Famous Historical Battles
The greatest battles fought by soldiers and warriors who have become infamous and immortal as a result of the great victories they achieved; their bravery, perseverance, determination, cunning, tactics, sacrifices and fortitude have written the stories of their battles and their names on the sand and winds of time.
History is kind and forgiving to the victor, but forgetful and blind to those defeated, for it is the victor who is seen as right and just and who will write history to suit their own cause. They have used the power of force of their armies to invade, conquer and control; to eliminate, destroy enemies or force their will upon them, be they individuals or nations; to protect their countries against agressors; and to change the course of history by bestowing power of control upon others or eliminating those that don’t agree with them.
On 22 January 1879, at Rorke’s Drift on the Natal border with Zululand, in South Africa, a tiny British garrison of 140 men – many of them sick and wounded – fought for 12 hours to repel repeated attacks by up to 3,000 Zulu warriors. This heroic defence was rewarded by Queen Victoria’s government with no fewer than 11 Victoria Crosses, and was later immortalised by the film Zulu ( 1964 ), directed by Cy Endfield.
An unnecessary war
Like so many imperial conflicts of the period, the Zulu War was not initiated from London. Instead, Benjamin Disraeli’s government – preoccupied with the Russian threat to Constantinople and Afghanistan – made every effort to avoid a fight. ‘We cannot now have a Zulu war, in addition to other greater and too possible troubles’, wrote Sir Michael Hicks Beach, the colonial secretary, in November 1878.
The man to whom this letter was addressed – Sir Bartle Frere – had others ideas, however. Frere had been sent out to to Cape Town with the specific task of grouping South Africa’s hotch – potch of British colonies, Boer republics and independent black states into a Confederation of South Africa. But he quickly realised that the region could not be unified under British rule until the powerful Zulu kingdom – with its standing army of 40,000 disciplined warriors – had been suppressed.
English Cival War ( 1642 – 1652 )
The English Civil War of the mid – 17th Century was part of a wider series of conflicts that spanned the entire British Isles, involving Scotland and Ireland as well as England and Wales. Also called “The Great Rebellion”, “The English Revolution” and “The Wars of the Three Kingdoms”, the British Civil Wars and Commonwealth period witnessed the trial and execution of a king, the formation of a republic in England, a theocracy in Scotland and the subjugation of Ireland. The first attempt was made to unite the three nations under a single government, and the foundations of the modern British constitution were laid.
From the signing of the Scottish National Covenant of 1638 to the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, this site explores the turmoil of the Civil Wars and Interregnum, and the constitutional experiments of the Commonwealth and Protectorate period of the 1650s.
British American War ( 1812 – 1814 )
Details of an amazing American military plan for an attack to wipe out a major part of the British Army are today revealed for the first time.
In 1930, a mere nine years before the outbreak of World War Two, America drew up proposals specifically aimed at eliminating all British land forces in Canada and the North Atlantic, thus destroying Britain’s trading ability and bringing the country to its knees.
Previously unparalleled troop movements were launched as an overture to an invasion of Canada, which was to include massive bombing raids on key industrial targets and the use of chemical weapons, the latter signed off at the highest level by none other than the legendary General Douglas Mac Arthur.
The Boer war
The Boer Wars was the name given to the South African Wars of 1880 – 1 and 1899 – 1902, that were fought between the British and the descendants of the Dutch settlers ( Boers ) in Africa. After the first Boer War William Gladstone granted the Boers self – government in the Transvaal.
The Boers, under the leadership of Paul Kruger, resented the colonial policy of Joseph Chamberlain and Alfred Milner which they feared would deprive the Transvaal of its independence. After receiving military equipment from Germany, the Boers had a series of successes on the borders of Cape Colony and Natal between October 1899 and January 1900. Although the Boers only had 88,000 soldiers, led by the outstanding soldiers such as Louis Botha, and Jan Smuts, the Boers were able to successfully besiege the British garrisons at Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley.
The British action in South Africa was strongly opposed by many leading Liberal politicians and most of the Independent Labour Party as an example of the worst excesses of imperialism. The Boer War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in May 1902. The peace settlement brought to an end the Transvaal and the Orange Free State as Boer republics. However, the British granted the Boers £3 million for restocking and repairing farm lands and promised eventual self – government ( granted in 1907 ).
Americal Cival War ( 1861 – 1865 )
n the spring of 1861, decades of simmering tensions between the northern and southern United States over issues including states’ rights versus federal authority, westward expansion and slavery exploded into the American Civil War ( 1861 – 65 ). The election of the anti – slavery Republican Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860 caused seven southern states to secede from the Union to form the Confederate States of America; four more joined them after the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Four years of brutal conflict were marked by historic battles at Bull Run ( Manassas ), Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Vicksburg, among others.
The War Between the States, as the Civil War was also known, pitted neighbor against neighbor and in some cases, brother against brother. By the time it ended in Confederate surrender in 1865, the Civil War proved to be the costliest war ever fought on American soil, with some 620,000 of 2.4 million soldiers killed, millions more injured and the population and territory of the South devastated.
The Punic Wars
The three wars between Rome and Carthage span more than a century ( 264 – 146 BC ). They are known as the Punic Wars because the Carthaginians are in origin Phoenician ( punicus in Latin ).
The first war flares up in Sicily, an island disputed between Greek colonies at its eastern end and Carthaginian settlements in the west. Rome’s involvement begins with a request for help from the Greek colony of Messina, on the Sicilian promontory nearest to Italy. The inhabitants of Messina turn out to be uncertain whether they need help mainly against the Carthaginians or against their neighbouring Greeks in Syracuse. But the conflict soon escalates into a straight clash between Rome and Carthage.
The Romans rapidly capture Messina ( called Messana in Latin ) from a Carthaginian garrison. The event demonstrates that Carthaginian officers accept alarming terms of employment. The commander of the garrison is recalled home and is crucified for incompetence.
During 262 – 1 Roman armies advance through Sicily, capturing Agrigentum after a lengthy siege. But they gain no convincing advantage over the Carthaginians, whose warships enable them to recover coastal regions from the Romans and even to plunder the shores of Italy. As a result, in 260, the senate takes a momentous decision. Carthage will be challenged on her own terms. Rome, until now purely a land power, will build a fleet.
Greek Persian Wars
Battles of the Persian Wars are named for their locations. The following timeline shows the major battles of the Persian Wars ( Greco – Persian Wars ) in chronological sequence.
Naxos : Revolt precipitating the Ionian revolt.
Sardis : Persians led by Aristagoras with Athenian and Eretrian allies occupied Sardis. The city was burned and the Greeks met and were defeated by a Persian force. This was the end of the Athenian involvement in the Ionian revolt.
Naxos : Persians invaded; inhabitants fled; the Persians burned the town, but Delos was spared.
Eretria : Persians under Datis ( later defeated at Marathon ) given the city within a week by traitors.
The Golden Age of Greece was short lived. Athens and Sparta were both powerful poli, and each wanted to spread their way of life. Sparta attacked Athens in 431BC, beginning the brutal 27 – year – long Peloponnesian War.
One out four people in Athens died shortly after the war began, but not because they were defeated in battle. When Sparta attacked, the Athenian people crowded behind the walls of the city. The cramped and dirty living conditions were an easy target for disease. A plague, or great sickness, spread through the city. Sickness claimed the life of Pericles, the leader of Athens. Once Pericles died, the people began to listen to demagogues. Demagogues were bad leaders who appealed to people’s emotions rather than logic.
Sparta eventually defeated Athens by building blockade around the walls of the city. This is called a siege. The people of Athens could not leave to get supplies or food from the countryside. Faced with starvation, Athens surrendered to Sparta in 404BC.
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