5 epic battles where the victors ended up losing the war

There’s no more unfortunate name in the annals of military history than King Pyrrhus of Epirus whose lands were on the west coast of the Hellenic Peninsula, in modern-day Greece. While he famously won a string of battles against Rome and Carthage in 281 BC, he took horrendous casualties, sometimes as high as 15,000.

You can probably guess how that turned out.

You can probably guess how that turned out.

After one of his costly victories, Pyrrhus famously declared, “One more victory like that and we’re finished.”

Thus the term “Pyrrhic Victory” was born, describing any victory in warfare that cost so much to gain, the winner’s army never really recovers.

This victory may have been the first Pyrrhic one, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Here are a few more costly “wins” that nevertheless lost the war.

1. The Battle of Malplaquet

In 1700, Spain’s King Charles II died without an heir. In the power struggle that followed, France’s 90,000-strong army fought a coalition of 100,000 Dutch, Austrian, Prussian and British soldiers. Slightly outnumbered, the French sought to level the playing field by setting up obstacles and digging fortifications to stymie the coalition.

"You there! Consider yourself stymied!"

“You there! Consider yourself stymied!”

It took 7 full hours to dislodge the French, and the Duke of Marlborough lost 24,000 men doing it. The rest were too tired to keep going. The French lost less than half that. Marlborough was replaced and the alliance against the French began to fall apart.

2. The Battle of Bunker Hill

In another case of superior numbers running head-on against a fortified position, 2,200 British regulars advancing on Breed’s Hill were ordered to attack the 1,000 American militiamen there. Capturing the hill would give the British the Heights overlooking Boston, so British General William Howe ordered three advances.

Good luck with that.

Good luck with that.

The first two repelled the redcoats because of very accurate fire from the militiamen. Out of ammo and looking at a hand-to-hand fight for the hill, the militia abandoned the fortification and retreated on the third British advance. The British lost almost half of their attacking force while the colonial rebels lost only 400 men.

3. Napoleon at Borodino

L’Empereur’s invasion of Imperial Russia in 1812 took more than a half million Frenchmen into the heart of the Russian Empire. Napoleon chased the Russians, first under General Barclay de Tolly and then General Mikhail Kutuzov, all the way to Moscow, the Russians burning or otherwise destroying anything in their wake that might have been of use to the French. Near the village of Borodino near modern-day Moscow, Kutuzov’s army stopped to give Napoleon a fight.

"Wake me up when we win."

“Wake me up when we win.” – Napoleon

The Russians positioned their right wing on an ideal defensive ground while the left occupied a series of redoubts near the village. Napoleon threw 130,000 men at the redoubts, which the Russians fought bitterly to keep. The French lost 35,000 men but failed to destroy the Russian Army. Napoleon marched on Moscow but found the Russians burned the city. The French Emperor stayed for two months. When he realized the Russians would not negotiate for peace, he marched his exhausted troops home. By the time Napoleon’s Grande Armeé found its way home, there were only 93,000 survivors.

4. The Battle of the Alamo

In 1835, colonist in the Mexican province of Texas rebelled against the dictatorial regime of Mexico’s General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Texian rebels drove Mexican forces out of Texas The next year, 100 American-born Texian rebels occupied the Alamo, an old Spanish mission near modern-day San Antonio, along with legendary adventurers of the American West.

Unfortunately, this is how legends of the West tend to die.

Unfortunately, this is how legends of the West tend to die.

Santa Anna marched 1,500 troops into Texas to dislodge the defenders of the Alamo. After ten days of skirmishing, the Mexicans advanced on the Alamo in force and slaughtered every defender to the last man. When word reached the rest of Texas, people rushed to join the Texian Army under Sam Houston. Houston used those troops to surprise the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto, winning in just 18 minutes. The Texians cut down the fleeing Mexicans and captured Santa Anna the next day, winning Texas’ independence.

5. The Battle of Chancellorsville

In 1863, General Robert E. Lee’s outnumber Confederate troops bet on a maneuver that flew in the face of military doctrine – he divided his forces, twice, and fought the Federal forces instead of retreating. This division was unique because it prevented the Union Army under General Joseph Hooker from surrounding the outnumbered rebels.

Stonewall Jackson, pictured right, being unable to even.

Stonewall Jackson, pictured right, being unable to even.

Unfortunately, the move cost Lee 13,000 men and his best General, Stonewall Jackson, who was shot by his own men. Two months later, the South would miss those 13,000 at the Battle of Gettysburg.

TOP ARTICLES
This is how John Kelly shut down speculation on President Trump's gold star family call

"If you're not in the family, if you've never worn the uniform, if you've never been in combat, you can't even imagine how to make that call," Kelly said.

Blumhouse and WATM team up to produce 'Searching for Bergdahl'

Blumhouse Television and WATM are teaming up to produce the documentary "Searching for Bergdahl," the untold story of the seven-year search for the missing soldier.

This is the real reason John McCain's Liberty Medal speech was so epic

When US media focused on a jab at President Trump, they missed the parting thoughts of a veteran and public servant of more than 60 years.

This little bot can take a lickin' and keep on tickin' for troops on assault

Weighing a little over five pounds, the FirstLook can handle being thrown into a hostile environment.

This is one of the deadliest kamikaze attacks caught on film

Japanese kamikaze pilots struck fear in the hearts of allied troops as they conducted choreographed nose-dives right into U.S. warships during WWII.

This is what it was like fighting alongside Afghan troops

In nearly every war in which America has taken part, troops have had to work alongside local forces who aren't always very motivated to fight.

This is how AC/DC helped save a POW in Mogadishu

The ending of "Black Hawk Down" was just slightly different than Ridley Scott showed. It was a moment former POW Mike Durant would never forget.

Russia is buying more of these 'Fullback' fighter jets — and they're pretty impressive

The Russian Ministry of Defense says it just got four more SU-34 bombers, and they're impressive AF. We have the details and video for you here.

More than 100 killed in Taliban attacks across Afghanistan

The Afghan Defense Ministry is reporting over 100 Afghan deaths in October. The Taliban killed Afghan police officers and soldiers, and civilians.

The US Navy just launched an effort to built this is the super-stealthy submarine

The USS South Dakota — a Block-III Virginia Class attack submarine — has officially been christened. We have the details and how it compares to its peers.