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America’s Top 5 Greatest Generals

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The United States Military has existed officially since 1794 when the United States Navy was officially created by Congress. However, as we all know from American History, the forces combined prior to then due to wanting freedom from the English Colonizers that had treated them so poorly for a century. The American Armed Forces consist of the United States Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and most recently, the Space Force. The United States has declared War eleven times during five separate conflicts. That being said, the military has been involved in various conflicts across the world so therefore, the official record may be unclear as conflicts arise, such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Somalian Uprising, and more.

In said conflicts there are those that are remembered as the successful ones and those that remembered for their failures. War is hell, their is no doubt about that but the leaders in those wars are the ones who get the credit for winning or losing it. Today, we will examine 5 generals who were successful in their campaigns and as leaders. We will not calculate based on wins and losses but rather on legacy and opportunities. So let’s begin.


5. Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas in 1890. He was the third of seven kids and as it turns out the name Ike came from his mother who called her oldest boy Edgar, Big Ike, and Dwight was called Little Ike. The Eisenhowers moved in 1892 to Abilene, Kansas. Young Dwight was 2 years young and called Kansas his home. Eisenhower was deeply religious, but despite his better judgment of his mother sought a life of discipline beyond religion. He applied and was accepted to West Point Military Academy in 1910.


Eisenhower during his time at Westpoint.

Eisenhower during his time at Westpoint.

Eisenhower was as man that revered competition and sport which made him perfect for wanting to be apart of the best military academy in the world. That being said he was not exactly one of the other generals on our list, he was mischievous and often found the “easy way out” of certain situations. He was regularly hazed as a member of the academy and it is thought that his tolerance of this despite not enjoying it lead to his less than stellar academic records when graduating. He played on the varsity football team but this was brief since he injured his knee several games into the season. He shifted his focus towards fencing and boxing. In 1915, upon graduating from West Point, Eisenhower was apart of a class that produced 59 generals which is one of the most ever in West Point History. They were referred to as the “Class the Stars Fell On” which was previously held by the class of 1886 which included another general on this list whose exploits will be explained. Eisenhower got married in 1916 to Mamie Doud whom he met during his initial assignment in Texas. Eisenhower requested multiple times to be sent overseas during World War I but was increasingly denied and instead asked to train tank corps due to tanks slowly becoming the new most popular weapon of warfare. For his work on the homefront, Eisenhower received a Distinguished Service Medal but felt bitter that he had not been called to the front. Later this would affect his status as those that had served previously felt that Eisenhower never having seen combat could not be an effective general. Pearl Harbor happened in December of 1941 and frankly the United States was not ready for the second World War. During the interwar years, the Great Depression and lack of military spending had placed the military at 18th in the world. In Fall of 1942, Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force as the US began its assault on Nazi Germany in North Africa. After February of 1943, the Allies had moved on from North Africa after defeating the Nazis.


Eisenhower talking to Paratroopers prior to D-Day.

Eisenhower talking to Paratroopers prior to D-Day.

Eisenhower’s Finest Hour as it turns out came following North Africa. The mainland invasion of Europe had not been decided yet and frankly their was much discussion as to how the Allies would do it. The first step was not where we all thought it would be. The Allies decided that Sicily would be the first step in conquering Europe. This command was given for this operation to George S. Patton. Eisenhower, behind closed doors, was planning something much larger than going “up the boot” of Italy. With the assistance of the British, Eisenhower was planing Operation Overlord, better known as D-Day. The Normandy Invasion would be the largest invasion in history but would need luck as Hitler had been working on making Europe impenetrable from the coast. However, with the assistance of the Free French, American Spies, as well as shear luck and good weather, the Allies broke through Normandy. From here on out the war was spent crumbling what was left of the Nazi’s vast European Empire. Overlord’s success was the ultimate success for Eisenhower in his lengthy military career. Winning the War on his terms with the assistance of the Russians, British, Canadians as well as those who where fighting the war from inside the occupied countries. However, despite winning the war, it could be argued that Eisenhower’s greatest achievement was in fact the steps that he took in order to prevent Holocaust Denial from happening.


Eisenhower Debating with Generals of the Allies including Bernard Montgomery (Right) of the British Army.

Eisenhower Debating with Generals of the Allies including Bernard Montgomery (Right) of the British Army.

Eisenhower, 1956 as President of the United States.

Eisenhower, 1956 as President of the United States.

Eisenhower’s time in Army was mostly finished and his time in politics began. Eisenhower ran in 1948 for the Presidency but lost dramatically. Eisenhower did not like the idea of getting involved in politics but decided after much discussion that he best get involved. He took some time away and became the President of Columbia University. He held this position until 1952 when he decided to run again. This time, he won the Presidency and was the first Republican President in over 20 years. This time, embedded in the Korean War and anti-communism, Eisenhower’s first term ended well. Korea ended up being a truce and anti-communism ended up gripping the nation that was ready to become a part of the Cold War. Eisenhower won yet again and his lasting legacy as president is the time that he spent assisting allies in SouthEast Asia, He is commonly referred to as the initial president who got the United States involved in Vietnam. Eisenhower’s post-presidency was short as he passed away in 1969. He remained involved assisting with Republican and Democratic Candidates alike. His time as a President was not as revered as his time as a Commander of Armed Forces. He often took time away from being President to play golf and frequented August National in Augusta, Georgia. He was not a big vocal personality and did not produce justice for wrongful accusations of George C. Marshall being called a communist, the 1960 U-2 incident and his lack of supporting the Civil Rights movement. However, his biggest positive is the creation of the interstate system. However, his time as General is considered to be one of the greatest ever considering his assistance in taking down the most notorious dictator the world had ever seen.

4. Ulysses S. Grant

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Like most generals throughout history. Ulysses Grant has a strong history in the military. His Great-Grandfather fought in the French and Indian War and his grandfather served in the colonial army during the American Revolution. Grant was born in 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio. He was one of five children. Grant’s biggest success at a young age was not his schooling but rather his ability to ride horses. Grant was not religious despite his upbringing. Grant didn’t believe in politics but he did believe in discipline and country.

Young Grant.

Young Grant.

Grant didn’t come from money but he was not exactly poor either. His family has connections and would eventually build a business empire that Grant would lose and regain later in his life. Grant’s father wrote a letter to a state representative to have his son attend West Point. Grant was accepted and started classes in the spring of 1839. Grant was still unsure of himself, he needed a confidence boost as his academics where his struggle. Grant was never called Ulysses. Everyone referred to him as U.S. Grant or “Sam.” Once again, his abilities with horses made it possible for him to catch the eye of elders at the academy. He graduated in 1843 21st out of his class of 39. Grant did not want a career in the military, he even stated that he was going to leave after his commission was up in four years.

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He received his first commission to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri. This was where he first showed signs of alcoholism. He was constantly being fined for having alcohol in his footlocker. He was depressed and often wanted to be a teacher instead of serving his nation by doing useless things. He was not unhappy with his commanding officers but was awaiting his time in the army to finish. In 1848, still in St. Louis, Grant married Julia Dent. They met during his initial tour in 1844. Grant’s family did not like the Dents. They were slaveholders and this was something that Grant even did not agree with but Julia was his girl and so he looked past it. Marrying Julia was the best thing that could have happened for Grant, it caused him to stay in the Army. Grant got his first taste of warfare in 1846 before he married Julia. Mexico and the United States where having difficulty agreeing on territory and with what became Texas stuck in the middle the young United States was looking to win its first war since the War of 1812. Grant saw minimal action but served under notable figures such as Zachary Taylor and James K. Polk who both later became presidents of the United States. Grant served most of his time as a quartermaster and attended to the needs of the battlefield rather than combat which would mark him later in his career during his defining moment. Grant left Mexico and returned with Julia to Detroit where the Grant’s were suffering financially. With a growing family to support, an officer salary was not enough. Grant’s father offered to assist him and unfortunately Grant and Julia decided that it was not in their best interest. Grant was again reassigned to Panama on orders where he nearly died of Cholera. Grant tried several business ventures but failed. He was a tragic hero instead of a historical figure.


Grant was promoted to Captain in 1853 and then in 1854 resigned due to being asked to leave the army for consistent alcohol abuse. According to Grant his drinking was not the reason he resigned but the writing was on the wall, he was done with the military and everyone knew it. Grant, not knowing anything other than the Army was a civilian at 32 years old. He had no money. He decided that farming was going to be his fallback, but that soon failed after he caught malaria. He worked in the real estate business as a bill collector; he again failed. He finally worked in his father’s leather goods business and was able to pay off his debts within months as a result. When Fort Sumter had happened, a nation trodded into its deadliest war. The North versus the South, 23 states versus 11 states. Grant favoring the North due to being from there but also because he did not believe in slavery despite at one point owning a slave and then freeing him becuase he needed the money.

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Due to Grant’s previous military commands he was initially denied request to lead troops for the North. George McClellan (who thankfully did not make this list). McClellan was the initial commander of Northern Forces and remained there briefly before being removed and then later called back. Grant started the war as a Colonel and fought the war in the Missouri. He fought in several campaigns including Belmont in late 1861 and Forts Henry and Donelson in early 1862. The South was winning the war despite Grant and other’s best efforts to win the war for the Union. Grant’s shining moment came at Shiloh where the Union was taking its harshest casualties until later that year at Antietam. Grant, now a general after being promoted with the support of William Sherman met combat via the guerilla warfare struck up by General’s P.G.T. Beauregard and Albert Sidney Johnson. The Union was slaughtered initially and due to poor leadership they were told to hold their positions where they would get slaughtered even further. With the support of Sherman, Grant was given the okay to attack the South and lead the Union the rest of the way during the war. Grant’s attack caused the Union’s victory but was costly. They lost 23,746 men in two days. Grant was a hero for the first time in his life and it was all supposed to be beautiful. But as usual, Grant found a way to screw it up. His drinking once again became a problem and his heroic headlines where soon drowned by his removal from command. The crazy part about Grant was that he was winning despite the crutch of alcohol in his life.


Siege of Vicksburg, 1863

Siege of Vicksburg, 1863

Vicksburg was the last stronghold on the Mississippi River. The Confederates has taken advantage of being able to use the Mississippi for supplies to their troops. Vicksburg was the last place the Union had yet to capture. After Antietam, in September of 1862, the Union was desperate for something positive to happen. Well, sitting in the corner of the room it felt like, a general named Grant had an idea. He asked for Admiral David Dixon Porter to steer his gunboats up the river at night and present a raid on the Confederate positions. Up to that point, the Union had captured Jackson, the state capital, all that was left Vicksburg. The raid was successful and the Confederate Army began a 47 day siege. It took the Union 18 months to capture Vicksburg but as a result of the 47 day siege the Union was able to provide evidence that they could finally win the war. Grant was given an opportunity to lead the charge in Tennessee yet again, this time, Chattanooga was the target. Yet another campaign had to be waged. Chattanooga was taken in 3 days but the Union price to pay was still high. Despite Grant winning the battle he took a bit of hit in the press because pictures where being shown of the casualties of the war and it was becoming clear that sentiment was going in the other direction. At Gettysburg, which one of our other generals lead command in, the Union won a decisive victory and stopped the Confederacy dead in its tracks. As a result of Vicksburg and Chattanooga going successfully and having a commander who was thought of as a “bit full of himself” in McClellan, President Lincoln promoted Grant as the commander of forces. It was Grant’s finest hour. He led campaigns at Petersburg, Cold Harbor and eventually met with General Robert E. Lee in April of 1865 to end the war officially. Grant returned to the military and remained there briefly yet again during Reconstruction when the South had to be rebuilt based on the scorched Earth policies of Sherman and other Union Generals.


Portrait of Grant during his time as Presidency.

Portrait of Grant during his time as Presidency.

Grant being a war hero tried to move back into civilian life but this time as a notable face, it was a lot less difficult for him to adjust as it had been when he was broke and 32-years old with a family to support. He became increasingly involved in politics. His involvement with rebuilding the Southern States won him recognition from many Northern and Southern voters and in 1868 Grant decided to run for President. He won the campaign easily. Many credited African-American’s voting for the first time with his success however, in states like Louisiana and Georgia, former slaves where treated horribly by White Supremacists like the Ku Klux Klan which caused them not to be able to go to the polls to vote, making this statement not necessarily valid. Grant was the youngest president elected at 46 and would be for just over 90 years when John F. Kennedy would take over in 1961. Grant’s biggest plans where reconstruction and re-affirming the Union within the states that had recently lost a war. Grant did a lot for the African-American community and was an outspoken abolitionist his whole life but his presidency proved that he was capable of making a difference for the lives of others. Grant’s time as President saw Free Trade Agreements with Hawaii, Border Raids on Mexico, harsher treatment of Native Americans, the financial crisis of 1873. He noted that he was depressed and that the job took time away from his family just like his work in the military. When he left, he stated that “he was never so happy in his life.” Grant was becoming a Grandfather as well. He went abroad on a world tour for diplomacy and was personally funded by him for $25,000 dollars. Grant was the first president current or former to visit Jerusalem. His world tour ended up hurting him financially and he ultimately was broke. He focused his remaining time with writing a military memoir. He finished his memoir in July of 1885. Grant died in later that month. His memoir became a best-sellar and the Grant’s retained their fortune.


3. John J. Pershing

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Probably the least know member of this list, John Pershing is probably one of military history’s greatest general’s much less the United States. You have to be on this list with a nickname like “Black Jack.” Pershing was born in 1860 while our previous general was fighting for the freedom of slavery and State’s Rights. Pershing was always an academic. He loved school and learning and felt that it was his calling. After completing high school, he became a local teacher to African-American children. However, he felt that he was not doing enough or at least as much as he could in his life despite earning a degree from what is now referred to as Truman State University. He decided in 1880 to apply for the United States Military Academy. He used West Point as a source of continuing education and was not hell-bent on obtaining a military career.

Pershing during his time at West Point.

Pershing during his time at West Point.

Pershing’s time at West Point was something similar to the General in front of him on this list. He was very good academically and he made an even better leader. He was given the rank of First Captain, the highest possible cadet rank within months of attending. Pershing obtained various commission duties including the honor guard that saluted the funeral train for President Grant’s funeral tour. He graduated in 1886 with the class that until Eisenhower graduated was the “Class Under the Stars” because of the coming war that would make them all officers soon enough. Pershing thought about taking some time away from his service in order to pursue Law but ultimately decided against it in favor of active duty. At this point, the United States military was ultimately engaged in campaigns against Native Americans in the West and Pershing, then a lieutenant engagsed them. These campaigns allowed Pershing to work on various skills such as marksmanship which he was considered to be be very good considering his was rated second in pistol and fifth in rifle in the entire army. After serving briefly in the West, Pershing was assigned to teach military science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He remained in Lincoln until 1897 when his country told him they needed him elsewhere. He returned to West Point as an an instructor.

He briefly worked at West Point before being moved once again to fight the Spanish in the Spanish-American War, now a major, he commanded Volunteers but his time as a combat soldier was broken up by Malaria when he got reassigned as a Customs Officer. However, he would return to combat in the Philippines in 1900. He assisted in making the Philippines apart of the United States global strategy and Manila became a headquarters in the Far East. Pershing was given his discharge in 1901. Pershing lived his time away from the Army with his wife Helen in Manila. He continued to serve despite his discharge but was unable to achieve anything promising militarily. He instead focused on working in legal matters due to receiving a law degree as well. In 1903, Pershing was called back by Teddy Roosevelt and got promoted for his service to Colonel. Colonel Pershing moved to Oklahoma City in order to “oversea general duties.” He was called back in 1904 to return to Washington for new orders. Pershing once again was headed to the Far East. Recently rising power Japan, whose Navy the U.S. had assisted in giving rise too was waging war against Russia. The Russians were favored heavily due to more manpower, however the Japanese were entering a period of prosperity and their military was unmatched in Asia. Pershing was assigned to Tokyo as an observer which meant that the United States was on the side of the Japanese. Well,the Japanese cleaned the Russian military in a year. Pershing was now a married man as well. He had married Helen Warren in 1905 and they had 4 children.

Pershing leading troops on horseback.

Pershing leading troops on horseback.

As a leader Pershing was noticed for his effectiveness and strong discipline, however the enlisted men did not enjoy him and his personality often calling him every obscenity in the book. However, it was about respect and their respect, Pershing had. The Phillipines where once again in unrest and Pershing was sent back to fight. During the fighting, Pershing was given the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions at the Battle of Bud Bagsak where he lost 14 soldiers and his men killed an estimated 200. Pershing was once again called on to serve this time in Mexico to watch the border for raiders. Just like his time with fighting the Native Americans, Pershing saw the Mexicans as the enemy. He was deployed to Texas in 1914. Pershing decided to take his family to Texas with him as he had been deployed to Europe, South America, and Asia and had not spent as much time with his family as he wished. Unfortunately, his family was in San Francisco and had happened to be apart of a house fire that killed Helen and three of the couple’s four children. Pershing was devastated but was able to keep his son with him during his time on active duty. Pershing became a legend for fighting against the rebel Pancho Villa. Under his command was future World War II legends Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, and George Marshall. Pancho Villa was a pest to the American Military as he often provoked them by stealing their supplies and killing them in skirmishes. Pershing led the expedition to try to capture Villa but failed due to being under-equipped. Villa was never captured but Pershing wiped the floor with his men. Pershing was now a General and his finest hour had not even arrived yet.


Pershing and his General Staff.

Pershing and his General Staff.

In 1914, the European Continent was engulfed in a struggle that became known as World War I. Europe had been building up to this war and America wanted not part of it as the focus was on protecting its borders. President Wilson addressed that the United States would not get involved in something that was not their problem. However, the United States did supply the British and French and was involved somewhat in the war as ships were sunk by U-Boats by the Germans. Upon his reelection in 1917, Wilson plunged the United States into World War I. Pershing was selected as the Allied Commander of American Forces within France. The United States intervention into World War I was considered by the Allied Powers to be necessary. Pershing was given free reign to run his command and due to poor generals before his arrival. The soldiers did not fight until 1918 after the United States had been considered a full participant. The Americans helped push back the German forces from France but were playing great defense as the German’s continuously tried to advance. Pershing was not a fan of trench warfare and stated that it was too slow to win a war. He advocated for more of offensive approach with loads of cavalry. He lost a lot of men as a result but he won the battles and that is what counted to him. Pershing’s slow going in the summer of 1918 frustrated him but by the fall of 1918 the war was over. The German Army surrendered and signed an armistice in 1919. Pershing was an advocate of destroying and laying waste to the Germans in an effort to prevent the possibility of rearming. Pershing’s strong will ended up causing an additional 3,500 casualties on the last day of the war. It was not a smart idea but Pershing did not care because he wanted total destruction. Pershing’s blunder became his biggest success as following the war, he received the highest honor and became the General of the Armies of the United States.
By 1919, Pershing was being considered for the next President of the United States, but he swiftly declined. He instead helped the United States during the inter-war years to create infrastructure such as the Pershing Map, the precursor to the interstate system. The 1920s where very good to him as he formed the first Reserve Officer’s Association for those that were no longer active. The Army he established became more of a force to deal with the prospect of peace and not war. He participated in many clubs and fraternities such as the Sons of the American Revolution where he became more active with veterans of the past war but also the war his father had fought in between the states. The 1930s where his retirement years, he wrote his memoirs My Experiences in the World War and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history. He did not want to be involved in the public eye outside of this as he felt he had done enough. Pershing never returned to active duty. By the end of the 1930s the conflict that Pershing had long feared was coming to fruition. Adolf Hitler was taking over Europe and the United States was doing nothing about it. Pershing called for the United States to aid the United Kingdom which did not occur until 1940. Pershing spoke no more and lived a quiet life. Following World War II, Pershing got married again in 1946, he was 86 years old and his wife was 52. Not much is known about his second marriage as it was so short. Pershing died in 1948 of congestive heart failure. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery near soldiers that he commanded in what is now referred to as Pershing Hill. George Marshall, who served under Pershing and briefly served as his assistant prepared the funeral plans for him.


Pershing in his later years.

Pershing in his later years.

Pershing opened the door for modern United States warfare. He had served or advised in over a dozen campaigns across various conflicts. He was America’s most determined general to ever fight a war up to that point and frankly he was America’s key to the future of warfare in the later decades. Pershing stands at number 3 because of his willingness to fight and because of his various conflicts and service. It is debated still today his reliance on frontal assaults and that he got a lot of young Americans killed but he assisted in winning the world’s first global war thought to be the last one the world would ever fight.

2. Robert E. Lee

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Robert E. Lee is arguably has the best legacy of any American General ever. His likeness is seen byond just southern pride. His tactics are still studied at the United States Military Academy today. He is also widely considered to be its best student. He had more statues of him in the South than any other General he served with and he has a University named after him. Robert E. Lee was a tough general to place at number two based on his legacy but sadly we could not place him at number one.

Lee was the son of a Revolutionary War Officer who later served as the 9th Governor of the state of Virginia. Lee earned his fame as a cadet and was the finest soldier it seemed ever created. Discipline which he learned initially from his father carried over in West Point. He arrived in 1825 and made friendships with future compatriots Joseph Johnson and Albert Blanchard. Lee was a skilled tactician and was brilliant at mathematics. He graduated in 1829 and became a military engineer. Following his time at West Point Lee returned home to visit his family, his mother died not long after his graduation but by then a new woman came into his life. Mary Custis, whom Lee had known since they were little infatuated Lee and he obtained permission to write her while he was on assignment in Georgia. They got married in 1831. Lee spent a lot of time doing menial tasks to assist with the Army Corps of Engineers. Building his way up he learned from many Generals about various skills and even got to lay out the borders for Michigan and Ohio. His infrastructure across the country would come into play when fighting over it 30 years later. With his time off, Robert moved his famil elsewhere in Virginia to Arlington House where the Lee’s remained until the end of the Civil War. The Lee’s had 7 children, two of which served with Lee during the Civil War. Lee’s time as a engineer was short but worth it for what he would become later.


Young Robert E. Lee

Young Robert E. Lee

No soldier ever dreams of combat but as always things come up. Lee’s first chance was the Mexican-American War. He fought and defeated his opponent by outsmarting him and taking gambles that in the end paid off for the soldiers. He arrived victorious in Mexico City in 1848 when the United States was still a young military it has won its second major conflict since its formation. Lee got the opportunity to work with Ulysses S. Grant whom he would later face in the Civil War. Lee was promoted to Major during the conflict and would return to civil engineering until he was placed in a combat unit for cavalry in 1855. Lee has a difficult time in the 1850s. Management of his property as well as his wife’s ailing health plagued him. Not to mention, he was not home too often to see them. Lee also owned slaves which has been used as a defamation of his character, but he did not agree with the practice despite owning them so he claimed. Lee was appointed in 1852 as the Superintendent of West Point and during that time his oldest son graduated in 1854. After leaving West Point and moving into Combat, Lee ended up serving under Albert Sidney Johnston who at the time was a commander of Camp Cooper in Texas. They fought off various Native Americans including the Comanche and Apache.

Harpers Ferry, VA, 1859.

Harpers Ferry, VA, 1859.

By 1859, Lee was back in Virginia in Harpers Ferry. He was at home a lot more often and his family was happy to see him. However, the country that Lee so loved was falling apart. The issue of slavery had come up repeatedly and frankly Lee did not want to be apart of the discussion despite owning slaves himself. Lee felt a strong connection to his state of Virginia but also loved the US Army as well. Lee would be a small part of what would become one of the most crucial events to begin the “War of Northern Aggression.” At Harper’s Ferry, John Brown, a man that swore by God that he was the chosen one to free the slaves, took hold of a federal arsenal. The President, James Buchanan, dispatched Lee and some United States Marines to take care of the situation. Lee asked Brown to surrender, and Brown refused. Brown was captured within minutes after Lee’s soldiers fired upon him. Brown was later hung for his actions. This would be that last action that Lee would see until the great conflict that lay ahead.


Lee walking amongst his troops.

Lee walking amongst his troops.

Lee was outspoken about succession, he did not agree with it and considered those that did treasonous. Granted, Lee’s family distantly had been involved in building the United States. But that being said he later wrote that he would support it only if all else failed to work. Winfield Scott, Lee’s mentor from West Point asked for him to be apart of the Union Army but Lee decided that he could not go against his state and ultimately picked the Confederacy. Now, a thing to know about Lee is that he was a Colonel before he left the Union but was made a general by the Confederacy. Despite this, he wore three stars in representation of that rank. He intended to win the war first before declaring himself a general. Lee was not successful early days as commander of the Western Virginia Army. When he was not fighting he was reverting back to his engineering days and assisting in building strongholds to defend Southern cities like Savannah. Lee was criticized for his building of defense around the capital, his efforts later won him praise as the capital held out due to his trenches.

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Lee saw combat in June of 1862 after his comrade Joseph Johnston was wounded at Seven Pines. Lee then received his first official command of what became known as the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee did not initially show aggression which allowed the public to call him “Granny Lee.” However, in prepping defenses around Richmond he did manage to launch an offensive referred to as the Battle of Seven Days. His challenger was George McClellan who had a reputation for being a bit arrogant. McClellan lost loads of men as the Army of Northern Virginia picked them apart. Lee ultimately lost 19,204 men which was more than the Union but had won a decisive victory. This battle caused the public to respect Lee and suddenly his reputation changed. Those that served under him loved him for his committed warfare. Lee eventually fought against McClellan again at Sharpsburg,Maryland in what is better known as the Battle of Antietam. Antietam lasted 1 day and is still the day in which the most Americans died in one battle, beating out battles that took a month in World War II. Antietam saw 22,000 casualties in one day. The Union was considered the victor but McClellan was removed from command for not being able to handle Lee’s Army. Ambrose Burnside, McClellan’s replacement did not fair much better. At Fredericksburg, the Union lost 12,600 men and the Confederacy lost 5,000. Lee was not fond of losing men in combat, but he was winning and that was good enough for the Confederacy. Lee said in regards to the campaign of Fredericksburg “ It is well that war is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it.”


Lee and General "Stonewall" Jackson at their last meeting before Jackson's death.

Lee and General "Stonewall" Jackson at their last meeting before Jackson's death.

Lee’s mastery was not only in his combat but also in his ability to delegate his officers. He ordered Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson during the Shenandoah Valley campaign to fight the Union soldiers as a guerrilla force as opposed to how they had fought at Shiloh. However, Jackson was killed at Chancellorsville not long after the victory at Fredericksburg. Jackson was a good friend of Lee and Lee claimed to have lost his “right arm” when Jackson passed away. However, the Confederacy were winning the war. Chancellorsville was a Confederate victory that setup Lee to do what always was in the cards for the Confederacy. An all out invasion of the North. Lee planned to capture the Northeast just as the British has done during the Revolution before being taken back by angry colonists. However, Ulysses S. Grant was winning the war in the west so it appeared that the war was coming to a standstill, but if the Union did not stop General Lee, their was nothing stopping them from capturing Washington D.C. Lee sent his forces north and trampled nearly everything in his path. He headed North to Pennsylvania due to his Army needing supplies. This may have been the Lee’s biggest mistake and he lead his army alone and was hellbent on winning the war alone. When venturing through Pennsylvania, the Army of Northern Virginia encountered the little town of Gettysburg. General George Meade was their waiting for Lee in order to clash but not expecting a victory.


Battle of Gettysburg, Pickett's Charge.

Battle of Gettysburg, Pickett's Charge.

The Confederacy was being held pretty well going into the 3rd day of the battle. General Longstreet lead a massive frontal assault and had been pushed back severely. On the final day of the battle, Lee sent orders to General George Pickett to charge the lines in order to form a flank to beat the Union. Pickett’s Charge, as it came to be known was the most critical blunder in the battle and failed miserably. Lee lost the battle and forever history knows Gettysburg as the turning point in the Civil War. Lee asked to resign but President Jefferson Davis denied his request. The Confederate Army never recovered and Lee never won another battle in the war. Ultimately, his Army continued to fight at Cold Harbor, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Appomattox. In April of 1865, after the South had been burned to a crisp by Wiliam Sherman and his Army, Lee decided it best to surrender with 25,000 of his men. Grant out of respect did not let his men cheer for joy because he so respected Lee.

Robert E. Lee interred at Washington and Lee College.

Robert E. Lee interred at Washington and Lee College.

Lee became the voice of the Confederacy since Jefferson Davis had been on the run. The Confederacy had lost the war and Lee did not wish to continue the fighting. He asked that those out across the South that were fighting stop and surrender. Lee decided that his post-war years would be spent in academia. He left his house in Arlington due to the Union placing various amounts of dead soldiers that Lee’s troops has killed and burying them on his lawn. Lee’s house is now the site of Arlington National Cemetery where only certain persons are allowed to be buried. Lee moved his family to Lexington where he became the President of Washington College. Lee worked to improve the institution and eventually assisted in creating a Law School. Lee spent the remainder of his life involved in politics as well supporting the initial plan for the Reconstruction of the South. He never held political office thinking it foolish but he did have an opinion. Lee tragically died in 1870 of a stroke from the effects of pneumonia. Lee is currently buried underneath the chapel at Washington College which after his death was renamed Washington and Lee.

Lee Circle in New Orleans, however Lee's statue was removed in 2020 after calls to remove it due to its reputation.

Lee Circle in New Orleans, however Lee's statue was removed in 2020 after calls to remove it due to its reputation.

What is strange about Lee’s place on this list is that he is the only one who lost the war that he fought in. However, despite losing, no Civil War figure outside of Lincoln is more revered. His status as a Southern legend is something that is revered to this day by statues across the South, even Kappa Alpha Order, a fraternity, claims Robert E. Lee as its spiritual founder. It seems a bit odd that you would claim Lee as this figure that is larger than life after he lost in his finest hour. However, that is what Lee left behind. Lee is sort of a religious figure not just in the South but in his home state of Virginia. In the Washington National Cathedral, Lee is apart of the stained glass within it. In Charlottesville, Lee had a statue that was taken down as of July 2021. Lee’s legacy is that of man, a myth and a legend, I’m not sure we will ever know why but his time as a general in the military although ultimately a failure was his greatest success as well.


Probably at the top of the list for the best battlefield nickname, “Old Blood and Guts” is the best general ever created by God. He was a conniving leader and had the sense of a bloodhound. Patton’s greatest strength was that he wanted total annihilation of his enemy. But Patton’s greatest strength may have also been his greatest weakness as well, his ego nearly destroyed him. Patton sits atop this list because frankly he won the harshest war in human history and left the greatest legacy on any general potentially in U.S. history.

Young George Patton, Jr.

Young George Patton, Jr.

Patton was born in 1885 in Los Angeles, California. He was not a strong academic as reading and writing did not come easy to him, he overcame this later in his life and was an avid reader especially of his enemies. Patton was born to be in the military, no other career it seems would have suited him. Like Grant, he was a great horseback rider and studied the tactics of Caesar, Napoleon, Hannibal and more. Patton attend VMI which was the alma mater of his grandfather and father. While at VMI, Patton was considered for West Point. He applied and was accepted. He excelled at military drills and fencing and was on the 1912 Olympic Team where he did not medal but performed admirably. Patton graduated from West Point in 1909 and was placed in a cavalry unit. Patton was 24 years old when he married Beatrice Ayer. Now, the thing to know about Patton was his lineage was something right out of a fairytale. He was distantly related to George Washington’s Great-Grandfather and a descendant of King Edward I. His paternal grandfather served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and his great-uncle was killed during Pickett’s Charge. Let’s just say the expectations were high and leave it at that.

Patton at West Point.

Patton at West Point.