Military Leaders

Military Leaders are the leaders of the military forces—armed forces, armed services, military, military machine, war machine—of a nation. Military leaders influence others by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission, and have the legal authority to lawfully exercise control over subordinates by virtue of their rank or position. Warlords who exercise absolute civil power and individual autonomy in regions where the government is weak are also considered to be military leaders. History is replete with the legends of military leaders and revolutionaries who left their indelible marks on human civilization. Alexander the Great, who established one of the largest empires of the ancient world, is undoubtedly one of the best known military leaders. Ancient China’s Sun Tzu was not just a brilliant military leader, but also the author of ‘The Art of War’, an ancient Chinese text on military strategy. While Saladin, William the Conqueror and Henry V were the famous military leaders who lived during the Middle Ages, Oliver Cromwell, Shivaji and Peter the Great were courageous warriors of the Early Modern Period. Even though a majority of military leaders throughout history have been men, brave ladies like Joan of Arc, Boudicca, Laskarina Bouboulina, and Lakshmibai have proven that women too can be powerful military leaders. Read on to discover about the life and works of various famous military leaders from all over the world.
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 1 Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte
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Famous As: Emperor of the French
Birthdate: August 15, 1769
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ajaccio
Died: May 5, 1821
French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte ruled as the French emperor from 1804 to 1814 and again in 1815. He strengthened France’s position in Europe through the Napoleonic Wars and extended his kingdom. However, he was eventually defeated by the Seventh Coalition at the Battle of Waterloo and sent to exile. 

 2 Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan
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Famous As: Khagan of the Mongol Empire
Birthdate: 1162 AD
Birthplace: Delüün Boldog
Died: August 18, 1227

The founder and first Great Khan and Emperor of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan is often considered to be the greatest conqueror of all time. A brutal ruler, he enjoyed exceptional military successes and occupied a substantial portion of Central Asia and China. Besides his military accomplishments, he is also credited with revitalizing the Mongol Empire's writing system.

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 3 Shivaji

Shivaji
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Famous As: King
Birthdate: February 19, 1630
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Shivneri
Died: April 3, 1680

Shivaji was an Indian warrior-king. He is credited with founding the Maratha Empire, which became a force to reckon with during the 18th century. He is also credited with creating his own navy. Considered one of the most important Indian kings and a hero of the Hindus, Shivaji's life and work have inspired several works of art, including films.

 4 Douglas MacArthur

Douglas MacArthur
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Birthdate: January 26, 1880
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Little Rock
Died: April 5, 1964
American five-star general Douglas MacArthur was the field marshal of the Philippine Army. He and his father were the first father-son duo to win the Medal of Honor. after World War II, he became the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Japan and contributed to Japan’s reconstruction.
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 5 Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck
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Famous As: German Statesman
Birthdate: April 1, 1815
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Schönhausen
Died: July 30, 1898
Otto von Bismarck was a German statesman. Bismarck is credited with masterminding the unification of Germany and served as its first chancellor. He is also credited with creating the first modern welfare state in the world. Regarded as a hero by German nationalists, Otto von Bismarck's life has inspired a couple of TV series.

 6 William Wallace

William Wallace
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Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: 1270 AD
Birthplace: Elderslie, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Died: August 23, 1305

William Wallace was a Scottish knight who played an important role in the First War of Scottish Independence. Since his death, Wallace has been viewed as an iconic figure whose story of bravery and valor has inspired several works of art, including the Academy Award-winning film Braveheart. Wallace has also inspired video games and brewery companies, such is his popularity.

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 7 Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
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Famous As: Founder of the Republic of Turkey,
Birthdate: May 19, 1881
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Thessaloniki
Died: November 10, 1938
Kemal Atatürk, known as the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, was its first president. He unified Turkey into a secular country and invested in education and women’s rights. He also popularized the Latin-based Turkish alphabet and made minorities speak Turkish in public. His policies are known as “Kemalism.” 
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 8 George Patton

George Patton
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Famous As: Military Officer
Birthdate: November 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Gabriel, California, United States
Died: December 21, 1945

George Patton was a general of the US Army, remembered for his work as a commander of the Seventh United States Army during World War II. He is also remembered for commanding the Third Army in the Western Front in June 1944 after the Allied invasion of Normandy. His life and work inspired the 1970 epic biographical war film Patton.

 9 Spartacus

Spartacus
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Famous As: Thracian Gladiator
Birthdate: 0109 BC
Birthplace: Thrace
Died: 0071 BC
Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator who led the slave revolt called the Third Servile War, against the Roman Republic. However, historical accounts differ in their portrayal of Spartacus. He has inspired scores of books, films, and series, one of them being a Stanley Kubrick movie based on Howard Fast's novel.

 10 Erwin Rommel

Erwin Rommel
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Famous As: General
Birthdate: November 15, 1891
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Heidenheim an der Brenz, Germany
Died: October 14, 1944

Known as The Desert Fox, Nazi field marshal Erwin Rommel led the Axis forces during World War II. For his plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944, he was given a choice to either commit suicide by consuming a cyanide pill or face a trial and execution. He chose the former.

 11 Hannibal

Hannibal
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Famous As: Military General
Birthdate: 0247 BC
Birthplace: Carthage, Tunisia
Died: 0184 BC

 12 Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great
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Famous As: Emperor of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon
Birthdate: July 20, 0356
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pella
Died: June 10, 0324

Counted amongst the greatest military commanders of all times, Alexander the Great successfully created one of the largest empires—from Macedonia to Persia and India—of the ancient world. The son of King of Macedonia, Philip II, he ascended the throne at the age of 20 and achieved unprecedented success before he died at the age of 33.  

 13 Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar
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Famous As: Former Roman dictator
Birthdate: July 13, 0100
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: March 15, 0044

Julius Caesar is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history and played an important role in the events that led to the downfall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He assumed control of the government after a civil war. He was assassinated by rebel senators on the Ides of March, 44 BC.

 14 Marquis de Lafayette

Marquis de Lafayette
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Famous As: French Aristocrat and Military Leader
Birthdate: September 6, 1757
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chavaniac, France
Died: May 20, 1834

Marquis de Lafayette was a French aristocrat and military officer, who  is remembered for fighting in the American Revolutionary War, as the commander of American troops in several battles. After returning to France, he played key roles in the French Revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830. Considered a hero in both America and France, he advocated the end of slavery.  

 15 William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman
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Famous As: General in the Union Army During the American Civil War
Birthdate: February 8, 1820
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lancaster
Died: February 14, 1891
William Tecumseh Sherman served as the Union Army general during the American Civil War. He is best remembered for his “scorched earth” military policy and was known as "the first modern general.” His 1875 book Memoir, related his war experiences. He was associated with wildlife conservation in his later years.

 16 Richard Winters

Richard Winters
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Famous As: Army officer
Birthdate: January 21, 1918
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New Holland, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: January 2, 2011
Richard Winters is best remembered for his act of parachuting into Normandy on D-Day. He was recalled to the army from the inactive list during the Korean War. Following his retirement, he started selling Hershey Company by-products to animal-feed manufacturers and also taught at the U.S. Military Academy.

 17 Georgy Zhukov

Georgy Zhukov
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Famous As: Military Commander
Birthdate: December 1, 1896
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Zhukov, Kaluga Oblast
Died: June 18, 1974

Soviet general and Marshal of the Soviet Union, Georgy Zhukov, is remembered for overseeing some of the Red Army's most decisive victories during the Second World War. As a young man, he served in the First World War and the Russian Civil War. The recipient of four Hero of the Soviet Union awards, he was made the defence minister.

 18 Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull
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Famous As: Warrior
Birthdate: 1831 AD
Birthplace: Grand River
Died: December 15, 1890
Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull is symbolic of the Native American resistance against the U.S. government. After the Battle of the Little Bighorn, he surrendered and performed at Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. The U.S. government, fearing he might join the Ghost Dance Movement, killed him during an attempted arrest.

 19 Kublai Khan

Kublai Khan
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Famous As: Founder of the Yuan dynasty in Mongolia and China,
Birthdate: September 23, 1215
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mongolia
Died: February 18, 1294

Also known as the Emperor Shizu of Yuan, Kublai Khan served as the fifth khagan of the famous Mongol Empire. After the division of the empire, Kublai Khan founded the Yuan dynasty in China and ruled as the first Yuan emperor from 1271 until his death in 1294. Hence, he played an important role in re-creating a militarily powerful China.

 20 Paul von Hindenburg

Paul von Hindenburg
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Famous As: General, Second President of Weimar Republic
Birthdate: October 2, 1847
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Posen, Duchy of Posen, Kingdom of Prussia (now Poznań)
Died: August 2, 1934
Paul von Hindenburg served as the second president of the German Weimar Republic, from 1925 to 1934. In 1933, he appointed Adolf Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany, and also signed the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler total administrative powers. Following his death, Hitler declared himself the Führer.

 21 Baji Rao I

Baji Rao I
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Famous As: Peshwa of Maratha Empire
Birthdate: August 18, 1700
Sun Sign: Leo
Died: April 28, 1740

Baji Rao I was a peshwa, or chief minister, of the Maratha empire in India. His conquests led a massive blow to the Mughal Empire. In spite of being married to Kashibai, he took a second wife, half-Muslim Mastani, a story that was retold in several movies later.

 22 Charles de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle
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Famous As: Former President of France
Birthdate: November 22, 1890
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lille, France
Died: November 9, 1970

Charles de Gaulle was a French statesman and army officer. Charles de Gaulle fought against Nazi Germany in the Second World War by leading the Free French Forces. He also worked towards re-establishing democracy in France. He founded the Fifth Republic, France's current republican system, and rewrote the Constitution of France. He then served as the president of France.

 23 John J. Pershing

John J. Pershing
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Famous As: US Army Officer During WW I
Birthdate: September 13, 1860
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Laclede, Missouri, United States
Died: July 15, 1948

John J. Pershing was a senior United States Army officer who served as the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I. In his later years, he mentored generals who led the United States Army during World War II.  He was promoted to General of the Armies rank, the highest possible rank in the United States Army. 

 24 George Washington

George Washington
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Famous As: First U.S. President
Birthdate: February 22, 1732
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Westmoreland County, Virginia, United States
Died: December 14, 1799

America’s first president, George Washington led the country with integrity, firmness and prudence that made him one of the greatest presidents in American history. He became a national hero before assuming presidency, when he led the Continental Army to victory against the British during the American Revolution.

 25 Claus von Stauffenberg

Claus von Stauffenberg
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Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: November 15, 1907
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Jettingen-Scheppach, Germany
Died: July 21, 1944

German army officer Claus von Stauffenberg, a significant figure of the German Resistance Movement within the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany, attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler in July 1944, but failed. He was executed by a firing squad soon after Operation Valkyrie. He had earlier actively participated in World War II.

 26 Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn
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Famous As: Military officer
Birthdate: November 2, 1767
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Buckingham Palace, England
Died: January 23, 1820

 27 Pompey

Pompey
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Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: September 29, 0106
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Picenum
Died: September 28, 0048

Considered ruthless by his opponents, Pompey was an ancient Roman general who was a veteran of many wars and played a key role in changing Rome from a republic to an empire. Pompey was first an ally of his more illustrious compatriot Julius Caesar whose daughter he married, and then became his enemy. He was assassinated in Egypt, an end not uncommon in history.

 28 Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson
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Famous As: General
Birthdate: January 21, 1824
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clarksburg, West Virginia
Died: May 10, 1863

Stonewall Jackson was a commander of the Confederate States Army. He played a major role as a Confederate general in the American Civil War, winning several significant battles in the Eastern Theater of the war. Considered one of the most tactically sound commanders in the history of the US, Jackson was idolized by George Patton, Chesty Puller, and Alexander Vandegrift.

 29 Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower
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Famous As: 34th U.S. President
Birthdate: October 14, 1890
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Denison
Died: March 28, 1969

The 34th president of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower held office from 1953 to 1961. An army officer During World War II, he was part of many successful operations. He signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and his two terms as president saw widespread economic prosperity in USA. He is ranked high among American presidents.

 30 Osman I

Osman I
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Famous As: Political Leader
Birthdate: 1258 AD
Birthplace: Söğüt, Turkey
Died: August 1, 1326

Osman I was the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, which ruled the Ottoman Empire between 1299 and 1922. One of the most important historical figures in Turkey, Osman I is often depicted in popular culture. Interestingly, he is also one of the least documented leaders of the Ottoman Turks, making the factual information of his biographies questionable.

 31 Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu
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Famous As: Ancient Military General, Strategist & Philosopher
Birthdate: 0544 BC
Died: 0496 BC
Sun Tzu was a Chinese general from the Eastern Zhou period. He is known to have written The Art of War, which propagated various alternatives to battles, such as alliances and use of spies, to win wars. He is said to be the same as Sun Wu and Sun Bin.

 32 Ivar the Boneless

Ivar the Boneless
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Famous As: Viking Warrior
Birthdate: 0794 AD
Birthplace: Hord, Jutland
Died: 0873 AD
Viking leader Ivar the Boneless is known for his invasion of Anglo-Saxon England. Icelandic legends state that he was born with weak bones, as his father had broken a vow. He is also identified as Ímar, who founded the Uí Ímair Dynasty and ruled Northumbria and the Kingdom of Dublin.

 33 Horatio Nelson

Horatio Nelson
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Famous As: Admiral
Birthdate: September 29, 1758
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Burnham Thorpe
Died: October 21, 1805

Horatio Nelson was a British flag officer whose inspirational leadership brought about several British naval victories, especially during the Napoleonic Wars. Regarded as one of Britain's heroic figures, Horatio Nelson's legacy remains influential and several monuments, including the Nelson Monument and Nelson's Column, have been created in his memory.

 34 Tokugawa Ieyasu

Tokugawa Ieyasu
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Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: January 31, 1543
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Okazaki Castle, Mikawa (now Okazaki, Japan)
Died: June 1, 1616

Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder and first shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. He is considered one of the three "Great Unifiers" of Japan. He was the son of Matsudaira Hirotada, a minor local warlord. He grew up to be an ambitious young man with exemplary leadership qualities and eventually founded the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. 

 35 Nathan Bedford Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest
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Famous As: Military commander
Birthdate: July 13, 1821
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chapel Hill
Died: October 29, 1877
Nathan Bedford Forrest, or the "Wizard of the Saddle", served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War. He was charged with war crimes at the Battle of Fort Pillow, where his forces killed Black prisoners of war. He was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

 36 Giuseppe Garibaldi

Giuseppe Garibaldi
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Famous As: Italian Nationalist
Birthdate: July 4, 1807
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Nice
Died: June 2, 1882

Italian general, patriot, and republican Giuseppe Garibaldi is remembered for the role he played in the Italian unification and the creation of the Kingdom of Italy. He is considered one of Italy's "fathers of the fatherland." A highly proficient military general, he also led the Expedition of the Thousand on behalf of Victor Emmanuel II. He died in 1882.

 37 Stanley A McChrystal

Stanley A McChrystal
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Famous As: Retired Armed Force Officer
Birthdate: August 14, 1954
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, United States

Retired United States Army general, Stanley A McChrysta,l is best known for his command of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during the 2000s. He was described as "perhaps the finest warrior and leader of men in combat I ever met" by Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Following his retirement, he began teaching courses in international relations at Yale University.

 38 El Cid

El Cid
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Famous As: Military leader
Birthdate: 1043 AD
Birthplace: Vivar, Burgos
Died: July 10, 1099
Spanish folk hero Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, or El Cid, was a Castilian knight from medieval Spain. He had been part of both Christian and Muslim armies and is also remembered for his heroic conquest of Valencia. He remains immortalized in the Spanish epic poem El Cantar de Mio Cid.

 39 Scipio Africanus

Scipio Africanus
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Famous As: Roman General
Birthdate: 0236 BC
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: 0183 BC
Roman general and consul Scipio Africanus is remembered for his exploits during the Second Punic War. He gained the title Africanus by defeating Hannibal at the Battle of Zama. He was later dragged into a trial for accepting bribes and eventually left Rome to live in his villa in Liternum.

 40 Jack Churchill

Jack Churchill
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Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: September 16, 1906
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Died: March 8, 1996

Better known as Mad Jack or Fighting Jack, British Army officer Jack Churchill was an iconic example of a person fighting wars on his own terms. He popularized carrying swords and bagpipes to battles and killed his enemies with his longbow. He inspired a comic strip and several books, too.

 41 Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller
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Famous As: Trombonist
Birthdate: March 1, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Clarinda, Iowa, United States
Died: December 15, 1944

 42 Edward Smith

Edward Smith
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Famous As: Naval officer
Birthdate: January 27, 1850
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, England
Died: April 15, 1912

 43 Septimius Severus

Septimius Severus
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Famous As: Roman Emperor
Birthdate: April 11, 0145
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Leptis Magna, Libya
Died: February 4, 0211
Roman emperor Septimius Severus reigned from 193 to 211. He worked in the senate under Marcus Aurelius and gained strength following the death of Pertinax. He killed incumbent emperor Didius Julianus and annexed many kingdoms, such as Osroene. While on an invasion of Scotland, he died of an infectious disease.

 44 Frederick III, German Emperor

Frederick III, German Emperor
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Famous As: King
Birthdate: October 18, 1831
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Palace, Potsdam, Germany
Died: June 15, 1888

Frederick III, German Emperor reigned as the king of Prussia and emperor of the German Empire from 9 March 1888 until his death on 15 June 1888. Although he played key roles during the Austro-Prussian, Second Schleswig, and Franco-Prussian wars, Frederick professed hatred for warfare and was willing to make the German Empire more liberal before his untimely death.

 45 Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis

Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis
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Famous As: Former Governor-General of India
Birthdate: December 31, 1738
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Grosvenor Square, London, United Kingdom
Died: October 5, 1805

 46 John French, 1st Earl of Ypres

John French, 1st Earl of Ypres
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Famous As: British Army Officer
Birthdate: September 28, 1852
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ripple, Kent
Died: May 22, 1925

 47 Enoch Powell

Enoch Powell
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Birthdate: June 16, 1912
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Birmingham
Died: February 8, 1998

Enoch Powell was a British politician, linguist, classical scholar, philologist, and poet. Also a soldier, Powell served in World War II, reaching the rank of brigadier. His political career is remembered for his iconic and infamous Rivers of Blood speech, which was interpreted as a demonstration of racism. The speech became the subject of a play titled What Shadows.

 48 Joseph Dunford

Joseph Dunford
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Famous As: General
Birthdate: December 8, 1955
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts

 49 Charles Martel

Charles Martel
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Famous As: Military Leader
Birthdate: 0686 AD
Birthplace: Herstal
Died: October 22, 0741

Charles Martel was a Frankish military leader and statesman. From 718 until his death in 741, Martel served as the de facto ruler of Francia. He is credited with restoring centralized government in Francia and re-establishing the Franks as the masters of all Gaul through a series of military campaigns.

 50 Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee
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Famous As: Confederate General in the American Civil War
Birthdate: January 19, 1807
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Stratford Hall, Stratford, Virginia, United States
Died: October 12, 1870

A commander of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, Robert E. Lee commanded the Army of Northern Virginia. He was a skilled tactician who served in the US Army for 32 years. Brilliant from a young age, he was a top graduate of the US Military Academy. In his later years, he became president of Washington College.

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