Attention! The Greatest Generals And Military Leaders In American History

Historically, a military is only as good as its leaders, who are essential for making difficult decisions, inspiring their troops, and are ultimately held responsible for defeating the enemy. Nevertheless, there’s a reason that the United States has been such a militaristic force since its inception, with much of the credit going to its brilliant, brave, and strategic generals and other leaders in matters of warfare. So at ease, soldier, and take a look at the most accomplished and remembered American generals and commanders in American history.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Helped Plan D-Day

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Fox Photos/Getty Images

While Dwight D. Eisenhower might best be remembered as the 34th president of the United States, before that, he was an incredibly capable general. Although he was denied his request to serve in Europe during World War I, in World War II he became a five-star general, serving as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in the European Theater.

As a general, he pulled off some of the greatest military accomplishments of the 20th century which included the invasion of Normandy on D-Day as well as the invasion of North Africa.

Thomas Jonathan Jackson Was Nicknamed “Stonewall” For A Reason

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CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Considered as one of the best Confederate generals of the American Civil War, Jackson earned his nickname “Stonewall” for his ferocity on the battlefield. He was also renowned for moving his troops at such a quick and efficient pace, especially during the Valley Campaign, that his soldiers started to be called the general’s “foot cavalry.”

Although he may have won a decisive victory at Chancellorsville, he also ended up losing his life when he was shot by one of his own men after an evening reconnaissance mission.

James Mattis Resigned As Secretary Of State

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Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

James Mattis joined the Marine Corps after graduating from Central Washington University, rising through the ranks until finally becoming general. During his career in the Marines, he became a four-star general, commanding forces in the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the War in Afghanistan.

His other positions included commander of the United States Joint Forces Command, commander of the United States Central Command, and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. Then, in January 2017, he was selected to serve as the 26th secretary of defense, until he resigned in January 2019.

George Custer Is Known For More Than The Battle Of Little Bighorn

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CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Although George Armstrong Custer graduated from West Point at the bottom of his class in 1861, Union generals saw his potential and he was assigned as brigadier general of volunteers at just 23.

Nevertheless, just days later, he demonstrated his valor at the Battle of Gettysburg and continued to have victories at Cedar Creek, and played a major role in the defeat of Confederate forces at Appomattox Courthouse. After the Civil War, Custer remained in the army during the Indian Wars and was killed while leading the 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876.

Winfield Scott Was Known As “The Grand Old Man Of The Army”

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MPI/Getty Images

Winfield Scott had an extensive military career, serving as a general in the United States Army from 1814 to 1861, participating in conflicts including the War of 1812, numerous battles with Native Americans, the Mexican-American War, and the beginning of the Civil War. In 1841, he was named the Commanding General of the United States Army.

Referred to as “Old Fuss and Feathers” and the “Grand Old Man of the Army,” Scott was also the Whig’s party presidential candidate in the 1852 election, although Franklin Pierce ultimately won.

William T. Sherman Is Still Despised In The South

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Bettmann/Getty Images

The bane of the Confederacy, William T. Sherman was a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Known for his mind for strategizing on the battlefield, Sherman has also been criticized for his brutal scorched earth tactics, living by the method of total war against the Confederacy.

In 1864, Sherman took over from Grant as the Union commander of the Western Theater, and in 1869 became the Commanding General of the Army. He is described by military theorist and historian B.H. Lidell Hart as “the first modern general.”

John J. Pershing Holds A Record For Rank In The Army

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CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Also known as “Black Jack,” John J. Pershing was a United States Army officer, serving in World War I as the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces and was notable for refusing to have his American soldier integrated into British and French forces, as well as allowing all-black units to fight within the French army.

Currently, he is the only American to be promoted in his lifetime to General of the Armies rank, the highest rank possible, which would make him an unofficial six-star general today. After World War I, Pershing was also a mentor to other legendary generals such as Marshall, Eisenhower, and Patton, among others.

Robert E. Lee Gave The Union Quite A Fight

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Bettmann/Getty Images

Robert E. Lee was the son of the Revolutionary War officer Henry Lee III and graduated from the United States Military Academy at the top of his class. When Virginia seceded from the Union after the 1861 Richmond Convention during the American Civil War, Lee stayed with his state, even after being offered a senior Union command.

In 1862, Lee was given command of the Army of North Virginia, and being at a great disadvantage fighting for the Confederacy; he demonstrated his military prowess time and time again. By the end of the American Civil War, Lee was the Confederate States Army commander, and senior military advised to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

There’s A Reason George Washington Is Remembered The Way He Is

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Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

On top of being Founding Father and the first president of the United States, George Washington began his military career with the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War. Being the man he was, it didn’t take long for him to be assigned the Continental Army’s Commanding General.

He then successfully led American forces and the French for the independence of the United States during the Revolutionary War. Considered one of the country’s greatest generals and presidents, he is remembered as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

George C. Patton Is One Of The Main Faces Of World War II

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Herbert Dorfman/Corbis via Getty Images

After graduating from West Point, where he designed the M1913 Cavalry Saber or “Patton Saber,” he got his first taste of warfare during the 1916 Pancho Villa Expedition and part of the United States Tank Corps during World War I.

By World War II, he commanded the 2nd Armored Division, eventually becoming the Seventh United States Army commander in the Mediterranean and the United States Army Central in France and Germany after the invasion of Normandy in 1944. Despite his inherent gift for military leadership and his ability to inspire his troops, he was sometimes at odds with Allied high command.

Ulysses S. Grant Played Major Role In The Success Of The Union Army

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Ulysses S. Grant graduated from West Point in 1843 before making a name for himself during the Mexican-American War. He subsequently retired from the military in 1848 before rejoining the Union Army during the American Civil War in 1861.

After the Vicksburg campaign’s success, Abraham Lincoln promoted him to Lieutenant General, where he fiercely opposed Robert E. Lee, which eventually led to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. A week after Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson promoted Grant to General of the Army in 1966 before serving as the 18th president of the United States from 1869 to 1877.

Douglas MacArthur Was Both A General And A Showman

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Interim Archives/Getty Images

Born in 1880, Douglas MacArthur was valedictorian at the West Texas Military Academy for high school and First Captain at West Point, graduating at the top of his class. For his valor during the occupation of Veracruz, he was promoted from major to colonel. As a brigadier general in World War I, he was nominated for the Medal of Honor and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross twice and the Silver Star seven times.

During World War II, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the Pacific and is one of five men to become General of the Army. He is remembered for his intensity, dramatics, and military genius.

Matthew B. Ridgway Was Essential During World War II And The Korean War

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US Army/PhotoQuest/Getty Images

Although he did not see combat in World War II after graduating from West Point, Matthew Ridgway would see more than enough during World War II as the Commanding General of the 82nd airborne division, fighting in Sicily, Italy, and France.

He was then commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, where he led troops during the Battle of the Bulge, Operation Varsity, and the Invasion of Germany. The general also played a key role during the Korean War, with historians crediting him with turning the war on the UN’s side. In 1986, his military career was recognized when he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

H. Norman Schwarzkopf Led The Success Of Operation Desert Storm

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David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

After being commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1956, H. Norman Schwarzkopf served in the Vietnam War as an adviser to the South Vietnamese Army and battalion commander., earning three Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts, and the Legion of Merit. Following Vietnam, he continued to rise in the army, resulting in his command of the 24th Mechanized Infantry during the Invasion of Grenada in 1983.

In 1988, he took command of the United States Central Comand and was a key planner and leader of Operation Desert Storm, which defeated the Iraqi Army, liberating Kuwait. He retired from the military shortly after the war.

Henry H. Arnold Was One Of The First Military Pilots

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American Stock/Getty Images

Learning to fly from the legendary Wright Brothers, Henry H. Arnold became one of the first military pilots in the world. After supervising the expansion of the Air Service during World War I, he commanded the Army Air Force during World War II, developing it into the most powerful in the world.

During his time in the military, he was General of the Army, General of the Air Force, Chief of the Air Corps, and is the only Air Force general to have a five-star rank in two branches of the military.

George Marshall Helped Develop Military Command As We Know It Today

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Keystone/Getty Images

A five-star general of the Army, George Marshall, went directly to the Philippines in 1902 after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute, serving as a commander during the Philippine-American War. As an instructor a the Army War College, he helped to modernize the command and staff process, which greatly aided the United States during the World War.

Winston Churchill considered Marshall as the “organizer of victory” for his performance in World War II. Marshall would also eventually become Chief of Staff under presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman and Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense under Truman.

Chester Nimitz Ruled The Seas

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Bettmann/Getty Images

Although he was initially denied entrance to West Point, Chester Nimitz went on to attend the United States Naval Academy, which he graduated from on January 30, 1905. Focusing his studies on submarines, he was involved in making their transition from gasoline to diesel in 1917 and gaining approval for the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine.

During World War II, he was Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and the Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas. From 1945 to 1947, he was also Chief of Naval Operations and was the last surviving officer to serve as fleet admiral.

Omar Bradley Commanded Massive Amounts Of Troops During World War II

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Bachrach/Getty Images

Omar Bradley graduated from West point along with Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1915 and took up a job at the War Department before becoming commander of the United States Army Infantry School in 1941. In the heat of World War II, Bradley helped develop the first airborne division and led the First United States Army during the Invasion of Normandy.

He would then go on to command the Twelfth United States Army, the largest force led under a single field commander. After the war, Bradley was the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and helped oversee policies during the Korean War.

William Halsey Jr. Was Feared In The Pacific

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PhotoQuest/Getty Images

Nicknamed “Bull,” William Halsey Jr. graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1904 and fought under the Great White Fleet during World War I, personally commanding the USS Shaw. After some time commanding the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, he was promoted to rear admiral.

At the beginning of World War II, he was charged with the USS Enterprise, which led raids against the Japanese in the War in the Pacific. He held the position of commander of the Third Fleet for the remainder of the war and was eventually promoted to fleet admiral in 1945, retiring in 1947.

Chesty Puller is History’s Most Decorated Marine

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PhotoQuest/Getty Images

Inspired by the 5th Marines at Belleau Wood during World War I, Chesty Puller enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1917. Puller first saw action in the military fighting guerillas in Haiti and Nicaragua during the Banana Wars.

He demonstrated his bravery and intellect in World War II and the Korean War, becoming the most decorated Marine in history, receiving five Navy Crosses and an Army Distinguished Service. When he retired in 1955, he had reached the rank of lieutenant general.