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(Cracked)   George Washington is perhaps the most well-known founding father. He was either lucky at times or a pure genius, here's why   (cracked.com) divider line 9
    More: Interesting, George Washington, Continental Army, Sounds Good  
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13797 clicks; posted to Main » on 05 Jan 2013 at 6:48 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-01-05 04:53:40 PM
8 votes:
CSB time:

My degree is in military history. When I was an undergrad, I had the opportunity to spend a week in a series of seminars run by the late great John Keegan. During one of the closing sessions, one of the moderators asked him who he thought was the greatest general of the last 500 years. Like everyone else, I expected one of the usual suspects: Napoleon, Mannstein, Wellington, Moltke, Lee, Frederick the Great - someone famous, right?

However, much to my surprise and the surprise of everyone else in the room, he replied 'Washington'.

The moderator asked him to explain - after all, Washington was nothing more than a mediocre tactician, he lost more battles than he won, and he relied on others for his training and battlefield leadership. He didn't even have a degree, much less a former commission in the British Army.

Keegan's reply was instructive, and it has stuck with me. I'll paraphrase:

1. Unlike Napoleon, Hitler, et al, he won his war.
2. And he did it against the British Empire.
3. Which had never lost  meaningful war. Not against the Spanish Armada, not against the Dutch, not against the French, not against the Germans. None of them. The  onlyperson to decisively and permanently defeat the British was Washington.
4. And he did it with no army, no money, no fleet, no training, no pre-existing governmental structure, no training, and only limited assistance - yes, French ships, guns, and men helped close the deal, but only after he had done most of the work setting things up.

In conclusion, Washington was a rank amateur who took on something that had defeated the best efforts of every professional for 1000 years, and he won. And he did it without resorting to dictatorship, a bloody guerilla war, or any of the other problems that have so often plagued revolutionary leaders.

And that, in the opinion of one of the greatest military historians who has ever lived, made Washington the best general of the past 500 years. 

He convinced me.
2013-01-06 03:16:41 AM
1 votes:
All the military stuff aside, I always thought he was a great man, because of the power he chose to give up without a struggle. Historically when someone is in a position of power such as he was, they are loathe to relinquish it. Usually it has to be wrested from them. No blood was shed when Washington left office and he commanded a lot of respect from people in general. That always carried a lot of weight in my mind anyway.
2013-01-06 02:03:53 AM
1 votes:
www.reoiv.com
Obilg
2013-01-06 01:07:05 AM
1 votes:

vygramul: DoctorOfLove: vygramul: whistleridge: No, the numbers weren't big by European standards, but given the costs involved in waging war at such a distance, that's not surprising. But the US revolution was a HUGE deal to the British, and it definitely got just as much of their attention as Napoleon or Hitler did. It just didn't threaten the British Isles as much.

Compared to the forces the British committed to India and Europe, the colonies were a sideshow.  The only naval engagements of any size in this hemisphere were over Caribbean French and Spanish interests.

"King George took the loss badly and considered abdication before facing the political and military realities. 1788 he suffered his first attack of insanity (now believed to be the result of the inherited disease porphyria) which was to plague him for the rest of his life. His son George, Prince of Wales, was made temporary regent an arrangement which became permanent in 1810."

George would have committed suicide had he lost India or lost the home front.

This isn't to say Great Britain didn't  care.  They just cared more about two other theaters of war.


So what were they doing for the three years before those other theaters of war opened up? Sure, yes, the Americans only won because the French jumped in and eventually forced the British to defend those territories that they still controlled. That was the American plan since independence. In fact the Continental Congress was somewhat disappointed that they were only able to get France and the Dutch republic directly involved, since they hoped that desire to trade with the former colonies would lead to more European support. Without the threat of the French, the British would have been able to just blockade American ports forever, no matter how many land battles they won.

Nonetheless, the British took the potential loss of the 13 colonies very seriously, if anything, the importance of the colonies and how bad losing them would be was way overblown, and made the conflict much worse. If you don't believe me, actually read about it. Hell, I think even freaking Parliamentary records go back that far, and they'll show that the British ministry was virtually consumed with retaking the colonies. They threw everything they had at us.

This idea that "Well, the British only lost because they didn't really care that much!" is eye-rolling and only stated by people who can't handle their country losing a war more than 200 years ago.
2013-01-05 09:33:17 PM
1 votes:

marius2: vygramul:
That's not terribly convincing.  For one, the Brits were engaged in three major theaters of war, and the colonies were the least important theater.  All the other examples were Britain's PRIMARY theater of war.

This. So much this. I think Washington was a bad dude, but the idea that he was fighting the British Empire is laughable. He was fighting mercenaries. England had more important things to worry about.


Actually, he went into this at some length. And instead of weakening the case for Washington, he argued that it strengthened it (I have the talk on tape and actually dug it up for this).

He argues:

* The American Revolution was really The Seven Years' War II: Electric Boogaloo. Same as the Seven Years' War, except that Quebec was on the British side and the British colonies were on the French side. In this context, the US could easily have been turned into a French puppet, but that didn't happen. That was partly a success of US diplomacy (read: Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams), but it was also due hugely in part to Washington's considerable prestige as a leader of strength.

* The British did actually send some of their best after us. In fact, they sent the largest, most powerful, most capably led, and most well-armed and outfitted armies to ever serve overseas to that time. The army defeated at Saratoga was good, and Cornwallis' army was  verygood. It was basically the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces of the British Army (minus the Special Forces part after Ferguson got himself killed at King's Mountain). Washington knew just who to send to balance that out, and he knew just when to strike at Yorktown. His screening of New York to jump down to Virginia was masterful by any measure.

Consider:

 - Cornwallis had 9,000 troops (including mercenaries) at Yorktown. That doesn't sound like much, but compare it to:
 - Clive had 750 Europeans at Plassey
 - Wolfe had 4800 at Quebec
 - Burgoyne had 7,200 at Saratoga

No, the numbers weren't big by European standards, but given the costs involved in waging war at such a distance, that's not surprising. But the US revolution was a HUGE deal to the British, and it definitely got just as much of their attention as Napoleon or Hitler did. It just didn't threaten the British Isles as much.

* He had low casualties. Bad generals frequently get many, many people killed. But even as a percentage of his force, Washington kept his casualties amazingly low for the era.

* He got a lasting treaty out of his war. It wasn't your typical 18th century pause-to-reload-then-go-at-it-again treaty. It was a Big Deal.

His argument is 40 minutes long, but it basically comes down to this: Washington was a mediocre battlefield commander, about par for the course. But he was a legendary leader of men, a superb organizer and administrator, and he had an incredible knack for identifying talent. Look at his cabinets, for Christ's sake. 

So if you rate 'best general' as 'who got the prettiest results on the battlefield maps', it would be someone else. But if you rate 'best general' as 'who got the best and most lasting result for the least number of lives spent on the battlefield', Washington wins hands down in his book.
2013-01-05 07:41:54 PM
1 votes:
vygramul:
That's not terribly convincing.  For one, the Brits were engaged in three major theaters of war, and the colonies were the least important theater.  All the other examples were Britain's PRIMARY theater of war.

This. So much this. I think Washington was a bad dude, but the idea that he was fighting the British Empire is laughable. He was fighting mercenaries. England had more important things to worry about.
2013-01-05 07:10:51 PM
1 votes:

Evil Twin Skippy: whistleridge: CSB time:

And that, in the opinion of one of the greatest military historians who has ever lived, made Washington the best general of the past 500 years.
He convinced me.

This


Seconded. The man was facinating, and the right man at (for?) the right time not only as a general but as a president. Consider that he could have been another King and yet he stepped down, setting precedent for every future president. Not an intellectual slouch by any means, but surrounded by some of the giants of their time and he held his own, often making more level headed decisions than some of his peers lobbied for.
2013-01-05 06:58:16 PM
1 votes:

whistleridge: CSB time:

My degree is in military history. When I was an undergrad, I had the opportunity to spend a week in a series of seminars run by the late great John Keegan. During one of the closing sessions, one of the moderators asked him who he thought was the greatest general of the last 500 years. Like everyone else, I expected one of the usual suspects: Napoleon, Mannstein, Wellington, Moltke, Lee, Frederick the Great - someone famous, right?

However, much to my surprise and the surprise of everyone else in the room, he replied 'Washington'.

The moderator asked him to explain - after all, Washington was nothing more than a mediocre tactician, he lost more battles than he won, and he relied on others for his training and battlefield leadership. He didn't even have a degree, much less a former commission in the British Army.

Keegan's reply was instructive, and it has stuck with me. I'll paraphrase:

1. Unlike Napoleon, Hitler, et al, he won his war.
2. And he did it against the British Empire.
3. Which had never lost  meaningful war. Not against the Spanish Armada, not against the Dutch, not against the French, not against the Germans. None of them. The  onlyperson to decisively and permanently defeat the British was Washington.
4. And he did it with no army, no money, no fleet, no training, no pre-existing governmental structure, no training, and only limited assistance - yes, French ships, guns, and men helped close the deal, but only after he had done most of the work setting things up.

In conclusion, Washington was a rank amateur who took on something that had defeated the best efforts of every professional for 1000 years, and he won. And he did it without resorting to dictatorship, a bloody guerilla war, or any of the other problems that have so often plagued revolutionary leaders.

And that, in the opinion of one of the greatest military historians who has ever lived, made Washington the best general of the past 500 years. 

He convinced me.


This
2013-01-05 06:53:04 PM
1 votes:
Cause Martha had a big fat bowl waiting for him when he got home from work?
 
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