Top 10 Battles That Changed The Course Of History

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Voltaire justified the bloodlust of war “It is forbidden to kill; therefore, all murderers are punished unless they

kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” And Plato predicted that as long there are people alive, there will be a reason for war “Only the dead have seen the end of war”. Wars are fought for a lot of reasons, to fight injustice, to end oppression, religious differences or in some cases just for the sake of war.

However without war and battle, the world we live in would have been a totally different and very possibly a much scarier place. Imagine what our world would look like if the following battles had never been fought.

10. Battle of Marathon (490 BC)

battle of marathon turning battle

No list of historic significant battles would be complete without mention of the ancient Battle of Marathon. A victory that inspired a messenger to run, the equivalent of a marathon to deliver the message of the victory The Greek commander Miltiades was the first recorded case of the use of the double envelopment by weakening the center of his force by reinforcing the flanks. This was instrumental in the defeat of the Persians. All of these battles have contributed to the world we live in. And as Plato said, as long as there are people, there will be war. 

9. The battle of Vienna (Sept 11, 1683)

The battle of Vienna turning point

In what is hailed as the defeat that ended the advancement of the Ottoman Empire into Europe, the Siege of Vienna stands out in history as a turning point for western civilization. The 138,000 strong Turkish siege led by Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha occupied the city of Vienna for two months before being defeated by combined Polish, German and Austrian force of 70,000 troops. The commander of this force King of Poland John III Sobieski appointed by the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. The victory effectively broke the power of the Ottoman forces. 

8. Battle of Normandy (June – August 1944)

Battle of Normandy sea storming

One of the key victories in WWII the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi-occupation. In a coordinated effort combined allied forces from the USA, Britain and Canada stormed 5 different beaches to initiate the liberation of Normandy and finally breaking the power of the German forces. The offensive culminated in the drive towards Germany and meeting up with Soviet troops advancing from the east. The D-Day invasion is historically recognized in the beginning of the end of the war with the German forces surrendering on May 7, 1945. 

7. The battle of Hastings (Oct 14, 1066)

the battle of heistings

The last time in history a foreign army successfully invaded English shores. William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy invaded England in a bid to claim the throne. He claimed to be the rightful heir after the childless death of King Edward (his cousin) in January 1066. Following his landing at Pevensey on Sept 28, he comprehensively defeated the army of the newly crowned King Harold II at Hastings, killing the last Anglo-Saxon king of England. Following his victory he marched on London and was crowned king on December 25, 1066. 

6. The battle of the Strait of Tsushima (May 27-29, 1905)

the battle of tsushima

The Russo-Japanese war is widely unknown, but the outcome of this key conflict between Russia and Japan in the early 20th century shaped a lot of developments in Euro-Asia relations of today and came as a result of the refusal of Russia to enter into a land share agreement with Japan in Korea and Manchuria. The resulting war culminated in the Battle of Tsushima where the Russian fleet was all but destroyed by the technologically advanced craft of the Japanese. The first naval battle where electronic communication was used. Pres Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation and role in the resolution of this conflict. 

5. The Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – July 3, 1863)

battle of gettysburg turn around

Historically the battle of Gettysburg is recognized as one of the most definitive battles of the American Civil War. The Confederate forces of General Lee clashed with the Potomac army under the command of General George G. Meade. Three heavy days of fighting left Lee’s army decimated with 28,000 casualties. He retreated to Virginia on the 4th of July. Following this defeat, the power of confederate army was broken and a Union victory was certain. 

4. The battle of Waterloo (June 18, 1815)

battle of waterloo turning point

In one of the most famous battles of them all, the battle of Waterloo signaled the end of the conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte. In a final effort for control of France, Napoleon gathered 72,000 French troops to battle the combined Anglo-allied forces led by the Duke of Wellington (68,000 troops) and a Prussian force (45,000troops) led by Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. The battle took place in modern day Belgium close to the village of Waterloo. Outnumbered Napoleon’s forces succumbed to the allied forces suffering severe losses. Napoleon fled to Paris after realizing his defeat and was captured and exiled for the rest of his life subsequently. 

3. The battle of Britain (July – September 1940)

The battle of Britain epic battle

A key victory for the Royal Air Force in WWII came in the summer of 1940. Britain was under constant attack by the German Luftwaffe following the British refusal of peace offered by the Nazis. In an effort to gain access to the British ports and thus the French ports, across the channel, German bombers were attacking industrial and civilian targets in England. The British persistence, superior technology, and the earlier miscalculation on the part of The Nazis swayed the scale in the favor of the Allies, and by the onset of the winter the Germans had abandoned plans for an invasion of Britain and shifted his attention to the east, to Russia. 

2. The battle of Stalingrad (July 17, 1942 – February 2, 1943)

The-battle-of-stalingrad-turning-point

In what is regarded by many historians as the battle that signaled the beginning of the end for the Nazi forces during World War II, an estimated 2 million casualties resulted. In order to advance their offensive into the Caucasus, the German forces had to establish a stronghold on the Volga River. Stalingrad would have provided that platform. The invaders reached the outskirts of the city in July 1942 with relative ease and did not expect much resistance. Russian forces had however fortified the city expecting an attack. The resulting battle lasting into the Russian Winter in November. The harsh conditions and heavy losses had left the German forces demotivated and exhausted.
In an unexpected move, the Russian forces initiated operation Uranus in November 1942, attacking and weakening the flanks of German forces. Despite pleas for a retreat from the high command, Nazi leaders insisted that General Paulus hold his position and continue with the siege. By January 1943, Paulus and the other German generals were surrounded with no chance of escape. Paulus surrendered on 31 January and the last of the other 21 Generals by the 2nd of February. The estimated death toll of the battle is estimated to be more than 2,000,000 including 40,000 civilians placing it among the deadliest wars in human history

1. Battle of Tours (October 10, 732A.D)

battle of tours turning point

During the Middle Ages, large parts of Europe were very vulnerable, and the Umayyad Muslim forces established a stronghold in the North of France under the command of the governor of Córdoba, Abd-ar-Raḥmān. His 60,000 troops marched onwards to South West France for further conquests. His invasion of Aquitaine and defeat of Duke Eudes led to the Duke seeking assistance from Charles Martel, the ruler of the Frankish Kingdoms. Martel had started training an army in the previous year and had gathered approximately 30,000 troops, and agreed The battle took place between the towns of Tours and Poitiers. During the battle Abd-ar-Raḥmān was killed, resulting in the retreat of the Muslim Forces to Iberia, and halting any further attempts of an invasion.

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Daniel Douglas
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Hey guys, I think you got the wrong picture for Stalingrad: that’s the battle of Berlin. And the battle of Arnhem in WW2 should at least be at No. 11 because if the British and Americans had succeeded, they would’ve gotten to Berlin first before the Russians, and there probably wouldn’t have been an “Iron Curtain” for 4 1/2 decades.

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