Hi, Do you think that as long as it concerns the 19th century, Napoleon was the best general, Otto von Bismarck the best Politician/Diplomat and Abdulhamid II the smartest leader?

Hi, Do you think that as long as it concerns the 19th century, Napoleon was the best general, Otto von Bismarck the best Politician/Diplomat and Abdulhamid II the smartest leader ?

By the way I found a quote of Otto von Bismarck but I dont know if its Turkish propaganda or real, here it is : Otto von bismark ; " Of all intelligence in Europe, 90% is in Abdulhamid, 5% is in myself and 5% in everyone else "


Napoleon abandoned his army in Egypt so I do not think he was the best general


Didn’t he abandon his army in Russia as well?


Yes he did about the time when they were crosding the Niemen river. Dec 1812 ish if i remember correctly.


Well I Have no reason to object to Bismarck although you might want to have a look at some of the British PM’s.

Abdul Hamid II I wonder why you would state him as great. He was a reformist sometimes and then he would crack down. He was in a chaotic scene with wars and revolts so I guess he was a survivor. He was also in charge when 300,000 Armenians were massacred. I think that last fact alone might disqualify him. I’m absolutely a novice on who was best in Europe but if that’s the best, then Europe had a tough century. I do notice you said smartest but I am unsure of the difference. I will defer to others but my criterion for smart would be peace, prosperity and freedom.


I think it is Turkish nonsense. Bismarck was as far as I know not much impressed by the Osman Sultan of his time.

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I’m not sure Bismark was talking about Abdulhamid’s general intelligence, but his deft diplomacy.

In foreign policy, I’m sure Bismark thought him smart because he was able to play the French (Tunisia) and British (Egypt) off against the Germans to avoid them grabbing any more territory, and cynically used foreign muslims to occupy the French and British elsewhere.

Abdulhamid also whisked away anything like representation of the people (the Parliament, for instance), and indeed anybody who he thought would oppose him.

After Bismark had died, Ahdulhamid had become so despotic that he was turned out in 1909.

So, I suspect Bismark thought Ahdulhamid was a ruthless, cynical man in foreign relations (which Bismark, being one himself, recognized), and didn’t care much about how he treated his own people.

But I would argue that Bismark’s quote is not necessarily a unbiased judgement. (I frankly wonder if Bismark intended exactly one pair of ears to hear his words – Abdulhamid II himself.)


So we disagree, I do not believe that Bismarck ever made that statement.

Thanks for the answer !
Just about Abdulhamid I was just talking about the " ability to survive " because his situation was just impossible to maintain for long but he could manage to do it for 33 years.

For the massacres I found in wikipedia French version " Massacres hamidiens — Wikipédia" First paragraph, this part;

(( Bien que l’historiographie traditionnelle occidentale tende à lui attribuer ces massacres, le sultan en personne ne les a jamais commandités, le caractère spontané de ces tueries étant le résultat d’une action populaire et réactionnaire soutenue et/ou organisée par les milices locales ))

It is saying that the massacres where not ordered by him wether they were consequences of some popular actions supported by local Milicia, but sources do contradict about this subject, idk…

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True that he failed to do his duty when he abondonned his army in egypt and Russia, but just talking about military competence, can we say he was the best ?

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Thanks for the answer ! Yes I do agree whith you, about this, Abdulhamid was very good at diplomacy as Otto, he could strengthen his position every day during his long reign, Btw otto was a big fan of cynical Diplomacy, he made france enter war againsg him after the EMS event wich was i have tl admit it a very smart idea, he managed to unify Germany with 3 wars and mainly Diplomacy, many germans still depict him as an hero

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The amount of battles fought and won by Napoleon is I think the most of any general of the era so for military competence he may have been the best.
If England did not have the naval superiority to beat the French and Spanish navy he may have even invaded and won against the English in stead of being defeated by Wellesley
I do think by most accounts he will counted as the greatest general of all time even with abandoning his army in Egypt and Russia


Thanks for the answer ! But I would put him 2nd after Khalid ibn al walid for the best generals of all time, here is my ranking, you can give me your ranking if you want so that we can compare :slightly_smiling_face:

1: Khalid ibn al Walid
2 : Napoleon Bonaparte
3 : chinggis
4 : Alexander the great
5 : Hannibal
6 : Carl von Clausewitz
7 : Saad ibn Abi Waqqas and al qaqa ibn Amr
8 : Attila
9: frederick the great
10 : erich von Mandtein
11 : Ludendorff and Hidenburg
12 : wellington
13 : Rommel and Heinz
14 : toukhatchevsky
15 : george s patton
16 : Walter model
17: Von bock
18 : Doenitz
19 : Halder
20 : Zhukov

Im talking about competence, not if they where good or bad or ethics…

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Well, maybe. One would think that if locals were doing that kind of thing, Abdulhamid would act to punish them. But near as I can tell, he did not. I suspect he put the word out, and just waited. It’s happened before… Certainly Armenians have a, shall we say, uncharitable view of Abdulhamid…

He held estates all over the place - Saloniki, Cyprus, Thessaly, Greece, Syria, Palestine, what is now Iraq, and Macedonia. It is said he was so afraid of being assassinated that he never slept in the same room - ever. (And with all these estates, it seems possible. :slight_smile:

BTW, according to an article in Time (Feb. 10, 1930), Abdul was, in 1909, worth $1.5B (over $46B in today’s money) - at the time, the richest man in the world. His internal spy network was thought to be the most deadly; even more so than the Czar’s Cheka. He seems to have used this network to rule in a Stalinist mode; the people lived in fear, and he liked it that way.

So, certainly an interesting fellow, but with a, shall we say, uneven legacy. (It might be said his primary legacy was the rise of the “Young Turks”, who overthrew him.)


Ah I see, thanks for the answer ! Btw for the anecdote I heard that his secret police was so competant that he had some spyes in Victoria’s palace !

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I agree Bismarck was a great statesman - and that’s speaking as a Dane: He beat us first . I think Moltke the elder is the one to praise for the perfomance of the Prussian army in the latter part of the 19th century. Clausewitz only excelled in theory in his great work. His active service alone wouldn’t have earned him even a foot note in history.

Top 20 in my book:

  1. Belisarius
  2. Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
  3. Ghengiz Khan
  4. Alexander the Great
  5. Napoleon
  6. Zhukov
  7. Hannibal
  8. Scipio Africanus (he did beat Hannibal)
  9. Al-Nasir Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub
  10. Charlemagne
  11. Zhukov
  12. John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
  13. Julius Caesar
  14. Shaka Zulu
  15. Heinz Guderian
  16. Wellington
  17. Knud the Great
  18. Eisenhower
  19. William Slim
  20. Frederick the Great

We doing 20. worst next? :slight_smile:


Is the worst #1 or #20? :slight_smile:

One question - are you looking for a “battle” general, or a “campaign” general? I would, for instance, argue that Napoleon was a magnificent “campaign” general, but his battlefield behavior, especially later in his fighting career, was downright unimaginative. Alexander was great on the battlefield, but he just didn’t know when to stop campaigning (a man who literally loved fighting more than generalling.)

But I wonder: guys like Caesar (Gauls) and Charlemagne (Saxons), Genghis Kahn (everybody) killed many many civilians in their conquests. Does that make them good generals? Some would argue (I would, for one) that Genghis invented a system of fighting that overwhelmed everybody, and he didn’t have to “general” at all. Caesar knew when to build a wall, and otherwise made use of an existing highly effective military some would say (I wouldn’t).

Shaka is like Genghis - he invented a discipline and a deployment scheme. Zhukov wasn’t very inventive; he won a lot, but he didn’t win every time, and some would say he took absurdly high losses because his methods were not very deft (I would.).

Scipio beat Hannibal (and various lesser relatives), but Hannibal had spent 15+ years storming up and down Italy beating everything the Romans put up against him.

Wellington, some would say, was a dandy defender, but not so great in the attack (I would), fortunately for him, the French were more than obliging for him by attacking.

Balisarius rebuilt the Roman Empire in the West, but the Plague of Justinian might be thought to ‘help’ him by debilitating his enemies.

Some other names you might consider: US Grant, Stonewall Jackson, Red Cloud, Koniev, Tokugawa Ieyasu, James Longstreet, Tamberlain, Garnet Woolseley, Muhammad Ahmad (self-proclaimed Mahdi in 1881)

Names I suggest be taken out of your list: von Moltke - a great planner, and average commander; Balisarius (moved down to near the bottom), Scipio, Charlemagne, Churchill, Knud (tiny armies), Wellington, Eisenhower (a genius politician, never really commanded a force in battle), Shaka, and maybe others, depending on “general” definition.

For bad generals, I nominate Ambrose Burnside, Douglas Haig, George Custer, von Falkenhaym


I don’t have a whole list of 20. We all have our pet picks with reasons around them. Generals who are famous for some fights can be equally infamous at other battles. Manstein for example had campaigns which went wonderfully such as his Crimean campaign and then next year his work at Kursk ended poorly. So was he good or bad? Maybe both. You can do everything right and still lose. Your argument that Napoleon in his later years was a very normal commander is very similar. I think in both cases a commander is only as good as his soldiers and that quality changes radically over time.

Even Alexander has his limits. And he like every commander who is famous had his propaganda.

I nominate Cochise, Apache leader who warred for decades and was rightfully feared by his enemies. I also like Nathan Bedford Forrest. As a man, despicable, as a cavalry commander he had an amazing and colorful record of wins. Maybe also Cyrus the Great, the first great Persian conqueror.

And bone to pick…George Custer had a very good record in the Civil War and was the youngest general for a reason. His work in the Indian wars was atrocious. I would replace him with Joseph Hooker who took a large well equipped army and got his ass kicked at Chancellorsville.


Where is Cadorna, Hotzendorf and Douglas Haig? They should be No.1. Only Cadorna, Can make the enemy fight 12 Battles. It is shame he had to die of old age… Otherwise axis victory in WW2 was assured.

After Hotzendorf was removed from his position… Austria-Hungary lost. Coincidence? I think not!

Douglas Haig… the master of thinking for the future … using the cavarly in 1918 he had been keeping in reserve since 1914…

What about Tzar Nicholas… who left his post to command his armies and left running of the country to his wife and Russia’s greatest love machine. Such loyal dedication.


Well, Custer had a reputation of being, shall we say, impetuous during the Civil War. And he was the same man afterwards.

At the Washita, he abandoned men. At Greasy Grass, he sent Benteen off on a wild goose chase (with the ammunition), precisely because he didn’t like Benteen, and didn’t want him to get any credit for the great victory to come.

He sent Reno to charge the (huge) village as a diversion, and did not support him as he said he would. Reno’s “rout” was the only thing that saved anyone in his command. Reno was exonerated by a military court of any blame. Benteen did his best, and his ammunition and men probably saved Reno’s men after Custer and his men were dead. (Benteen and Weir had ridden out to try and rescue Custer, but by the time they reached “Weir Point”, they knew Custer was gone.

Custer was the same man before and after. That he was on the winning side in the Civil War was other people’s doing.

By the way, did you Tom Custer won two Medals of Honor in the Civil war?

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