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Has anyone read anything comparing George Washington

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pscot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-14-11 07:24 PM
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Has anyone read anything comparing George Washington
and Oliver Cromwell as revolutionary leaders? As generals?
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happyslug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-23-11 02:24 PM
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1. That is a good one, Cromwell vs Washington
Cromwell is noted for several Military acts, first his formation of his Regiment and it quickly becoming the model for the rest of the Parliamentary army. His victories were the product of how he formed the New Model Army as while as his tactics. No one has ever questioned Cromwell's ability as a military leader, called either the first or second best general Great Britain ever produced (Cromwell has been constantly downgraded since the 1600s do to the fact he executed Charles I of England thus John Churchill,,c 1700, is considered by many to be the better general, but John Churchill took an army already in formation and lead it to victories, unlike Cromwell who had to form the army that lead him to his victories).

Washington, on the other hand, has been considered a mediocre general at best. The New York Campaign is a classic example. His second in Command, ex British Officer Richard Lee, told Washington you can NOT hold onto an island while the other side has naval superiority, but Washington ignored that advice and proceeded to be outflanked by both land and naval movements. It took three days for the rest of the officer Corp to convince Washington to abandon Long Island (to long, if the British had been more active Washington's army would have been destroyed right then and there). The evacuation to New Jersey was a brilliant feat, do more to the work of the New England Sailors within the Army then anything Washington did. The Retreat across New Jersey was called the Greatest Military feat of the age by King Frederick the Great of Prussia, but again more the product of New England Militia (The key to Washington's army at that time, and the best Militia in the world from the mid 1660s till after 1820, in many ways the New England Militia was better disciplined then most Regular Army units. Southern Militia Units of the Revolutionary period were no where near as good, New York, Pennsylvania and the Middle Colonies Militia was better then the South's but no where near the level of the New England Militia).

Washington's biggest problem is he always wanted to attack, even when that was NOT in the best interest of his army. This turned out to be good at Trenton and Princeton, but terrible at Brandywine. In many ways the Continental Congress restrictions on how many troops he could have had the good affect of preventing him from trying to Attack New York throughout the period from 1777-1783. Yorktown was more a French Naval and Army Victory then a Victory won by Washington (and Cornwallis had the bad luck on relying on his superiors in New York who determined that Washington was NOT going to March South, and kept up that picture till Washington's Army marched through Philadelphia on its way to Yorktown, by then it was to late for Cornwallis he was trapped in Yorktown, blocked by the French Fleet and the American Militia who kept Cornwallis in Yorktown till Washington and the French army arrived to begin the siege).

As a military organizer Washington is clearly not in the same league are Cromwell, as a leader of troops, that is also true. On the other hand as a Politician Washington was equal if not slightly Superior to Cromwell. Washington kept the Army Together, talked the troops out of their mutiny in 1782 (After Yorktown, but before the peace treaty was signed), could lead in the attack (and did nothing that interfered with the New England Militia so the Army stayed together during the retreat across New Jersey). He made sure the army was supplied enough to stay effective (When Congress wanted to cut it even further). Washington was able to work with and around (and get rid of) General competing for the place as Commander in Chief.

Washington may have considered Trenton, Princeton and even Yorktown as the greatest Military act he ever did, but I have to concur with Frederick the Great, the retreat across New Jersey AND keeping the army together during that late fall, early winter retreat was the greatest Military act of the Age. Lets remember the three hardest thing for any general to do:

Number three, Amphibious operations (Including moving across large rivers), i.e. getting the troops to the same beach, and then onto the beach and then into a some sort of formation to fight, takes a lot of planning and training and thus considered the three most difficult military operation.

Number Two, Combining two armies into one place while one or both are under attack from the enemy. The enemy will do all it can to prevent the joining of the army, and what the enemy does will be in the best interest of the enemy, concentrating on destroy one and then the other of the two armies before they join up.

Number One, the Fighting Retreat. Napoleon tried to do this after Moscow, and saw his army destroyed by the weather and the Russians. Napoleon ended up abandoning the Grand Army and running off to France to gather the rest of the French army to fight the Battle of Nations in 1813 (Napoleon would lose the Battle of Nations, the largest battle in history till the battles of WWI, and end up in Exile on Elba. Waterloo was a small battle with less then 1/4 the men involved in the Battle of Nations fought after Napoleon returned from Elba and did his 100 days which ended at Waterloo).

It is rare to do any of the above and survive, the only time I heard of anyone doing all three was Grant at Shiloh (The Confederate General attacked Grants Army of the Tennessee before the Army of the Ohio could move downstream and across the Ohio River). Thus the Army of the Tennessee was under constant attack on the first day of Shiloh and in a constant retreat (But it did NOT break and run, instead retreated to new defensive positions till nightfall when the first day fighting ended). Grant then moved the Army of the Ohio across the Ohio River, combining both armies into one and attacked the next day.

The Retreat down hill to the Ohio River Bank meets the requirements of Number one, the Crossing of the Ohio meets number three and that same crossing combined two armies fulfilled number two, thus Shiloh saw a General do all three in one battle within a 24 hour period (on Day two Grant attacked and drove the Southern Army off the land taken by that same army the day before.

I do not want to belittle Washington's generalship to much, he was a good general (Not a great General, a good general). Washington was a master Politician, which made up for most of his bad generalship. Cromwell was both a Great General and a Master Politician (Cromwell used his political skills to get the men to work and drill under him as he formed the New Model Army). The only question would Cromwell have done was Washington did in 1783, refused to march on Congress given the Political situation in the US at that time? America in 1783 was NOT England in 1649. The US Army was more a combination of 13 Armies organized by the states as opposed to the one united Army that was the New Model Army (In fact the only true "Federal" Regiments during the Revolution had been raised out of Quebec from French Speaking Canadians, thus you can say 14 armies from 14 different legal jurisdictions). To march on Congress would have lead to a breakup of the union more then making Washington dictator.

On the other hand Cromwell faced a different situation, he had only one army, the only army left standing at the end of the English Civil War. That army was NOT the creation of Parliament, but the creation of Cromwell (acting as Parliament's agent, but it is clear the New Model Army was loyal to Cromwell NOT Parliament). As a creation of Cromwell, the New Model Army first loyalty was to Cromwell NOT Parliament and thus in the fight between Parliament and Cromwell it was going to support Cromwell.

Thus the armies of Washington and Cromwell in many ways lead to how both leaders proceeded with their conflict with Civilian Authority. If Washington had down what Cromwell had done, he could have had to face at least 14 different armies while his own troops disappeared (and re-appeared as those 14 plus armies). Cromwell faced no real serious Military Opposition after he had defeated the King. In fact, the army was the only thing holding the country together for Cromwell had to destroy the King's system of local Government of the King to defeat the King's forces (In fact the Restoration was more a return of these local governmental units to replace the New Model Army then any real return of power to the King).

In many ways Cromwell had a vision of how he wanted to rule England, but it was a vision he could NOT implement do to his reliance on the New Model Army and his destruction of the old local government system. It appears he even thought so, but did not have the money or the means to do what was needed. In many ways what England became what Cromwell envisioned after the Revolution of 1689 (i.e. a King assisted by Parliament), not quite modern Democracy but something better then the absolute rule of Charles I and even Cromwell himself.

Washington, on the other hand, appears to have no real vision as to the future of the US, thus we study Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton and the rest of the Founding Father but almost never Washington. Washington was more a Reagan type politician, someone who can appear popular and stand for everything but really stands for nothing. This is best seen in the Libraries of Jefferson and Washington, Jefferson's library was books from almost every political philosopher of his age and previous ages, Washington's library was filled by every get rich scheme of the late 1700s. Not an attack on Washington, but trying to show how Washington was not how we want the father of the Nation to have really been.

Just comments on Cromwell and Washington and why they were so different.
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