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Some Stories About George Washington Are Just Too Good to Be True

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H/T The Smithsonian.

To paraphrase a line from the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

That is what happened with George Washington the legend became facts and were told and retold. 

But there’s a kernel of truth to many of them because Washington was a legend in his own time

Parson Weems’ Fable
Parson Weems’ Fable by Grant Wood, depicting Parson Weems and his famous story of George Washington and the cherry tree. (Wikimedia Commons) 

Did young George Washington use a hatchet to chop down one of his father’s cherry trees, and then confess to the act because he could never tell a lie, even at the age of six? Did he throw a silver dollar across the Potomac River, perhaps half a mile wide? Folklorists refer to these stories as legends because many people believe them to be true, even though the stories cannot be authenticated.

Much about the life of America’s first president seems prone to legend. After all, George Washington is the first of 45 U.S. presidents, the face on our most commonly circulated dollar bill, and the name of our nation’s capital city. In many ways, he has become larger than life, especially when depicted bare-chested and extremely buff in a 12-ton marble statue inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Even the date of Washington’s birth is subject to debate. He was born February 11, 1731, according to the Julian calendar that was in use at the time. When Great Britain and its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, they removed 11 days from the calendar to bring it into synch with the solar year. Accordingly, Washington’s birthday became February 22, 1732—and a national holiday in the United States from 1879 until 1971, when the Uniform Monday Holiday Act fixed it as the third Monday in February. Federal law still calls it Washington’s Birthday, although it is commonly known as Presidents’ Day.

My own favorite story about Washington dates back to March 1783 in Newburgh, New York. Fighting in the Revolutionary War had ceased more than one year earlier, but the Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the war, was not signed until September 1783. Drafting of the U.S. Constitution did not begin until May 1787, and Washington was not elected president until early 1789. So the state of affairs in the United States was very uncertain in March 1783. Officers and soldiers in the Continental Army were extremely discontent because they had not been paid in many months and wanted to return home. Animosity was growing toward General Washington, the Army’s commander-in-chief.

George Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, New York, 1780
Washington’s Headquarters 1780 at Newburgh, on the Hudson by an unidentified artist, after 1876 (SAAM)

On Saturday, March 15, 1783, Washington surprised a group of officers by appearing at a meeting in which they were considering whether to mutiny, or even stage a military coup against the Congress of the United States. Washington had prepared a speech—now known as the Newburgh Address—which he read to the assembled officers. It did not go over well, but what happened next has become the stuff of legend.

According to James Thomas Flexner’s 1969 biography, Washington: The Indispensable Man, Washington thought that reading a letter he had received from a member of Congress might help his case. But when he tried to read the letter, something seemed to go wrong. The general seemed confused; he stared at the paper helplessly. The officers leaned forward, their hearts contracting with anxiety. Washington pulled from his pocket something only his intimates had seen him wear: a pair of eyeglasses. “Gentlemen,” he said, “you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.” This homely act and simple statement did what all Washington”s arguments had failed to do. The hardened soldiers wept. Washington had saved the United States from tyranny and civil discord.

It’s a beautiful story, one that memorably captures Washington’s ability to connect on a very human level with the troops he commanded, as well as his willingness to reveal his personal vulnerability—an admirable trait that today is perhaps too infrequently displayed by our military and political leaders. But it’s also a story that raises suspicions among folklorists, who know the proverb, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” and who also know that multiple variants often indicate a story’s folkloric quality.

For instance, the well-known urban legend about an excessively long government memo regulating cabbage sales has slight variants affecting the number of words, the subject of the memo, or the issuing agency. Similarly, there are slight variants to what Washington is supposed to have told the assembled officers. Sometimes he is growing gray, sometimes growing old, sometimes growing blind, and sometimes almost blind. The kernel of the story remains consistent, which is also key to the process of legend making. After all, on the third Monday in February, we can never tell a lie. Or something like that.

A version of this article previously appeared on the online magazine of the Smithsonian Center for for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

 

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George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

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The story below is by Rush Limbaugh.

It is a very good history lesson.
The George Washington 1789 Thanksgiving proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
 “Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of thePeople of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility [sic], union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
George Washington You want me to count the number of references to God?
How about just the first line? “Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and to humbly implore His protection and favor.
“Let’s see. One, two, three, four references in just that first clause.
What a fanatic, George Washington!.Just wanted you to hear that.
That’s the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789.
The real story of Thanksgiving — and by the way, the real story is continuing, what I just read to you.
The thanks was given to God, not the Indians.

Sybil Ludington (1761-1839)

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The story of Sybil Ludington should be taught in our schools.

Oh silly me Sybil is a white girl and horrors of horrors her family may have owned slaves.

sludington

A young American patriot, Sybil Ludington is the female counterpart to the more famous Paul Revere.  Born in 1761 in Connecticut, Ludington was the eldest of twelve children.  Soon after her birth, her family settled in Dutchess County, New York. In addition to being a farmer, Ludington’s father held various positions within the small town and served in the military for over sixty years.  He was loyal to the British crown until 1773, when he joined the rebel cause.  He was quickly promoted to Colonel and led his local regiment.  Colonel Ludington’s area of command was along a vulnerable route that the British could take between Connecticut and the coast of Long Island Sound.

When British troops and British loyalists attacked a nearby town, Danbury, Connecticut, in 1777, a rider came to the Ludington household to warn them and ask for the local regiment’s help.  At the time, the Colonel’s regiment was disbanded for planting season, and all of the men were miles apart at their respective farms.  The rider was too tired to continue and Colonel Ludington had to prepare for battle, so he asked his barely sixteen-year-old daughter Sybil to ride through the night, alerting his men of the danger and urging them to come together to fight back.  Ludington rode all night through the dark woods, covering forty miles (a significantly longer distance than Revere rode), and because of her bravery, almost the whole regiment was gathered by daybreak to fight the British.

After the battle at Danbury, George Washington went to the Ludington home to personally thank Sybil for her help. After the war, Ludington married a Catskill lawyer named Edward Ogden; they had one son.  She died in 1839.

Although Ludington never gained the widespread fame that Paul Revere did in America’s history, she was honored with a stamp by the Postal Service in 1975. There is a statue of her by Lake Gleneida in Carmel, New York, and there are historical markers tracing the route of her ride through Putnam County.

On This Day: Shays’ rebellion was thwarted

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This is from the National Constitution Center.

I do not recall hearing about this rebellion.

 

On this day in 1787, Shays’ rebellion effectively ended in Springfield, Mass., when its forces failed to capture a federal armory. The uprising was one of the major influences in the calling of a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

Daniel_Shays_and_Job_Shattuck

Daniel Shays and Job Shattuck

The tax protest showed the federal government, under the Articles of Confederation, couldn’t put down an internal rebellion. It had to rely on a state militia sponsored by private Boston business people. With no money, the central government couldn’t act to protect a “perpetual union” guaranteed by the Articles.

The events leading to and including Shays’ rebellion alarmed Founders like George Washington, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton to the point where delegates from five states met at Annapolis, Maryland in September 1786 to discuss changing the Articles of Confederation.

The group in Maryland  included Madison, Hamilton and John Dickinson, and it recommended that a meeting of all 13 states be held the following May in Philadelphia. The Confederation Congress agreed and the Constitutional Convention of 1787 effectively ended the era of the Articles of Confederation.

Daniel Shays, a former Continental Army captain, led a group of upset western Massachusetts residents that clashed with the state government over the forgiveness of wartime debt and high taxes. In some cases, Army veterans who had never received pay for their service saw their property seized.

In August 1786, the protesters mobilized and seized several local courts after the state government refused to consider debt-relief provisions. Shays led a force of about 1,500 men in an attempted raid of the Springfield armory on January 26. The group was intercepted on the day before its planned attack; four protestors died in a brief conflict with the militia and the group dispersed.

When learning of the conflict, Washington remarked that it threatened “the tranquility of the Union.”

“If three years ago any person had told me that at this day, I should see such a formidable rebellion against the laws & constitutions of our own making as now appears I should have thought him a bedlamite – a fit subject for a mad house,” he wrote to Henry Knox.

At that time, Washington was leaning against attending the constitutional convention, but the impact of Shays’ rebellion and the influence of his friends led Washington to change his mind.

The Navy Just Announced The Name For Its New Ship, And NAACP Pres. Is Furious

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This is from Western Journalism. 

I can not think of a better warrior to name a war ship after than Old Hickory Andy “By God” Jackson.

Screw the NAACP and this whining Cherokee that are suffering from a bad case of butt hurt.

 

The recent commissioning of the USS Jackson, a littoral combat ship, has stirred the ire of the NAACP and a leader for the Cherokee Nation.

The ship is named in honor of Mississippi’s capital of Jackson, which in turn was named for the nation’s 7th president, Andrew Jackson. Jackson, like several of the early American presidents including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, was a slave owner.

“This is totally appalling,” Connecticut NAACP President Scot X. Esdaile told CNN, who described Jackson as “a big-time slavemaster, pro slavery, the whole nine yards.”

Esdaile continued, “Amazing how we have an African-American president and the U.S. Navy slipped this thing through. I think it should be reconsidered.”

Chuck Hoskin Jr., secretary of state for the Cherokee Nation, found the name choice equally offensive.

“For our government to hold Andrew Jackson up to some reverence today, given our nation’s better appreciation of American history today than generations ago, is very troubling,” he said. “For the Cherokee people, Andrew Jackson represents the period of Indian removal,” a legacy of “trauma” and the “brutal act” of evicting people from their lands.

Jackson supported passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. His administration ordered the relocation of Cherokee Indians (along with other tribes) from their land in Georgia to Oklahoma. Thousands died during the journey due to exposure, disease and starvation on what became known as The Trail of Tears. Jackson was no longer in office, when the actual removal of the Cherokee took place, though he was when tens of thousands of other Native Americans were forced west of the Mississippi.

Hoskin said Saturday’s ship commissioning “feels like a step backward,” and wished the government had consulted with Cherokee Nation first, “I think we would have perhaps steered the government to name that ship differently.”

He said, “We’re going to look at this as an opportunity for the federal government to step up in the future.”

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who is a Mississippi native, has the responsibility for naming new ships that enter the fleet.

Andrew Jackson’s life spanned the founding of the United States to its emergence as one of the most powerful nations in the world, stretching from coast-to-coast. As a young teenager, he fought in the American Revolution, then became the hero of the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. He served two terms as president from 1829 to 1837.

The once popular Democrat president has fallen out of favor in recent years, along with Thomas Jefferson, because of their slave-holding history. In response to complaints from within the party, Democrats around the nation have begun renaming their annual Jefferson-Jackson dinners, which is the counterpart of the GOP’s annual Lincoln Day events.

George Washington 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation.

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633adf329b741543c8e61c5c7eeee7a9

The story below is from  Rush Limbaugh.

It is a very good history lesson.
The George Washington 1789 Thanksgiving proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of governmentfor their safety and happiness.
“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of thePeople of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility [sic], union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a
Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
George Washington You want me to count the number of references to God?
How about just the first line? “Whereas, it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and to humbly implore His protection and favor.
“Let’s see. One, two, three, four references in just that first clause.
What a fanatic, George Washington!Just wanted you to hear that.
That’s the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789.
The real story of Thanksgiving — and by the way, the real story is continuing, what I just read to you.
The thanks was given to God, not the Indians.

Happy 218th birthday to the USS Constitution, aka Old Ironsides!

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This is from the National Constitution Center. 

Old Ironsides is an amazing piece of Naval History.

 

America’s most famous ship is celebrating yet another birthday in Boston, as the iconic USS Constitution turns 218 years old today.

150603-N-SU274-004 UNITED STATES (Jun. 3, 2015) USS Constitution Summer 2015 Command Photo.

Also known as Old Ironsides, President George Washington himself named the ship, which quickly became an important part of the new U.S. Navy.

For now, the USS Constitution is resting in dry dock as it undergoes a three-year restoration to repair certain parts and replace its copper sheathing.

Here’s a look at the ship’s fascinating history, and its connections with President Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, John Kennedy and even a Pope!

1. George Washington got the ball rolling on creating the USS Constitution and five other early Navy ships. An act signed by Washington in 1794 authorized the construction of six top-line ships, including the Constitution, to protect American shipping interests in close to home and in the Mediterranean.

2. This Constitution was launched on October 21, 1797. President John Adams was at the launch ceremony in Boston. The following summer, the USS Constitution assumed a lead role in the West Indies, where it saw action in the Quasi-War with France.

3. The Constitution was dispatched to fight pirates. President Jefferson sent the Constitution, after it was retrofitted with new copper sheathing supplied by Paul Revere, to fight the Barbary pirates from 1803 to 1805. There, it bombarded the harbor at Tripoli.

4. Old Ironsides and the War of 1812. The USS Constitution took on and defeated four British Navy ships during the hostilities, including two at the same time! The ship got the name Old Ironsides for its ability to avoid damage during these conflicts.

5. A famous poem helps saves the USS Constitution. A young student, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., was upset in 1830 after hearing about the Navy’s plans to scuttle the ship. His iconic poem, “Old Ironsides,” caused a public sensation and helped saved the USS Constitution – and launch Holmes’s literary career.

6 The Pope meets Old Ironsides. The Constitution remained in and out of service for several decades. In April 1849, Pope Pius IX visited the Constitution while it was docked in Gaeta, Italy.

7. The Constitution vs. the slave trade. The ship’s finally engagement was in the capture of a ship transporting slaves. The slaver N. Gambril was captured south of the Congo River by the Constitution in 1853.

8. President John Kennedy’s grandfather helped to save the Constitution.A young Massachusetts congressman, John F. Fitzgerald, asked Congress in 1896 to allow the ship to be preserved, and not sunk. Over the next decade, various efforts led to the Constitution being classified as a museum ship.

9. The Constitution still sails, on occasion. When it is not in restoration mode, it can be sailed for special events. It is also the world’s oldest commissioned warship that can be used afloat.

10. The Constitution is the only commissioned American warship that has sunk another ship in battle. According to the Washington Post, with the decommissioning of the USS Simpson in September, the Constitution is the only remaining Navy ship that has sunk an enemy vessel that is still in service.

8 Things to Know About the Founding Fathers

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This is from Warrior Scout.

Some interesting bits of information.

Stories like Benjamin Franklin advocating a method for “improving the odor of human flatulence” have surrounded the Founding Fathers throughout the centuries. Some have proved true, others not so much. Here’s a list of legends and facts surrounding some of America’s finest statesmen.

8. RUMOR: Although they were some of the most prestigious and prudent men in American history, the Founding Fathers are said to have loved their booze. Evidence indicates that during the long, hot Constitutional Convention summer of 1787, delegates drank like Mel Gibson Shia Labeouf at a New Year’s Eve bash. According to a bar tab from one local tavern–racked up days before the document was signed–delegates drank enough to clean out a small liquor store: 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of porter, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 bottles of beer, and 7 bowls of alcoholic punch.

All that debating apparently made them thirsty.

7. RUMOR: At first blush, Benjamin Franklin would seem the most likely man to write the Declaration of Independence. However, legend has it that he wasn’t given the honor because his peers feared he would insert a joke. This rumor might actually have some truth to it, as Franklin was widely known for his rapier wit. Unfortunately, his wittiness quite possibly led to him missing out on a historic opportunity. The honor instead was given to a young Thomas Jefferson.


6. RUMOR: Benjamin Franklin probably would’ve been today’s avid texter, as he was a fan of using short-hand writing. In fact, it was suggested that Franklin loved short-hand so much that he advocated the simplification of all English words! Now, next time you hear someone associate the denigration of the English language with texting or Tweeting, just mention that one of America’s most eloquent and brilliant writers probably would’ve been a huge fan.

5. FACT: Although one of the most influential American patriots, James Madison was the country’s smallest president. He weighed just 100 pounds and measured a meager five foot four. We’re hoping that Madison was not responsible for a large portion of that bar bill (see above).

4. FACT: George Washington reportedly had a fear of being buried alive. This still remains a rumor as there’s no written evidence to support it. However, what is a fact is that in his will he stipulated that he was not to be buried for three days after his death – presumably to make sure he was actually dead.


3. FACT: Samuel Adams beer is one of the most popular beers in America. But the face on the patriotically-themed beer is that of Paul Revere (left in picture below), not Sam Adams (right in picture below). Who knew?


2. RUMOR: Reportedly, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were such fans of William Shakespeare that they clipped off a piece of his chair as a souvenir when visiting his house in Europe. The story is feasible since Jefferson and Adams were two of the most eloquent and brilliant English-speaking writers and studied Shakespeare’s style in depth. But there is no direct evidence to support the claim.


1. FACT: The Declaration of Independence was actually approved by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. Most of the Founding Fathers thought that this day would be the day remembered and celebrated throughout American history instead of the day we currently celebrate as Independence Day. Even John Adams believed July 2 was most appropriate as he wrote a letter to his wife saying, “the Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable in the history of America.”


 

 

VIDEO: D.C. Residents Say Take Down Jefferson Memorial, Rename Washington, D.C.

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This is from PJ Media.

Only one thing comes to mind to say about this story.

YGTBSM!

Asked to weigh in on Confederate controversy, one man suggests renaming the capital “Black City” or “Mixed City.”

District of Columbia residents and tourists weighed in on the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag, some saying the nation should go as far as renaming Washington, D.C.

CNN anchor Don Lemon recently floated the idea of re-thinking the Jefferson Memorial, dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, since he was a slave owner.

“There may come a day when we want to re-think Jefferson, I don’t know if we should do that, but when we get to that point, I’ll be happy to partake in that particular discussion,” Lemon said.

“It should come down,” one D.C. resident told PJ Media, referencing the Jefferson Memorial in Washington.

“If we do that, though, George Washington owned slaves. Should we rename Washington, D.C.?” he was asked.

“You have to draw the line at some point, I guess, maybe take a poll across the country and see what people think about it and if they want to rename the city, do it,” he said. “I would support changing the American flag as well. America is based on a lot of mass killings and slavery and the history is just – look at the Germans, they own up to the Holocaust, nobody is proud of their history. Americans, at least, you should not be proud of any mass killing. You should not be proud of anything wrong that’s been done in the past or any symbols that represent that and that’s all.”

Another man suggested renaming Washington “Black City” or “Mixed City.”

10 BEST GENERALS IN AMERICAN HISTORY

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This is from Warrior Scout.

I would have rated Ike higher than ninth.

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Many such lists have been compiled, each subjective to one degree or another. A look at 10 of the best generals in American history.

*Author’s note: In creating this list, the over-arching question posed was: Whom would I want commanding my Army were I the president of the United States? Also, if these men faced each other on a neutral battlefield, who would come out on top?
10. Winfield Scott

Scott Rose to fame as the man who defeated Mexico in a brilliant amphibious campaign far ahead of its time, followed by an audacious march on Mexico City. He also devised the “Anaconda Strategy” that helped to strangle the Confederacy and help the Union win the Civil War. A bold, clear-sighted and creative strategist, “Old Fuss and Feathers” too often gets overlooked when such lists as this are compiled. In his day, no less an expert than the Wellington called him the greatest living general.Above photo: Wikimedia Commons.
9. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Disparaged by the flamboyant MacArthur as “the best clerk I ever had”, Ike was the archetype of the modern “political general” in the age of coalition warfare. Never forgetting that his primary mission was to keep the various allies happily working in concert, he nevertheless orchestrated a massive campaign against the Axis in Europe and North Africa that brought total victory. No general in history has commanded a larger force on land, sea, and air. While he often had to allow his British allies to take the bit in the teeth– and to put-up with the vainglorious and barely competent Montgomery–he managed to win the war with minimal casualties and no major defeat (though several severe embarrassments). In all, he was the consummate professional soldier. Above photo: Getty Images.
8. Nathan Bedford Forrest

Perhaps the most feared general in American history, “that Devil Forrest” was the prophet of mobile warfare. His campaigns were (allegedly) studied by German proponents of the blitzkrieg and compare favorably to those employed by Rommel and Guderian. Though often considered a “cavalry leader” (he was probably the finest in American history), his task forces were actually well-balanced mobile arms teams of cavalry, mounted infantry, and horse artillery. He also has the distinction of being the “fightingest” general in American history, personally killing with his own hands some 30 union soldiers (and losing 29 horses in the process!). Forrest was dubbed “The Wizard of the Saddle,” but he was in truth a wizard of modern warfare.Above photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The 10 best generals of the Civil War
7. Douglas MacArthur

Even more theatrical than Patton (Eisenhower, who served as his aid in the 1930s, once quipped, “I studied dramatics under MacArthur”), MacArthur was the epitome of the general-hero at a time when America needed one. He successfully led the southern theater of the Pacific Campaign, and presided over the surrender of Japan. In Korea in 1950, his audacious strategy of landing massive forces behind the North Koreans at Inchon was a masterpiece. He drove the North Koreans out of the South and back to the Chinese border. But for that country’s intervention against his forces, the war would have ended in 1950 with MacArthur acclaimed the greatest general of the 20th century. As was, he succeeded in extricating his army intact, and after appointing Ridgeway to lead 8th Army stopped the Chinese advance, stabilizing the line. His disagreement with the Joint Chiefs and President Truman over how to deal with the Chinese situation led to his sacking. Above photo: MacArthur’s landing on Leyte, Getty Images.
6. Ulysses S. Grant

The model for the modern American general, Grant was fearless, aggressive, and determined. He understood better than any of his contemporaries (except Sherman, perhaps) the war he was fighting and waged it to a successful conclusion where less men had failed. Grant was a determined, dogged commander who never lost heart in the face of the enemy, despite hideous casualties. After taking a beating during the first day at Shiloh, he merely shrugged and said, “We’ll lick ’em tomorrow”— and he did. There was a move to relieve him after this most sanguine battle; but Lincoln overruled Grant’s detractors: “’I can’t spare this man; he fights.” Grant was the ultimate pugnacious combat commander, a pit bull who would never let him go once he had sunk his teeth into an enemy. Above photo: Wikimedia Commons.
5. William T. Sherman

Hated in the South to this day for the devastation he brought them, Sherman stands out as the most clear-sighted strategist of the Civil War. He understood that to break the Confederacy’s indomitable will he had to make war too terrible to bear. His concept of “tough war” presaged the “total war” concept unleashed in the 20th century. Sherman achieved his famous “March to the Sea” by an advance that constantly threatened multiple objectives, keeping the Confederate defenders off balance. Only Jackson and Forrest marched armies faster, and no one marched one further than Sherman. Unlike Grant, he seldom threw his men away attacking heavily defended places or entrenched enemies; instead obtaining his objective by maneuver. He made war hell for his opponents, not his own soldiers. Above photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The Story of the South: In Sovereign and Independent Character
4. George Washington

This list could not exist had Washington failed. He was a master of guerilla warfare, using maneuver and audacity both to preserve his inferior army and to defeat British forces where possible. His ultimate victory over the greatest power of the age presaged that of Nguyên Giáp, the North Vietnamese generalissimo who defied America in the Vietnam War. He was an inspiration to his troops, sharing their terrible privations and always placing himself at the point of maximum danger in battle. Tactically he was solid if not overly imaginative. But as a strategist, he ran circles around nearly every commander the British sent against him. His boldness was perfectly matched with prudence, a combination necessary for a general fighting with limited resources against an enemy with control of both the land and the sea. Despite the odds against him, he seldom lost a battle and always succeeded in extricating his army to fight another day. In the end, he understood how to win the war he was fighting, and in so doing birthed the United States of America. Above photo: Wikimedia Commons.
8 things to know about the Founding Fathers

Top 10 quotes from 1776
3. Robert E. Lee

Often placed at the top of lists like this, Lee’s legend benefited from dying soon after the war. He made grave tactical and strategic mistakes (particularly at Gettysburg), and was greatly aided by the help of such able sub-commanders as Jackson and Longstreet (who often gets little credit). Lee was also an inspiring commander, a bold strategist, and a tactical innovator who came very close to winning an unwinnable war. His dauntless energy and aggressiveness during the Seven Days Battle are particularly striking when compared to the performance of his adversary, the over-cautious McClellan. His two invasions of the North were well-conceived and had every chance of succeeding. The first was thwarted in part by lost orders falling into his enemy’s hands, resulting in McClellan being able to concentrate his forces against Lee’s at Antietam. At Gettysburg, a campaign which was initially even more successful, he may have been suffering from a mild heart attack (this would explain his lethargy and lack of imagination during the battle). Had anyone else been in command of the Confederate war effort in the last two years, the war would have ended much sooner than it did. Above photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Robert E. Lee: A man of honor and a Virginian
2. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

His reputation for solidness on the battlefield earned him the name “Stonewall.” But this nickname belies the aggressiveness and rapidity of movement that became his hallmark on the battlefield. During the Valley Campaign, Jackson marched his infantry brigades so quickly and covered so much ground that they came to be known as Jackson’s “Foot Cavalry.” Brave, eccentric, religiously upright, and bold, Jackson was at his best when given independent command, perfectly complimenting his commander-in-chief, Lee, as a Corps commander. His crowning glory at Chancellorsville cost him his life when he was wounded coming back from an evening reconnaissance by his own sentries. It can be argued that the Battle of Gettysburg (and the Civil War) was lost the moment those shots echoed in the woods at Chancellorsville.
1. George S. Patton, Jr.

No general was more controversial—or effective—during WWII than old “Blood-and-Guts.” The only American commander admired and feared by the German high command, Patton was the ultimate progenitor of mobile combat. Like Forrest, he was a prophet of mobile warfare and advocated using every vehicle in his Third Army—artillery caissons to supply trucks to the backs of tanks—to transport his infantry so that they could keep up with the relentless pace he set for his armor. The ultimate warrior, he was the U.S. Army’s Master of the Sword and an Olympic competitor (1912, in the Military Pentathlon). As a young cavalry officer, he chasedPancho Villa into Mexico. (During this campaign, he got into an Old West style gunfight with two of Villa’s lieutenants, killing them both!) He created and led America’s only armored brigade during the First World War. Before the Second World War, he was the primary exponent of armored warfare and quickly became America’s foremost “tank man” during the war. In Sicily at the head of 7th Army and in Europe leading 3rd Army he consistently displayed a boldness and aggressiveness that are the hallmark of great commanders throughout history. He combined the fearlessness of Grant with the aggressiveness of Jackson, and created in Third Army a force as mobile as that of Forrest’s. Even more theatrical than MacArthur, he is the general against which nearly every American general since has measured himself and sought to emulate. Above photo: Wikimedia Commons.

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