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a. They were fighting the English led by general Smith.

b. They were fighting the English under the leadership of general Smith.

c. They were fighting the English**,** led by general Smith.

d. They were fighting the English**,** under the leadership of general Smith.

Are the above sentences all grammatically correct?

It seems to me that (a) and (b) might mean

  1. They were fighting those of the English who were led by/under the command of general Smith.

or

  1. Led by/under the leadership of general Smith they were fighting the English.

and (c) and (d) might mean

  1. Led by/under the leadership of general Smith they were fighting the English.

or

  1. They were fighting the English, who were led by/under the leadership of general Smith.

Is that correct?

Many thanks.

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If it was intended to make meaning (1) clear, I think a writer would use something like "They were fighting General Smith's division". (Military ranks as part of a name take a capital letter.)

Whether or not your other sentences are ambiguous depends on whether mention has already been made of 'their' commanding officer.

"A French force under General Legrand landed on the island. They were fighting the English, led by General Smith."

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