When discussing some of the top military geniuses recorded in the history of mankind, a lot of people have similar opinions, but many do vary. There are leaders that have been very successful for the good they’ve accomplished and others have proved to be tyrannical to their own nation as well as their enemy. It is important to understand both sides so we can learn from our history and build our society rather than experience another downfall.
Some great military leaders might include:
Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hannibal, George Patton, George Washington, Napoleon, or Ghengis Khan. They are known for the mastermind of their military tactic and strategies, whether on defense or offense. I will discuss the latter three, starting with George Washington, who we have all heard about.
I talk about George Washington being one of the greatest military leaders not because he was the greatest in battle or the most intellectual strategist, but because he was one of the most influential. His soldiers were in rags, starved, and not paid. With this inexperienced army, he still managed to conquer the leading armies in the world and give the United States its liberty.
Washington was born on February 22, 1732, in Virginia. He mostly studied agriculture, geography, military history, mathematics, and surveying when he grew up. He led his first expedition in 1754 where he was forced to surrender. After more experience, he found himself in command of the western Virginia frontier. He then served in the House of Burgesses where he stayed for seventeen years. In 1775, Washington was appointed the commander in chief to the Continental army due his is ability to unite the American people. He became well-known for his attack on Christmas night on the British in 1776. His mere army of 3,000 (against 34,000) continued to grow. In 1778, the French declared war on Britain and supported Washington’s men with 7,000 soldiers and 36 ships. They went up against Yorktown and forced the British to surrender in 1781, ending the American Revolution.
From there George Washington became the First President of the United States of America in 1789 and served for two terms. He was very successful setting up the new democratic government. He died at 67 years old in 1799. As mentioned before, George Washington wasn’t necessarily best-known for his success on the battlefield like most military leaders, but his “legacy of influence” and respect for becoming the Founding Father of our Nation is of equal value.
Another excellent military leader is Napoleon I, who ruled as emperor of France for over two decades. He conquered most of the Continent and even had control in part of Africa and Asia. He was able to influence governments and armies all over the world with his ideas.
Napoleon was born in 1769 and grew up as a normal child no different from any other. He first attended a military school as a teenager and graduated at 16, becoming the second lieutenant in the artillery. He soon made his way up to the commander position. Due to his victory, he was made general at age 26 and was in command of the Italy army as well. He proved victorious against the Austrians at Castiglione, Arcola, Lodi, and Rivoli. He soon controlled all of Austria and Italy with his army of 40,000. This 5’2” leader was becoming very popular as he becomes the “first consul” and then declared himself emperor.
After defeating the Austrians in Ulm, Austro-Russian army, the Prussians at Jena, and the Russians at Friedland, Napoleon put into operation the Napoleonic Code. This “Code” assured their rights and liberties, freedom of religion, free schooling, and eradicated feudalism. Still, Napoleon’s ambitions weren’t content. He started blocking the routes of the British and caused trouble with the English. He took over Portugal and eventually found himself in the Peninsular War, with lasted from 1807-1813, and took a huge toll on the French with 300,000 deaths.
Napoleon was defeated in April 1814 and was banished to the island of Elba, where he escaped almost a year later. His freedom lasted only 100 days when he was again put into exile on the British Island of St. Helena. He died from stomach cancer, or perhaps arsenic poisoning, at 51 years of age on May 5, 1821.
Though Napoleon spread destruction and death at incredible heights, he will always be known as one of the greatest military commanders. He was exceptional at adapting, giving instructions and letting his commanders self-govern themselves, taking chances, and always had his strategies and tactics planned perfectly.
The final great military leader is Genghis Khan, who, at birth in 1162, was called Temujin. He was born in what we call today Mongolia to a noble family, but he went through many early hardships in his life. It wasn’t until 1185 that he rose to power and in time experienced some victories. In 1206, he received his name Genghis Khan when he became ruler over Mongolia.
By 1211, he was in war with the Chin Dynasty, which eventually led them to invade central Asia in 1219, destroying their empire. His army then attacked Xi-Xia, at which his horse reared up, surprised, and Genghis Khan fell from his horse. Though he kept fighting and beat the Tanguts, the internal injuries soon led to his death in 1227 at age 65.
Genghis Kahn was a military genius due to his brilliant line of attacks and organization. He created one of the most obedient and efficient armies in all the world’s history. Without him there would be no Mongolia—the Mongolians revere him as their founding father. Genghis Kahn managed to rule over the largest empire ever known: the Mongol Empire. He is known both for his military and non-military achievements (Uighur script).
There are many great military leaders in the history of the world—some known for the good they accomplished, and others for their autocratic and oppressive nature. George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Genghis Kahn are some wonderful examples of military leadership, each in very different ways. They have each impacted and changed the way the world thinks and does things today as we learn from their accomplishments and their mistakes.