Articles

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.

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!"

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.

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." - 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.

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.

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.

China is stealing American technology to grow its sub fleet

China has made marked advancements in its undersea-warfare capabilities and is using stolen US technology to further that progress, US Navy Adm. Philip Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 17, 2018.

Davidson, who was before the committee as the nominee to lead US Pacific Command, told senators in written testimony that while the US has a "significant asymmetric advantage in undersea warfare," the Chinese navy "is making progress" and that Beijing "has identified undersea warfare as a priority, both for increasing their own capabilities as well as challenging ours."

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
International

This is what makes SAS selection the toughest in the world

The Special Air Service is the longest active special missions unit in existence and has remained one of the best. Staffed with the toughest and most resourceful enlisted and commissioned soldiers the United Kingdom has to offer, the SAS only accepts the cream of the crop. Of all candidates who try to earn the coveted beige beret and the title of "Blade," only the very best make it through.

Keep reading... Show less
History

6 reasons why being a Roman Legionnaire would suck

The Roman Empire stretched from modern-day Syria to modern-day Spain. To maintain that amount of real estate, you have to have an amazing military to protect it. The Roman Legion was one such force.

But every military that has made its mark on history was notorious for rigorous training and extremely harsh conditions that make today's toughest Special Operations training look like Air Force boot camp. Here's why, in reality, being a Roman Legionnaire would've sucked.

Keep reading... Show less

The unbelievable way President Trump cut to the chase with Israel

President Donald Trump reportedly put a blunt question to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by asking if the leader of the Jewish state genuinely wanted peace.

Axios' Jonathan Swan reported that, in a phone call with Netanyahu in 2017, Trump shocked his aides by getting straight to the point and pressing the Israeli leader on making a deal with Palestine.

Keep reading... Show less

The Air Force has 'natural' explanations for all these UFO sightings

From 1947 to 1970, the United States Air Force conducted investigations into the increasing number of unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings throughout the United States. The purpose of the investigations was to assess the nature of these sightings and determine if they posed any potential threat to the U.S.

Three successive projects were created to carry out these investigations: Sign, Grudge, and Blue Book.

Keep reading... Show less

How to properly seal a gas mask without shaving your beard

Warfighters have charged into battle throughout history with fully bearded chins. Sadly, the need to survival chemical weapons attacks has overshadowed the need to keep one's chin beautiful.

Today, the most widely stated reason for requiring troops to keep a clean-shaven face is because facial hair prevents the proper sealing of a gas mask. Many studies and personnel trials have proven this true time and time again. That's right, folks. Chemical weapons are so evil that they've even killed beards.

Keep reading... Show less
History

This is why some Civil War battles have two names

The Battle of Antietam is also known as Sharpsburg. Bull Run is also called Manassas. Shiloh is also Pittsburg Landing. Some of these may be familiar to you, some of them may sound weird. But there is a reason for it, and it's mainly because of the Soldiers who fought the War Between the States.

Keep reading... Show less