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Top 20 Greatest Military Leaders According to an Algorithm.


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Here's an analysis of the Greatest Military Leaders of all time: https://www.wearethemighty.com/popular/best-generals-ranked-by-statistics/

I've looked at their data to make this list. The analysis uses Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Basically, determines how much better than average a general was. 

1. Napoleon 38 wins 5 losses. Napoleon's WAR is so far ahead of everyone else. At his peak he has a WAR of 17.1, and he ends with a 16.6. He's over a 10.0 through most of his career. Napoleon also has fought in the most battles, almost twice as many battles as 2nd most by a general (RE Lee). 

2. Julius Caesar 15 wins 1 loss 1 draw. A WAR of 7.3 is both his peak and final WAR. Napoleon eclipses Julius Caesar early in his career, again showing the vast gap between Napoleon and everyone else. 

3. Duke of Wellington 16 wins 1 loss 1 draw. A WAR of 7.1, both for peak and final. He was of about Julius Caesar's eminence even before Waterloo. 

4. Takeda Shingen 15 wins 2 losses 1 draw. A War of 6.1, making him sort of a "distant" 4th. That is to say, Takeda, despite being #4 is 3rd tier. 

5. Khalid ibn al-Walid 12 wins 1 loss 1 draw. A WAR of 5.6

6. Hannibal 13 wins 2 losses 2 draws. His peak WAR was 6.4, which would have placed him 4th, but he lands at 5.4 as his last 4 battles were draws and losses. 

7. Ulysses S. Grant 12 wins 1 loss 3 draws. A war of 5.0. 

8. Frederick the Great 11 wins 2 losses 1 draw. A war of 4.6, making him more like Frederick the Pretty Good.

9. Georgi Zhukov. 10 wins 0 losses 0 draws. Surprise! The top WWII general is a Soviet. He's also undefeated. His WAR is 4.6. This suggests his battles were less difficult than some of those with losses. 

10. Alexander the Great. 9 wins 0 losses 0 draws. Actually, only pretty good. His WAR is 4.4, which makes his undefeated record slightly less impressive than Zhukov's.

11. Oda Nobunaga. 10 wins 1 loss. His peak was 4.3, but he ended up at 4.2. 

12. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. 8 wins 1 loss 2 draws. 3.6 WAR

13. Ferdinand Foch. 9 wins 2 losses 2 draws. 3.5 WAR. This shocks me as I generally assumed all the WWI generals were terrible. Who would guess Foch was France's 2nd greatest general?

14. Douglas Haig. 9 wins 2 losses 1 draw. 3.5 WAR. Barely below Foch. Haig/s ranking surprised me as well. 

15. Augustus Caesar. 7 wins 0 losses. 3.3 WAR

16. Pierre GT Beauregard. 9 wins 3 losses 2 draws. 3.2 WAR. According to the algorithm, Beauregard should have been leading the Confederacy, rather than Lee. I should note that a lot of Beauregard's victories were inconsequential ones towards the end of the war. 

17. Eugene of Savoy. 7 wins 1 loss. 3.1 WAR

18. Iosif Gurko. 6 wins 0 losses. 3.1 WAR

19. Edward IV of England. Can't seem to click on his to get the win loss record. 3.0 WAR

20. Duke Of Marlborough. 6 wins 0 losses. 3.0 WAR

Others, unranked:

  • Stonewall Jackson, Winfield Scott, and George B McClellan are all about 2.8 WAR. That McClellan is equal to either is insane. However, Scott was going up against the Mexican Army which was, although more numerous, less technologically sophisticated. Also in McClellan's defense, he was wielding a much larger army than Jackson and Scott ever had to command.
  • Generals that have a negative WAR. That is, an average general might have out performed them:
    • George Washington (6 wins 6 losses 1 draw)
    • Douglas MacArthur (5 wins 5 losses)
    • Erwin Rommel (3 wins 6 losses)
    • Robert E. Lee (8 wins 13 losses 6 draws). His WAR peaks at 0.5 and he falls to -0.5. One South Carolinian professor argued that, considering how Lee operated at Pickett's charge, at Antietam, and at on the 7 Days (despite this latter one technically being a win), one wonders if the South would have been better off with another general. 
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31 minutes ago, Patine said:

Võ Nguyên Giáp, Genghis Khan, Yi Sun-shin and several notable Chinese generals definitely deserve places, or at least in the, "others, unranked." The fact that only two East/Southeast Asian military leaders there are Samurai lords from Feudal Japan shows just as wonky a bias as the, "100 Most Significant Figures in the History of Law," list. WAR is a highly distorted and flawed index to judge on ALONE - it may help in a broader perspective, but not alone - and for some military leaders it is hard, even impossible in some case, to calculate accurately in long campaigns under certain conditions. I mean, Võ's WAR index was absolutely attrocious on the field, but he developed a strategy by which a dirt-poor, underdeveloped, agrarian nation with minimal hard military technology defeated a major world power - a strategy that was emulated many times after, and changed the way war was fought thereafter, profoundly!

The chart has like 1,000+ generals all grouped within approximately the same area--give or take a WAR of -0.5 to +0.5. I can only click on those that aren't overlapping with anyone else. Regardless, Vo Nyguyen Giap isn't in the top 20, possibly because he may only count for like 5 battles or something or maybe he has a lot of draws or losses. I doubt historians know that many of Genghis Khan's battles to include him. 

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Genghis Khan literally created one of the largest empires in history...so he has to be up there somewhere.

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As unpatriotic as it may seem, I've never been a fan of George Washington overall personally, although I do respect him greatly... but solely looking at his military track record... let's just say there's more luck there than there is substance. 😛 


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6 hours ago, vcczar said:

@Patine I used to have a 100 Military book that ranked the top 100 military leaders. It was also biased as the legal book. It had George Washington #1. 

Who did the author place as #2 and #3?

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50 minutes ago, Rezi said:

Did the algorithm have General Sherman placed?

Yeah, but he was probably in the mass of generals that were all overlapping each other. There was no way to zoom in to isolate a lot of the generals. Basically, 95% of the general all fell within 0.5 and -0.5 WAR. Then there were some outliers -- the top 20 and some other awful generals. I'll try and see if I can get a list. 

One thing I don't like about the WAR is that it seems to consistently go upwards at just about the same level. For instance, Beauregard gets a "Win" for Ft Sumter, which wasn't really that much of a battle. His WAR gain from that is about the same that he gains or loses for winning or losing a battle involving 100,000 people.

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@Timur and @Patine

The Military 100 book by Lanning, which I used to own in undergrad, has the following top 20:

  1. Washington
  2. Napoleon
  3. Alexander the Great
  4. G Khan
  5. J Caesar
  6. Gustavus Adolphus
  7. Pizarro
  8. Charlemagne
  9. Cortes
  10. Cyrus
  11. Frederick
  12. S Bolivar
  13. William the C
  14. Hitler
  15. Atilla
  16. G C Marshall
  17. Peter the G
  18. Eisenhower
  19. O Cromwell
  20. MacArthur

Wellington is 22, Grant 33, Vo N G is 40, RE Lee is 60, Patton is 95

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49 minutes ago, Patine said:

Still, I find the simplistic mathematical algorithm of this WAR index to be woefully inadequate to calculate the greatest historical military leaders, and I continue to stand by that assessment. You have to take more than number crunching into account, realistically.

Pizarro, LOL! Huge amounts of sheer luck and fortuitous timing, and the less than a decade, at the time, old experience of Cortes (who, for some reason, is three below him) where applicable in analog mostly allowed Pizarro his famed conquests.

What do you think of Vo at #40? 

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