U.S. Military History for Dummies: The 10 Worst Generals
David G. Cox Esq.
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I am very happy with the response to my two previous 'Dummy' Geeklists.

It certainly became apparent that the Dummy Guide series of books is certainly more likely to have been written BY dummies rather than FOR dummies.

Despite this, I consider the 'Dummies Top 10' lists to be an excellent jumping-off point for a Geeklist as you improve its content with both your additions and comments.

Since my two original Dummies list I notice that more Dummies lists are appearing. I just want you to remember, when it comes to Dummies I was the first.

The 10 Generals in this list come from the book, U.S. Military History for Dummies. It is the list of the 10 worst generals. Some of them I had never heard of previously.
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1. Board Game: Murfreesboro [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:10351]
David G. Cox Esq.
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Braxton Bragg (1817-1876)

Bragg could just not work and play well with other soldiers (or even non-soldiers). When acting as Corps Commander he would write notes to himself in his capacity as Divisional Commander and then write a reply to himself, denying his request, in his capacity as Corps Commander. This boy was one sick puppy.

When his Corps Commander returned he said, "Bragg, you've argued with everyone else in the army and now you have even argued with yourself."

He played a pivotal role in battles such as Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Chattanooga and Shiloh - helping the Union to victory in each battle.
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2. Board Game: Burnside Takes Command [Average Rating:7.91 Unranked]
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Ambrose Burnside (1824-1881)

Burnside, apart from his contribution to hair styles, is a fine example of a man who got promoted beyond his capabilities - way, way beyond his capabilities.

He is famous for ordering his troops at Antietam to cross the river by a bridge rather than wading through the shallow water. He didn't check the depth of the water before the battle and his men were slaughtered due to the close-packed nature of the troops as they attempted to use the bridge.
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3. Board Game: The Italian Campaign: Anzio [Average Rating:5.49 Overall Rank:13095]
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Mark Clark (1896-1984)

Although a courageous man and an excellent soldier his performance degenerated once in commande of the Italian Campaign.

He made disastrous, glory-seeking decisions that cost many American lives.

His career continued to prosper due to a close friendship with Eisenhower.
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4. Board Game: Kasserine [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:4572]
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Lloyd Fredendall (1883-1963)

Pound for pound, Lloyd Fredendall was the worst high-level American field general in WWII.

His performance at Kasserine Pass earnt the American soldier a terrible reputation from both friend and foe alike.
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5. Board Game: Anzio Beachhead [Average Rating:5.86 Overall Rank:10361]
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John Lucas (1890-1949)

Lucas was the commander of VI Corps at Anzio. After the initial invasion it was Lucas's mission to thrust inland, cut the main road to Rome, capture the crossroads at Cisterna, outflank the Germans and take a patch of high ground known as the Alban Hills.

Despite the invasion taking the Germans by complete suprise, Lucas made no attempt to acheive his objectives due to fear of possible German reinforcemants.

Clark did find Lucas to be useful as a scapegoat proving the old adage, every general serves a useful purpose, even if just as a bad example.
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6. Board Game: Killer Angels [Average Rating:5.81 Overall Rank:12274]
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George McClellan (1826-1885)

The young Napoleon was a great organizer and popular troops.

However, there were two people who knew that he wasn't up to the job, Robert E. Lee and himself. The closer he was to Robert E. Lee the worse he performed.

In the game Killer Angels there are two McClellan counters - one with good ratings for when he is no where near Lee and another, with weak ratings, to use once he gets within range of the Silver Fox.
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7. Board Game: Island War: Four Pacific Battles [Average Rating:6.39 Unranked] [Average Rating:6.39 Unranked]
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William Rupertus (1889-1945)

Rupertus commanded the 1st Marine Division during the Battle of Peleliu during WWII. He was a poor communicator. He declared publicly that his division would take only three days to win the battle against the Japanese.

The battle raged for weeks with his Division taking massive casualties. Even though the 81st Infantry Divisions was available he refused to make use of these potential reinforcements.
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8. Board Game: War of 1812 [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:2013]
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Stephen Van Rensselaer III (1764-1839)

During the War of 1812 Van Rensselaer received an appointment as a milia general as he was from one of New York's wealthiest and most politically connected families.

He had no traing, no experience and no chance of success.

He devised an invasion of Canada but had no concept of how to cross the Niagara River, outflank the British or take the high ground.

He resigned his commission following the Battle of Queenstown Heights.
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9. Board Game: Vietnam 1965-1975 [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:1749]
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William Westmoreland (1914-2005)

Westmoreland was a fine man and a good soldier.

He made the list because of the catastrophic consequences of choosing the wrong strategy in Vietnam.

Westmoreland chose to fight a conventional war in the hope of attritioning his way to victory. This policy resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians and the alienation of the survivors. He fell right into the trap.
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10. Board Game: The American Revolution [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
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James Wilkinson (1757-1825)

Wilinson never met a corrupt scheme or traitorous plan he didn't like.

As a young general he fougt in the American Revolution but spent much of his time trying to sabotage George Washington.

He was a fine business man, trading U.S. state secrets to the King of Spain for massive amounts of money and the promise of 60,000 acres in Spain. He also handed over battle plans made by a fellow American officer to the Spanish.

He was finally dismissed after losing several battles during the War of 1812.
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11. Board Game: Saratoga [Average Rating:7.11 Overall Rank:2609]
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Netherlands
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Benedict Arnold (1741-1801)

Although he performed well at the battles of Sarataga and at Fort Ticonderoga he turned to the British side, because he was dissatisfied and had financial troubles.

His intention was to hand over fort West Point and take a position as a British general for £20,000. Others did it for 30 pieces of silver.

But his plan more or less fails and in the end he got just £6.000. That would certainly make me happy!

Poll
Benedict Arnold should be on this list?
Yes
No
Don't Care
      49 answers
Poll created by anemaat
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12. Board Game: First Blood: Second Marne [Average Rating:6.04 Overall Rank:11023]
Andy Daglish
United Kingdom
Cheadle
Cheshire
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John Joseph Pershing (1860-1948)

America's senior officer and probably unrivalled as the worst top commander in all military history.

Sir Henry Wilson wrote: "The state of chaos the fool has got himself into down in the Argonne is indescribable"

Meanwhile Foch and Lloyd George campaigned for Pershing's removal, suggesting a transfer to rear services or recall.

p.207, third para:-

LINK

"Elsewhere, the First Army was showing signs of severe strain. The traffic jams had become monumental again. The terrific casualties forced Pershing to cannibalize seven divisions as they arrived in France, sending green men into the lines to serve with strangers–never a good situation. More than 100,000 stragglers were wandering in the rear area, and Pershing finally issued a desperate order to shoot any man who ran away."

LINK

"Meanwhile, Liggett tried to reform the First Army’s primitive tactics. He issued orders to stop charging machine guns and strongpoints that were holding up an advance."

Pershing managed to break the US Army in France, upsetting Foch's 1919 plan. The Armistice allowed easier suppression of the problem.
 
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13. Board Game: Marching Through Georgia [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:9521]
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John Bell Hood (1831-1879)

President Davis dissatisfied with JE Johnston's defensive strategy during the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, replaced him with Hood. Robert E. Lee opposed as Hood being all lion and no fox. Hood's counterattacks leads to high confederate losses, bringing the fall of Atlanta closer.

While Sherman could march to the sea nearly unopposed - not Hood to blame - Hood tried to cut off his supply lines by invading Tennessee. With his defeats at Franklin and Nashville he lost half his army.

============

I have good memories about this game, where JE Johnston is being replaced by Hood when Union troops crosses the Chattahoochee river. The confederate player is then obliged to make counterattacks.
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14. Board Game: We the People [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:1032]
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
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Horatio Gates

Claimed credit for the valiant actions of other American generals (including Benedict Arnold) during the Saratoga Campaign.

Plotted with friends in Congress against Washington.

Crushed at the Battle of Camden and deserted his defeated army.
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15. Board Game: The Battle of the Little Big Horn [Average Rating:5.90 Overall Rank:10059]
J.L. Robert
United States
Sherman Oaks
California
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George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876)

A poster child of The Peter Principle, Custer graduated last in his West Point class, yet would rise through the ranks despite his aggressive (perhaps reckless) actions to become one of the youngest generals in the Union Army.

His aggressive nature would prove to be his undoing at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876, where he was killed by an overwhelming, combined force of Lakota and Cheyenne warriors.
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16. Board Game: Gettysburg: Badges of Courage [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:3818]
Jim Zadrozny
United States
Fort Myers
Florida
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Brigidier General Alfred Iverson, C.S.A.

His performance at Gettysburg on the first day was the worst of the battle, IMHO. Iverson commanded a brigade of North Carolinians under Major General Robert Rodes, who was part of Ewell's II Corps.

At Gettysburg on the first day, Rodes' Division came in from the north, on the Union's right flank. Rodes hastily assembled his division in battle line without any scouting, and ordered them forward to flank the Federals.

Unfortunately, the division's attack was badly coordinated, and the nature of the terrain hid a formidable force of Union troops which was intended to bolster their exposed right flank.

Iverson's brigade went forward without their commander, who, for whatever reason, thought it best to stay behind. Some say he was drunk, some say he was sick, some say he was a coward, but we will never really know. Further, Iverson did not post skirmishers which prevented his brigade from scouting the hilly, undulated terrain over which the brigade marched.

All of these factors cumulated into a slaughter. Iverson's brigade was cut down at point blank range by a brigade of Union troops that were hiding behind a stone wall.

The result: 70% casaulties for Iverson's doomed brigade.
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17. Board Game: Onslaught [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:5178]
Tom Grant
United States
Washington
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General John C.H. Lee

Arguably, Lee was responsible for singlehandedly prolonging the war on the Western Front. Lee was the top officer under Eisenhower responsible for logistics--the gasoline, ammunition, medical supplies, and other equipment needed to keep the Allied offensive moving forward. Lee handled this critical responsibility with, as a scathing US Army report said, "laxness and smugness."

While Lee and his staff took residence in over 100 hotels in Paris and enjoyed the good life in the City of Lights, the American/British push east literally ran out of gas. The Germans used this reprieve to regroup, fortify, and better plan their defense of Germany.
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18. Board Game: For Honor and Glory: War of 1812 Land and Naval Battles [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:6044]
Damon Mosier
United States
Burbank
California
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William Hull (1753-1825)

He is best remembered as the guy who surrendered Detroit and his entire army to the British at the beginning of the War of 1812, thus killing American ambitions for Canada in the cradle. Like Burnside fifty years later, he didn't want the command that had been given to him. And while some blame can certainly be put on the poor quality of his troops and the organization of his superiors, at the end of the day he was completely outwitted by his British/Canadian counterparts. Afraid of an Indian massacre, he surrendered not only his entire army in Detroit, but also two American forces that were in the vicinity of Detroit and all this after only suffering 7 casualties.

To my knowledge, he is the only American General ever convicted and sentenced to be executed by a firing squad for his performance on the battlefield. (Though it should be noted that the death sentence was later commuted by the President)
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19. Board Game: A Splendid Little War: The 1898 Santiago Campaign [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked]
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
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William R. Shafter

General Shafter was a decorated Civil War veteran who led the American army in Cuba during the 1898 war with Spain.

Shafter suffered from gout and weighed 300 pounds. He could not mount a horse and was nearly immobile.

When the U.S. V Corps gathered in Tampa the army's logistical system was a disaster. There were not enough transports and the ships that were available had been improperly loaded. There was also a critical shortage of horses. Some regiments (including the Rough Riders and Theodore Roosevelt) got into fistfights or shoving matches on the wharf as they jockeyed for slots on the vessels.

When the fleet reached the landing area in Cuba there was no way to unload the few animals that had been embarked. Some genius in shoulder straps had the horses put over the side and the beasts promptly started swimming out to sea. An alert cavalry bugler standing at the shoreline played the proper assembly command and the horses turned back toward the beach.

As Shafter's force stumbled toward the Spanish lines American troops fired on friendly Cuban insurgents. American troops began to suffer from disease and inadequate food.

During the battle around San Juan Hill the army dragged an observation balloon through the jungle. The balloon helped reveal the positions of the advancing troops and the smoke from American weapons also betrayed the location of the V Corps. The assault was not well coordinated, but it was a success.

After the active campaign settled into trench warfare increasing numbers of American troops began to get sick. If the cease-fire had been delayed even more U.S. soldiers would have died in Cuba.

When the troops returned to the USA camps were established where more veterans became ill.

Of course all of these problems cannot be blamed entirely on Shafter, but he was the top banana in Cuba.
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20. Board Game: War Between The States (second edition) [Average Rating:7.07 Overall Rank:7184]
D T P
United States
Pikeville
North Carolina
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Benjamin "The Beast" Butler
1818-1893


A political appointee, Butler may have been the worst general in the army (either army) during the Civil War!
He was so bad that WBtS gives him an initiative of '0'!
He can't move without being ordered to do so, and he can't attack at all!
About all he was good at was 'pissing off' the people of New Orleans where he was well known for his "women plying their trade" trade order.
I do not believe he ever actually fought a battle.
But he did trade with the enemy!
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