Montgomery on Cromwell’s Military Legacy

by Scott Manning on June 6, 2013

Bernard MontgomeryIf Americans could get over his depiction in Patton (1970), they might learn to like British General Bernard Montgomery (1887-1976), or at least find him endearing.1

I got over my hate and I read his works every now and then. In A History of Warfare, he provides a chronological overview of war, sprinkled with his commentary throughout. The latter is what is interesting.

Consider Montgomery’s commentary on Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), the hardline puritan who rose to brilliant military commander during the English Civil Wars (1642-51) and eventually became Lord Protectorate (r. 1653-58), or “military dictator.”

Montgomery dedicates several pages describing Cromwell’s rise to power, as well as his military achievements, providing analysis of his organization of armies, strategy in war, and tactics on the battlefield. However, he freely admits that Cromwell’s “military courage and caution turned to political blustering and hesitancy.”2

At the end of his narrative, Montgomery laments, “It is sad that Cromwell should be remembered more for his unfortunate dictatorship than for his idealism, his courage, and his genius as a trainer and commander of cavalry and as a strategist.”3

Rarely does an author show his true colors for a historical figure so blatantly. However, Montgomery takes it a step further, “Sir Winston Churchill once referred to me as a Cromwellian figure, because he said, I always tried both to praise the Lord and to pass the ammunition.”4   Quite simply, Montgomery fancies himself a Cromwell-like figure without all the bad stuff.

It is easy to forgive his hero worship, because it is so refreshingly honest.

Footnotes

  1. Or as he preferred to be called, Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein. Bear with me, Americans struggle with long titles. []
  2. Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, A History of Warfare (Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1968), 286. []
  3. Ibid. []
  4. Ibid., 282. []

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ollie June 6, 2013 at 11:19 AM

If we examine Cromwell’s whole record, we can not deny that he massacred 1000′s of people, the people he was sworn to lord over with protection. We can not pick and choose which parts of someone’s life to admire. If we can, then we run the risk of people admiring the charming aspects of Khan or the Fuhrer.

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2 Albiccia June 6, 2013 at 11:23 AM

I think that Cromwell was the Hitler of his time, killing thousands of Irish, women, children, priests, masscuring them even in their churches. He also banned many things from England during his time as Lord Protecter such as Christmas. God Save Charles the Second!

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3 ArchieD June 6, 2013 at 11:46 AM

As children we learn to hate Cromwell. We spit blood when his name comes up. As adults we should do some of our own research and realize the myth has become bigger than the man. He kept the country together, denied the crown, and did what he thought was best for democracy. Without him, we would have reconciled prematurely and ended up in the same situation before the Revolution. He is part of our story. Embrace him, the good and the bad.

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4 ArchieD June 6, 2013 at 11:48 AM

And cheers to an American who reads and appreciates Montgomery!

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