View Full Version : Military History Question

12-31-2008, 11:18 PM
Hi folks :)

I'm not even sure where to begin looking for this kind of thing, other than digging through every war ever fought in the history of mankind. History buff I am not. So I thought I'd ask you folks.

I'm looking for instances in war where a battle was lost, yet the effects of that battle won the war. (Other than Thermopylae.) Any war, any civilization, preferably predating the mid-1900s, though anything you can offer would be fantastic.


12-31-2008, 11:23 PM
In WWII, the Germans won all their battles against the Russians, but there were always more Russians available and the Germans eventually ran out of soldiers before the Russians. How about the battle of Stalingrad?

01-01-2009, 12:10 AM
I'm not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for but:


01-01-2009, 12:13 AM
Washington lost 7 of 8 battles.

Cav Guy
01-01-2009, 12:18 AM
Battle of the Little Bighorn was lost by the Army, but the resulting outrage got them more resources and led to the final defeat of the Sioux. Simplified explanation, but that's one example. There are a number within the Indian Wars where the Army lost on the battlefield but ended up winning in the long term.

It would help if you had a more specific period and/or location in mind. I'm sure there are examples within Roman history, to name just one.

01-01-2009, 12:24 AM
Classic example would be Japan and Pearl Harbor. The battle was a complete victory for Japan on virtually every level, but we know how the war turned out. US Civil War the South won the Battle of Fort Sumter and lost the war.

A lot of winning battles resulted in losing wars.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Histry Nerd
01-01-2009, 02:59 AM
Hey, dempsey -

Cannae comes to mind. Rome lost something on the order of 50,000 to 70,000 men to Hannibal there, but he ultimately lost the Second Punic War. On a similar note, the 1968 Tet Offensive was a disastrous military defeat for the NVA and VC, but it so startled the American public that US withdrawal soon became inevitable.

I have a book called Fatal Victories by William Weir, which provides case studies of fourteen battles and campaigns of exactly the sort you're looking for. You can find it on Amazon here. (http://http://www.amazon.com/Fatal-Victories-Historys-Military-Triumphs/dp/1933648120/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1230764051&sr=1-1)

Good luck!

01-01-2009, 03:07 AM
Let us not forget King Pyrrhus of Epirus and his famous tussles with Rome.

01-01-2009, 06:04 AM
I'm looking for instances in war where a battle was lost, yet the effects of that battle won the war. (Other than Thermopylae.) Any war, any civilization, preferably predating the mid-1900s, though anything you can offer would be fantastic.


Wouldn't the battle at the Alamo also count in this subject?

Custer's Last Stand?

...also not a military history buff...

01-02-2009, 11:09 AM
Thanks so much everyone! I feel rather silly now because I actually knew some of those battles, but when I tried to think of something, anything, only Thermopylae would surface.

And HN, that sounds like exactly the kind of book I'm looking for!


Corpus Thomisticum
01-02-2009, 10:50 PM
Dempsey, a classic example from American history would be Nathanael Greene's campaign throughout 1780-81 in the South by which Greene took over the combined militia and Continental Army forces that had been fairly soundly defeated at Charleston and Georgia, and he fought a fighting (but strategically-designed) retreat northwards. Facing much larger British forces, Greene lost most of the battles of this retreat, but he accomplished three crucial things:

1. He kept his forces intact, always withdrawing from the battlefield before total destruction.

2. He used these battles to both train his less experienced militia and to wear down the British. He also collected recruits as he retreated through the Carolinas towards Virginia, while the British could not replace their losses.

3. His ultimate aim was to draw Cornwallis away from his main supply sources, which he did spectacularly. Cornwallis heedlessly chased Greene through hundreds of miles of unknown wilderness until he suddenly realized how far from help he was and he set up camp to try to re-establish contact with the main British base in New York. Cornwallis' camp was at a small town on the Virginia coast just off the Chesapeake Bay called Yorktown. By leading Cornwallis here, Greene had given his boss -- General George Washington -- a major gift because Cornwallis was now trapped until further British help could arrive. The rest os history; the Americans and their French allies -- especially the French fleet, which was able to fight off an attempt by the British navy top relieve Cornwallis -- laid siege to Yorktown, leading in 1781 to Cornwallis' surrender. Since this meant that the only British forces left in the colonies was occupying New York (and too small to do much else), London began the negitiations that would end the war in 1783, resulting of course in their recognition of American independence.