When it comes to Military matters battles, and wars are often identified by the Generals, or Admirals that fight them. I am not a Naval expert, though I do come from two generations of Navy men, I know the Army, heart and soul. It is natural that we should see the clash of two Armies as a singular clash between two Generals. This is not true, and more often than not it is the "Strategic Corporal" that may turn some small but vital role in a battle. Sometimes the stubborn bastard that refuses to retreat, or the headstrong young pup that chooses to charge will decide whole battles, even massive ones like Gettysburg, or the Battle of the Bulge. Often these men are overlooked because in the face of the great struggle going on around them, it is easy to overlook crucial moments, Its is also possible eveyone that witnessed this moment is dead.
So lets look, as History does at the leaders. Who is the best American General? Keep in mind that this is only my opinion here.
If we look at his record he fought 8 engagements. 5 were clear losses, 2 were victories, and one was a draw. Any General with that record going before congress today would be practically lynched. Well one of the truest things about War is that its not how many battles you win, its who wins the last battle. Washington, is not a tactical genius, but on a strategic level he was brilliantly able to "check" his enemy, forcing him into positions that were unsound. It should also be noted that Washinton could not have been able to do anything he did without some notable talents. Baron Fredrick von Steuben trained his army, Henry Knox gave him decent artillery, Daniel Morgan (and Benedict Arnold) kept his northern flank clear and there were just as many heroes in the south. In the end Washington's best ability was was recognizing talent, and using it.
I think he deserves honorable mention, and he will always be, "first in the hearts of his countrymen"
Next is the Civil War. There are really only four Union Generals of note in my mind. Winfield Scott Hancock, Phillip Sheridan, Tecumseh Sherman, and Ulysses S Grant.
So who in my opinion is the "Best American General"? Well actually none of the ones listed above.
From 1862-1865 he singlehandedly kept the Confederacy together in the East, and his victory at Fredericksburg was so complete that its amazing the Union could still fight. Again and again he would defy all logic, divide his army and attack where he was not expected or draw his adversary into an attack they could not win. He was also a very kind and even gentle man, very just in his dealings and never referred to the Union as the enemy, only "those people". I would say that Gettysburg was his one great failing but even then if most of us were placed in his shoes, we might've made the same mistakes. I think really only Pickett's Charge was the only error he made in the battle. A battle he very nearly won. His gentlemanly way of command should be held up as the highest ideal of "an Officer and a Gentleman". Look at the Peninculla Campaign, Spotslyvania and Cold Harbor for some of his greater victories. Most were masterful given the time and technology.
All these men that I have talked about were fighters, all in their own way. Some were more sucessful than others, and all were "great" in their own way if not always in good ways. If you are looking for lessons in leadership, I would strongly suggest taking a closer look at Lee, Washington, and Petraeus. If you want to look purely at tactics I would suggest Lee (again), Schwarzkopf, and Patton, and Abrams. All these men have lessons we can learn (still) and probably should apply to our own lives.
for me the ranking would go thus:
If you want me to give my reasoning for the ranking I certainly will.