to modern times.

To start this off here are a few:

Leader from ancient history (aka Cartha) who made a blood oath to his farther to take out the Romans (when the roman empire was in its infancy). As a commander on the battlefield he was a great military strategist (some consider one of the greatest) and to some degree knew how to defeat armies my deviding them and using their weaknesses against them, however, as an overall leader, he lacked vision and any real in-depth grasp of strategy when it comes to conquest and associated diplomacy. As an individual he was also a barbaric sadist who cared nothing for his troops, only in his own glory; this was bore out when he drove his troops and elephants across the alps (in winter !!!) costing him half his army before he had his first real fight. In the end he lost because he failed to realise that even though he destroyed a roman army in Cannae (some consider his greatest victory) the romans had enough man power to lose these many troops many times and strill field an anrmy against him. Many still see him as one of the greatest strategists since his tactics in battlefiedl warfare were adopted by the Romans to defeat him.

Some problems with this summary, firstly Hannibal was never in command of Carthage at this time rather he was the military commander, it is well known that he never received the reinforcements which he requested, in fact many rate him far higher for the fact that he used the same army over his many years campaigning in enemy territory with very little help from his government at home whilst the Romans were able to field many fresh armies against him, and Hannibal defeated them every time. The only time he was sent reinforcements the Carthaginian army sent to reinforce was defeated whilst attemting to cross from Spain. Shortly after Scipio crossed over to Africa with an army forcing Carthage to recall their only capable general to defend the homeland. Due to Roman naval superiority by this point however Hannibal was forced to leave his army in Italy. The force that Scipio defeated was largely unblooded and not the troops Hannibal had commanded for so many years.

Furthermore on the diplomacy point Hannibal was very successful in turning Rome's client cities to the Carthaginian banner, this was the only way he could keep his army suppied reinforced and paid whilst in Italy, unfortunately for Hannibal he never had the strength to besiege Rome and could not have his army everywhere in Italy at once so the Romans were able to presserize those cities which had switched allegiance back into the Roman fold.

Though you also label him a sadist it was this very maneuver crossing the Alps at that time when no one could ever believe it was possible which allowed him to catch the Romans completely unaware at Ticinus and deprived them of their Gallic client tribes on the Po - troops which Hannibla later used to great effect at Trebia and Cannae - a battle which is still taught today at West Point as an example of a perfect envelopment of an enemy army leading to their complete destruction as a fighting force.

Mark Anthony (aka Markus Anthonius) - most will know this from the poor depiction in the Cleopatra movie. Again much like Hannibal he was great on the battlefield, but again was a very poor strategist / diplomat overall. When the empire was broken up he took the largest area of land and let Octavian take the area that included Rome. Octavian being a much better diplomat / strategist knew the key to ruling the empire was Rome. In the great battle that took place on the sea at Actium and then on land at Alexandria Mark Anthony went against Octavian with troops that were inexperienced part time soldiers with little discipline, they also had language and command difficulties and Octavian had an experienced roman army behind him defeated him easily.

Sun Tzu - another ancient military commander and I picked this one because here is one of the few who possessed both battlefield skills and exceptional military strategy and diplomacy in knowing how to lead a campaign and win wars with minimal effort. Little is really known about him but most agree he was a genius in military strategy.

Sun Tzu is generally believed by scholars to be a fictional character his works being more a reprisotary of military and strategic knowledge complied from a variety of sources - there is no evidence supoporting the existence of a military commander of this in name in China at that time. Though the text cleary contributed to contemporary Chinese military tactics for some time and later informed generals like Napoleon.

Some may see my depiction of some of these leaders Harsh but I am comparing them against their peers.

Don't know if this thread will work but worth a shot.


Comments in bold


I think you are all missing one very important person..

In my opinion, the best there ever was, and ever will be.

lieutenant dan!



/agrees with ska

I like reading ancient history :icon_redface:

The Rover

Alexander the Great - my all time favourite, I could tell stories about him an entire day long. Very interesting is his his campaign against king Porus in India.

Most of you will know Leonidas, the brave king of Sparta who defeated the Persian army among king Xerxes I. at the battle of Thermophylae 480 BC. But most of you might not know Themistocles, the Athenian citizen from humble homes. Thanks to the ancient Greek gods Athens established democracy by that time so this man was able to reach political power to be able to plan and execute the defence plan against the Persian Invasion in 480 BC. Without Themistocles, Thermophylae would never have been fought out. And without Themistocles, the brave leader of the naval forces of the Greeks at the naval battle at Artemision 480 BC, the Persians would have attacked Leonidas from the seaside as well which would have led into total defeat of the Greeks.

Besides them, Pericles and Miltiades deserve being mentioned with them in one breath as well. Pericles's been the supreme politician of Athens, war leader during the first stage of the Peloponnesian War and diplomatic agent at a time, pushing forward Athens' hegemony inside the Delian League. Miltiades managed to defeat the Persians at Marathon in 490 BC as they tried to vanquish and completely destroy Athens the first time.

Gaius Iulius Caesar - shame you forgot that remarkable roman war general in your initial post.

Carolingian dynasty brought up a couple of great commanders, too. Starting up with Charles Martel who chased away the The Arabians/Moors in the battle between the french villages Tours and Poiters in 732. Second one we must not forget of is Charles the Great, of course. Timeless is his glory, priceless the success he achieved and incontrovertible is his influence on the creation of Europe.

Not that successfull in battle, though a remarkable charakter to me is Marcus Licinius Crassus, one member of the first triumvirate besides Gaius Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (as well known as Pompey the Great- another awesome war general with success in Iberia (Spain), then vanished to Greece in fear of his own life before he has been killed by Julius Caesar at ).
Marcus Crassus stopped the mutiny of Spartacus 71 BC and was known to be the richest man in Rome (which can be seen as the richest man of the world by that time, Caesar has been plunged in debt due to his political engagement, despite the haul he gained from exploiting Gaul). Crassus set up an army by himself to politically catch up with Caesar and started a campaign against Parthia in Mideast (formerly Persian Empire) and has been totally reamed by their mounted archers and heavy cavalry (which are called 'Cataphracts') at the Battle of Carrhae 53 BC.

Besides Gaius Marius (inventor of the most effective Roman War Technique on the base of cohort system, vanquisher over the Gauls at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae 102 BC), Flavius Aetius, the man who succeeded in appeasing Attila the Hun politically, then attempted to banish Attila militarily off Gaul for a while until Flavius has been stabbed due to his own emperor's command in 455 AD. I'm sure I forgot the one or the other roman war commander, these are just the ones who came up to my mind right now. Oh, and Constantin I., the Great, who initialized Christianity starting its successful way in Europe, as well as his tremendous victory in Battle of the Milvian Bridge 312 in which 'sign he conquered' (in hoc signo vinces).

William I. The Normans often tried to conquer England completely, but never succeeded everlasting. William the Conqueror finally did. His opponent Harold Godwinson, who allegedly has stolen the throne of England off William, has been debilitated in a battle against at Stamford Bridge in September 1066. This was Williams chance to head for the throne. While Harald Hardrada (Harald Sigurdsson), king of Norway, attacked Harold in the north of at Stamford Bridge, William shipped his army through the channel to Pevensey, East Sussex. Both emperors met at Hastings on 14th October 1066, the following horrific, for this period quite long lasting, battle finally ended the war between William and Harold, last one has been killed on the battle field by a bow arrow that has hit his eye. William has been crowned to the king of England that same year.

Richard I., The Lionheart- Check out the battle at Arsuf- keen strategy by an even keener general who always kept his patience in that desperate situation. His main target in this campaign, the capture of Jerusalem, has never been achieved, though.

Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb - we Europeans know that genious general under the name of Saladin- another war lord who deserves being mentioned in a range with Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon I.
He fixed political instability, survived plenty of assassination attempts and took Jerusalem off the hands of the Europeans during the 2nd crusade among dozens of other military successes. Bloody calculation at the Battle of Hattin in 1187 - a master piece of medieval warfare, the Christs have reached their peak of influence in the Holy Land and went down from then on.

Let's catch up with Henry V. and his remarkable victory at Agincourt in 1415. Studied that battle plenty of times, this one is worth spending your time on. Besides Henry V., medieval England brought up dozens of great warlords.

Thirty-Years War (1618-1648) brought up lots of brilliant military leaders as well, such as Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, Gustav II Adolf, king of Sweden and Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein just to mention a few out of a huge range of leaders. A though time for the farmers. 1/3 of the population of Europe has been extermined in about 55 years of environmental catastrophes and 30 years of warfare.

Ever heard of Frederick II., King of the enlighted Prussia? You'll definitely know him as Frederick the Great, member of the House of the Hohenzollern, opponent of Maria Theresa, female ruler of Habsburg dominions. As I'm Austrian, I could tell stories and anecdotes about this noble dynasty which led big areas in Europe and America for more than 600 years an entire night long. Frederick's been a genius on the battle field. Look up the battles at Hohenfriedberg, Rossbach, and Leuthen. His father initiated the building of the most powerful army by that period, his son Frederick finished the job and managed to capture huge areas during his tough military reign.

Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington - the man who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 which led into banishment of Napoleon to St. Helena, the place he died due to cancer in 1821. The Prussian war general Blucher helped out Sir Arthur Wellesley to defeat the French army at Waterloo, he nearly arrived at the 'hot zone' too late, though.

Robert Edward Lee (Confederacy), Hiram Ulysses (S.) Grant (United States (Union), George B. McClellan (United States (Union) and George G. Meade (United States (Union)the most successful war generals during the War of Secession in America. Gettysburg in 1863 determined the winner of the war, as Edward E. Lee was no longer following the rules of The Art of War by Sun Tzu (in the first place he has success fighting on Union's floor, but at Gettysburg he gave command to attack from the bottom fighting up to the top of Cemetery Ridge instead of forcing the Union army to leave their impregnable position to safe their capital Washington D.C.).

Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen - no comment, everybody shall know the Red Baron. His top maxim was 'Never attack an enemy if you can't win'. He died at the age of 25, few months before the end of the war, though achieved being the most successful fighter pilot in WW I, leader of JaSta 11 (JaSta, short for 'Jagdstaffel', which means fighter squadron).

As we all should agree in Hitler can not be seriously called a military general at all, some of his generals truly deserve at least a bit of tribute. SS- army corps, which were under Heinrich Himmler's command, can be accounted to the brutal genocide, though they haven't done these indictable offences by their own. The German's main army, the 'Wehrmacht', had done their part to these crimes as well. Nevertheless, the Wehrmacht has fought brilliant battles, mostly the Germans have been outnumbered, especially at the Eastern Front and during the campaign in Africa.

In my opinion, the most brilliant German war generals have been Erwin J. Eugen Rommel, Erich von Manstein, Heinz Wilhelm Guderian (read his book, very interesting!) and Walther Model (known for his talent for defensive battles). Although they still are known as brave and keen commanders, always using their brain first instead of willingly executing the (often senseless) commands by Hitler, they still were involved in the genocide and crime the Germans had done during WW II.
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Gregory Zhukov of the Red Army also led the campaign against the invading Japanese in Mongolia in 1930, thereby showing such skill and genius that the Japanese generals were genuinely convinced that all the Russian commanders must have been this great. probably one of the reasons they decided against an invasion of the USSR in 1942, which allowed Stalin to throw the 40-odd batallions he kept in reserve into the warzones at the western front.

While Adolph Hitler did service during the Great War (aka WW1) he never rose above the rank of corporal, and hence never gained any experience with military command. In fact, as the war went into its later staged he became more and more delusional, overestimating his own capabilities and the military strenght and position of the Axis forces. He was also unpredictable, which helped at first, but later only hastened his demise.

Personally, his greatest strategic mistakes/most insane actions were these: Dunkirk 1940, where about 300.000 British and French soldiers were in a total rout and waiting for evacuation to England. the Germans were initially slowed down at Lille by the French, but broke through and encircled Dunkirk, and as most of the ships hadn't arrived yet the British and French were practically at their mercy. Then for some reason High Command gave a total halt order approved by Hitler. This lasted for three days, allowing the British and French to evacuate their entire force. They rightfully considered it a miracle from the heavens.
This can be excused: first of all, the Germans overran France so fast it even took themselves by suprise; supply chains and supporting forces simply had to catch up first with the frontline units. High Command also thought (mistakenly) that the terrain was swampy and generally very bad for an direct assault: an overhasty attack could be disastrous. Hitler himself had seen entire armored divisions get stuck around that area 25 years before, and probably didnt want to risk that. Lastly, it is speculated that Hitler wanted them to escape, since he had no interest in their destruction: he wanted France out of the way to (ironically) prevent a two-front war after their declaration of war, and England could keep their islands; he was content to rule the mainland, with an alliance with the British empire (which was quite large at the time). also, they were sort of family, also of the Arian race. In short: they were not his enemies, the Russians were, so letting them get away and then signing peace was actually the preferred option for him, and most of High Command as well.
However, the British ended up rejecting peace, in large part due to Churchill, as most of their government wanted peace, not war. Despite Dunkirks evacuation, they had lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers and all their equipment on the continent (and that was a lot), and the mighty France had just been casually overrun by an enemy they outnumbered 2 to 1. Churchill pressured them until they (barely) rejected Germanies peace offer. However, had their forces been destroyed they would have instantly surrendered, Germany would have been able to focus on the eastern front entirely.

the second mistake was the grand invasion of Russia.
the declaration of war itself isnt very suprising: from the beginning, the Bolsjewicks were the Nazis greatest enemy (the Jews were more a scapegoat really), which made their 1939 alliance so suprising. the Russians were also caught by suprise; it took Stalin weeks
just to accept that the Germans had betrayed him, and many troops were stuck in the east, safeguarding russia against a potential invasion from Japan (see above, they tried it before). this, and the general shoddiness of the Red Army, allowed the germans to push all the way to Moscow, conquering an area the size of eastern europe from one of the worlds superpowers. after they were halted, the Russians had gotten their war machine up to speed and got reinforced by the eastern forces, and started to slowly drive the Germans back, littering the way with their bodies, and eventually destroyed the entire Sixth army.
Now, the mistake, aside from attacking a nation twenty times your size, is that Hitler failed to realize how stubborn the Russians would fight, and how many sacrifices they were willing to make (20 million Russians, 15% of their population died in that war). he also send his army out with hardly any preparation for the Russian landscape: they were completely unprepared for the Russian winter, whereas the Russians themselves had entire battalions specializing in fighting in heavy snowstorms. as a result, the Germans froze to death as often as that they were killed in battle.

his third and most incomprehensible mistake was the declaration of war against the USA. that was also all it was: a declaration of war.
first of all, from a strategic point of view the USA was somewhat like the UK tenfold. The Germans did not have any specialized landing ships or gear, they didnt have a fleet of heavy bombers, or any long-range aircraft for that matter, and both their navy, the Kriegsmarine, and their airforce, the Luftwaffe, had been beaten by the British. so while they were still at war with the British, whom they could not defeat, and had just launched a massive invasion of the largest country in the whole world, Hitler declared war on another powerful nation, which, even if he got past the Royal navy and Airforce, Germany could'nt even reach, let alone force them into surrendering. The USA could simply ignore Germany altogether and wouldn't be off any worse. But the USA president now had an excuse in the congress, which had been mostly passive towards Europe, to start an active war against Germany, leading to their invasions in France and Italy, which diverted hard-needed troops from the giant Russian army that was steamrolling towards the German homelands. it also ensured a US/UK presence after the war. if they hadn't invaded, the Russian would have simply kept on going until they hit the Atlantic and Mediterranian sea, and all of Europa would likely have come under Russia's influence. just try imagining how the past 70 years would be like then.
All because Hitler had a bout of madness and declared a war he could not even win.
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Khalid Ibn Walid was a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. He is noted for his military tactics and prowess, commanding the forces of Medina under Muhammad and the forces of his immediate successors of the Rashidun Caliphate; Abu Bakr and Umar ibn Khattab. It was under his military leadership that Arabia, for the first time in history, was united under a single political entity, the Caliphate. He was victorious in over a hundred battles, against the forces of the Byzantine-Roman Empire, Sassanid-Persian Empire, and their allies, in addition to other Arab tribes. His strategic achievements include the conquest of Arabia, Persian Mesopotamia and Roman Syria within several years from 632 to 636. He is also remembered for his decisive victories at Yamamah, Ullais, and Firaz, and his tactical successes at Walaja and Yarmouk.

He is regarded as one of the finest military commanders in history.

Khalid is said to have fought around a hundred battles, both major battles and minor skirmishes, during his military career. Having remained undefeated, this fact makes him one of the finest generals in history
Much of Khalid's strategical and tactical genius lies in his use of extreme methods. He apparently put more emphasis on annihilating enemy troops, rather then achieving victory by simply defeating them. For instance his employment of the double envelopment maneuver against the numerically superior Persian army at the Battle of Walaja, and his brilliant maneuver at the Battle of Yarmouk where he virtually trapped the Byzantine army between three steep ravines by stealthily capturing their only escape route, a bridge, at their rear.

Khalid utilized his better understanding of terrain in every possible way to gain strategic superiority over his enemies. During his Persian campaigns, he initially never entered deep into Persian territory and always kept the Arabian desert at his rear, allowing his forces to retreat there in case of a defeat. It was only after all the strong Persian and their allied forces were routed, that he penetrated deep into Euphrates region and captured the regional capital of Iraq, Al-Hira. Again, at Yarmouk, the terrain would help him in executing his grand strategy of annihilating the Byzantines.

Khalid's elite light cavalry, the Mobile guard, acted as the core of the Muslim cavalry during the invasion of Syria. It was composed of highly trained and seasoned soldiers, the majority of whom had been under Khalid's standard during his Arabian and Persian campaigns. Muslim cavalry was a light cavalry force armed with 5 meter long lances. They could charge at an incredible speed and would usually employ a common tactic of Kar wa far literary meaning "engage-disengage". They would charge on enemy flanks and rear, their maneuverability making them very effective against heavily armored Byzantine and Sassanid cataphracts. Khalid's famous flanking charge on the final day of the Battle of Yarmouk stands as testimony to just how well he understood the potentials and strengths of his mounted troops.

quotes of Khalid Ibn Walid:

"The earth destroys its fools, but the intelligent destroy the earth."

"When I am in the battlefield, I love it more then when I am in my house."

" am the noble warrior, I aDo you see a space of the span of a hand on my leg, chest, arm which is not covered by some scar of the wound of a sword or an arrow or a lance ?m the Sword of Allah, I am Khalid bin Al Waleed."

Wait a while; there will come to you mounts, carrying lions in shining armor, battalions followed by battalions."

"And here I am, dying in my bed, like cattle die. May the eyes of cowards never sleep."
- last words of Khaild Ibn Walid
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