George Washington voted Britain's greatest enemy commander

Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:30am EDT
 
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By Angus MacSwan

LONDON (Reuters) - American revolutionary leader George Washington has been voted the greatest enemy commander to face Britain, lauded for his spirit of endurance against the odds and the enormous impact of his victory.

In a contest organised by the National Army Museum, Washington triumphed over Irish independence hero Michael Collins, France's Napoleon Bonaparte, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

Making the case for Washington, historian Stephen Brumwell said the American War of Independence (1775-83) was "the worst defeat for the British Empire ever."

"His personal leadership was crucial," he said.

Washington was a courageous and inspirational battlefield commander who led from the front but also had the skills to deal with his political counterparts in Congress and with his French allies, Brumwell said. Above all, he never gave up even when the war was going against him.

"His army was always under strength, hungry, badly supplied. He shared the dangers of his men. Anyone other than Washington would have given up the fight. He came to personify the cause, and the scale of his victory was immense."

Almost 8,000 people voted in an online poll which produced a shortlist of five men, whose merits were debated by guest speakers at a weekend event at the museum before a final ballot of attendees.

The main criterion was that each commander must have led an army against British forces in battle - which ruled out foes such as Adolf Hitler - and that they must fall within the National Army Museum's time frame of the 17th century onwards.   Continued...