Stonewall Jackson and George S. Patton: A
Survey of Leadership
"Leadership is the thing that wins battles.
I have it, but I'll be damned if I can define it. It probably consists
of knowing what you want to do, and then doing it and getting mad
as hell if anyone tries to get in your way." - The Unknown
Patton by Charles Province
Notwithstanding its intangible nature, leadership
is often the singular, decisive element in achieving battlefield
success. Other factors, including weapons, technology, logistics
and industrial capacity, significantly aid an army in overcoming
an adversary. Moreover, these environmental necessities are strategic
objectives that a nation develops to support its armed forces and
are usually beyond the immediate control of a commander. Leadership,
however, is the driving mechanism behind the structural factors
that a country provides to its commanders and it alone, is the "thing
that wins battles," according to General Patton.
All else being equal among armies, superior
leadership will allow one army to defeat another. More importantly,
superior leadership can inspire a weaker army to overcome logistical
and physical disadvantages and thus defeat a force larger in terms
of numbers and equipment. Leadership is the catalyst of the underlying
reactions whose ingredients include, but are not limited to manpower,
logistics, morale, and technology.
Logically then, the question arises: How can
we improve the level of leadership in such a way that we, as an
army, maximize our potential as a fighting force? Our methodology
presumes that the best way to prepare the leaders of the future
for battle is to study successful leaders in battles of the past.
Utilizing the "trait" approach to
leadership theory, certain common, demonstrable qualities will emerge
to assist in the understanding of what it takes to become a superior
military leader. We shall examine the lives of Stonewall Jackson
and George Patton to unravel the common qualities of America's two
finest military tacticians. These Soldiers shared two common characteristics
- strong historical knowledge and the ability to tactically employ
mass, which made each man a good general. General Jackson possessed
an additional mystical leadership quality, which allowed him to
become the finest commander to ever fight on American soil. Similarly,
General Patton possessed an inspirational leadership quality, which
made him second to only Stonewall Jackson in terms of battlefield
success. We shall endeavor to identify those characteristics which
each man shared, and we shall describe the specific quality which
made each man a superb military leader, but in very different ways.
THOMAS JONATHAN JACKSON - The
Beginning of an Enigma
Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born in 1824 in
rural Virginia. His formal education was severely limited by the
fact that he was orphaned at the age of 6; he was continually shuffled
from relative to relative during childhood and largely without the
company or support of his siblings. At the age of 17, Jackson was
accepted into West Point where he clearly had a difficult time assimilating
with other cadets. Not only was he of humble means and of unusual
disposition, his station was not comparable to incoming plebes such
as George McClellan, A.P. Hill and James Longstreet.
At West Point, "Old Jack" was most
remembered for his indelible perseverance, and paradoxically, for
his generosity to others. At the end of his first year at West Point,
he stood 70th in French, 45th in math, and 51st in general merit
out of class of 72. Three years later, he stood 5th in ethics (his
favorite subject), 12th in engineering and 11th in artillery. Whether
Jackson was less gifted than other students or was educated in an
inferior manner, one cannot determine. More revealing, however,
he undeniably demonstrated his indomitable will, his desire to press
on, and his fastidious nature by spending inordinate amounts of
time preparing his lessons and continually improving his class standing.
GEORGE SMITH PATTON, JR - A
Connoisseur of Military History
George Smith Patton, Jr. was born into a loving,
patrician family in Southern California. In the late 19th century,
the Patton family moved from Virginia to California where it accumulated
significant wealth as cattle farmers and through propitious marital
combination. The Patton family enjoyed a long and honorable military
heritage, which included Patton's grandfather, who was buried a
Brigadier General, after being mortally wounded at the Battle of
Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley, while commanding the 22nd Virginia
One of the senior Patton's closest friends
was Colonel John Singleton Mosby, the fabled "grey ghost"
of "Jeb" Stuart's mighty cavalry and the namesake of Mosby's
Rangers. In the book, The Unknown Patton, author Charles Province
states that Mosby often visited the Patton's elegant California
ranch. "Colonel Mosby would reenact the Civil War with George
junior; playing himself, he let George play the part of General
Lee as they evoked the battles of the war..."
"Georgie" spent one year at VMI (Virginia
Military Institute) in preparation for the five that he spent at
West Point where, as the necessity of an additional year indicates,
he was an average student. Whether or not his secondary education
was the cause of his lack of achievement at West Point is a matter
of conjecture. It must be noted that Patton did not enter into formal
education until he was 11 years old, and much speculation has occurred
regarding this fact to include the widespread theory that Patton
was dyslexic. More likely, it appears that Patton's father preferred
education via the oral tradition. For example, during his youth,
"Georgie" was not taught to read and write. He was entirely
read to. In this manner, the senior Patton believed that "Georgie"
would naturally develop his true interests.
Patton distinguished himself for bravery in
both the Mexican War and World War I. In the Mexican War, he captured
and killed the bodyguard of Francisco Pancho Villa in a daring,
almost reckless raid, and in World War I he was cited for battlefield
During the intervening period between the World
Wars, Patton studied extraordinary amounts of military history.
When Patton died, it is said that he possessed a military library
so vast that it rivaled certain military institutions, a well-utilized
advantage of being one of the wealthier officers in the Army. Although
he was intermittently depressed by the lack of warfare during this
time period, Patton published several treatises and articles which
summarized his conclusions and ideas regarding war to include commentary
on leaders of the past to include Caesar, Napoleon and Stonewall
Stonewall Jackson's Maxims
In the book, Stonewall Jackson and the American
Civil War, author G.F.R. Henderson refers to General Jackson's personal
discourse with General Imboden. In one message, Jackson noted that:
"There are two things never to be lost
sight of by a military commander. Always mystify, mislead, and
surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome
him, never give up the pursuit as long as your men have strength
to follow; for an army routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken,
and can then be destroyed by half their number. The other rule
is, never fight against heavy odds, if by any possible maneuvering
you can hurl your own force on only a part, and that the weakest
part, of your enemy and crush it. Such tactics will win every
time, and a small army may thus destroy a large one in detail,
and repeated victory will make it invincible."
These remarks of General Jackson, clearly a
reflection of Napoleon's influence upon him, summarize his thoughts
of how an army should fight. I will take the liberty of dissecting
Jackson's message to General Imboden into a more simplistic form
in order to analyze the specific characteristics that Jackson possessed
and utilized in battle. Unlike George Patton, published works by
Jackson are rare, and thus, one must infer as to his personal views
without the assistance of autobiographical or other sources.
Stonewall's Rule Number One (Valley and
Wilderness Campaigns) - Mystify, mislead
Jackson's most brilliant and well-known use
of this precept occurred when he vanished from the Valley and appeared
in the First Wilderness Campaign ready, willing and able to attack
McClellan. Unfortunately, McClellan's hubris contributed to his
total disregard of the possibility that "Old Jack" could
have maneuvered his troops so far so quickly. What allowed Jackson
to mislead "Young Napoleon" so thoroughly? Remember that
Jackson achieved a lower class rank at West Point than did McClellan,
and thus, he was compelled to achieve success by good deed, for
he was without predisposition to high command due to station or
Number Two (Chancellorsville) - Press on.
By mercilessly force-marching his army, Jackson
appeared at Hooker's rear without detection, despite reports provided
to Hooker by competent staff officers. On that fateful day, Stonewall
Jackson devastated Hooker's right flank and rear areas in a classic
envelopment movement that caused unprecedented panic and eventual
retreat among the Federals. Jackson's superior leadership was the
result, in part, of his personal belief that the mission must be
accomplished first and foremost, regardless of how hard the men
must be pushed.
Number Three (Chancellorsville) - Mass.
In Jackson's final and most brilliant battle,
he integrated all three of his time-tested principles in one glorious
stroke of military genius. Again at Chancellorsville, Jackson hurled
his entire corps in a vast flanking attack. Lee and Jackson agreed
to mass Jackson's corps for the purpose of attacking Hooker in detail.
In the confusion of battle, Jackson was killed by his own troops
while re-entering his lines after infiltrating enemy positions when
reconnoitering the federal battle scenario. On the day of his greatest
victory, he and his doctrine were initiated into immortality due
to a misunderstanding with friendly sentries.
Although the aforementioned summary of Stonewall's
maxims does not do a scholar justice, it does concisely represent
the substance of his success. Jackson applied these simple principles
with logical brilliance and complexity.
Jackson demonstrated these principles in his
battles in the Valley, at First and Second Manassas, and in the
Wilderness to a lesser extent. His skills with respect to tactical
ability were pure because, unlike his opponents he was unable to
rely on personal charisma or natural beauty to inspire his troops.
Instead, his maxims, his indomitable will, his uncanny ability to
evaluate topography and his superior feats of personal concentration
on the battlefield allowed him to motivate troops by providing constant
success. By also reporting the first victories to the Confederacy,
print-media reinforced his successes, and even exaggerated some
of them. Nonetheless, the prime benefit of this exposure was an
identity and esprit de- corps for his troops, something that General
Patton would note in his study of history.
Patton's Military Maxims
In a paper titled "The Secret of Victory,"
Patton lucidly elaborated his philosophy, which at the time (March
26, 1926) was the epic summary of years of intensive military history
study. Patton identified three essential elements, which he believed
were unequivocally essential for a commander to possess in order
to achieve the ultimate result - victory.
Patton's Three Elements for Victory
- Force (Mass)
Number One - Inspiration.
Patton firmly believed that certain lopsided
victories of Caesar, Napoleon, and Grant were the primary result
of "spiritual" inspiration and motivation, and the secondary
result of mental ability. Patton explained that there was a distinction
between mental ability and the execution of battle plans. He commented
that "Hooker's plan at Chancellorsville was masterly; its execution
cost him the battle."
Of course, it may be that the superhuman maneuvering
of Jackson defeated his plan, a supposition which Sun Tzu would
have agreed with when he observed that: "What is of supreme
importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy."
Number Two - Knowledge.
Patton noted that Napoleon won many battles
when outnumbered, but he never lost a battle in which he possessed
numerically superior forces. Patton considered Napoleon the epitome
of military ability, and as such comprehensively studied his career
battles. Patton further postulated that no single element - inspiration,
knowledge, or mass - was dominant.
In "Helpful Hints for Hopeful Heroes,"
he wrote that "any operation, reduced to its primary characteristics,
consists of moving down the road until you bump into the enemy...
When you have bumped, hold him at the point of contact with fire
with about a third of your command. Move the rest in a wide envelopment
so you can attack him from his rear flank."
Patton's tactical victories in World War II
were characterized by wide flanking maneuvering tactics. His march
across France was certainly influenced by the conquests of Caesar
in Gaul and Napoleon in Italy. His unrewarded, yet now immortal,
relief of the 101st Division at Bastogne was "Stonewallesque"
in that he force-marched and pushed foot infantry to inhuman levels.
Patton felt that inspiration was the most important
of the three tenets: knowledge and mass being equally less important.
He makes an analogy to bread, which unleavened will sustain life,
but will be dull tasting; however, when leavened, it is delicious.
Personality (inspiration) is the leaven of armies. Let us make the
assumption that armies produce men of equal military knowledge.
Hence, with equal knowledge existent, inspiration will be the catalyst
necessary to win battles, for knowledge alone of how to win battles
cannot be fully transmitted unencumbered to subordinates.
Number Three - Mass.
In the Memoirs of U.S. Grant, General Grant
presents similar ideas and discusses their interrelationships. For
example, Grant had more success in the campaigns in the west than
he did in the east against General Lee, even though his forces were
numerically inferior in the west. In the west, however, Grant inspired
his troops and utilized his superior knowledge of maneuver to seize
Vicksburg and other Confederate strongholds against inferior, if
you will, commanders. Conversely, against Robert E. Lee, who possessed,
at the very least, equal abilities with respect to inspiration and
knowledge, Grant was forced to use mass, the least desirable of
the three tenets, to achieve victory. Accordingly, Grant believed
that a general should attain victory first by inspiration, second
by superior knowledge or military arts, and then by mass/force.
Patton abided by these tenets in their rightful
order. In Sicily, he was forced to utilize mass as a last resort
because maneuver was not producing desirable results. On the other
hand, he inspired his troops and utilized superior knowledge to
outmaneuver his opponents in his famous march across France. Patton,
like Jackson, only resorted to mass when faced by an equally knowledgeable
and inspired commander.
Salient Common Characteristics
Thomas Jonathan Jackson and George Smith Patton
Jr., had nothing in common. Jackson was poor and an orphan; Patton
was wealthy and well loved. Jackson was shy, quiet, and hypochondriac;
Patton was a socialite, athletic at an Olympian level, articulate,
and extroverted. Jackson was intensely religious; Patton's religion
related to convenience. What was not readily obvious, however, was
a common philosophy that was not essentially identical. Both men
implemented a brand of inspiration that allowed their troops to
maneuver at incredible speeds, and thus were able to shock and surprise
the enemy with superior force at weak points at undesirable times.
The differences in personality, temperament, and station are unmistakable;
the similarities in leadership, single-mindedness, and knowledge
Based on this analysis, there are two identifiable
characteristics that both men possessed which made each, and indeed
every commander who possesses them, a good commander:
* Knowledge of history, and
* Effective utilization of mass.
Both Generals were devout students of military
history and understood the distinction between effective massing
of force and unnecessary slaughter. What characteristics propelled
each general to greatness? This is where the similarities end and
individuality begins. Patton used personal inspiration to motivate
his troops, and his battlefield exploits are legendary. His utilization
of theatrical motivational techniques provided stimuli to his troops
which allowed them to have unparalleled success.
Jackson's mystical qualities made him a demigod
among his troops; he was literally worshiped by his men. His philosophy
to never inform his subordinates of his upcoming maneuver plans
allowed his armies to abruptly surprise the enemy. His introverted
nature and religious fervor often confused his peers; his humility,
lack of ambition, and strict disciplinary nature made him an enigma.
This unpredictability, coupled with his knowledge of military history
and use of mass and maneuver, made Stonewall Jackson America's finest
Jackson inspired his troops by use of his indomitable
will. He forced his troops to push themselves, and by doing so they
were successful in their first battle, at First Manassas. Of course,
success begets success and by gaining their confidence, Jackson
was able to apply superior analytical abilities while pushing his
forces to physical exhaustion. Why was he able to do this?
Jackson had proven himself as a leader, and
his men unquestionably believed in him. The praise and glory heaped
upon them only multiplied the utility of Jackson. He in no way utilized
charm or personal charisma to inspire his troops. In another way,
by use of mystique, he inspired his troops, and once inspired, he
applied his tenets to achieve victory.
George Patton utilized personal inspiration
and charisma to motivate his troops. Once inspired and victorious,
the troops naturally adjusted and improved to a level where they
felt that they were infallible. In addition, Patton was a devout
student of military history, which included a study of Jackson.
Patton's sister once stated that until George was 15, "Georgie"
thought that the steel statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson
in their house were those of God and Jesus Christ, respectively!
How much of this is hyperbole, we do not know, but it does unquestionably
illustrate that Patton had the advantage of studying Stonewall Jackson.
E What can be said, though, is that both Jackson and Patton had
a definite understanding of how successful wars ought to be fought
and those views resulted from studying the great generals of the
past. As Napoleon observed:
"Read again and again the campaigns
of Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, Eugene, and Frederick.
Model yourself upon them. This is the only means of becoming a
great captain, and of acquiring the secret of the art of war..."
(The Military Maxims of Napolean, David G. Chandler)
Who would have won a battle between George
Patton and Stonewall Jackson? It is, of course, difficult to hypothesize
upon a matter such as this, for neither general truly fought against
a commander of equal ability, as did Lee and Grant or Napoleon and
Wellington, thus affording such a comparison. By refocusing the
question, though, there are other intangible items that this analysis
can assist the current Army in understanding.
For example, there is an interesting phenomenon
that has manifested throughout modern warfare, and it is particularly
endemic in the United States Army: Soldiers who succeed during peacetime,
administering the Army, and who, as a result, advance to general
officer rank, tend to be unsuccessful in actual combat and are summarily
replaced by less well-known officers. Both Thomas Jackson and George
Patton achieved little notoriety during their pre-war careers. Although
they both fought courageously and gallantly in wars at junior ranks,
their careers proceeded slowly before the beginning of the next
Based on an analysis of these two immortal
figures, it is striking to realize that there are two distinct pathways
for one to historically ascertain general officer status in the
Army. The first pathway develops during peacetime and requires a
specific set of administrative, political and leadership skills.
On the other hand, the second pathway develops during combat and
requires distinctly different skills, particularly with respect
to leadership. What can one gain from this commentary and analysis?
The following tenets should be internalized by every officer in
the Army. To become a good, solid commander follow these precepts:
Knowledge - Study the warriors of the past and absorb their maxims.
These include Caesar, Napoleon, Jackson, Lee, Grant and Patton,
Mass - Understand the difference in the application
and use of superior and inferior forces.
To become "a great captain of warfare"
apply this principle: E Single-minded determination - Whether it
is personal inspiration or mystical qualities, adapt your personality
to items one and two and become a true warrior.
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