Question of the Week #2

“Who do you rate as the top five best Confederate generals?”

Albert S. Johnston

28 Responses to Question of the Week #2

  1. Interesting answers thus far! Very Eastern-centric. I’ll throw my five down:

    1-Robert E. Lee 2-Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson 3-Nathan Bedford Forrest 4-Richard Taylor (little known; fantastic career with independent command success) and 5-James Longstreet

    I definitely have given preference to those who were successful in independent commands (thus, Longstreet barely squeaking in at fifth considering his independent disasters)

  2. (1) R. E. Lee and (2) Stonewall Jackson, for obvious and numerous reasons. (3) Gustave Beauregard, for First Manassas which was not as fortuitous as some assert, for much assiduous preparation and strategizing on his part took place beforehand; for fending off, while vastly outnumbered, invasions of Charleston and Petersburg; for his tremendous energy, intelligence and diligence applied toward numerous areas of expertise such as fortifications and intelligence; and wholehearted effort to the very end, as exemplified by his personally overseeing the construction of Fort York in North Carolina, the strength of which defeated Stoneman’s cavalry attack there. OK, he botched the alignment of the corps at Shiloh, but he was still enamored of Napoleon and many including Grant were still learning at that point. (4) Patrick Cleburne for his brilliant leadership and performances on numerous battlefields including Murfreesboro and Missionary Ridge, and especially his heroic stand at Ringgold Gap. (5) J.E.B. Stuart, the apotheosis of a cavalryman.

  3. Bernard Bee for creating the mythology and John B. Gordon is solid – otherwise I would mirror most of the above sentiments. I think you could (perhaps should) divide these questions into the so-called ‘warrior-generals’ and the strategic leadership generals – great stuff nonetheless.

    1. Thanks for including Bee. I love that guy, and the Bartow-Bee combo, even though they are Confederates. It has occurred to me to write/research both. Why is 1861 the most interesting year of the war for many of us?

  4. Here is the tally so far: Lee and Jackson tied with 8; Longstreet 7; Forrest 5; Joseph Johnston 4 (assuming Meg’s Johnston vote is for him, not Sidney); Stuart and Cleburne tied with 3; Early and Porter Alexander tied with 2; and Sidney Johnston, Rodes, Taylor, Beauregard, Buckner, Bee and Gordon each receiving 1 vote.

    1. My vote was for Joseph Johnston, yes. I think we ought to have a vote for the most attractive Civil War generals, and someone ought to offer to photoshop off the beards!

  5. Well this is a hard one in some ways, given that a general might excell at one level, but then not do well at higher levels. Plus it seems this sometimes becomes a popularity contest instead of an examination of true ability, sometimes this pans out with truth, sometimes it doesnt. SO, with that said, Ill throw these out. A.P. Stewart (steadily rose through the ranks to command what was left of the true Army of Tennessee by the end of the war), Cleburne (Did perform very well, though not perfect, he was a childhood favorite and still is), Lee (Although not a Eastern man, he was the best the CS had in Army leadership), John Breckinridge (an exception to the political general sterotype), and Hood (As Brigade and Division command only)

  6. New tally: Lee 11; Longstreet 9; Jackson 8; Cleburne 6; Forrest and Joseph Johnston tied with 5; Stuart 3; Early, Porter Alexander and Beauregard tied with 2; and Sidney Johnston, Rodes, Taylor, Buckner, Bee, Gordon, Wheeler, A.P. Hill, Stewart, Breckenridge, and Hood all receiving 1.

    No general was voted for unanimously.

  7. 1. Robert E. Lee

    2. Patrick Cleburne (great leader and a lot of character)

    3. J.E.B. Stuart (full of hubris, but was a great leader and knew what he was doing)

    4. James Longstreet (far from perfect, but consistently competent throughout the entirety of the war)

    5. G.T. Beauregard (I think he was developing through experience into a good General. He didn’t have the character flaws that Bragg had. He was aggressive and decisive. He could think strategically. He was an excellent engineer. It was a probably a mistake to have shelved him for much of the war. Things may have gone somewhat differently in the West if he had remained in command of the Army of Mississippi or been give command of Earl van Dorn’s and John Pemberton’s department. He hurt himself by not being as politically astute as say Robert E. Lee was)

    1. I agree with you about Beauregard. It would be interesting to know what would have happened if Davis gave him command of the Army of Tennessee when Bragg was relieved. He really wanted the position. I think highly of Johnston for many reasons, but believe that overall that Beauregard would have done better. For example, he would not have left Snake Creek Gap unguarded! But then, he would not have been in position to save Petersburg in June 1864.

      I wish that one of our excellent Civil War authors would do an updated, in-depth biography of Beauregard. T. Harry Williams’s is great, but it seems that more source material would be available now.

      1. Amanda–I will accept your challenge! I am getting a Masters now, so I have–lol!–plenty of opportunities to write papers. I have some tooling to do to my Ellsworth book, but it is pretty much done. I hope to look for a publisher by next spring. I want to do a Bee/Bartow book, and have been thinking about it for quite a while, and–of course–my other crush–Ward Hill Lamon. The thesis may end up being about the 1860 Republican Convention in some way, prolly with a focus on WHL, Hay, Nicolay, & Ellsworth.

        I’d better start exercising more–I have a lot to do in the next few years!

      2. I’m not well read on the Atlanta campaign so I can’t say, but you’re probably right Amanda.

        Chickamauga was also perhaps a Confederate victory in part to Beauregards’s persistent urging of a concentration of forces in the West.

  8. Updated tally: Lee 13; Longstreet 10; Jackson and Cleburne tied with 8; Forrest and Joseph Johnston tied with 5; Stuart 4; Beauregard 3; Early, Porter Alexander and A.P. Hill tied with 2; and Sidney Johnston, Rodes, Taylor, Buckner, Bee, Gordon, Wheeler, Stewart, Breckenridge, Hood, Hardee, and Richard Anderson all receiving 1.

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