Can You Name the Most Famous Military Strategists of All Time?



By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Lionel Royer

About This Quiz

When human beings set out to kill each other, the results are often predictably messy. When adrenaline, fear and bullets collide, battlefield mistakes may culminate in unnecessary slaughter – and ignominious defeat. But the best military leaders have a way of balancing all of the variables of the fog of war. Not only do they win a lot of battles, they often do so even when their men are outgunned and outnumbered. In this five-star quiz, do you think you can name the brightest military leaders in world history?

Not all most famous military generals are masterminds. Take George Washington, for instance. He’s often regarded as the Founding Father of the United States thanks to his command of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. But the wig-topped dynamo actually lost a lot of battles. It was his hard-nosed persistence (and willingness to accept help) that handed General Washington his ultimate victory in the Revolution. Do you know anything else about lucky leaders of the past?

There are a lot of other famous names in the annals of warfare. From Napoleon Bonaparte to Isoroku Yamamoto to Bernard Montgomery, these men held the fates of millions of soldiers and innocents in their hands. More often than not, they succeeded. Other times, their iconic careers ended in flames. 

Pin those five stars to your uniform and take this quiz about famous military leaders. Maybe you’ll be a hero to your troops, or perhaps you’ll be stripped of your command and thrown into the nearest POW camp!

Alexander III was such a brilliant leader that he was known as _____.

Born in 356 BC, Alexander III of Macedon was called to greatness. His brilliant leadership earned him the title of Alexander the Great.


Which leader took the Roman Empire to incredible heights?

He's one of the most famous leaders in world history: Julius Caesar. Under his dictatorship, the Roman Empire sprawled into one of the greatest civilizations of all time.


He is often called the smartest battlefield commander ever to wage war. Who is he?

In the late 1700s, Napoleon Bonaparte shot up the ranks of the French military. Within years, he was defeating generals who had much more experience in warfare.


Who led the Union Army to a hard-fought victory at the Battle of Vicksburg?

In 1863, General Ulysses Grant knew that if he captured Vicksburg, Mississippi, he'd sever the Confederacy. He laid siege to the city, and less than two months later, he captured the city and earned one of his most important Civil War victories.


Around 330 BC, he conquered much of the world from the Ionian Sea to India.

Alexander the Great took control of his father's armies and laid waste to his enemies. With swift brilliance, he conquered huge parts of the world, from the ancient Ionian Sea to the area that's known as India.


Who was the top commander of American forces during World War I?

John J. Pershing was the leader of the American Expeditionary Force of WWI. His intelligent choices helped the Allied Powers effectively organize their forces to beat back the Central Powers and win the war.


Which leader became a general at the age of just 24?

Napoleon's intelligence and battlefield savvy was so evident that he quickly earned the trust of his superiors. By age 24 he was already a general.


Who was the author of a famed military treatise titled "The Art of War"?

He lived circa 500 BC, but Sun Tzu is still renowned as an incredible military strategist. He wrote "The Art of War," one of the most-quoted war books in human history.


Which leader won the vital Battle of Yorktown?

Let's face it, George Washington wasn’t a brilliant battlefield manager. But he was persistent in the face of incredible odds, and his stubborness helped the Continental Army win the 1781 Battle of Yorktown, the battle that helped the colonists win the American Revolution.


He was the greatest Carthaginian general ever, and perhaps the best war strategist of all time. Who was he?

Around 200 BC, Hannibal -- a guy so famous he only needs one name -- created a legacy that's endured for centuries. As a warrior of Carthage, he conquered armies that vastly outnumbered his own.


Which military genius built the largest empire the world has ever known?

As ruler of the Mongols, Genghis Khan sent his minions to conquer Asia, and they did just that. Often, his troops compelled communities to surrender simply by using the threat of violence.


Who was the top commander of Allied forces in Europe during the Second World War?

As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces during WWII, it was Dwight Eisenhower who conducted the D-Day invasion of Normandy. His plan was a smashing success, helping the Allies to roll the Nazis out of Western Europe.


He was a national hero of Russia in the 1700s. He was _____.

In the late 1700s, Alexander Suvorov earned a legacy as one of Russia's finest military leaders. He crushed enemy after enemy during his career, and late in life he was named "Generalissimo," the top rank for a general in his nation.


Which military leader loved to use bayonet charges as part of his tactics?

In the early 19th century, there were no rifles. Napoleon drilled his men to shoot their muskets at short range … and then use coordinated bayonet charges to break their foes.


His battlefield smarts earned him the nickname "Crouching Dragon." Who was he?

Zhuge Liang was a well-regarded Chinese strategist during the Three Kingdoms period. He was also a whipsmart politician and inventor, earning himself the nickname "Crouching Dragon."


Which commander was nicknamed "Old Blood and Guts" during World War II?

In WWII, George Patton became known as "Old Blood and Guts," in part due to his aggressive tactics. The Axis feared Patton's bold battlefield moves, which pushed them back, time and again.


In the 13th century, his armies may have killed more people than any other conquest in history. Who was he?

Genghis Khan's brilliance lay partly in his ruthlessness. As the Mongol horde descended upon Europe and Asia, they killed tens of millions of people -- perhaps more than any other conflict.


Who was named General of the Armies, the highest-possible rank in the U.S. Army?

John Pershing, or "Black Jack," made the decision to have American troops fight in discrete units instead of blending with other Allied forces during WWI. His bold choice (and subsequent victories) cemented him as an icon -- and he was named Genera of the Armies, the highest-possible rank in the U.S. military.


Who led a collection of just few hundred soldiers and defeated the Aztec Empire?

Hernando Cortés was a Spanish Conquistador in the 1500s. He had just 600 soldiers when he started his conquest -- but he used his political wiles to bring the might Aztec Empire to its knees.


Fast troop movement was a hallmark of which legendary commander?

Napoleon eschewed large numbers of cannons in favor of speed. His fast troop movements confounded enemy generals and, more often than not, led to a French victory,


He lost just one battle during the American Civil War. Who was he?

In a war full of bad generals, "Stonewall" Jackson was an icon. He lost just one battle in the Civil War, and only then because he received faulty intelligence regarding the number of Union troops he was fighting.


Which Native American leader spent two and a half decades using guerrilla warfare tactics to outmaneuver U.S. forces?

In the late 1800s, Apache war commander Geronimo became a thorn in America's side. He used his fast, horse-mounted warriors to frustrate U.S. troops for about 25 years before finally being captured.


He was called the "Russian Hannibal." Who was he?

In the 1790s, Alexander Suvorov was ordered to push French forces out of Italy, but the defeat of another Russian general forced Suvorov into a strategic withdrawal through the snowy Swiss mountain passes. Under impossible odds, his men succeeded in escaping the French, and for this he was honored with the nickname, "Russian Hannibal."


Who was a formidable military leader -- and king -- of Prussia in the 18th century?

With his emphasis newfangled battlefield formations and steely disciplie, Prussia's Frederick the Great was a solid military leader in the 18th century. His armies were strong enough to beat back numerous alliances.


Who was a driving factor in the famous Hundred Days Offensive?

As WWI reached its cataclysmic climax, John Pershing was a primary architect of the Hundred Days Offensive. He used hundreds of thousands of American troops to push back the Germans and force them to give up the fight.


In spite of his brilliance, he was cast into exile not once, but twice. Who was he?

As Emperor of France, Napoleon dominated European affairs in large part due to his military smarts. But twice he was knocked from his throne and cast into exile … the second time, for good.


Which iconic leader defeated Hannibal at the Battle of Zama?

Scipio Africanus was a Roman general who carefully studied and absorbed Hannibal's strategies -- and then he used them for his armies. At the Battle of Zama, he defeated Hannibal and won the Second Punic War.


Which savvy strategist said, "War is the continuation of politics by other means."

In the early 1800s, Carl von Clausewitz, of Prussia, was ahead of his time, using psychological smarts to define his goals and defeat his enemies. He said that , "war is the continuation of politics by other means," and his means were very often successful.


Who was a hero of the the Russo–Turkish War?

During the Russo–Turkish War of 1787–1792, Alexander Suvorov's brilliance was on full display. He smashed his enemies at the Battle of Rymnik and Siege of Izmail and earned a rightful place in Russian lore.


Which great commander was shot by his own men during the Civil War?

"Stonewall" Jackson was returning to his men when pickets mistook him for the enemy. They shot him in the arm, which was amputated. He died a week later in part due to pneumonia.


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