Top 15 Awesome Battles in History

Suggested by SMS

There are many who would say that human history consists of nothing but violence, war, conflict and savagery. I, on the other hand, am an optimist and say that human history is made up of heroic soldiers, awesome battles and propaganda campaigns. Here are the most awesome battes in history:

15. The Battle of the Boyne


This great battle was the final showdown between two claimants to the throne on England, Ireland and Scotland. William of Orange, Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic had been invited to invade England by seven noblemen and had crossed into England unopposed. This owed to the fact that everybody hated the king and was glad to see the back of him. William was heralded as a protestant hero. He was promptly given the crown on the grounds that his wife, Queen Mary, was next in line to the throne and because he had marched his army onto the streets of London and asked for it.

William’s father in law, the deposed King James II, was not so easily impressed. He’d seen the English people execute his father, Charles I, during the English Civil War and then invite his brother, Charles II, to return to the throne several years later. James wasn’t prepared to wait a generation for the British public to change their minds a second time. He raised an army of 6000 French soldiers and 17,000 Irish farmers, most of whom were armed with scythes, and met William in battle on the banks of the River Boyne, 30 miles north of Dublin.

Whilst the main reason for this almighty rumble was to decide who should rule the British Isles, the feeling on the ground was that this was the final showdown between Catholicism and Protestantism.
Surprisingly, the battlefield saw very little blood. Facing a huge number of troops from across Europe James panicked and ran away. He fled to France, ending catholic supremacy in Britain forever.

This battle was so significant that the Irish still use it as an excuse to cause trouble to this day. The Orange marches offer a chance for protestants to wave the flag of William around and to annoy catholic residents with rude gestures. Most Englishmen, on the other hand, struggle to remember what all of this is about and still can’t figure out why those moaning Irish get so worked up.

14. The Battle of Hastings


The battle to decide the future fate of England. In this victory William of Normandy got the crown he’d always wanted, but believe it or not this was a good thing for England too. Being tied to the duchies of Normandy, Anjou and eventually most of France, England finally became a power to be reckoned with.

Defending claimant to the throne, Harold, is depicted in the Bayeux tapestry as dying with an arrow through his eye and has been laughed at by school children ever since.

13. The Battle of Gettysburg


The Battle of Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War. More than 16,000 men met to do battle near the small town in Pennsylvania. This was North vs South at it’s most violent. The Union army wore blue and the Confederates wore Grey, which must have been a real pain in the ass for any soldiers who were colorblind. The battle raged for two days and finally concluded on Cemetery Hill.

The aftermath of Gettysburg was also the setting for Abraham Lincoln’s historic Gettysburg Address, in which he declared that America would have a ‘new birth of freedom’. It’s funny that the president should be hanging around on a battlefield, don’t you think?

12. The Battle of Vienna


After a long siege in 1683, the Viennese finally got their revenge on the invading army of the Ottoman Empire. This was the second time that the Muslim Ottomans had besieged the Christian city in the heart of Europe and they weren’t going to stand it any longer. The rest of Europe was concerned at just how far into Europe these troublesome Turks had been allowed to come. Support troops were sent from Southern Germany, Poland, Saxony and as far away as Ukraine to fight the army comprised of 150,000 Ottomans and their friends from the Principality of Moldavia, the Principality of Transylvania and the Crimea.

During the seige, the Ottomans had been busy tunneling under the city walls of Vienna. There they planted explosives in an attempt to breach the defenses. Fortunately, a man who’s bakery was built against the inside of the city wall had heard the tapping of pickaxes and alerted Vienna’s medieval bomb squad. The explosives were defused, foiling the plot and leaving the allied Christian forces outside the city to crush the Ottoman army. The baker was delighted at being a hero. In celebration he created a pastry roll in the shape of the Ottoman crescent moon. This became the croissant (or crescent roll) and was a delicacy in Austria before becoming associated with France. The retreating Ottomans also left behind several camels loaded with coffee beans. It didn’t take the Viennese long to figure out that these two tasted great together. So there you have it, the battle that gave us the continental breakfast. A truly awesome battle indeed.

11. The Siege of Leningrad


Hitler didn’t invade Russia out of pure spite, he had a plan. He saw the plains of Russia as an extension to Germany’s back yard, allowing a huge space for the German people to settle and to live out a clean, rural lifestyle. Essentially he wanted to knock down the wall between the kitchen and the dinning room to create an open-plan living area with Poland as a sort of breakfast bar in the center. As for the civilization already existing in Russia, he told the workmen to just tear it all down and start again.

When the German army came to Leningrad (the Soviet name for the city of St Petersburg), Hitler said that he saw no reason for the city to exist. And so the Nazi forces began an attempt to demolish the city entirely. The city was besieged for two years, during which time the inhabitants were starved, frozen and bombed to death. So desperate was the situation in Leningrad that the people resorted to baking wood shavings into the bread to make it stretch further.

The only supply road into the city was over the frozen lake Ladoga during winter. When this road became impassible the people of the city were entirely cut off and had to wait for soviet forces to fight their way through the encircling Nazi lines.

10. The Fall of France


On May 10th, 1940, Nazi forces began their epic invasion of France through the low countries of Belgium and the Netherlands. It would be one of the largest and most skillfully exorcised invasions in history, owing to Hitler’s utilization of the Blitzkrieg strategy. Control of the air, the use of large numbers of tank devisions and unyielding speed made this invasion unstoppable.

The Nazi invasion of France was a two pronged assault. The first force moved through the Ardennes, defeating the allied British and French devisions that had gathered in Belgium and eventually surrounding them. This forced the British to evacuate their expeditionary force at Dunkirk in an embarrassing defeat that was never forgotten. The second force of the Nazi army headed West, obliterating French forces and occupying the capital city, Paris.

The Nazi invasion force used a larger number of tanks than the allies had expected, allowing them to push harder and faster into French territory than was predicted. Often these mechanized cavalry devisions were countered only by actual cavalry devisions. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a horse try to take on a Panzer tank but it’s not a pretty sight.

9. The Fall of Tenochtitlan


Cortes spent two years trying to conquer the Aztec capital. His intentions were to convert the local populous to Christianity and to bring back their reported wealth of gold. This gold would buy him favor with the King of Spain, who would otherwise be angry at Cortez’s refusal to return to Cuba as ordered. In the end, Cortes succeeded in destroying the Aztec civilization, city and all.

The Aztec capital was protected from invasion by having been built in the center of a saltwater lake. The city could only be entered along long causeways. But there was one thing that the Aztecs hadn’t factored into their defense plans; European ingenuity. Cortes ordered several small ships to be constructed and carried from the cost, piece by piece, to the Aztec lake. These ships also carried individual cannons, technology that the Aztecs had never seen before. These ships gave Cortes control over the lake and the causeways, allowing him to besiege the city entirely. The inhabitants of Tenochtitlan did not even have a source of fresh water and could not fish in the lake for fear of being attacked.

When the Spanish eventually did gain access to the city they were forced to fight street by street. Despite suffering from starvation, smallpox and dysentery from drinking the salt water of the lake, the Aztecs fought to the very end, eventually suffering some 100,000 casualties.

8. The Battle of the Alamo


The Battle of the Alamo has come to be regarded as one of the most spectacular defeats in American history and as an act of great courage against overwhelming odds.

This battle took place in San Antonio, Texas, during the revolutionary war of 1836. Facing a reprisal force from Mexico, many rebels in San Antonio chose to evacuate. Those who stayed gathered to defend the fortified Alamo Mission against a 2,400 strong army led by Mexican President and General Santa Anna. This defiance against the nation of Mexico led to the death of every fighting soldier at the Alamo, (between 180 and 260 men) but not before dispatching 600 of Santa Anna’s troops and fighting until the last man.

Fighting at the Alamo was ruthless. The Texan forces, under the command of Lt. Col. William Travis, forced the Mexican Army to scale the mission walls to gain entry and even then to fight room by room for victory.
The Battle of the Alamo became a potent symbol for the people of Texas, causing many to join the revolutionary army afterwards. Spurred on by tales of the heroism of Travis and his men the revolutionary army of Texas went on to defeat Mexico and Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, forming the Republic of Texas.

Modern Texans still consider the Alamo to be one of their most spectacular defeats, alongside Vietnam. Let’s be honest, America doesn’t do anything by halves.

7. The Battle of Watling Street

Queen Boudicca was one angry Briton, and rightly so. After both of her daughters were raped and her husband killed by Roman soldiers she went on what can only be called a mammoth rampage. She sacked the Roman town of Colchester before burning Londinium to the ground in a revenge war that engulfed the south east of Roman Britain.

All this was easy, however; the bulk of the Roman army was away at the time, conquering Wales. Boudicca was determined to be ready for them when they came back. She raised an army of 250,000 Celts and set off with the intention of ambushing the Romans on Watling Street.

Maybe it was because all Roman roads are straight that the Romans saw her coming. They took a defensive position and set up their ‘scorpios’, large repeating crossbows capable of capable of picking off a bearded barbarian up to 100 meters away. If the Britons thought that their sheer numbers were enough to tackle the professional Roman army, they were wrong. The Romans used their superior tactics against the barbarous Celts, creating a wall of shields and spears that Boudicca’s forces could not penetrate. Then, with the enemy on the run, the Romans marched forward, keeping their formation and slaughtering every hairy heathen in their path.

The Roman army consisted of only 400 men but their tactics were so deadly that even the enraged Queen Boudicca turned and ran. It is believed that she took her own life rather than surrender to her enemy.

6. The Battle of Waterloo


The Battle of Waterloo was Europe’s final encounter with French revolutionary and military genius Napoleon Bonaparte (nicknamed Old Boney by the British). Napoleon had what might be called a history of trouble with the other nations of Europe. He’d traveled the breadth of Europe in his old Citroen 2CV and invaded almost everyone from Spain to Russia. He’d already been defeated and exiled once. Now he was back, and his old enemies were waiting at the school gates.

Napoleon wasn’t one to wait inside, cowering behind the teacher and catching up on his science project. Oh no. He decided to attack before the multiple armies could unite.

The Battle of Waterloo (so named because it took place near Waterloo, Belgium) was an even match between the forces of France and the combined might of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. According to Wellington, commander of the Anglo-Dutch forces, it was a ‘close run thing’. Outnumbered by some 4000 men the allies withstood several attacks from the French, but victory finally came that evening when Prussian troops arrived late, flanking Bonaparte and forcing retreat.

Yes, that’s right. The British were saved by the Germans. It’s not often that happens now is it. Usually it’s America’s job to swoop in at the last minute and claim all the glory.

The Battle of Waterloo was so celebrated that it had a London train station named for it. Wellington had a type of boot named for him. Napoleon’s only namesake was a fictional talking pig.

5. The Battle of the Somme


The First World War saw Europe’s greatest nations fight for supremacy. In actual fact this was a very silly war. It wasn’t really about anything in particular and whilst the defeat of Germany was embarrassing and financially crippling, the victors, France and Great Britain, won the booby prize – nothing at all.

The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest battles the world has ever seen, with more than 1.5 million casualties in total. The use of the machine gun and long range artillery forced both the allied French and British armies and the opposing German army to dig defensive trenches. On the occasions when soldiers were ordered to leave the trenches to attack enemy positions the result was always the same: slaughter.

Initially there was only one way to dispatch a heavily fortified German trench. This was the use of overwhelming man power, or a suicide run as some might call it. These attacks were surprisingly successful at capturing machine gun posts as the volume of men used ensured that at least a small percentage would survive. With thousands of conscripts from across the commonwealth at it’s disposal, Great Britain especially favored this tactic. But there were only so many black people and shipping them in was costly, so British engineers developed a machine to ensure the safety of it’s soldiers when crossing the boggy expanse of no-mans-land. This, of course, was the first tank. It was so named because they had been constructed in top-secret, under the guise of being large water tanks.

The invention of this awesome fighting machine was the only real success of the Somme and, indeed, of the First World War (besides the poetry). This pointless battle is remembered for what it truly was: the most almighty bloodbath.

4. The Battle of Marathon


In the fourth century BC the Persian Empire was one of the most powerful empires in the world. It covered modern day Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, the Arabian subcontinent, Israel and parts of Egypt. The Persians were eager to add Greece to that extensive list. By 492 BC they had occupied Thrace and Macedonia and pacified most of the Grecian states through diplomacy. Only the southern states remained.

In 490 BC a Persian force believed to be between 20,000 and 60,000 strong landed near the town of Marathon. There they were blocked by a Grecian army of less than half their numbers. A stalemate ensued for no less than five days, the Greeks having secured the invaders’ only two exits from the plain of Marathon.

Only when part of the Persian army, including its cavalry, boarded the boats to attack the city of Athens directly did the Greeks attack. As the battle turned in favor of the Greeks, the Persians fled towards their boats, many drowning in the surrounding swamps. After the battle 6,400 Persian bodies were found dead on the battlefield, not including those claimed by the swamps.

News of the victory at Marathon was sent to Athens by way of the fastest available runner. This event has been marked in history by way of the traditional Marathon race, the inspiration behind marathons across the world.

The Battle of Marathon was a turning point in the Greco-Persian Wars. Hearing of the victory, citizens across the Greek states rose up against the Persians, allowing the great Greek civilization to survive, grow and become one of the most influential cultures in world history.

3. The Normandy Landings


It seemed impossible. To land over 130,000 Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy. To have them fight past the heavy fortifications constructed by the occupying Nazi forces. To free France from the grip of their ruthless conquerers. It might have seemed impossible but that didn’t stop the Allied nations of Great Britain, U.S.A, Canada and the Free French who all took part in this mammoth invasion on 6 June 1944. A skillfully engineered campaign of misinformation led German forces away from the area towards Calais allowing the Allied forces to dispatch with coastal defenses without fear of facing retaliating German reinforcements.

Once the beaches were secure, the ingenious Mulberry Harbors were set in place. These portable landing docks allowed tanks, trucks and supplies to be offloaded without the need to capture an existing harbor from the enemy. Next stop, Paris!

So important and so magnificent was this invasion that it was named D-Day, or Day of Days. The U.S suffered 1,465 fatalities in this operation. It’s just a shame that Tom Hanks wasn’t one of them.

2. The Battle of Trebia


Hannibal of Carthage was the greatest enemy Rome had ever known. His campaign against the great republic began at Saguntum near Valencia, Spain, and proceeded across southern Gaul, the Alps, into Italy and to Rome itself.

Hannibal entered Italy with some 90,000 men. He met the Roman army under Sempronius Longus at the Trebia River. Longus is said to have had only 43,000 men under his command, none of whom had eaten breakfast on the morning of the battle.

Hannibal successfully provoked Longus into mounting an all out attack over the river, where a force of 1000 infantry and 1000 cavalry lay in wait to ambush them and cut off their line of retreat. With nowhere to run, Roman army fought head to head with the Carthaginians and their Gaulic allies. Imagine facing a war elephant with nothing more than a javelin. If you think that’s bad, try to imagine that it’s also snowing, you’re wearing a skirt and you haven’t even had your morning coffee yet.

The battle of Trebia was Hannibal’s first major victory on Roman soil. Until then, the Roman senate had refused to see this African vagabond as a threat. Now, however, every patrician in Rome was wetting himself at the very sound of Hannibal’s name.

1. The Battle of Britain


By the beginning of summer, 1940, Nazi Germany had taken control of almost the entire European continent. Hitler’s next objective was the invasion of Great Britain, destroying its empire and ending all major resistance to the Nazi regime. To invade Britain Hitler knew that he must first control it’s skies, and so he began the most extensive bombing campaign the world had yet seen. This campaign had several objectives; to eliminate the Royal Air Force, to cripple Britain’s manufacturing capabilities by destroying multiple industrial targets, and to demoralize Britain’s population by leveling cities, cathedrals and heavily populated areas. Throughout summer and autumn that year Britain’s major cities faced random and widespread devastation in continuous attacks.

Of course, the brave pilots of the RAF kept their stiff upper lips and would not give in without a fight. New tactics were devised to fool the German Luftwaffe. This included dummy airfields and inflatable dummy tanks. Most importantly of all was Britain’s use of radar technology, it’s secret weapon in this decisive battle. Radar monitoring posts allowed the RAF to anticipate attacks and ensure that their defensive aircraft were always on the scene.

Every great battle has it’s heroic knights and in the Battle of Britain this role was filled by the beautiful and deadly Supermarine Spitfire fighter planes. These iconic airplanes have earned a place in history for their evocative shadow and the vital role they played in defending Britain against invasion.

By the end of that year The Battle of Britain was coming to a close. The RAF had successfully repelled the German forces, causing Hitler to postpone his invasion plans, and began making their own attacks on Nazi held territories. This represented the first defeat of Hitler’s forces and was a turning point in the course of World War II. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who first coined the name of the battle, recognized this, saying that ‘never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’

Only 544 RAF pilots and aircrew were lost during the Battle of Britain compared to 2,500 on the opposing side. However, an estimated 23,002 civilians died in Luftwaffe bombing raids over Britain in 1940. What Churchill had promised would be Britain’s ‘finest hour’, turned out to be its ‘darkest hour.’

There are many different ways to judge the greatness of a battle; by the scale of forces involved, by the number of casualties, or by the use of awesome strategies, technologies and war elephants. But history judges the greatest battles to be those fought for a cause, not for land or power but for freedom and against overwhelming odds. Whether freedom wins the day or runs screaming from the battlefield a noble battle well fought will be remembered throughout history.