Who was history's greatest military strategist ?


The Angel of Justice
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Napoleon being called the greatest military strategist is a bit overrated. Have you overlooked his disastrous Russian campaign which decimated much of his army?

Was Napoleon's decision to invade Russia into the middle of a deadly snowy winter really a brilliant battle strategy?

His Russia fiasco was only the first step towards his downfall. And the defeat by the allied forces of Russians, Prussians, Austrians and British was the final step.

In any case, I'll nominate Hannibal as the greatest military tactician. He, with numerical inferiority in manpower, won many victories against the superior Roman Army, which was the most powerful one in he world during its time. He battled the Romans to a strategic stalemate. He rarely lost a battle in his life until senility has dulled his rapier wit and tactical mind, not to mention his army's dwindling numbers due to the lack of support from his Italian allies and his own homeland.
Personally I think you can hardly compare military leaders in such different ages as the Antiquity and the 18t, 19 or 20th century. Fighting with or without guns makes so much difference... Then I wouldn't want to confuse actual strategy with sensasional victories maybe brought by luck, the weather or a particular turn of events.

Napoleon blundered in Russia because he was unprepared for the weather conditions and expected the Russians to fight rather than retreat inland and burn everything behind them. It is not his military skills that weren't sufficient, but his knowledge of Russian culture and geography. Napoleon had amply proven before that he could defeat bigger armies fairly easily just through superior tactics and strategy. The Duke of Wellington, when asked who he thought was the greatest general that ever lived, answered “In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon.” He may not have been perfect, but he was regarded as the greatest general of his time, even by his enemies.

In the Antiquity, Hannibal did pretty well one time, but Alexander defeated much bigger armies in Egypt and Persia almost only through superior strategy. Many Roman generals (not just Julius Caesar) were also gifted strategists. Some are not so well remembered by history because they only crushed rebellions, fought against other Romans or conquered less politically important regions. But it is not because the lacked the opportunity to display their skills that they weren't exceptional (and this throughout history). Most people usually only remember key battles.
Alexander Suvorov

Yeah, I love Napoleon and consider him the greatest human being of all time. The Russian word is, that ?eA talented man is talented in all aspects of life.?f I agree. Nevertheless, I am sure that Napoleon was not the greatest commander of all time. Many historians (as well as Leo Tolstoy) think that it was Alexander Suvorov who was the greatest commander of all time (and who commanded respect even more than Alexander the Great).

Alexander Suvorov.​

He was one of the few great generals in history who never lost a battle; he was famed for his manual The Science of Victory and noted for the sayings "Train hard, fight easy;" "The bullet is a fool, the bayonet is a fine chap."

Suvorov entered the army as a boy, served against the Swedes during the war in Finland and against the Prussians during the Seven Years' War (1756 - 1763). After repeatedly distinguishing himself in battle he became a colonel in 1762.

Suvorov next served in Poland during the Confederation of Bar, dispersed the Polish forces under Pulaski, captured Krakow (1768) paving the way for the first partition of Poland and reached the rank of major-general. The Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774 saw his first campaigns against the Turks in 1773–1774, and particularly in the battle of Kozludji, he laid the foundations of his reputation.

In 1775, Suvorov was dispatched to suppress the rebellion of Pugachev, but arrived at the scene only in time to conduct the first interrogation of the rebel leader, who had been betrayed by his fellow Cossacks, and eventually beheaded in Moscow.

Scourge of the Poles and the Turks.

From 1777 to 1783 Suvorov served in the Crimea and in the Caucasus, becoming a lieutenant-general in 1780, and general of infantry in 1783, upon completion of his tour of duty there. From 1787 to 1791 he again fought the Turks during the Russo-Turkish War of 1787–1792 and won many victories; he was wounded twice at Kinburn (1787), took part in the siege of Ochakov, and in 1788 won two great victories at Focsani and by the river Rimnik.

In both these battles an Austrian corps under Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg participated, but at Rimnik Suvorov was in command of the whole allied forces. For the latter victory, Catherine the Great made Suvorov a count with the name "Rimniksky" in addition to his own name, and the Emperor Joseph II made him a count of the Holy Roman Empire. On 22 December 1790 Suvorov successfully stormed the reputedly impenetrable fortress of Ismail in Bessarabia. Turkish forces inside the fortress had the orders to stand their ground to the end and haughtily declined the Russian ultimatum. Their defeat was seen as a major catastrophe in the Ottoman empire, but in Russia it was glorified in the first national anthem, Let the thunder of victory sound!

Immediately after the peace with Turkey was signed, Suvorov was again transferred to Poland, where he assumed the command of one of the corps and took part in the Battle of Maciejowice, in which he captured the Polish commander-in-chief Tadeusz Kosciuszko. On November 4, 1794, Suvorov's forces stormed Warsaw and captured Praga, one of its boroughs. The massacre of approximately 20,000 civilians in Praga broke the spirits of the defenders and soon put an end to the Kosciuszko Uprising. According to some sources the massacre was the deed of Cossacks who were semi-independent and were not directly subordinated to Suvorov. The Russian general was supposedly trying to stop the massacre and even went as far as to order the destruction of the bridge to Warsaw over the Vistula river with the purpose of preventing the spread of violence to Warsaw from its suburb. Other historians dispute this, but most sources make no reference to Suvorov neither purposedly encouraging or preventing the massacre.

It is said that the Russian commander sent a report to his sovereign consisting of only three words: Hurrah from Warsaw, Suvorov. The Empress of Russia replied equally briefly: Congratulations, Field Marshal. Catherine. The newly-appointed field marshal remained in Poland until 1795, when he returned to Saint Petersburg. But his sovereign and friend Catherine died in 1796, and her successor Paul I dismissed the veteran in disgrace.

Suvorov's Italian campaign.

Suvorov spent the next few years in retirement on his estate Konchanskoe near Borovichi. He criticised the new military tactics and dress introduced by the emperor, and some of his caustic verse reached the ears of Paul. His conduct therefore came under surveillance and his correspondence with his wife, who had remained at Moscow - for his marriage relations had not been happy - was tampered with. On Sundays he tolled the bell for church and sang among the rustics in the village choir. On week days he worked among them in a smock-frock. But in February 1799 Emperor Paul I summoned him to take the field again, this time against the French Revolutionary armies in Italy.

The campaign opened with a series of Suvorov's victories (Cassan d'Adda, Trebbia, Novi). This reduced the French government to desperate straits and drove every French soldier from Italy, save for the handful under Moreau, which maintained a foothold in the Maritime Alps and around Genoa. Suvorov himself gained the rank of "prince of the House of Savoy" from the king of Sardinia.

But the later events of the eventful year went uniformly against the Russians. General Korsakov's force was defeated by Massena at Zurich. Betrayed by the Austrians, the old field marshal, seeking to make his way over the Swiss passes to the Upper Rhine, had to retreat to Vorarlberg, where the army, much shattered and almost destitute of horses and artillery, went into winter quarters. When Suvorov battled his way through the snow-capped Alps his army was checked but never defeated. For this marvel of strategic retreat, unheard of since the time of Hannibal, Suvorov was raised to the unprecedented rank of generalissimo. He was officially promised to be given the military triumph in Russia but the court intrigues led the Emperor Paul to cancel the ceremony.

Early in 1800 Suvorov returned to Saint Petersburg. Paul refused to give him an audience, and, worn out and ill, the old veteran died a few days afterwards on 18 May 1800, at Saint Petersburg. Lord Whitworth, the English ambassador, and the poet Derzhavin were the only persons of distinction present at the funeral.

Suvorov lies buried in the church of the Annunciation in the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, the simple inscription on his grave stating, according to his own direction, "Here lies Suvorov". But within a year of his death the tsar Alexander I erected a statue to his memory in the Field of Mars (Saint Petersburg).


Suvorov's full name and titles (according to Russian pronunciation), ranks and awards are the following: Aleksandr Vasiliyevich Suvorov, Prince of Italy, Count of Rimnik, Count of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince of Sardinia, Generalissimo of Russia's Ground and Naval forces, Field Marshal of the Austrian and Sardinian Armies; seriously wounded six times, he was the recipient of the Order of St. Andrew the First Called Apostle, Order of St. George the Triumphant First Class, Order of St. Vladimir First Class, Order of Alexander Nevsky, Order of St. Anna First Class, Grand Cross of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, (Austria) Order of Maria Teresa First Class, (Prussia) Order of the Black Eagle, Order of the Red Eagle, the Pour le Merite, (Sardinia) Order of the Revered Saints Maurice and Lazarus, (Bavaria) Order of St. Gubert, the Golden Lionness, (France) Order of the Carmelite Virgin Mary, St. Lasara, (Poland) Order of the White Eagle, the Order of St. Stanislaus.


The Russians long cherished the memory of Suvorov. A great captain, viewed from the standpoint of any age of military history, he functions specially as the great captain of the Russian nation, for the character of his leadership responded to the character of the Russian soldier. In an age when war had become an act of diplomacy he restored its true significance as an act of force. He had a great simplicity of manner, and while on a campaign lived as a private soldier, sleeping on straw and contenting himself with the humblest fare. But he had himself passed through all the gradations of military service.
According to D.S. Mirsky, Suvorov "gave much attention to the form of his correspondence, and especially of his orders of the day. These latter are highly original, deliberately aiming at unexpected and striking effects. Their style is a succession of nervous staccato sentences, which produce the effect of blow and flashes. Suvorov's official reports often assume a memorable and striking form. His writings are as different from the common run of classical prose as his tactics were from those of Frederick or Marlborough".
His gibes procured him many enemies. He had all the contempt of a man of ability and action for ignorant favourites and ornamental carpet-knights. But his drolleries served sometimes to hide, more often to express, a soldierly genius, the effect of which the Russian army did not soon outgrow. If the tactics of the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 - 1905 reflected too literally some of the maxims of Suvorov?fs Turkish wars, the spirit of self-sacrifice, resolution and indifference to losses there shown formed a precious legacy from those wars. Mikhail Ivanovich Dragomirov declared that he based his teaching on Suvorov's practice, which he held representative of the fundamental truths of war and of the military qualities of the Russian nation.

The magnificent Suvorov Museum was opened in Saint Petersburg to commemorate the centenary of the general's death, in 1900. Apart from St Petersburg, other Suvorov monuments have been erected in Ochakov (1907), Sevastopol, Izmail, Tulchin, Kobrin, Ladoga, Kherson, Timanovka, Simferopol, Kaliningrad, Konchanskoe, Rymnik, and in the Swiss Alps. On July 29, 1942 The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR established the Order of Suvorov. It was awarded for successful offensive actions against superior enemy forces.

Copiright Wikipedia.

Find out more about Suvorov.
Che Guevara

CHE GUREVARA AND FIDERO CASTRO WERE THE BEST STRATEGISTS. If Techumuseh knew Guevara back then, the natives in Canada would have won, and Michigan would have become a part of Canada as it once became after the war of 1812.
In the Antiquity, Hannibal did pretty well one time, but Alexander defeated much bigger armies in Egypt and Persia almost only through superior strategy.
Alexander fought Persian armies no larger than 100,000 according to modern consensus, in comparison to Hannibal who fought 87,000 Romans at Cannae. The difference in size was quite small, but in terms of resources and troop quality, Hannibal had to overcome much greater odds. Hannibal's tactics and maneuvers in battle were also superior.
No disagreement with those already mentioned, so I'll add one of my own heroes: Robert de Bruce.

Fought a brilliant guerilla war against a much bigger and stronger English army, culminating in the Battle of Bannockburn, in which he defeated an enemy who out-numbered his own forces at least 3 to 1.

Pragmatic to the point of utter ruthlessness; he basically carried out ethnic cleansing in the North of England until many English died from starvation or had to flee South.

Both an exceptional battlefield commander and a superb warrior. At Bannockburn, already middle-aged by the standards of the time, de Bruce killed Sir Henry de Boem in single combat.
CHE GUREVARA AND FIDERO CASTRO WERE THE BEST STRATEGISTS. If Techumuseh knew Guevara back then, the natives in Canada would have won, and Michigan would have become a part of Canada as it once became after the war of 1812.

In December 1956 they landed in Cuba using a small civilian Yatcht... being attacked immediatly and only 20 of their companions survived.

By January 1959, they defeated the US backed dictator Fulgencio Batista...


In 1961 they defeated the US backed and trained terrorist invasion force in the Bay of Pigs battle.


In 1962 the Cuban Missile crisis, forced to agree the USA, that they will not try to invade Cuba again.


Cuba today: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuba
Well, two strategist from WW II, that I like very much...
Гео́ргий Жу́ков (Georgiy Zhukov)




Erich von Manstein



Consider Sun Tzu, the Chinese Phylosopher/Warrior General who wrote a 13 Chapter treatise on The Art of War. What he wrote about 4000 years ago, is still studied and used today in training officers of the Armed Forces of many countries.
Tecumseh, Crazy Horse, Crowfoot and Geronimo each had their own amazing military skills and leadership
Tecumseh, Crazy Horse, Crowfoot and Geronimo each had their own amazing military skills and leadership
Absolutley, these men were great strategists and fought for something way more significant than duty to nation, the preservation of their people. Another great Native war leader was Sitting Bull, after he had defeated Custer the Americans thought there was no way he was not trained by Europeans, and claimed he read of Napoleon and mimiced his tactics. Other great Native Canadian war leaders were Dumont, Big Bear, and Poundmaker.
Lol, whoever wins. That's who's the greatest.

My vote goes to Sun Tzu, c.544–496 BC, the Chinese General who wrote The Art of War. His texts are studied in modern day and are as relevant now as they ever were.
I would list Hannibal Barca 247 BC-182 BC. as one of the great military minds and strategist of the Classical Age.
As Carthage was still recovering from the effects of the First Punic War, Hannibal set out to re-establish it. He campaigned successfully in the Iberian Pennisula and conquered what is now modern Spain and Portugal. Then after sweeping through Gaul and uniting the tribes to his cause he set out, with elephants, crossed the Alps and attacked the Roman Republic from the one direction they least expected. His invasion of Italy caught them by surprise.
Whilst his forces were outnumbered by the Roman forces, Hannibal used his better and won the day at Trebia and again at Lake Trasimene.
On the field of Cannae Hannibal used possibly one of the greatest maneuvers of all time. In a double envelope trick he swept his troops around both sides of the Roman Infantry [ who outnumbered his own by approx. 20,000] and destroyed several legions.
Hannibal occupied much of Italy for some years before being forced to return to Carthage.
The art of war is to deceive so there is a move called a feint. The idea is to distract. In the Bible in the conquest of Ai, Joshua lured the inhabitants with a small force who came out of the walls and pursued them. Then the small force stopped and turned around. The Ai inhabitants were trapped as the spot was surrounded by Israelites who were hiding as the small force led them to the spot.

Now there was a valley between him and Ai. 12 And he took about 5,000 men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the [c]city. 13 So they stationed the people, all the army that was on the north side of the city, and its rear guard on the west side of the city, and Joshua spent that night in the midst of the valley. 14 It came about when the king of Ai saw it, that the men of the city hurried and rose up early and went out to meet Israel in battle, he and all his people at the appointed place before the desert plain. But he did not know that there was an ambush against him behind the city. 15 Joshua and all Israel pretended to be beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16 And all the people who were in the city were called together to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were drawn away from the city. 17 So not a man was left in Ai or Bethel who had not gone out after Israel, and they left the city [d]unguarded and pursued Israel. 18 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the javelin that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” So Joshua stretched out the javelin that was in his hand toward the city. 19 The men in ambush rose quickly from their place, and when he had stretched out his hand, they ran and entered the city and captured it, and they quickly set the city on fire. 20 When the men of Ai turned [e]back and looked, behold, the smoke of the city ascended to the sky, and they had no place to flee this way or that, for the people who had been fleeing to the wilderness turned against the pursuers. 21 When Joshua and all Israel saw that the men in ambush had captured the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and [f]slew the men of Ai. 22 [g]The others came out from the city to encounter them, so that they were trapped in the midst of Israel, [h]some on this side and some on that side; and they [i]slew them until no one was left [j]of those who survived or escaped. 23 But they took alive the king of Ai and brought him to Joshua.
24 Now when Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the field in the wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them were fallen by the edge of the sword until they were destroyed, then all Israel returned to Ai and struck it with the edge of the sword. 25 All who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000—all the [k]people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not withdraw his hand with which he stretched out the javelin until he had [l]utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27 Israel took only the cattle and the spoil of that city as plunder for themselves, according to the word of the Lord which He had commanded Joshua. 28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it a heap forever, a desolation until this day. 29 He hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening; and at sunset Joshua gave command and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the city gate, and raised over it a great heap of stones that stands to this day.

The Japanese in WWII sent a small force that went around the British who were facing the Japanese forces in the jungles of Southeast Asia probably in Burma (now Myanmar). The Japanese attacked from front and behind that is how the British were driven from Southeast Asia.

The strategy began with a trick: Han Xin’s men would advance toward the Yong Kingdom under the guise of repairing roads but, instead, they would launch a surprise attack. The plan worked. The victory was speedy and Han Xin’s forces easily conquered the territory.

Using a variety of innovative strategies, Han Xin then captured King Bao of the Wei Kingdom, King Ge of the Zhao Kingdom, as well as the states of Yan and Qi to the north and east. With these new territories under his forces’ control, Han Xin surrounded the state of Chu, encircling Xiang Yu from all sides. Xiang Yu the Conqueror was done for—he slit his own throat on the banks of the Wu River.




Napoleon's strategy was to have two main forces and a hidden reserve at the rear. The two forces would attack and create a open middle ground. Then the reserve force would attack in the middle and reinforce one of the two thus enveloping the enemy on one side. When one half of the enemy was beaten the enemy with only half its force left usually gave up or ran away. It was Duke of Wellington from India who figured out Napolean's strategy and he copied it so in Waterloo Napoleon's reserve was met with Wellington's reserve. Palindrome: 'Able was I ere I saw Elba'.

Hannibal was defeated as Roman General Scipio studied Hannibal's strategy and nullified the elephants by opening paths for the elephants to pass by and also used loud trumpets to surprise the elephants. He then double enveloped Hannibal and Hannibal was defeated.

Hannibal's major mistake was he was outside his supply line. If he lost significant soldiers he could not get additional soldiers nor help and could not replace his elephants. He should have attacked Rome when he could using elephants for battering rams using innovative designs to cover his elephants. He was innovative enough to build rafts to ferry his elephants across rivers and go over the Alps. He was just going around Italy and wasting time and giving Romans time to analyze him and find ways to neutralize his advantages such as the elephants and the rebels who joined him.

Hitler gained traction with the German generals as they were stuck by the massive fort of Belgium. It was Hitler who came up with the idea of using gliders which were silent and at night to lodge German soldiers on the roofs. That was how the Germans took over Belgium. In other strategic move Hitler made many bad moves.





The Mongol War Machine:

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Russia aside Napoleon would have to be the greatest European military strategist and perhaps Robert E. Lee on the North American side.
Russia aside Napoleon would have to be the greatest European military strategist and perhaps Robert E. Lee on the North American side.

I have to agree, Napoleon stands apart in terms of natural leadership ability and military skill.
... and perhaps Robert E. Lee on the North American side.

I have to agree with this. He made me cheer for the Confederate even knowing how the civil war ended beforehand or what the Confederate fought for.
Consider Sun Tzu, the Chinese Phylosopher/Warrior General who wrote a 13 Chapter treatise on The Art of War. What he wrote about 4000 years ago, is still studied and used today in training officers of the Armed Forces of many countries.

I'll second Sun Tzu.
As a matter of fact, as toyomotor has stated, Sun Tzu is required reading in most military academies, especially in the West. 'The Art of War' is a surprising modern read but it has its fair share of 'gore'.
I copied this from Wikipedia, it was one of the memorable outtakes but I remember the original was more graphic in stating that he had the concubine commanders beheaded before the horrified harem [added]:
"Before hiring Sun Tzu, the King of Wu tested Sun Tzu's skills by commanding him to train a harem of 180 concubines into soldiers. Sun Tzu divided them into two companies, appointing the two concubines most favored by the king as the company commanders. When Sun Tzu first ordered the concubines to face right, they giggled. In response, Sun Tzu said that the general, in this case himself, was responsible for ensuring that soldiers understood the commands given to them. Then, he reiterated the command, and again the concubines giggled. Sun Tzu then ordered the execution of the king's two favored concubines [had them beheaded on the spot], to the king's protests. He explained that if the general's soldiers understood their commands but did not obey, it was the fault of the officers. Sun Tzu also said that, once a general was appointed, it was his duty to carry out his mission, even if the king protested. After both concubines were killed, new officers were chosen to replace them. Afterwards, both companies, now well aware of the costs of further frivolity, performed their maneuvers flawlessly."
I don't believe one can definitively choose just one as the greatest. Nothing clear cut.

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