Jefferson Davis, Robert Lee and Douglas MacArthur were three men who helped change the landscape of U.S. military. Embroiled in a war, each had a distinct approach in attacking their enemies. This paper will focus on the military strategies and leadership style of the three distinguished men
Jefferson Davis served as President of the Confederate State of America from 1861-1865. Before serving during the Civil War, Davis was a West Point graduate, belonging to class of 1828. He served as Lieutenant during the Black Hawk War, after which he cotton planter, got married and settled in Mississippi. When the Union was broken and seceded states united to form the Confederate of America, Davis was elected to become its president. Following the announcement, Davis started mobilizing the South for the war. He delivered a message to the Confederate Congress on April 29, 1861, stating that the Confederacy must defend the country from the war waged by Abraham Lincoln. While Davis had military upbringing he was otherwise a poor strategist. A great amount of his time was spent scrutinizing details which some people thought should have been taken care of his generals. Perhaps Davis did not express confidence in his generals and adviser but given his stature, it is assumed that he chose which people would work for him. Davis’ stubbornness also left him in constant disagreement with his generals. While he meant well, he was perceived as conceited by everyone, which could have contributed to his being “aloof.” It also did not help that Davis, given his military background, was seen by his staff, as a tyrant, unsympathetic and cold.  This is a common picture when a military person is left in charge of a number of people who do not share the same military perspective. The military person strives to do things based on a blueprint, focusing on every detail. While this is advantageous, there are times when a non-military person interprets this as harsh. In a military setting, commands are followed rigidly but sometimes this may not work well in situations where impulsiveness is better. Since Davis focused mainly on military matters, he was not able to solve other problems (i.e. food shortage) in the South. This made the Confederacy to turn to General Robert Lee to lead the Confederate Army.
Like Davis, General Lee also came from a military family. His father was a cavalry leader in the American Revolution. Lee was also a West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran. Although he pledged to protect the Union, Lee felt that secession would not be good; hence he decided to save the state from further harm. He was offered a position in the Confederate army but he refused for he did not want a war and was hoping for a solution instead. However, when Virginia was seceded, he joined the Confederate Army, becoming a military adviser to President Davis.
Lee, although described as “inexperienced in organizing and coordinating,” was able to score several victories for the Confederate by dividing his army. Lee soon became famous when he continued defeating the Union Army even though his men were outnumbered.  For this, Lee was admired by his soldiers, who thought of him as an “angel of Heaven.” However, military historians thought of Lee as being concerned with his state that he was not able to come up with general strategy that would include all involved states. Some also depicted how Lee was unable to supply his army with sufficient provisions, how much independence he gave to his generals. This marked the difference between Davis and Lee. Though both were military men, Davis, it seemed, did not express faith in his people. If he could not trust his army, how could he lead his troops to follow in? In cases such as these, trust really serves as the foundation for a good relationship. Lee was able to gain the trust of his army by delegating work to them. This act increased the confidence of his troops, which in return, made Lee popular with them. It was a good leadership move on the part of Lee. It showed the importance of trust. When Lee surrendered the Army of Virginia, it was a difficult day not just for Lee but also his foes. General Grant of the Union Army expressed depression upon seeing that fall of Lee. This is a testament to the greatness of Lee as a military man.7
General Douglas MacArthur was the country’s senior military head during the World War II (WWII). MacArthur was famous for his “I shall return” speech in the Philippines when US army momentarily left the country.
Like Davis and Lee, MacArthur went to West Point and was the youngest division commander during World War I. Soon he became the Chief of Staff for the US Army. But it was during WWII when MacArthur’s leadership was put to a test. When American troops pulled out of the Philippines, MacArthur was vowed to return. It seemed that he did not accept defeat and wanted to win the war. He strategized well and when the US was “in a position to attack”, MacArthur instructed to seize the big islands and leave the small ones to “wither on the vine.” MacArthur continued to show his leadership by helping reconstruct Japan following the war. The country continued to rely on his guidance during the Korean War when the amphibious landed at Inchon successfully. Perhaps the success of MacArthur was that of his courage and determination. He was passionate about his work, he wanted to continue what he started, thus the “I shall return” quote. He did return, putting an end to WW II.
At the onset, it would seem that in terms of building good relations, General Lee was ahead of them. However, General MacArthur’s strongest point was his being tenacious. President Davis was said to be keen on details. While no one was better than the other, it would have been valuable to have a military person who has inherited their assets. To have a leader who only possesses a keen eye on details but is also resolute on whatever it is on hand and is capable to not only trust his platoon but also build and foster a good working relationship with them would probably be the perfect military leader anyone has ever hoped for. While Davis and Lee were fortunate enough to have crossed paths, this writer believes that had MacArthur been alive during the Civil War and have fought hand-in-hand with the two, maybe it would have resulted differently. This is not to say that MacArthur could have led them to victory. Lee, alone, was a more that adept military leader but in the end, he still surrendered. What this writer is saying is that MacArthur’s determination could have bought them more time, at the very least. Admission of defeat is also the test for any military leader. Lee knew when to wave the white flag. So did MacArthur. Davis was not. He was keen on seeking independence even though he knew it was not possible. Davis could have learned a thing or two from Lee and MacArthur. Davis’ strength was being intense but stubborn. Lee and MacArthur may also have been stubborn but the difference is that Davis was not able to capitalize on this strength, his intensity. In fact, it proved to be a weakness in the end. He was deemed cold, harsh. Lee and MacArthur may have also been intense but they knew how to compromise. The accolades Lee received from his troops and his foes are proofs of his greatness as a military leader. It is hard to find a leader whose opponent praises him genuinely. MacArthur was in the same vein. When the American forces withdrew from the Philippines, MacArthur knew it was the right decision to do at that time. He had to give up…at that time. But he stayed true to his word and went back to reclaim the country. He had accepted defeat but was able to bounce back. That makes a good military leader.
Divine, Robert et al. America The People and the Dream
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Jordan, Winthrop and Leon Litwack. The United States Combined Edition.
New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1991.
Moore, Frank ed.,The Rebellion Record, vol.1 .New York: G.P. Putnam, 1861.
Remini Robert. “Jefferson Davis,” in Merit Student Encyclopedia. 1987.
Trueman,Chris. “Military Commanders of World War II,” History Learning Site
[homepage on-line], Available from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/douglas_macarthur.htm.Internet. Accessed 14 August 2008.
 Robert Remini, “Jefferson Davis,” in Merit Student Encyclopedia, 1987.
 Winthrop Jordan and Leon Litwack, The United States Combined Edition (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1991), 361.
 Frank Moore, ed., The Rebellion Record, vol.1 (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1861)166.
 Robert Divine and others, America The People and the Dream (Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1991), 444.
 Jordan and Litwack, 361.
 Remini, 1987.
 Robert Divine et al, 449.
 Jordan and Litwack, 368.
 Robert Divine et al, 466.
 Chris Trueman, “Military Commanders of World War II,” History Learning Site [homepage on-line]; available from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/douglas_macarthur.htm; Internet; accessed 14 August 2008.