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"Stonewall Jackson - Overrated?" Topic


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1,609 hits since 11 Jun 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian12 Jun 2017 9:58 a.m. PST

Was he a great general, or just lucky?

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2017 10:08 a.m. PST

yes, Always fighting the 3rd string Union Generals.

Dynaman878912 Jun 2017 10:26 a.m. PST

No doubt a great general, could have just been lucky too. A quote attributed to Napoleon comes to mind.

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2017 10:50 a.m. PST

Again?

gamershs12 Jun 2017 10:52 a.m. PST

He did not have to be a great general, just better then the generals that faced him.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2017 10:56 a.m. PST

As Ned Stark said to Jaime Lannister, "You have chosen your enemies wisely."

Joes Shop Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2017 11:30 a.m. PST

He was very good and has become overrated.

wrgmr112 Jun 2017 11:53 a.m. PST

His men thought the world of him, morale makes a big difference.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2017 12:03 p.m. PST

His men thought the world of him, morale makes a big difference.

Depends on the period. They hated him for the operations during the winter of 1861/2.

Troops assigned to his command that were not part of the original "Stonewall" Brigade weren't that fond of him.

It's easy to look good if the people you're fighting are worse.

His performance during the Peninsular Campaign left a lot to be desired.

The pernicious myth of "The Lost Cause" hasn't helped either a proper historical understanding since it's raised him to the status of one of the two saints from the state of Virginia.

Cement Head12 Jun 2017 12:10 p.m. PST

I believe he was mad.

Piquet Rules12 Jun 2017 12:16 p.m. PST

Operationally exceptional; tactically ordinary.

Personal logo Panzerfaust Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2017 12:37 p.m. PST

Compared to the majority of ACW generals he was far and away one of the best. Not perfect, but who is. I think the Shenandoah valley campaign is indisputably one of the greatest examples of generalship ever, let alone the ACW. I don't think he was mad, just a little odd and introverted. And his stern piousness makes him seem like a kook to the cynical modern person. Is he over rated? No. Was he lucky? If you were to ask him after Chancellorsville he might agree that he wasn't so lucky after all.

Pan Marek Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2017 1:12 p.m. PST

Dying always helps a reputation.

VVV reply12 Jun 2017 1:16 p.m. PST

Usual thing, practice makes you luckier. And he trained his men.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2017 1:54 p.m. PST

Dying always helps a reputation.
tell that to Mussolini!

Mikasa Inactive Member12 Jun 2017 2:44 p.m. PST

General Lee rated him

rustymusket Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2017 2:47 p.m. PST

The closer you look, the more flaws you see with anyone. I have wavered back on forth on Thomas J. I think he should be considered Good and Lucky. Both important qualities in a general. Great? mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Bill N12 Jun 2017 3:57 p.m. PST

Why does it have to be either or?

If McDowell succeeds in turning either flank of the line Jackson and others were establishing on Henry Hill, something Jackson only had limited ability to influence, the Confederates likely would have lost First Manassas. Then at best Jackson gets forgotten. At worst he is remembered as the commander who did not advance to support Bee on Mathews Hill.

Most very good commanders are lucky. They benefit from the errors and shortcomings of their opponents, from the wise actions of their subordinate commanders and from the fighting ability and confidence of their troops. Jackson covers this checklist fairly well. What differentiates very good commanders from merely lucky ones is that very good commanders recognize or sense opportunities and take them. I am not one of those who believes history was destined to turn out differently if Ewell had chased Howards troops off Cemetery Hill on July 1, but it would certainly have improved our subsequent view of Ewell.

I do agree with those who say that Jackson's reputation benefited from him dying early. He does not have to command against the better leadership that U.S. armies in the east had in late 1863 to 1865. His command style proved expensive especially among senior subordinates, and later in the war this was an expense the Confederates could not afford. His reputation was also helped from having to serve under Lee, a general who did not mind sharing the spotlight, was willing to support the initiative of subordinates and who was willing on occasion to reign Jackson in. On his own out west Jackson might have ended up being merely a more competent version of Bragg.

So put me down for BOTH.

redbanner414512 Jun 2017 5:33 p.m. PST

Piquet Rules said it.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2017 5:35 p.m. PST

I agree with Bill N – both for me

Prince Alberts Revenge12 Jun 2017 8:08 p.m. PST

I think Bill N. hit the nail on the head.

GROSSMAN Supporting Member of TMP12 Jun 2017 8:33 p.m. PST

Blasphemer!

Trajanus13 Jun 2017 5:02 a.m. PST

On his own out west Jackson might have ended up being merely a more competent version of Bragg.

"Competent" and "Bragg" in the same sentence. Now that's not something you see every day! :o)

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2017 7:17 a.m. PST

As a team Lee and Jackson were formidable opponents. Chancellorsville was proof enough. An overlooked turning point in the war was when Jackson was shot.

It takes some talent to identify your opponents weakness and then take advantage of it. Jackson's Valley Campaign was brilliant any way you look at it.

Napoleon is considered the best military mind of all time. Yet few are criticizing Napoleon for facing inferior opponents. Few criticize Napoleon's Marshal's for being in the shadow of the great man himself. Jackson was on his own during the Valley Campaign. Inferior opponents or not it was still brilliant.

I have been known to bash Confederate Generals in the past when it was not popular to do so. With the possible exception of Joe Johnston, CS Generals were too aggressive. Just see the AOV and AOT casualties is proof enough. More casualties than the CS could sustained.

Now it appears the pendulum has swung the other way. I agree with much of what Bill N. has said. However the current round of CS General bashing seems to be more politically motivated, rather than what occurred on the battlefield.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2017 8:04 a.m. PST

As a team Lee and Jackson were formidable opponents. Chancellorsville was proof enough. An overlooked turning point in the war was when Jackson was shot.

The ANV was never going to be in a position to win the war. That was decided in the West. The fall of Vicksburg is the beginning of the end except in some fantasy world.

Napoleon is considered the best military mind of all time. Yet few are criticizing Napoleon for facing inferior opponents. Few criticize Napoleon's Marshal's for being in the shadow of the great man himself.

You obviously don't hang out much on the Napoleonic Boards. Napoleon is regularly criticised for the same reason the Confederate Generals are criticised.

As to the Marshallate, they are criticised for a number of reasons, the most common being they were political appointees who, with a few exceptions, lacked strategic vision and were incapable of independent command. Out of the 26, only 6 or 7 were competent on their own.

Jackson in the valley shows that sometimes an army that moves quickly will beat a more deliberate opponent. Souvorov showed that far more consistently that Jackson.

Now it appears the pendulum has swung the other way.

As to the pendulum swinging the other way, General J. F. C. Fuller pointed in 1933 "Until a few years ago I accepted the conventional point of view that Grant was butcher and Lee was one of the greatest generals this world had ever seen. I accepted this because I was taught that this was so." Research based on original sources taught the father of the Blitzkrieg he was wrong.

Yes, the English haven't helped things with Henderson's "Stonewall Jackson" But again Fuller points out "but historical research soon revealed to me that this justly popular book was almost as romantic as Xenophon's 'Cyropaedia." Interesting and instructive both these works are, but neither can be considered as wells of historical truth." (quotes from "Grant & Lee")

Seems like this revisionism has been going on for +80 years. Fuller had an excuse, we don't.

However the current round of CS General bashing seems to be more politically motivated, rather than what occurred on the battlefield.

Ah the politics of the Civil War; to quote Faulkner "It's all now you see. Yesterday won't be over until tomorrow and tomorrow began ten thousand years ago. For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago; or to anyone who ever sailed a skiff under a quilt sail, the moment in 1492 when somebody thought This is it: the absolute edge of no return, to turn back now and make home or sail irrevocably on and either find land or plunge over the world's roaring rim."

Well I'm English, I don't as they say "have a horse in this race" but I do take to o heart the words of one of the best generals of the War of the Rebellion:

"The greatest efforts made by the defeated insurgents since the close of the war have been to promulgate the idea that the cause of liberty, justice, humanity, equality, and all the calendar of the virtues of freedom, suffered violence and wrong when the effort for southern independence failed. This is, of course, intended as a species of political cant, whereby the crime of treason might be covered with a counterfeit varnish of patriotism, so that the precipitators of the rebellion might go down in history hand in hand with the defenders of the government, thus wiping out with their own hands their own stains; a species of self-forgiveness amazing in its effrontery, when it is considered that life and property—justly forfeited by the laws of the country, of war, and of nations, through the magnanimity of the government and people—was not exacted from them." (General George Thomas)

thomalley13 Jun 2017 9:24 a.m. PST

One point in Jackson's favor, Lee felt it necessary to divide his corps after his death.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP13 Jun 2017 12:10 p.m. PST

RAF,

Never said the South was in a position to win the war. They had slim chances. Losing in the West was part of it. That is not what I was talking about. That doesn't change the fact that Lee and Jackson was without question superior to any general the Union had at that time.

I am well aware of the criticism Napoleon gets. But rarely if ever for defeating inferior opponents as mention at least twice earlier in this thread concerning Jackson. Most opponents are inferior to Jackson and Napoleon. That is part of what makes them great.

What I meant by the pendulum swinging the other way, was there is much criticism of anything having to do with Confederacy here in the US.

In case you haven't notice, here in the US statues and memorials to CS Generals are being taken down across the South. We sometimes judge historic figures in todays context. But the OP was about whether or not Jackson was overrated as a battlefield commander. Current events should not enter into that.

There has been an increase in professional Historian's criticism of the CS leadership in their conduct of the war. A trend which started with the publishing of Nolan's "Lee Considered".

Ottoathome13 Jun 2017 2:23 p.m. PST

Let the heroes have their glory. They have gotten little else for what they went through. Glory is a poor recompense for the loss to their loved ones, and if we judge them as insufficient or no longer fashionable, then who of us will stand?
Certainly not the their detractors hundreds of thousands of whom are not worth one of them.

Bill N13 Jun 2017 6:34 p.m. PST

Revisionism has been a constant feature of historical reporting. Confederate supporters did it. So have those who favor the Union. Napoleon's supporters certainly did it. Greek and Roman histories show signs of it. It even happened in ancient Egypt, back when revisionism required a chisel.

When it comes to whether Jackson was a great commander the only revisionism we need to worry about is the efforts to rewrite the story of his own accomplishments and shortcomings. Efforts to buff up Jackson's legacy date from shortly after his death. His biographer Dabney indicates that the effort was entrusted to him by Jackson's widow and by Ewell. So certainly there are grounds to argue that Jackson may not have been what his legend portrays.

Blutarski14 Jun 2017 10:19 a.m. PST

I've spoken at great length with General Jackson about his military career. He summarized his outlook as follows – "You had to have personally been there".

;-)

B

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP14 Jun 2017 10:40 a.m. PST

Great! General Jackson can join Fredrick Douglas and Andrew Jackson for afternoon tea at the White House.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP14 Jun 2017 11:23 a.m. PST

Great! General Jackson can join Fredrick Douglas and Andrew Jackson for afternoon tea at the White House.

LOL good one mate!

Bill N14 Jun 2017 4:39 p.m. PST

General Jackson can join Fredrick Douglas and Andrew Jackson for afternoon tea at the White House.

I am sure buzz kill Tom would fit in.

Flakbait18 Jun 2017 3:39 p.m. PST

Well, with the way things are going Jackson with Lee and the others will be forgotten before to long. I will tell my grand children about Lee and Jackson and they will have this puzzled look on there faces

John Miller Inactive Member20 Jun 2017 1:53 p.m. PST

Ten years ago I would have said that he was a great general. Now, IMHO, not as great as he was lucky. John Miller

HANS GRUBER21 Jun 2017 2:28 a.m. PST

It is my firm opinion that all "great" generals are simply good generals that got lucky. The combination of skill and luck gave confidence to the average soldier, increasing the reputation of the skillfull lucky general. Soldiers that have faith in their general inevitably increase their chance of victory.

Skill, confidence, and luck go a long way to increase the chance of victory. Take away luck and confidence, skill by itself may not be enough.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP28 Jun 2017 7:33 p.m. PST

I rather be lucky than good.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP28 Jun 2017 7:34 p.m. PST

The great ones make their own luck.

donlowry29 Jun 2017 8:35 a.m. PST

Soldiers that have faith in their general inevitably increase their chance of victory.

Well said.

D. H. Hill wrote: "The one thing that a soldier never fails to understand is victory, and the commander who leads him to victory will be adored by him whether that victory has been won by skill or by blundering, by the masterly handling of a few troops against great odds, or by the awkward use of overwhelming numbers. Long before Stonewall Jackson had risen to the height of his great fame, he had won the implicit confidence of his troops in all his movements. 'Where are you going?' one inquired of the 'foot cavalry' as they were making the usual stealthy march to the enemy's rear. 'We don't know, but old Jack does,' was the laughing answer. This trust was the fruit of past victories, and it led to other and greater achievements."

He was comparing this to Bragg's record of defeats and retreats and their affect on his troops.

"Chickamauga -- The Great Battle of the West" in Battles & Leaders Vol. 3.

torokchar Supporting Member of TMP29 Jun 2017 6:54 p.m. PST

Lee was the overrated one – lost overytime he faced Meade. The turning point of the war was the death of Jackson.

bgbboogie Inactive Member29 Jun 2017 9:56 p.m. PST

He inspired his men to do more.

Ponder Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2017 7:19 a.m. PST

Howdy,

Don't judge based on personality, but rather evaluate actions. What happened? What result?

The fact is Jackson's Valley Campaign was a masterpiece of military art.

Ponder on,


JAS

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP10 Jul 2017 8:32 p.m. PST

Don't judge based on personality, but rather evaluate actions. What happened? What result?

JAS:

While that is true…evaluate based on actions, those are indelibly linked to personality in many respects.

All the general officers on both sides were schooled in the same military theory and tactics. Many has similar experiences in the MAW. However, not all of them did anywhere near as well as Jackson and Lee. Chancellorsville showed both Lee's and Jackson's abilities.

As for personality. It is hard to explain how Lee kept the ANV together and checking Grant's every move in 1864 when his army outnumbered Lee's three to one. Lee's personality had something to do with it.

And comparing Lee to Grant is hardly apples to oranges considering the strategic and operational differences in their respective tasks and organizational needs.

That isn't to say Lee didn't make mistakes, grave ones, but He couldn't afford a Pickett's Charge, where Grant could have TWO Cold Harbors and still carry on. [All three lost approximately the same number of men in the same time period.]

jaxenro17 Aug 2017 3:42 p.m. PST

It is often stated Jackson faced inferior generals. He did but at the same time some of them performed adequately before facing him. Pope did good out west, maybe not brilliantly, but fell apart facing Lee and Jackson. Hooker performed well at the Seven Days and Antietam but met his match at Chancellorsville.

Fremont and Banks were inferior, Grant was superior, as were Lee and Jackson. Grant didn't out general Lee but he did beat him by understanding how to use the advantages he had. Grant was the only one able to put together the Unions strategic advantages to defeat Lee. Probably Scott would have done it if he had been younger.

Lincoln also was a hindrance. The union army was too rife with politicking because it was effective because Lincoln allowed it. I don't think any general until Grant truly felt safe in command nor fully trusted his subordinates.

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