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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2022 1:39 pm 
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Just for fun I thought I'd reprint the ratings of 24 different Civil War generals in a book I am currently browsing through in my Executive Private Office (bathroom).

The ratings are one historian's opinion, and I will print his name at the end of all this. The author rates 24 generals on a four-star scale. Each side is represented by 12 generals.

I will add another general and rating every few days.

1: Pierre Beauregard - - February 8 - - 2 1/2 Stars
2: Winfield Scott - - February 10 - - 3 Stars
3: Joseph E. Johnston - - February 15 - - 2 1/2 Stars
4: George B. McClellan - - February 18 - - 1 Star
5: Robert E. Lee - - February 21 - - 3 1/2 Stars
6: John Pope - - February 24 - - 2 Stars
7: Thomas J. Jackson - - February 26 - - 4 Stars
8: Ambrose Burnside - - March 2 - - 2 Stars
9: Albert S. Johnston - - March 5 - - Incomplete
10: Henry Halleck - - March 9 - - 2 Stars
11: Braxton Bragg - - March 11- - 1 Star
12: Ulysses S. Grant - - March 13 - - 4 Stars
13: John Hunt Morgan - - March 17 - - 2 Stars
14: William Sherman - - March 19 - - 3 Stars
15: Nathan Bedford Forrest - - March 22 - - 3 Stars
16: Joseph Hooker - - March 25 - - 2 Stars
17: J.E.B. Stuart - - March 28 - - 2 1/2 Stars
18: George H. Thomas - - March 31 - - 3 Stars
19: James Longstreet - - April 5 - - 2 1/2 Stars
20: Winfield Scott Hancock - - April 8 - - 3 Stars
21: John Bell Hood - - April 13 - - 1 1/2 Stars
22: George Meade - - April 15 - - 2 1/2 Stars
23: Jubal Early - - April 19 - - 2 Stars
24: Phil Sheridan - - April 23 - - 3 Stars

1 Star = A losing commander
2 Stars = A competent commander
3 Stars = A winning commander
4 Stars = A standout commander

Axelrod, Alan. Generals North, Generals South: The Commanders of the Civil War Reconsidered.
Guilford, Connecticut: Lyons Press, 2011.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Phil Sheridan

In an era and a war in which it was common for me, Union and Confederate, to be commissioned as general officers based on their political connections, Philip Henry Sheridan rose to the top command strictly on his merits as a warrior and leader of warriors. Trained as an infantry officer, he ended up reinventing the Union cavalry, raising it to a level that challenged the vaunted Confederate cavalry while also radically revising its mission from reconnaissance, screening, and guarding trains and rear areas to more strategic attack roles, especially as shock troops directed against the enemy army and civilian populations. In this redesign of the cavalry mission, he had mixed success, especially in Grant's Overland Campaign, in which his neglect of the traditional cavalry functions almost certainly deprived Grant and Army of the Potomac commander George G. Meade of vital battlefield intelligence when it was most needed. On the other hand, his use of mixed cavalry and infantry in the Shenandoah Campaign introduced scorched-earth "total warfare" tactics that presaged William T. Sherman's more famous "March to the Sea" and proved both cruel and effective. He would reprise these, most controversially, in his postwar assignment as chief architect of the Indian Wars in the West.

Despite the mixed results of his approach to cavalry and the moral ambiguity (in the Indian Wars verging on genocide) of his policy of waging war on civilians, it cannot be denied that Sheridan was a superb leader of troops, a fine tactician, and an aggressive fighter, who was especially effective in forcing Lee to surrender his Army of Northern Virginia in the closing weeks of the Civil War.

HISTORIANS RATING: THREE STARS

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2022 1:50 pm 
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Pierre Beauregard

The first general officer of the Confederacy, Beauregard was certainly well below the level of Robert E. Lee, Joseph Johnston, Stonewall Jackson, and Nathan Bedford Forrest, yet he may be seen as the archetypical Confederate commander - in heritage, appearance, manner, popular appeal, grandiose vision, and theatrical manner. While some have dismissed him as something of a blowhard, others have seen his spams of overheated battlefield rhetoric as inspiring (they sometimes were) and his flair for the dramatic as quite effective (as it was at the "siege" of Corinth). He was impulsive, too often animated by an anachronistic sense of honor, poorly disciplined, weak in organization and logistics, sometimes wanting in tactics, and unrealistic in his formulations of broad strategy (though unshakable in his conviction that he was right), yet he was often an effective leader of men, a general capable of winning the confidence and cooperation of civilians (especially in Charleston), and a brilliant engineer, whose work on Confederate fortifications was more valuable than a field army corps. In short, his was a contradictory nature, and he combined an idiosyncratic unreliability with unprecedented longevity in command.

HISTORIANS RATING: TWO STARS




I think it is a fair evaluation. Beauregard reminds me of the person most likely to be in the ACWGC in 2022. An armchair general who loves to strategize and think of grand schemes while ignoring actual logistics. While his ideas are amusing to read about (such as shifting entire armies around from theater to theater for lightning attacks) they were hardly feasible. Still, one has to wonder what the Confederacy had to lose by trying something so crazy in 1864 when the end was already coming in sight.

Beauregard's most confusing moment for me was at Shiloh and in the period leading up to it. He was ill during the campaign and had not expected to take an active field command (or so he said) so soon. But the situation in the west screamed for a man of Beauregard's ego to take command and save the day. Had Beauregard managed to defeat Grant and reverse the tide in the west, his star would have ascended to unprecedented heights. With a victory large enough he might have even won the war in the west and gone down in history as the Father of the Confederacy. This had to be on his mind given his personality. Yet, as the historian above writes, his plans at Shiloh were poor, his organization abysmal, and his leadership faltered just before the battle. While still remembered by general history as the victor of Bull Run, those in the Civil War community are more apt to stack up his shortcomings and failures and view him as a mediocre general.

The two-star rating works for me.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2022 8:01 am 
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Winfield Scott

Hero of the War of 1812 and prime architect of victory in the U.S.-Mexican War, Winfield Scott was general-in-chief of the Union army at the outbreak of the Civil War. Old, obese, and unwell, he retired seven months into the war, having drawn up a grand plan of blockade that was universally mocked but ultimately adopted.

It is all too easy to see in the doddering three-hundred-pound general derisively dubbed “Old Fuss and Feathers” a parody of military command and a symbol of the Union army’s initial unpreparedness to effectively fight the Civil War; however, Scott entered the war as the nation’s most distinguished and longest-serving commander, and he contributed to the war effort its most comprehensive and coherent strategic program.

HISTORIANS RATING: THREE STARS




Given that Winfield Scott never took the field as a general in the Civil War this is a pretty interesting debate. His overall vision and plan for the war turned out to be the blueprint for Union victory though. Based on that alone I believe, as did the author, that Scott deserves great credit. Scott also had the foresight to try and recruit Robert E. Lee to lead the Union forces but was unsuccessful.

I'm good with a three-star rating. Small sample size but when you are right, you are right.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2022 1:21 pm 
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Sir,
The depths of your Executive Private Office (bathroom) knows no bounds, an excellent treatise I don't doubt. Intrigued to read further.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2022 3:55 pm 
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Joseph Johnston

Two classes of men were convinced that Joseph Johnston was among the greatest generals of the Civil War: those who served under him and those, including Ulysses S. Grant and William Sherman, who fought against him. Others, Confederate president Jefferson Davis foremost among them, believed his lack of aggressiveness cost him – and the Confederacy – victory in every campaign he led.

Military historians are divided in opinion. Some hold that, had Johnston received adequate support instead of criticism and interference from Davis, his careful, prudent approach to war-fighting, which substituted maneuver for battle, might have positioned the South to avoid unconditional surrender. Others condemn him in the harshest way they can: by describing him as the Confederate George McClellan.

HISTORIANS RATING: TWO AND A HALF STARS



Johnston continues to be re-evaluated and re-evaluated and re-evaluated. I've heard historians crush him and others declare him Lee's superior. I think with enough time passage it is possible Johnston surpasses Lee in the estimation of military historians. Crazy? Lee was head and shoulders above Grant, Sherman, and Johnston a generation ago. Now Grant and Sherman are usually rated above Lee, while Johnston has caught up. There are lots of reasons for this which are too complex to get into here. Suffice to say I think it is the changing nature of warfare, how we interpret wars should be fought, and how effective, or not, defensive/partisan warfare is against a superior force. Lee's traditional and aggressive approach to war has fallen out of favor while Johnston's cautious and defensive style have become en vouge.

"Military historians are divided in opinion." Yep. He summed it all up right there.

Two and a half stars? I'd probably agree with that based on his rating system.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:36 pm 
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Blake wrote:

Two and a half stars? I'd probably agree with that based on his rating system.


How does he arrive at the rating? What are the factors?

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:45 pm 
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I wouldn't rate Joseph Johnston that high. Don't blame him for his defensive tactics in the Atlanta campaign or fault him during the Peninsula Campaign, but I believe his handling of the Vicksburg Campaign was negligent. True, he advised Pemberton to abandon Vicksburg, but he should have relocated to Vicksburg sooner, after the Union fleet ran the guns. Instead, he stayed with Bragg's army,
which didn't need him at the time. I remember Johnston sent a bunch of railroad rolling stock to northern Mississippi, where it was later trapped and destroyed. Anyway, there is a reason offensive is a principle of war and defense isn't. Can't think of a single Johnston offensive campaign during the war.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2022 5:50 pm 
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Quaama wrote:
Blake wrote:

Two and a half stars? I'd probably agree with that based on his rating system.


How does he arrive at the rating? What are the factors?


1 Star = A losing commander
2 Stars = A competent commander
3 Stars = A winning commander
4 Stars = A standout commander

He likely uses the same factors any other historians would - performance, results, and effectiveness.

Based on that scale then, Johnston deserves the rating. He was competent but he didn't win very much. Aside from Bull Run and Kennesaw Mountain he usually retreated rather than engaged the enemy. Fair Oaks was an abysmally fought battle as well.

And, unlike Mike above, I didn't even factor in Vicksburg to all this. Good point, Mike. Does Johnston's "success" with the Army of Tennessee NOT being crushed by Sherman count as making up for Vicksburg's loss? His soldiers surely loved him and believed him to be a great commander. The polar opposite was Hood who wrecked them in just a few months.

I knew Johnston's rating would get a few comments :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2022 8:16 pm 
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IMHO one of the very best. A great tactician. He stood bareheaded in the rain at Sherman's funersl to pay honor to his classmate. Then contracted pneumonia and died about a month later.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2022 7:57 am 
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I believe Johnston fought defensively well but never knew when to pull the trigger and attack the enemy. He was a one trick pony. It kept him from losing on the field of battle but also kept him from winning decisively.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2022 3:29 pm 
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George McClellan

Extraordinarily intelligent, number two in his West Point class, universally praised as a brilliant organizer, beloved by his troops, and impressive to the public, George B. McClellan was nevertheless unsuited to large-unit combat command. Personally courageous, he was nevertheless chronically and pathologically inclined to magnify the challenges and obstacles he faced, to believe that those above him wished to see him fail, and, most of all, to wildly overestimate the strength of the enemy. These psychological defects prevented him from committing his troops to battle in a timely manner, which repeatedly resulted in tragically missed opportunities for decisive victories that would likely have shortened if not ended the Civil War before the close of its second year. A talented, earnest, humane officer, McClellan, evaluated in terms of the results he produced and did not produce, was the single most notable failure among the Union’s high command.

HISTORIANS RATING: ONE STAR[/size]


Agreed. His organizational skills were fantastic, and he looked the part of a general. His men also worshipped him. But McClellan was his own worst enemy. The list of his failures is too long to go through. He was simply not meant to be a field general.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2022 12:17 pm 
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Robert E. Lee

Perhaps no general in any army at any time has been more universally admired than Robert E. Lee. His character commanded the devotion of his men as well as the people of the South (who, for the most part, idolized him) and won the ungrudging respect of his Union opponents. His ability to hold together the Army of Northern Virginia under conditions of crushing hardship was nearly miraculous. He possessed the topographical understanding of the brilliant engineer that he was; few commanders have so completely grasped the concept of what modern soldiers call battlespace. His approach to tactical problems was innovative and often daring, as when he deliberately divided his forces in the face of the enemy at the Second Battle of Bull Run and at Chancellorsville. His “big picture” concept of the appropriate Confederate strategy was persuasive, though ultimately unsuccessful. He believed that the North had to be dealt a series of quick, aggressive offensive blows to break its will to fight and force its leaders to negotiate a peace favorable to the Confederacy. Lee was a commander of great personal courage, who also had an uncanny facility for seeing the battle from his adversary’s point of view.

Yet he was far from being the perfect general. His policy of offense, of offering battle at every opportunity, led to his sacrificing the very real advantages of fighting a defensive war on “home soil.” Even more critical was the deep flaw in his command style. Without doubt, Lee possessed compelling “command presence,” but his habit of couching in the consultative language of gentleman soldiers what should have been emphatic, direct, and absolute orders to subordinates sometimes led to a breakdown in coordination among the elements of his Army of Northern Virginia. At Gettysburg, the results of this command style were notoriously catastrophic. Lee seems often to have lacked the energy as well as the willingness to ride herd on his subordinates and to ensure the proper, prompt, and complete execution of his orders. For this, he and his army sometimes paid a heavy price.

Finally, speed and maximum aggression were the hallmarks of Lee’s strategy and tactics, and the foundation of his battlefield success. These, however, requires a willingness to spend lives. Ultimately, Lee was unable to produce with this bloody prodigality the results he wanted – and the Confederacy needed – before he had bled the army white. When Ulysses S. Grant turned the Civil War into a contest of attrition, Lee and his forces were doomed.

In the end, perhaps Robert E. Lee’s greatest contribution to the Civil War was the aura of nobility and honor he generated about himself. Thanks in large part to him, the Civil War definitively ended rather than petered out in the bitter “Bleeding Kansas”-style violence of a prolonged guerilla resistance. Lee showed his men how to win battles, but, in final defeat, he also showed them how to surrender with a dignity and a humanity that contributed to the healing of the nation.


HISTORIANS RATING: THREE AND A HALF STARS




As much as I think Lee deserves four stars... I think he falls just short. If I have one battle and the fate of my existence is riding on the outcome then, of course, Lee is at the head of the army. But his big picture failings are undeniable, and his command style did lack determination at some critical junctures during the war. But on the whole, he is the finest army commander of the war.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2022 3:48 pm 
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Lee should be 4 stars. As a field general there are few better in history than Lee. Tactically Lee was superior to any other general in the war for my money. No general was perfect but Lee was as close as could be expected given the odds and logistics against him.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2022 8:41 pm 
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Robert Edwad Lee - Tha finest man whatevah sucked a breath of air!

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 23, 2022 9:37 pm 
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Lee lost the war. You can't expect a perfect score when you're on the losing team. Had he been more conservative in tactics and strategy he may have bled the north more before the 64 election. He wrecked his own army over time. Grant understood logistics that Lee didn't.

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