Excusez-Moi? George Washington Named Britain’s Greatest Foe

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?

Source: Fox

30 thoughts on “Excusez-Moi? George Washington Named Britain’s Greatest Foe”

  1. Napoleon constituted an existential threat to England; the colonies more burden than worth.

    Which is why England allocated so much more resources to defeating Napoleon than swatting down a bunch of bratty step-children.

    Which is why Cornwallis was sent — the general who was the real threat to British success.

  2. While I agree as is previously stated above the worse enemy of Britain, between Napolean and Washington is certanly Napolean, I might add I wonder if they had considered General/President Eisenhower.

    After France and Britain became involved in the Suez Crises of 1956 with the nationalization of the canal by Egypt and beligerance with Israel, succinctly it met with significant resistance by Eisenhower which in the end resulted in the defeat of the British with the recognition of the canal as being an Egyptian Asset, the Rise of Nasar as the pre-eminent arab protector against the influence of the West, the resignation of Anthony Eden as Prime Minister, and most significantly the hastening of the end of the British Empire as a colonial power especially with the election of Harold MacMillan who accelerated the decolonization along with the waning influence of Britain as a world power empowered other colonials to seek independence. But then again, perhaps he was considered a political figure.

  3. Bullwinkl,

    You might be right….. But it was Benedicts strategy and military acumen that Washington relied upon so well….. But for his insistence of basic gorilla warfare which the British never before experienced…. The US might still be a British possession or maybe even a german territory today…..

    Benedicts problems were largely because of the egos of men in Vermont as well as Massachusetts……. It seems that no one wanted to give him credit but Washington himself….. It became very political….. Then on to the siege of Montreal…… Where the real downfall in his credibility became an issue…… I bet Olli North knows the feelings quite well….. He was left to defend himself and believe this or not was being sued for plunder…..In 1776…… Then there was this note being sent to Washington…… It got in the wrong hands….. The rest is history…… To Washingtons credit….. He wanted Benedict back…… But the political powers would not let that happen…… Hmmmmm

  4. I’m in agreement with Bill H but for my own reasons.

    From an American’s standpoint Washington is one thing but the rankings being discussed are from the standpoint of Great Britain.

    They ultimately defeated the challenge from Napoleon. They ultimately lost the challenge from Washington.

    Had they not underestimated the challenge Washington represented, the Colonies would have remained theirs, or at least they like to think so.

    I have long admired Washington for his willingness to be underestimated. Of all the foundings surrounding him at the time I believe only John Adams actually recognized his true worth and leadership abilities from the getgo. Jefferson and Madison certainly underestimated him.

    All those Generals and Admirals Great Britain put in the field coupled with all those brilliant and sophisticated politicians Great Britain had at home lost to Washington. They lost the war, they lost the Colonies, and he effectively kept them at bay for the next decade and a half.

    I can see it, from their standpoint.

  5. This also reminds me of a joke about a British aristocrat who told an American that he had a portrait of Washington in his outhouse. The American replied it was a good place for it since the mere sight of Washington would scare the shit out of a Brit.

  6. “In the historical legacy of both men, I think Washington trumps Napoleon.”

    No disagreement, but I thought the issue was military strategic and tactical acumen.

  7. Bill H raises a good point, but is “keeping it” really the determinative criteria for military strategy and tactics proper? If so, bettykath’s pointing to Gandhi is arguably as if not more damaging to the British than Washington but he wasn’t a military figure at all. If you consider the operational battlefield though, Napoleon clearly outclassed Washington.

  8. Well, let’s look at this this way… Napoleon would ultimately field an army of a half-million men and subjugate most of Europe. Washington at any given time had ten thousand men or so, lost more battles than he won, but was able to keep a viable force in the field and frustrate the mightiest Empire in the world. Washington ultimately defeated the British whereas the British (and everyone else in Europe) ultimately defeated Napoleon. In the historical legacy of both men, I think Washington trumps Napoleon.

  9. I have to agree with British professionals on this one. There is an old saying that amatuers talk tactics, and professionals talk logistics in evaluating generals. Washington won his first victory in Boston when he forced the British out. He followed up by keeping his army together and withdrawing them in the face of the enemy at Brooklyn, and in Trenton. He forced the Brits out of New Jersey with his win at Princeton. He had so few resources that he even had an army to fight with is nothing short of amazing, much less keeping it going for seven years. He did this by personal conduct, example, discipline, and ran a great spy network personally.

    So all in all, as the overall commander he is without question the greatest general the Brits ever faced since he won our independence and was the main person responsible for that.

  10. I think Bill H is on to something. Considering how much the British lost and considering that the chief gets credit (or blame) for all that happens during his watch, Washington outshines the others.

    Considering what the British lost, where would Ghandi place?

  11. “Should Washington trump Napoleon as Britain’s greatest military foe?”

    No and for the very reasons you stated. He was more brillaint statesman than brilliant military strategist or tactician. Napoleon, on the other hand, was the real deal (his very few disastrous mistakes aside).

  12. I beg to differ on Benedict Arnold I think most of what he accomplished was due to Thadeus Kosciuszko

  13. Yeah, the only justification for this selection I can imagine is that he commanded an army that actually took territory away from the crown & kept it. He didn’t really win huge battlefield victories but England was drained before the war started & chose not to go further down the hole to crush a rebillion they probably figured they could undo at a later date.

    If you exculde the Romans because Angle Land was not England then I think you are left with Nepolean who did kick their behinds around quite a bit for a time. George was a great guy & all around swell fella but as pointed out he was not even the best General on the Colonial side.

  14. Bill H:

    i would say Hitler’s German Army Group B defeated the British Army at Dunkirk in 1940. They were saved only by the “Halt Order.” Call it an evacuation if you like, but a defeat nonetheless.

    Now the RAF– that’s another matter altogether.

  15. Well, what did Napolean ever take from England that he was able to keep? He tried multiple times, as you point out, but was ultimately defeated each time. Washington was the head of the only modern times army that ever defeated Britain, and wins the contest hands down.

  16. I would have voted for Aulus Plautius. He did rule them for 4 years, you know.

Comments are closed.