Saturday, August 18, 2012

Who's the Greatest?


Marshal Maurice de Saxe
The greatest military enemy of Great Britain, that is.  Some might think renowned tyrants like Hitler, Napoleon, or Louis XIV.  As a naval power one might say the Phillip II of Spain’s launching of the mighty Spanish Armada makes him the island nation’s greatest adversary. But of course, all these men failed against Britannia. Throughout its past, Britain also faced many great generals on the battlefield such as France’s Marshal Maurice de Saxe, Nazi Germany’s Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and the great Boer Commando leader Jan Smuts. But a recent poll of British historians named America's own George Washington as Britain's greatest military enemy!
Field Marshal Rommel

The British Army Museum recently ran an internet poll in which over 8,000 folks responded.  The  museum’s judges then reduced the contenders to five top leaders:  America’s Continental Army commander George Washington; IRA Chief of Staff Michael Collins; France’s Napoleon Bonaparte; Field Marshal Rommel; and Turkey’s great Kemal Ataturk (who stymied the Empire at Gallipoli). Because the selectees had to have led troops in the field against a 
Michael Collins
British Army, purely national leaders like Hitler or the Sun King were eliminated from inclusion.The results are significant for two reasons:  Washington successfully led the Continental Army through eight years of conventional and asymmetric warfare against the best Britain could throw at him.  He struggled with all kinds of issues in supply; quality officers and men; command and control; political infighting and several disastrous losses early on.  Yet his strategy, determination and leadership caused Britain to come to terms and he wrested the heart of an entire continent away from them.  And he went on to be the “significant man” in the founding era of the world’s most successful and enduring Republic.

Throughout the conflict Washington was minimized and demeaned by his opponents. The British steadfastly refused to refer to him as general, instead referring to him as “Mr. Washington”.   During the surrender at Yorktown, General Cornwallis sent his deputy to turn over his sword.  That general, in turn, tried to surrender to the French commander, Comte de Rochambeau.  Rochambeau chivalrously directed him to General George Washington.  So as we follow the adventures of the Yankee Doodle Spies, we have the consolation of knowing they were led by the best of the best.  And now, the British finally  admit it!  

British Surrender at Yorktown

1 comment:

  1. That is pretty fascinating! I would not have guessed offhand that Washington was Great Britain's most formidable opponent but everything you say here makes complete sense. Also interesting how the powers-that-be always try to achieve some moral high ground by declaring that their opponents are not really soldiers, and how silly this always makes them look ... You have, in any event, now got me wondering who America's greatest battlefield enemy was!