I can think of two. The first was at Stirling Bridge, in 1297 when the English outnumbered the Scots some 4 to 1, but the 72-year old English commander, John Warrenne, Earl of Surrey was not keen on giving battle in swampy land where the Scots were "at home." But the 40-year old Hugh de Cressingham led half the army (the part under his control) across Stirling Bridge against orders. When half of this force was across the bridge, the Scots attacked from ambush at the odds of 1- to 1, crushed both halves of Cressingham's force, and even carried the battle successfully to Warrenne's remaining troops.

The second was the Waterloo campaign, after the defeat of the Prussians by Napoleon at Ligny. There, the badly wounded 72-year-old Marshal Blucher insisted on leading the remnants of his defeated army to Waterloo to reinforce Wellington, over the objections of the much-younger Gneisenau. The Prussians made it to Waterloo on time with sufficient reinforcements, and the rest is history.

Are there other instances where military commanders of very different ages were of the opposite opinion? What were the results?

  • Seems overly broad to me.
    – Canageek
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 1:59
  • @Canageek, we've had several questions like this, such as, history.stackexchange.com/questions/1678/… history.stackexchange.com/questions/2221/….
    – Russell
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 2:27
  • 1
    @TomAu - Not entirely true. It was a fairly common tactic to pair a quality but inconveiently young high commander with an older figurehead to be nominally in charge. For example, when Germany decided they needed to send Ludendorff to recover the situation in the east in WWI, they recalled Hindenburg from retirement to act as the figurehead for the effort.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 16:57
  • 1
    @T.E.D.: Those "overaged" commanders were typically NOT at odds with their younger counterparts. In the examples I cited, the "old men," Warrenne and Blucher, were more nearly correct than the "youngsters."
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 17:17
  • 1
    @TomAu - I meant more as far as historical basis. I haven't actually seen many historical sites out and out claiming that Pappenheim disobeyed direct orders when he prematurely attacked Gustav Adolph at Breitenfeld.
    – DVK
    Commented Jul 21, 2012 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


I wasn't able to find great cites for this, but many popular accounts credit Count of Tilly's dramatic loss to Gustav Adolph of Sweden at Battle of Breitenfeld to the fact that his second in command Graf Pappenheim leading the heavy Black Cuirassiers prematurely - and against orders - attacked Gustav's flank (being routed in the process), which in turn freed Gustav's cavalry to go after and capture Imperial artillery.

Tilly was born February 1559; and Pappenheim May 29, 1594, making them ~35 years apart (Making Tilly 72 in 1631, and Pappenheim 37).


Fabius Maximus and Marcus Minutius come to mind, although their the age differential was most likely not more than 15 years.

For a reverse example, take Don Juan of Austria and Doria at the battle of Lepanto.

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