George Washington has been named Britain’s greatest ever foe by the UK’s National Army Museum. There is one guy who has grounds to object that those little skirmishes of Battle of Trafalgar and Waterloo appear to be entirely irrelevant.
Once again, the short guy gets the short end of the popularity contest. At 5 foot 6.5 inches, Napoleon could not get out from Washington’s 6 ft 1.5 inch shadow.
Of the original 20 contestants, Napoleon only made the top five with
Ireland’s Michael Collins, WWII General Erwin Rommel, and Turkish World War I leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
As honored as it is for an American to take the top spot, I have to differ. Napoleon forced England into a global war that changed the face of governments on the Earth. Besides, unlike Washington, Napoleon kept coming back for sequels. He was the original Die Hard series. Beat him at Leipzig, send him to Elba . . . he escapes, raises a world-class army and fights again.
I agree with excluding political leaders like Hitler, but again Washington was not known as a brilliant military tactician in the class of Napoleon. He was a great leader. I consider him more Churchillian in stature. The war did have some great American commanders. Ironically, Benedict Arnold was one of them before he became a traitor. His military prowess was demonstrated at Fort Ticonderoga, the battle for Quebec, and Saratoga. Brigadier General Daniel Morgan was also an excellent commander as demonstrated at the Battle of Cowpens. Moreover, while Washington was also the focus of British attention during the war, he was not the motivating political force between the rebellion. That honor belongs collectively to people from Thomas Paine to John Adams to Thomas Jefferson and many others who rallied Americans to the cause. The British tended to focus on Washington as the “leader” because he was the head of the Continental Army. However, as Washington’s letters complaining about the lack of support attest, true power resided in the Continental Congress and among the states.
This is not to belittle Washington who delivered critical victories at critical times like the taking of Trenton. He was not however the sole leader in the Revolution and there is ample support for the view that the war was actually won in the Southern campaign. General Nathanael Greene pursued a brilliant and winning strategy that sought to drain the British rather than defeat the British outright in large battles — the strategy of other generals like Washington. Greene found a campaign of attrition that gradually weakened the resolve and fighting capabilities of the British — leaving them in a state that led to their final defeat at Yorktown. From the Battle of Guilford Courthouse to the Battle of Cowpens to the Battle of King’s Mountain, the Southern campaign showed alternative American tactics that proved for more successful than the tactics used in the East by English trained American officers like Washington. Greene was militia trained and knew how to fight in the American theater.
What do you think? Should Washington trump Napoleon as Britain’s greatest military foe?