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Favourite Anglo-American Generals of the War of Independence?

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  • Favourite Anglo-American Generals of the War of Independence?

    I'd be genuinely interested to hear what people think of the WoI Generals, notably the biggies, like Washington and Howe. I have my own opinions about them, notably the infamous Clinton-Cornwallis relationship, but I'd rather hear your opinions first and then get involved rather than inadvertently swaying anyone in the first post!

    Anyway, let me know what you think. It might be enlightening! It also might be good to keep in mind how little difference there was between these men. Cornwallis, for example, firmly supported the view of the early Americans, but later went to war against them. Washington, on the other hand, left his old army and Commanded his new one. Food for thought.

  • #2
    Like many Americans I tend to worship anything and everything related to George Washington. We find little fault with him as a general, a President, or anywhere else for that matter. I think his greatest accomplishment in the war was simply never allowing the army to be captured and destroyed. By staying in the field, he wore down the British resolve. Tactically, I look to Dorchester Heights and Yorktown as evidence of his ability.

    Nathaniel Greene is often thought of as our 2nd greatest. He gets credit for winning the Southern Campaign which we tend to think of as the last British hope of victory. Though Greene won no battles, he is also credited with winning by simply staying in the field without getting destroyed.

    Horatio Gates represents our most scorned. Despite being in command at Saratoga, the modern trend over here is to overcredit Benedict Arnold and push any accomplishment of Gates to the side. I disagree with this approach but it is probably commonly held. I tend to think that George Washington carries a lot of responsibility for history's bad image of Gates. Because they were rivals and GW is beloved, people tend to bash Gates. Also GW himself spoke of 'the real hero of Saratoga'. And then of course Gates loss at Camden cements his position as our least liked general of the Revolution.

    As a general, Daniel Morgan gets good standing for his work at Saratoga and later at Cowpens. Nothing like defeating the single most hated of the enemy to endear a man to his country.

    Benjamin Lincoln was probably better than his reputation. But, then again, his loss at Charlestown showed the exact opposite of GW and Greene. He managed to get his army destroyed in a single battle. The only type of defeat we really couldn't stand. Even at Camden, most of the men survived to fight another day. At Charles Town, they went to the prison ships almost to a man.

    We love Henry Knox for bringing the guns to Dorchester. enough to get you going?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Elijah View Post
      Like many Americans I tend to worship anything and everything related to George Washington. We find little fault with him as a general, a President, or anywhere else for that matter. I think his greatest accomplishment in the war was simply never allowing the army to be captured and destroyed. By staying in the field, he wore down the British resolve. Tactically, I look to Dorchester Heights and Yorktown as evidence of his ability.

      Nathaniel Greene is often thought of as our 2nd greatest. He gets credit for winning the Southern Campaign which we tend to think of as the last British hope of victory. Though Greene won no battles, he is also credited with winning by simply staying in the field without getting destroyed.

      Horatio Gates represents our most scorned. Despite being in command at Saratoga, the modern trend over here is to overcredit Benedict Arnold and push any accomplishment of Gates to the side. I disagree with this approach but it is probably commonly held. I tend to think that George Washington carries a lot of responsibility for history's bad image of Gates. Because they were rivals and GW is beloved, people tend to bash Gates. Also GW himself spoke of 'the real hero of Saratoga'. And then of course Gates loss at Camden cements his position as our least liked general of the Revolution.

      As a general, Daniel Morgan gets good standing for his work at Saratoga and later at Cowpens. Nothing like defeating the single most hated of the enemy to endear a man to his country.

      Benjamin Lincoln was probably better than his reputation. But, then again, his loss at Charlestown showed the exact opposite of GW and Greene. He managed to get his army destroyed in a single battle. The only type of defeat we really couldn't stand. Even at Camden, most of the men survived to fight another day. At Charles Town, they went to the prison ships almost to a man.

      We love Henry Knox for bringing the guns to Dorchester. enough to get you going?
      Oh, indeed! I never would have thought of Arnold being over-credited, I always assumed his name was mud in America? (Being a traitor, and all that?)

      As to myself, I believe Greene to be over-rated. A solid chap, no doubt, but not really possessed of great tactical flair. He lost the southern campaign, Cornwallis completely annihilated any hopes of his winning there (but crucially, not his army).

      It is my considered opinion that British atrophy and bad luck was as much a cause of the Americans winning as their generals! Howe was brilliant, at least in my opinion, but of course dies, thus leaving the duo of Clinton-Cornwallis in command. Clinton was a superb strategist (or so we are told. Some people think this was exaggerated), and Cornwallis was a fine tactician (in the words of Washington "the only commander they have who isn't an idiot). Cornwallis's Southern Campaign was tactically brilliant, but strategically utterly flawed. It is no surprise that Washington, who I would say was a genius at logistics and strategy, if tactically (forgive me) rather mediocre, was able to defeat Cornwallis by completely encircling all available forces around him.

      I think a lot of people, particularly here in the UK, where the WoI is probably not studied as much as it should be, have a weird misconception of the war being one chiefly composed of "guerillas" fighting the "stupid Brits" fighting in lines. Reality is, of course, so much more interesting!

      I agree about Gates, by the way.

      Comment


      • #4
        Yes, for some reason there is a modern trend to overplay Arnold's pre-turncoat contributions. Admittedly he was very personally courageous but he was also a reckless officer who repeatedly ignored his instructions for the sake of personal glory. His actions at Saratoga are frequently credited for the victory but, in truth, old Johnny was already wrapped up and in danger of starving before Arnold's charge at 2nd Freeman's Farm. In my opinion, it is actually Philip Schuyler who outlined the winning strategy in the Saratoga Campaign. And of course we also understand the actual victory came from a lack of coordination between Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne.

        I might also tend to agree that Greene is granted more credit than earned. Like I pointed out originally, he won no battles. But, he didn't lose them either. Holding the field at the end of the day was meaningless in the revolution. Only by capturing the army could Greene be defeated. He knew that and does deserve many kudos for that. Also for not being overly concerned about his personal status. The war in the south was filled with militia generals (Sumter, etc.) with huge egos. Greene successfully utilized these assets without losing his temper and ruining his relationship with the partisans.

        I'm a bit disadvantaged talking about British leaders as we tend to focus more on the Patriots. However, Archibald Campbell and Maitland (71st Highlanders) come to mind as examples of fine men who fought well without getting into the cycle of murder and bad behavior so common in the Southern Campaigns. I personally dislike Patrick Ferguson although there is a monument at the King's Mountain battlefield referring to him as a man of honor. I feel it undeserved. Banastre Tarleton is our most famous British villain of the war although many modern authors have tended to downplay his problematic actions. Without comment on his other reputation, as a battlefield commander he reminds me of Benedict Arnold in that he was rash yet personally courageous. Daniel Morgan took advantage of his rash style and gave us victory at Cowpens at Ban's expense.

        We did use a lot of 4rth Generation Warfare type of tactics that helped in wearing down British resolve. The partisans who refused to give up after Camden played a huge role in ultimate success. However, it was also necessary to stand up in conventional ways before the victory could be had.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Elijah View Post
          Yes, for some reason there is a modern trend to overplay Arnold's pre-turncoat contributions. Admittedly he was very personally courageous but he was also a reckless officer who repeatedly ignored his instructions for the sake of personal glory. His actions at Saratoga are frequently credited for the victory but, in truth, old Johnny was already wrapped up and in danger of starving before Arnold's charge at 2nd Freeman's Farm. In my opinion, it is actually Philip Schuyler who outlined the winning strategy in the Saratoga Campaign. And of course we also understand the actual victory came from a lack of coordination between Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne.

          I might also tend to agree that Greene is granted more credit than earned. Like I pointed out originally, he won no battles. But, he didn't lose them either. Holding the field at the end of the day was meaningless in the revolution. Only by capturing the army could Greene be defeated. He knew that and does deserve many kudos for that. Also for not being overly concerned about his personal status. The war in the south was filled with militia generals (Sumter, etc.) with huge egos. Greene successfully utilized these assets without losing his temper and ruining his relationship with the partisans.

          I'm a bit disadvantaged talking about British leaders as we tend to focus more on the Patriots. However, Archibald Campbell and Maitland (71st Highlanders) come to mind as examples of fine men who fought well without getting into the cycle of murder and bad behavior so common in the Southern Campaigns. I personally dislike Patrick Ferguson although there is a monument at the King's Mountain battlefield referring to him as a man of honor. I feel it undeserved. Banastre Tarleton is our most famous British villain of the war although many modern authors have tended to downplay his problematic actions. Without comment on his other reputation, as a battlefield commander he reminds me of Benedict Arnold in that he was rash yet personally courageous. Daniel Morgan took advantage of his rash style and gave us victory at Cowpens at Ban's expense.

          We did use a lot of 4rth Generation Warfare type of tactics that helped in wearing down British resolve. The partisans who refused to give up after Camden played a huge role in ultimate success. However, it was also necessary to stand up in conventional ways before the victory could be had.
          Of course. My point is that there are those who watched "The Patriot" and took it to be...well...real!

          God, I hate Mel Gibson. Is he still popular in the US?

          Comment


          • #6
            Yes, we still love Mel Gibson. Even after his drunken anti-semitic outburst. But those of us with a bit of research under our belts understand those characters were composites who were overplayed.

            Unfortunately, the general public doesn't really have much interest in the details of the Revolution. Only in finding a few random quotes from the founders to use in bolstering their political arguments.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Elijah View Post
              Yes, we still love Mel Gibson. Even after his drunken anti-semitic outburst. But those of us with a bit of research under our belts understand those characters were composites who were overplayed.

              Unfortunately, the general public doesn't really have much interest in the details of the Revolution. Only in finding a few random quotes from the founders to use in bolstering their political arguments.
              That's sad, but it's the same here in the UK to be honest. The respect just isn't there for history.

              Comment


              • #8
                I think its terrible how little we emphasize our history and heritage in schools today.

                But, back to the original topic, I had a thought concerning Clinton. At least I think it was Clinton. The war in the South would likely have gone much differently had the British (I think Clinton) not made a serious mistake concerning the Cherokee and Creek indian tribes. Thomas 'Burntfoot' Brown and Moses Kirkland succeeded in convincing Clinton to overrule John Stuart's hesitation and armed the Indian tribes against the southern colonies. Kirkland and Brown were both notorious Tories. Brown was upset (rightly so) by losing his toes in a tar and feather episode. Kirkland reportedly went Tory because he was upset at not getting promoted to Colonel in the militia. In any event, these two managed to sway Clinton into making a terrible mistake. Before the instigation of Cherokee invasion, many in the back country were either luke warm to the cause or outright Tories. But, after the Cherokee incident, I don't believe there was ever anything close to a majority favoring the crown in the back country. What is important to know about the back country is simply they had over twice the population as the lower counties near the ocean.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Elijah View Post
                  I think its terrible how little we emphasize our history and heritage in schools today.

                  But, back to the original topic, I had a thought concerning Clinton. At least I think it was Clinton. The war in the South would likely have gone much differently had the British (I think Clinton) not made a serious mistake concerning the Cherokee and Creek indian tribes. Thomas 'Burntfoot' Brown and Moses Kirkland succeeded in convincing Clinton to overrule John Stuart's hesitation and armed the Indian tribes against the southern colonies. Kirkland and Brown were both notorious Tories. Brown was upset (rightly so) by losing his toes in a tar and feather episode. Kirkland reportedly went Tory because he was upset at not getting promoted to Colonel in the militia. In any event, these two managed to sway Clinton into making a terrible mistake. Before the instigation of Cherokee invasion, many in the back country were either luke warm to the cause or outright Tories. But, after the Cherokee incident, I don't believe there was ever anything close to a majority favoring the crown in the back country. What is important to know about the back country is simply they had over twice the population as the lower counties near the ocean.
                  I hadn't heard that one, but most of the war can be summarised by Cornwallis correcting Clinton's cock-ups.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The Indian attacks were supposed to be coordinated with Sir Peter Parker's assault on Charles Town. They would prevent Charles Town from receiving reinforcements from the Back Country. But the siege/assault never really got on the ground. By July 1776 when the Cherokee attacked, Parker had already failed. But the very idea of the Crown using the Indians against them in such a manner turned many a good loyalist into a whig.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      At the very moment Indepedence was being declared, the Wataugans (east tennessee) were under siege from Dragging Canoe, Old Abrams, and The Raven coming out of the Overhill towns. Other Cherokee parties hit North Carolina and South Carolina. Notable participants that would later impact the war in the South were Andrew Pickens, Thomas Sumter, John Sevier, Isaac Shelby, etc. The southern Partisans.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Elijah View Post
                        At the very moment Indepedence was being declared, the Wataugans (east tennessee) were under siege from Dragging Canoe, Old Abrams, and The Raven coming out of the Overhill towns. Other Cherokee parties hit North Carolina and South Carolina. Notable participants that would later impact the war in the South were Andrew Pickens, Thomas Sumter, John Sevier, Isaac Shelby, etc. The southern Partisans.
                        Of course, it's important to remember that many British Generals didn't privately support the war. Most of the British public did not.

                        No offense to the founding fathers, but Britain could have tried and tried again to take America back, eventually it would have happened. Fact is, most people round here sympathised!

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                        • #13
                          Perhaps you might have taken America back. But it was seriously problematic to project that much military power across the ocean and keep them supplied. Just as we see countries without the ability to defeat America in the field take us to the cleaners yet again. I recently read a book suggesting 4rth Gen Warfare was started by Mao. I am actually convinced it was started in the good old USA about 150 years earlier.

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                          • #14
                            Mr. Hacker,

                            I've always thought that Generals Howe and Cornwallis to be good generals,certainly better than their reputations imply. I'm curious as to how they are viewed in Britain.
                            If the art of war were nothing but the art of avoiding risks,glory would become the prey of mediocre minds. Napoleon

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by James Hacker MP View Post
                              I'd be genuinely interested to hear what people think of the WoI Generals, notably the biggies, like Washington and Howe. I have my own opinions about them, notably the infamous Clinton-Cornwallis relationship, but I'd rather hear your opinions first and then get involved rather than inadvertently swaying anyone in the first post!

                              Anyway, let me know what you think. It might be enlightening! It also might be good to keep in mind how little difference there was between these men. Cornwallis, for example, firmly supported the view of the early Americans, but later went to war against them. Washington, on the other hand, left his old army and Commanded his new one. Food for thought.
                              James,

                              I hope that you're enjoying our forum. I would say that my opinions are similar to Elijah's summary, but I think that you both are under rating Greene. If all of your opponent's victories are phyrric in nature, who needs a victory? If your army is intact, and you drawing your enemy further from his source of supply, who needs a victory?
                              Lance W.

                              Peace through superior firepower.

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