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The most controversial figure of the Allied forces in WWII, Patton himself may have believed himself to be reincarnated from more ancient warriors, carrying their bravery and experience into his battles. A promising early career helping Pershing hunt Pancho Villa jumpstarted Patton into the armored corps, where he became a mentor to Eisenhower (later promoted over his head). In WWII, he gladly used the Germans’ blitzkrieg against them, using the maneuverability of American armored units to out maneuver German lines and gaining large amounts of ground over short periods of time. His infamous incidents, including troops under his command executing more than one massacre, and Patton’s slapping of a supposedly cowardly soldier in a field hospital, contributed to his decline, but more than anyone else, he led the Allies to victory in Europe.
 


 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 

The most feared opponent Rome ever faced, this Carthaginian general was raised to the task of defeating the Romans from early childhood by his father, Hasdrubal. Hannibal abandoned previous Carthaginian tactics of passive naval superiority, and marched a force on elephants over the Italian Alps. Defeating the Romans at nearly every battle he fought, he made a Roman general, Quintus Fabius Maximus, famous merely for being able to delay Hannibal’s advance without enormous loss of life (Fabius was granted the title “Cunctator”, or delayer, by the Roman senate). At Cannae, Hannibal’s forces, cobbled together and suffering from losses, routed an enormous Roman army, killing or capturing upwards of fifty thousand enemies. Eventually defeated by Scipio Africanus and deserted by his government, he remained a scourge the Romans invoked to justify razing Carthage.


 

Born a Corsican, Napoleon became by far the most able general of the modern age, rising from obscurity during the Revolution to Consul and Emperor of the French Empire which spanned from Madrid to Moscow and from Oslo to Cairo. Originally an artilleryman, he led campaigns that conquered the Italian States, Austria, Egypt, Prussia, Spain, the Netherlands, Swedish Pomerania, parts of the Caribbean, and large swathes of Russia. Leading brilliant campaigns, using concentrated force in lightning strikes on the field, developing independent and complete army corps (a system still modeled today), installing puppet rulers, conscripting troops from each nation he subdued, and inspiring a host of marshals who were all able tacticians themselves (Murat, Massena, Bernadotte, Ney, and many others), Napoleon revolutionized warfare. No less than four international alliances of powers were required to bring his empire to its knees, and without the simultaneous pressure or Russian winter, British naval domination, Spanish guerillas, and Wellington’s stolid and unbreakable Anglo-Spanish-Portuguese Army, very likely Bonaparte would have sat astride the his European conquests for years to come.
 
Sadly, this list cannot be exhaustive; our knowledge comes to us through dubious historians, and a mythos that may deny some great leaders their due. Notables who missed the top ten by a hair: Alexander the Great, who conquered most of Southeastern Europe, Asia Minor, and large parts of India in a single sweeping campaign, before dying in tears that “there were no more worlds to conquer”; Genghis Khan, whose horde took most of China and Russia; Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, who took Western Europe in the late Dark Ages, defeating native tribes, isolated kingdoms, and Moorish conquerors alike; and of course, contemporaries and rivals of those in the top ten. Wellington, Jackson, Pericles, Leonidas, Grant, Pompey, Garibaldi, and Tokugawa all played their roles, and should not be underestimated lightly. But the ten we have inscribed are perhaps the most iconic, representative, and beloved (or feared) of conquerors, a breed of men that knew the direst times of human history, and thrived in them. We shall not see their like again.

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Comment by Muslimah on March 8, 2012 at 11:16am

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