Your Saturday History Arrogance Does Not pay

Patton was a great general, and some might call him arrogant I found this at 90 Miles From Tyranny Pay close attention to the quote

Patton

Confidence is a necessity for a good military commander, over confidence, not so much. History is full of examples of military leaders who over estimated their, or their armies own ability. 

The quote from Patton reminded me of three Union generals that came against Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

General John Pope was given command of an army in the Summer of 1862. His army was to cooperate with George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, but Lee already heavily outnumbered, set about to defeat Pope, who he called a miscreant before he could team up with McClellan. 

Pope, for his part had had some smaller successes in the Western theater. His message to the troops upon assuming command said, in part, that he had come from the West, where he had always seen the backs of his enemies. In closing he announced that anyone looking for him would find his “headquarters in the saddle”. Upon hearing this Lee remarked that Pope did not know his headquarters from his hindquarters.

In late August Lee sent Stonewall Jackson’s corps to get Pope’s attention. Jackson took a defensive position in an old railroad cut, and repulsed attack after attack from Pope. Lee, meanwhile, had arrived with James Longstreet’s corps, about 30,000 men. Pope, intent  on destroying Jackson, was unaware that Longstreet was in position to crush his flank. Despite warnings that Longstreet was on the field, Pope sent his last divisions against Jackson, opening the opportunity for Longstreet to fall upon his flank. Pope was routed, and was soon sent to Minnesota to fight Indians.

General Joseph Hooker was a far better general than Pope, and even more arrogant. After Lee had won another victory over Ambrose Burnside at Fredericksburg, Hooker replaced Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac. To his credit, he stole a march on Lee in late April 1863. Hooker, whose army numbered 134,000 while Lee, who would have to fight without two divisions and General Longstreet, had about 57,000. Hooker had put himself in position to possibly end the war. He announced that he had Lee where he wanted him. “Lee must ingloriously flee or come out in the open where certain destruction awaits him, may God have mercy on Bobby Lee for I will have none” 

Lee, did neither of the two things Hooker suggested. Instead he sent two divisions to attack Hooker. Hooker, rather than using his superior forces began to entrench, the bully had backed down. The next day, Lee sent Jackson around Hooker’s right flank. Jackson found Oliver Howard’s division resting completely unaware of what was about to hit them. What followed is known as Lee’s greatest victory. He wrecked his much larger opponent, and Hooker was soon replaced.

Lastly there is US Grant. He had achieved much fame and success in Tennessee, and was placed in command of all the Union armies in early 1864. He would face Lee himself, and in early May 1864, he began his campaign. Grant had heard some in his army remark that Grant had “not yet faced Bobby Lee” and that talk agitated Grant. He snapped that Lee better worry about what Grant would do to him, and added that his army talked as if Lee would do a back flip and turn Grant’s flanks and pierce his center at the same time.

At the Wilderness, on My 5th and 6th Lee attacked Grant, and oddly enough, in the battle Lee did turn both of Grant’s flanks, and almost pierced his center as well. In short Lee delivered a strategic and tactical beating to Grant. Grant, of course, was tenacious and continued to push his much smaller army South. Grant was not Pope, or Hooker, or Burnside, or McClellan. The armies would meet at Spotsylvania Courthouse, where Lee won another victory, and later at Cold Harbor, where Lee dealt Grant over 7,000 casualties in a matter of minutes. In all the first three meeting shad cost Grant as many casualties as Lee had in his entire army. In the end Grant won the war of attrition, but likely had no doubt who the better general was.

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