Since it’s so wonderful to have all our subscribers back and the comments working again (huzzah!), let’s ask one of those popular questions we haven’t asked for a while…
Who’s your favorite Civil War general? Why?
Genl Longstreet. IMHO, he demonstrated the greatest growth and adaptation as a General as well as earlier than most, recognizing the Confederacy’s need to preserve manpower. I think the best example of his evolution is his almost lighthearted dismissal of Federal strength at Malvern Hill during the 7 Days campaign. Everyone I am sure is quite aware of the controversy surrounding Longstreet at Gettysburg and in contrast to Malvern Hill, I believe that Longstreet’s methodic/reluctant approach was due to his belief that the assault on day 3 stood little chance of success in the face of the Federals prepared position. Longstreet realized that an aggressive attack would no longer be all that was required to carry a position. Consider also Hood at Franklin and that even Lee didn’t really start to use the army with an eye to about conserving manpower until the Overland Campaign.
I’m too tired from work to go into much detail, but I think Longstreet is one of the more overrated generals in the war. He had many a bad idea and he was a liar (poor Ben Huger).
George H. Thomas, a man with fascinating history (survived the Nat Turner Rebellion as a child, a Virginian who put country first}. He looked after his troops and never put them in a position where an assault would lead to them being butchered. Performance at Chickamauga is testament to his leadership skills and his ability to “play defense” when he had to. Number One reason, of course, is that HE NEVER LOST! Unlike so many of his peers, there was nothing flashy about him and he had no friends in high places boosting his career. However, he served his country faithfully and effectively and deserves more recognition than he is commonly given.
Can’t disagree. George Thomas was an igneous rock. The John Sedgwick of the West.
My hero is also George Thomas. General Thomas was a solid, dependable fighter. I don’t believe he was significantly mired in controversy. He was just a “Steady Eddie”.
My hero is George Thomas too. First and foremost because he had made a pledge to defend the Constitution of the US, and so he faithfully did. I also fully agree with Dave and K: he stands out among his peers and deserves a lot more recognition than he is usually given.
Robert E. Lee for all the obvious reasons, but especially because he always fought at a disadvantage and usually came out on top. Whether it was lack of personal or material or general officers due to superior tactics and strategy he won.
I’m gonna go with Custer. Young, flamboyant, courageous, often reckless, ambitious, he certainly was a man of his times. And he had his fair share of successes…
I think Forrest is comparable to Custer in character somewhat, yet a better general and with a less expensive, formal education.
Both were lucky to make it out the war alive.
I’ll still take Custer..
Brevet Brigadier General John T. Wilder. Organized and led his “Lightning Brigade” composed of mounted infantry armed with Spencer repeating rifles combining firepower and maneuverability. At Hoover’s Gap and Chickamauga the Lightning Brigade outclassed Confederate infantry and held crucial positions against superior odds. His tactical style still influences ground military units to this day.
Henry Hunt. Fully dedicated to his chosen arm, to the U.S. Army, to his Government, and to his gunners. When he had personal disagreements (e.g., Hancock at Gettysburg) they were based on professional grounds.
My favorite is Henry Jackson Hunt. It is my belief that he created a highly efficient arm of the army that rippled down to each battery. His influence can be observed through the performance of his gunners and section leaders.
My choice as my favorite Civil War general is Patrick Cleburne. A Irish born westerner who possessed the ability to inspire his troops, and also came to the conclusion that the notions of emancipation along with secession could be compatible.
I think that Generals, and all officers for that matter, past and present, get far too much attention and glory. It’s the grunts, the privates and non-coms who deserve the most praise, for they are the ones who suffer the most, in battle and out of it, in the common day to day military life.
With that all in mind, to answer your question, I’d have to say Nathan Bedford Forrest. Say what you want about his politics, but Forrest started out the war as a lowly private with no formal military training and ended it as one of the war’s most successful and feared Generals. Any officer that starts out as an enlisted man first is A-okay in my book.
My favorite General in the Civil War is George H. Thomas. Born in Virginia, he stayed loyal to his soldier’s oath. His stand at Chickamauga may have saved the Union. If the Confederates had been allowed to take Chattanooga, it would have taken an extra six months to take Atlanta in which case the election of 1864 may have gone against Lincoln and a peace deal with Confederate independence may have been on the table.
His victory in December 1864 at Nashville completed the destruction of the best Confederate army in the western theater, the Army of Tennesse. This left Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia alone against the might of the Union and final victory was no longer in question.
George Thomas, not only a brilliant tactician but he would not move until HE was ready, despite higher command’s displeasure with him at Nashville and for his stand at Chickamauga saving the Army of the Cumberland.
The general I most admire is Major General William T. Sherman. He had an incredible grasp on the the art and science of warfare, especially the fundamental idea of reducing an adversary’s ability to resist. What Sherman’s army did was vicious (and to be on the wrong end of it was horrible); but, in his march, he reduced the Confederate armies ability to resist by destroying their means, as well as broke the will of the people to resist. Great book to read: Citizen Sherman by Michael Fellman.
My easy answer is George Thomas. But I will say Phil Sheridan, though I really dislike him as an individual. A very, very good infantry commander who grew into an effective commander of combined arms. Relentless, the Union Bedford Forrest. The only comparable inspirational leader on the Union side was Custer. And Warren really was burned out by 1865, though he was more sinned against than dinner at Five Forks
I have a main interest in how the regular army adapted to the war, and in particular serving officers (so that leaves out Grant, Sherman. Rosecrans). I suppose Meade would lead my list of generals. I also have an interest in Gordon Granger and to lesser extent Canby (who probably is a good example of a senior regular officer who also persisted into the post-war army.
Grant, Thomas, Cleburne, Longstreet, Jackson, Sherman in that order. Three federals and three Rebs. Union was lucky that the careers of all three Reb generals were cut short by death – Cleburne and Jackson; politics – Cleburne; and injury – Longstreet.
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