Battle
Overview
 
Generally, a battle is a conceptual component in the hierarchy of combat
Combat
Combat, or fighting, is a purposeful violent conflict meant to establish dominance over the opposition, or to terminate the opposition forever, or drive the opposition away from a location where it is not wanted or needed....

 in war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

fare between two or more armed force
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

s, or combatants. In a battle, each combatant will seek to defeat the others, with defeat determined by the conditions of a military campaign
Military campaign
In the military sciences, the term military campaign applies to large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plan incorporating a series of inter-related military operations or battles forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war...

. Battles generally are well defined in duration, area and force commitment.

Wars and military campaigns are guided by strategy
Military strategy
Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

, whereas battles take place on a level of planning and execution known as operational mobility.
Discussions
Encyclopedia
Generally, a battle is a conceptual component in the hierarchy of combat
Combat
Combat, or fighting, is a purposeful violent conflict meant to establish dominance over the opposition, or to terminate the opposition forever, or drive the opposition away from a location where it is not wanted or needed....

 in war
War
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

fare between two or more armed force
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

s, or combatants. In a battle, each combatant will seek to defeat the others, with defeat determined by the conditions of a military campaign
Military campaign
In the military sciences, the term military campaign applies to large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plan incorporating a series of inter-related military operations or battles forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war...

. Battles generally are well defined in duration, area and force commitment.

Wars and military campaigns are guided by strategy
Military strategy
Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

, whereas battles take place on a level of planning and execution known as operational mobility. German strategist Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

 stated that "the employment of battles ... to achieve the object of war" was the essence of strategy
Strategy
Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. In military usage strategy is distinct from tactics, which are concerned with the conduct of an engagement, while strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked...

.

Etymology

The definition of a battle cannot be arrived at solely through the names of historical battles, many of which are misnomer
Misnomer
A misnomer is a term which suggests an interpretation that is known to be untrue. Such incorrect terms sometimes derive their names because of the form, action, or origin of the subject becoming named popularly or widely referenced—long before their true natures were known.- Sources of misnomers...

s. The word battle is a loanword
Loanword
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

 in English from the Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 bataille, first attested in 1297, from Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 battualia, meaning "exercise of soldiers and gladiators in fighting and fencing", from Late Latin
Late Latin
Late Latin is the scholarly name for the written Latin of Late Antiquity. The English dictionary definition of Late Latin dates this period from the 3rd to the 6th centuries AD extending in Spain to the 7th. This somewhat ambiguously defined period fits between Classical Latin and Medieval Latin...

 (taken from Germanic) battuere "beat", from which the English word battery is also derived via Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

 batri, and comes from the staged battles in the Colosseum in Rome that may have numbered 10,000 individuals.

Characteristics of battle

The defining characteristic of the battle as a concept in the Theory of combat has been a dynamic one through the course of military history, changing with the changes in the organisation, employment and technology of military forces.

While the British military historian Sir John Keegan
John Keegan
Sir John Keegan OBE FRSL is a British military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He has published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.-Life and career:John...

 suggested an ideal definition of battle as "something which happens between two armies
Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

 leading to the moral then physical disintegration of one or the other of them", the origins and outcomes of battles can rarely be summarized so neatly.

In general a battle during the 20th century was, and continues to be, defined by the combat between opposing forces representing major components of total forces committed to a military campaign
Military campaign
In the military sciences, the term military campaign applies to large scale, long duration, significant military strategy plan incorporating a series of inter-related military operations or battles forming a distinct part of a larger conflict often called a war...

, used to achieve specific military objectives, within a time-frame of less than a month. Where the duration of the battle is longer than a week, it is often for reasons of staff operational planning called an operation. Battles can be planned, encountered, or forced by one force on the other when the latter is unable to withdraw
Withdrawal (military)
A withdrawal is a type of military operation, generally meaning retreating forces back while maintaining contact with the enemy. A withdrawal may be undertaken as part of a general retreat, to consolidate forces, to occupy ground that is more easily defended, or to lead the enemy into an ambush...

 from combat.

A battle always has as its purpose the reaching of a mission goal by use of military force. A victory in the battle is achieved when one of the opposing sides forces the other to abandon its mission, or to surrender
Surrender (military)
Surrender is when soldiers, nations or other combatants stop fighting and eventually become prisoners of war, either as individuals or when ordered to by their officers. A white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one's hands empty and open above one's head.When the...

 its forces, or rout
Rout
A rout is commonly defined as a chaotic and disorderly retreat or withdrawal of troops from a battlefield, resulting in the victory of the opposing party, or following defeat, a collapse of discipline, or poor morale. A routed army often degenerates into a sense of "every man for himself" as the...

s the other, i.e., forces it to retreat or renders it militarily ineffective for further combat operations. However, a battle may end in a Pyrrhic victory
Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.-Origin:...

, which ultimately favors the defeated party. If no resolution is reached in a battle, it can result in a stalemate
Stalemate
Stalemate is a situation in chess where the player whose turn it is to move is not in check but has no legal moves. A stalemate ends the game in a draw. Stalemate is covered in the rules of chess....

. A conflict in which one side is unwilling to reach a decision by a direct battle using conventional military forces often becomes an insurgency
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

.

Until the 19th century the majority of battles were of short duration, many lasting a part of a day. (The Battle of Nations (1813) and the Battle of Gettysburg
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...

 (1863) were exceptional in lasting three days.) This was mainly due to the difficulty of supplying armies
Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

 in the field, or conducting night operations
Night operations (military)
Night operations are military activity performed in the very low light environments, typically at night. Due to restricted visibility, until recently night operations were among the most difficult for troops to perform tasks and carry out missions, and were rarely undertaken.The shinobi of feudal...

. The means of prolonging a battle was typically by employment of siege warfare. Improvements in transport
Transport
Transport or transportation is the movement of people, cattle, animals and goods from one location to another. Modes of transport include air, rail, road, water, cable, pipeline, and space. The field can be divided into infrastructure, vehicles, and operations...

ation and the sudden evolving of trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

, with its siege-like nature during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 in the 20th century, lengthened the duration of battles to days and weeks. This created the requirement for unit rotation to prevent combat fatigue, with troops preferably not remaining in a combat area of operations for more than a month. Trench warfare had become largely obsolete in conflicts between advanced armies by the start of the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

The use of the term "battle" in military history has led to its misuse when referring to almost any scale of combat, notably by strategic forces involving hundreds of thousands of troops that may be engaged in either a single battle at one time (Battle of Leipzig
Battle of Leipzig
The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations, on 16–19 October 1813, was fought by the coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden against the French army of Napoleon. Napoleon's army also contained Polish and Italian troops as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine...

) or multiple operations (Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

). The space a battle occupies depends on the range of the weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

s of the combatants. A "battle" in this broader sense may occupy a large piece of spacetime, as in the case of the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

 or the Battle of the Atlantic. Until the advent of artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 and aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

, battles were fought with the two sides within sight, if not reach, of each other. The depth of the battlefield has also increased in modern warfare
Modern warfare
Modern warfare, although present in every historical period of military history, is generally used to refer to the concepts, methods and technologies that have come into use during and after the Second World War and the Korean War...

 with inclusion of the supporting units in the rear areas; supply, artillery, medical personnel etc. often outnumber the front-line combat troops.

Battles are, on the whole, made up of a multitude of individual combats, skirmishes and small engagements
Engagement (military)
A military engagement is a combat between two forces, neither larger than a division and not smaller than a company, in which each has an assigned or perceived mission...

 within the context of which the combatants will usually only experience a small part of the events of the battle's entirety. To the infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

man, there may be little to distinguish between combat as part of a minor raid or as a major offensive, nor is it likely that he anticipates the future course of the battle; few of the British infantry who went over the top on the first day on the Somme
First day on the Somme
The first day on the Somme, 1 July 1916, was the opening day of the Battle of Albert, which was the first phase of the British and French offensive that became known as the Battle of the Somme...

, July 1, 1916, would have anticipated that they would be fighting the same battle in five months' time. Conversely, some of the Allied infantry who had just dealt a crushing defeat to the French at the Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

 fully expected to have to fight again the next day
Battle of Wavre
The Battle of Wavre was the final major military action of the Hundred Days campaign and the Napoleonic Wars. It was fought on 18-19 June 1815 between the Prussian rearguard under the command of General Johann von Thielmann and three corps of the French army under the command of Marshal Grouchy. A...

.

Battlespace

Battlespace is a unified strategy to integrate and combine armed forces
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

 for the military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 theatre of operations
Theater (warfare)
In warfare, a theater, is defined as an area or place within which important military events occur or are progressing. The entirety of the air, land, and sea area that is or that may potentially become involved in war operations....

, including air, information
Information
Information in its most restricted technical sense is a message or collection of messages that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or it is the meaning that can be interpreted from such a message or collection of messages. Information can be recorded or transmitted. It can be recorded as...

, land
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

, sea
Sea
A sea generally refers to a large body of salt water, but the term is used in other contexts as well. Most commonly, it means a large expanse of saline water connected with an ocean, and is commonly used as a synonym for ocean...

 and space
Space
Space is the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction. Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to be part of a boundless four-dimensional continuum...

. It includes the environment, factors and conditions that must be understood to successfully apply combat power, protect the force, or complete the mission. This includes enemy and friendly armed forces
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

; facilities; weather; terrain; and the electromagnetic spectrum
Electromagnetic spectrum
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. The "electromagnetic spectrum" of an object is the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object....

 within the operational areas and areas of interest.

Factors within battles

Battles are decided by various factors. The number and quality of combatants and equipment, the skill of the commanders of each army, and the terrain advantages are among the most prominent factors. A unit may charge with high morale but less discipline and still emerge victorious. This tactic was effectively used by the early French Revolutionary Armies
French Revolutionary Army
The French Revolutionary Army is the term used to refer to the military of France during the period between the fall of the ancien regime under Louis XVI in 1792 and the formation of the First French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804. These armies were characterised by their revolutionary...

.

Weapons and armour can be a decisive factor. On many occasions armies have achieved victories largely owing to the employment of more advanced weapons than those of their opponents. An extreme example was in the Battle of Omdurman
Battle of Omdurman
At the Battle of Omdurman , an army commanded by the British Gen. Sir Herbert Kitchener defeated the army of Abdullah al-Taashi, the successor to the self-proclaimed Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad...

, in which a large army of Sudanese Mahdists armed in a traditional manner were destroyed by an Anglo-Egyptian force equipped with Maxim gun
Maxim gun
The Maxim gun was the first self-powered machine gun, invented by the American-born British inventor Sir Hiram Maxim in 1884. It has been called "the weapon most associated with [British] imperial conquest".-Functionality:...

s.

On some occasions, simple weapons employed in an unorthodox fashion have proven advantageous, as with the Swiss pikemen who gained many victories through their ability to transform a traditionally defensive weapon into an offensive one. Likewise, the Zulus in the early 19th century were victorious in battles against their rivals in part because they adopted a new kind of spear, the iklwa. Even so, forces with inferior weapons have still emerged victorious at times, for example in the Wars of Scottish Independence
Wars of Scottish Independence
The Wars of Scottish Independence were a series of military campaigns fought between the independent Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England in the late 13th and early 14th centuries....

 and in the First Italo–Ethiopian War. Discipline within the troops is often of greater importance; at the Battle of Alesia
Battle of Alesia
The Battle of Alesia or Siege of Alesia took place in September, 52 BC around the Gallic oppidum of Alesia, a major town centre and hill fort of the Mandubii tribe...

, the Romans were greatly outnumbered but won because of superior training.

Battles can also be determined by terrain. Capturing high ground, for example, has been the central strategy in innumerable battles. An army that holds the high ground forces the enemy to climb, and thus wear themselves down. Areas of dense vegetation, such as jungles and forest, act as force-multipliers, of benefit to inferior armies. Arguably, terrain is of less importance in modern warfare, due to the advent of aircraft, though terrain is still vital for camouflage, especially for guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

.

Generals and commanders also play a decisive role during combat. Hannibal, Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 and Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 were all skilled generals and, consequently, their armies were extremely successful. An army that can trust the commands of their leaders with conviction in its success invariably has a higher morale than an army that doubts its every move. The British in the naval Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of Trafalgar was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars ....

, for example, owed its success to the reputation of celebrated admiral Lord Nelson.

Types of battle

Battles can be fought on land, sea and in the modern age, in the air. Naval battle
Naval battle
A naval battle is a battle fought using boats, ships or other waterborne vessels. Most naval battles have occurred at sea, but a few have taken place on lakes or rivers. The earliest recorded naval battle took place in 1210 BC near Cyprus...

s have occurred since before the 5th century BC. Air battles have been far less common, due to their late conception, the most prominent being the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

 in 1940. However since the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 land or sea battles have come to rely on air support. Indeed, during the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

, five aircraft carrier
Aircraft carrier
An aircraft carrier is a warship designed with a primary mission of deploying and recovering aircraft, acting as a seagoing airbase. Aircraft carriers thus allow a naval force to project air power worldwide without having to depend on local bases for staging aircraft operations...

s were sunk without either fleet coming into direct contact.

There are numerous types of battles:
  • A battle of encounter (or encounter battle) is a meeting engagement
    Meeting engagement
    A meeting engagement, a term used in warfare, is a combat action that occurs when a moving force, incompletely deployed for battle, engages an enemy at an unexpected time and place.-Description:...

     where the opposing sides collide in the field without either having prepared their attack or defence.

  • A battle of attrition aims to inflict losses on an enemy that are less sustainable compared to one's own losses. These need not be greater numerical losses - if one side is much more numerous than the other then pursuing a strategy based on attrition can work even if casualties on both sides are about equal. Many battles of the Western Front
    Western Front (World War I)
    Following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by first invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne...

     in the First World War were intentionally (Verdun
    Battle of Verdun
    The Battle of Verdun was one of the major battles during the First World War on the Western Front. It was fought between the German and French armies, from 21 February – 18 December 1916, on hilly terrain north of the city of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France...

    ) or unintentionally (Somme
    Battle of the Somme (1916)
    The Battle of the Somme , also known as the Somme Offensive, took place during the First World War between 1 July and 14 November 1916 in the Somme department of France, on both banks of the river of the same name...

    ) attrition battles.

  • A battle of breakthrough aims to pierce the enemy's defences, thereby exposing the vulnerable flanks which can be turned.

  • A battle of encirclement—the Kesselschlacht of the German Blitzkrieg
    Blitzkrieg
    For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

    —surrounds the enemy in a pocket
    Salients, re-entrants and pockets
    A salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. The salient is surrounded by the enemy on three sides, making the troops occupying the salient vulnerable. The enemy's line facing a salient is referred to as a re-entrant...

    .

  • A battle of envelopment involves an attack on one or both flank
    Flanking maneuver
    In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, also called a flank attack, is an attack on the sides of an opposing force. If a flanking maneuver succeeds, the opposing force would be surrounded from two or more directions, which significantly reduces the maneuverability of the outflanked force and its...

    s; the classic example being the double-envelopment of the Battle of Cannae
    Battle of Cannae
    The Battle of Cannae was a major battle of the Second Punic War, which took place on August 2, 216 BC near the town of Cannae in Apulia in southeast Italy. The army of Carthage under Hannibal decisively defeated a numerically superior army of the Roman Republic under command of the consuls Lucius...

    .

  • A battle of annihilation is one in which the defeated party is destroyed in the field, such as the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile
    Battle of the Nile
    The Battle of the Nile was a major naval battle fought between British and French fleets at Aboukir Bay on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt from 1–3 August 1798...

    .


Battles frequently do not fit one particular type perfectly, and are usually hybrids of different types listed above.

A decisive battle is one of particular importance; often by bringing hostilities to an end, such as the Battle of Hastings
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings occurred on 14 October 1066 during the Norman conquest of England, between the Norman-French army of Duke William II of Normandy and the English army under King Harold II...

 or the Battle of Hattin
Battle of Hattin
The Battle of Hattin took place on Saturday, July 4, 1187, between the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and the forces of the Ayyubid dynasty....

, or as a turning point in the fortunes of the belligerent
Belligerent
A belligerent is an individual, group, country or other entity which acts in a hostile manner, such as engaging in combat. Belligerent comes from Latin, literally meaning "to wage war"...

s, such as the Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

. A decisive battle can have political as well as military impact, changing the balance of power or boundaries between countries. The concept of the decisive battle became popular with the publication in 1851 of Edward Creasy's The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World
The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World
The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: from Marathon to Waterloo is a book written by Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy and published in 1851. This book tells the story of the fifteen military engagements which, according to the author, had a significant impact on world history.-Chapters:Each...

. British military historians J.F.C. Fuller
J.F.C. Fuller
Major-General John Frederick Charles Fuller, CB, CBE, DSO was a British Army officer, military historian and strategist, notable as an early theorist of modern armoured warfare, including categorising principles of warfare...

 (The Decisive Battles of the Western World) and B.H. Liddell Hart (Decisive Wars of History), among many others, have written books in the style of Creasy's work.

The differences among land battles throughout history

There is an obvious difference in the way battles have been fought throughout time. Early battles were probably fought between rival hunting bands as disorganized mobs. However, during the Battle of Megiddo
Battle of Megiddo (15th century BC)
The Battle of Megiddo was fought between Egyptian forces under the command of Pharaoh Thutmose III and a large Canaanite coalition under the king of Kadesh. It is the first battle to have been recorded in what is accepted as relatively reliable detail. Megiddo is also the first recorded use of the...

, the first reliably documented battle in the fifteenth century BC, actual discipline was instilled in both armies. However, during the many wars of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, barbarians continued using mob tactics.

As the Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 dawned, armies began to fight in highly disciplined lines. Each would follow the orders from their officers and fight as a single unit instead of individuals. Each army was successively divided into regiments, battalions, companies
Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...

, and platoons. These armies would march, line up, and fire in divisions.

Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

, on the other hand, did not fight in lines, utilizing instead guerrilla tactics. American colonists and European forces continued using disciplined lines, continuing into the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

.

A new style, during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, known as trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

, developed nearly half a century later. This also led to radio
Radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 for communication between battalions. Chemical warfare
Chemical warfare
Chemical warfare involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from Nuclear warfare and Biological warfare, which together make up NBC, the military acronym for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical...

 also emerged with the use of poisonous gas during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

.

By World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the use of the smaller divisions, platoons and companies, became much more important as precise operations became vital. Instead of the locked trench warfare of World War I, during World War II, a dynamic network of battles developed where small groups encountered other platoons. As a result, elite squads became much more recognized and distinguishable.

Maneuver warfare
Maneuver warfare
Maneuver warfare, or manoeuvre warfare , is the term used by military theorists for a concept of warfare that advocates attempting to defeat an adversary by incapacitating their decision-making through shock and disruption brought about by movement...

 also developed with an astonishing pace with the advent of the tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

, replacing the archaic cannons of the Enlightenment Age. Artillery has since gradually replaced the use of frontal troops. Modern battles now continue to resemble that of World War II, though prominent innovations have been added. Indirect combat through the use of aircraft and missiles now comprise of a large portion of wars in place of battles, where battles are now mostly reserved for capturing cities .

The evolution of naval warfare

One significant difference of modern naval battles as opposed to earlier forms of combat is the use of marines, which introduced amphibious warfare. Today, a marine is actually an infantry regiment that sometimes fights solely on land and is no longer tied to the navy. A good example of an old naval battle is the Battle of Salamis
Battle of Salamis
The Battle of Salamis was fought between an Alliance of Greek city-states and the Persian Empire in September 480 BCE, in the straits between the mainland and Salamis, an island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens...

.

Most ancient naval battles were fought by fast ships using the battering ram
Battering ram
A battering ram is a siege engine originating in ancient times and designed to break open the masonry walls of fortifications or splinter their wooden gates...

 to sink opposing fleets or steer close enough for boarding in hand-to-hand combat. Troops were often actually used to storm enemy ships as used by Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 and pirates
Piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

. This tactic was usually used by civilizations that could not beat the enemy with ranged weaponry.

Another invention in the late Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 was the use of Greek fire
Greek fire
Greek fire was an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect as it could continue burning while floating on water....

 by the Byzantines, which was used to set enemy fleets on fire. Empty demolition ships utilized the tactic to crash into opposing ships and set it afire with an explosion. After the invention of cannons, naval warfare became useful as support units for land warfare.

During the 19th century, the development of mines led to a new type of naval warfare. The ironclad, first used in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, resistant to cannons, soon made the wooden ship obsolete. The invention of military submarines, during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, brought naval warfare to both above and below the surface. With the development of military aircraft during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, battles were fought in the sky as well as below the ocean. Aircraft carriers have since become the central unit in naval warfare, acting as a mobile base for lethal aircraft.

Aerial battles throughout history

Although the use of aircraft has for the most part always been used as a supplement to land or naval engagements, since their first major military use in World War I aircraft have increasingly taken on larger roles in warfare. During World War I, the primary use was for reconnaissance, and small-scale bombardment.

Aircraft began becoming much more prominent in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...

 and especially World War II. Aircraft design began specializing, primarily into two types: bombers, which carried explosive payloads to bomb land targets or ships; and fighter-interceptors, which were used to either intercept incoming aircraft or to escort and protect bombers (engagements between fighter aircraft were known as dog fights). Some of the more notable aerial battles in this period include the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

 and the Battle of Midway
Battle of Midway
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated...

.

Another important use of aircraft came with the development of the helicopter
Helicopter
A helicopter is a type of rotorcraft in which lift and thrust are supplied by one or more engine-driven rotors. This allows the helicopter to take off and land vertically, to hover, and to fly forwards, backwards, and laterally...

, which first became heavily used during the Vietnam War, and still continues to be widely used today to transport and augment ground forces.

Today, direct engagements between aircraft are rare - the most modern fighter-interceptors carry much more extensive bombing payloads, and are used to bomb precision land targets, rather than to fight other aircraft. Anti-aircraft batteries are used much more extensively to defend against incoming aircraft than interceptors. Despite this, aircraft today are much more extensively used as the primary tools for both army and navy, as evidenced by the prominent use of helicopters to transport and support troops, the use of aerial bombardment as the "first strike" in many engagements, and the replacement of the battleship with the aircraft carrier as the center of most modern navies.

Battle naming

Battles are almost invariably named after some feature of the battlefield geography
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

, such as the name of a town, forest or river, commonly prefixed "Battle of...". Occasionally battles are named after the date on which they took place, such as The Glorious First of June.

In the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 it was considered important to settle on a suitable name for a battle which could be used by the chroniclers. For example, after Henry V of England
Henry V of England
Henry V was King of England from 1413 until his death at the age of 35 in 1422. He was the second monarch belonging to the House of Lancaster....

 defeated a French army on October 25, 1415, he met with the senior French herald
Herald
A herald, or, more correctly, a herald of arms, is an officer of arms, ranking between pursuivant and king of arms. The title is often applied erroneously to all officers of arms....

 and they agreed to name the battle after the nearby castle
Castle
A castle is a type of fortified structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble...

 and so it was called the Battle of Agincourt
Battle of Agincourt
The Battle of Agincourt was a major English victory against a numerically superior French army in the Hundred Years' War. The battle occurred on Friday, 25 October 1415 , near modern-day Azincourt, in northern France...

.

In other cases, the sides adopted different names for the same battle, such as the Battle of Gallipoli
Battle of Gallipoli
The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign or the Battle of Gallipoli, took place at the peninsula of Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916, during the First World War...

 which is known in Turkey as the Battle of Çanakkale. During the American Civil War, the Union tended to name the battles after the nearest watercourse, such as the Battle of Wilsons Creek and the Battle of Stones River, whereas the Confederates favoured the nearby towns, as in the Battles of Chancellorsville and Murfreesboro. Occasionally both names for the same battle entered the popular culture, such as the battle of Antietam, which is also referred to as the battle of Sharpsburg.

Sometimes in desert warfare, there is no nearby town name to use; map coordinates gave the name to the Battle of 73 Easting
Battle of 73 Easting
The Battle of 73 Easting was a decisive tank battle fought on 26 February 1991, during the Gulf War, between American-British armored forces and those of the Iraqi Republican Guard. The battle took place several hours after the Battle of Al Busayyah...

 in the First Gulf War.

Some place names have become synonymous with the battles that took place there, such as the Passchendaele, Pearl Harbor
Attack on Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

, the Alamo
Battle of the Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo was a pivotal event in the Texas Revolution. Following a 13-day siege, Mexican troops under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna launched an assault on the Alamo Mission near San Antonio de Béxar . All but two of the Texian defenders were killed...

, Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August...

, or Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

. Military operation
Military operation
Military operation is the coordinated military actions of a state in response to a developing situation. These actions are designed as a military plan to resolve the situation in the state's favor. Operations may be of combat or non-combat types, and are referred to by a code name for the purpose...

s, many of which result in battle, are given codenames, which are not necessarily meaningful or indicative of the type or the location of the battle. Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden
Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time....

 and Operation Rolling Thunder
Operation Rolling Thunder
Operation Rolling Thunder was the title of a gradual and sustained US 2nd Air Division , US Navy, and Republic of Vietnam Air Force aerial bombardment campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 2 March 1965 until 1 November 1968, during the Vietnam War.The four objectives...

 are examples of battles known by their military codenames.

When a battleground is the site of more than one battle in the same conflict, the instances are distinguished by ordinal number
Ordinal number
In set theory, an ordinal number, or just ordinal, is the order type of a well-ordered set. They are usually identified with hereditarily transitive sets. Ordinals are an extension of the natural numbers different from integers and from cardinals...

, such as the First
First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas , was fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia, near the City of Manassas...

 and Second Battles of Bull Run
Second Battle of Bull Run
The Second Battle of Bull Run or Second Manassas was fought August 28–30, 1862, as part of the American Civil War. It was the culmination of an offensive campaign waged by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia against Union Maj. Gen...

. An extreme case are the twelve Battles of the Isonzo
Battles of the Isonzo
The Battles of the Isonzo were a series of 12 battles between the Austro-Hungarian and Italian armies in World War I. They were fought along the Soča River on the eastern sector of the Italian Front between June 1915 and November 1917...

First
First Battle of the Isonzo
The First Battle of the Isonzo was fought between the Armies of Italy and Austria-Hungary on the Italian Front in World War I, between June 23 and July 7, 1915....

 to Twelfth—between Italy and Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 during the First World War.

Some battles are named for the convenience of military historians so that periods of combat can be neatly distinguished from one another. Following the First World War, the British Battles Nomenclature Committee was formed to decide on standard names for all battles and subsidiary actions. To the soldiers who did the fighting, the distinction was usually academic; a soldier fighting at Beaumont Hamel on November 13, 1916 was probably unaware he was taking part in what the committee would call the "Battle of the Ancre
Battle of the Ancre
The Battle of the Ancre was the final act of the 1916 Battle of the Somme. Launched on 13 November 1916 by the British Fifth Army of Lieutenant General Hubert Gough, the objective of the battle was as much political as military.-Prelude:The Allied commanders were due to meet at Chantilly on 15...

".

Many combats are too small to merit a name. Terms such as "action", "skirmish", "firefight", "raid" or "offensive patrol" are used to describe small-scale battle-like encounters. These combats often take place within the time and space of a battle and while they may have an objective, they are not necessarily "decisive". Sometimes the soldiers are unable to immediately gauge the significance of the combat; in the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands...

, some British officers were in doubt as to whether the day's events merited the title of "battle" or would be passed off as merely an "action".

The effects of a battle

Battles affect the individuals who take part, as well as the political actors. Personal effects of battle range from mild psychological issues to permanent and crippling injuries. Many battle-survivors have nightmares about the conditions they encountered, or abnormal reactions to certain sights or sounds. Some suffer flashbacks
Flashback (psychological phenomenon)
A flashback, or involuntary recurrent memory, is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual has a sudden, usually powerful, re-experiencing of a past experience or elements of a past experience. These experiences can be happy, sad, exciting, or any other emotion one can consider...

. Physical effects of battle can include scars, amputations, lesions, loss of bodily functions, blindness, paralysis — and death.

Battles also affect politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

. A decisive battle can cause the losing side to surrender, while a Pyrrhic Victory
Pyrrhic victory
A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost to the victor that it carries the implication that another such victory will ultimately cause defeat.-Origin:...

 such as the Battle of Isandlwana
Battle of Isandlwana
The Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879 was the first major encounter in the Anglo-Zulu War between the British Empire and the Zulu Kingdom...

 can cause the winning side to reconsider its long-term goals. Battles in civil wars have often decided the fate of monarchs or political factions. Famous examples include the War of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

, as well as the Jacobite Uprisings. Battles also affect the commitment of one side or the other to the continuance of a war, for example the Battle of Incheon and the Battle of Hue during the Tet Offensive.

See also

  • Military tactics
    Military tactics
    Military tactics, the science and art of organizing an army or an air force, are the techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle. Changes in philosophy and technology over time have been reflected in changes to military tactics. In...

  • Military strategy
    Military strategy
    Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek strategos, strategy when it appeared in use during the 18th century, was seen in its narrow sense as the "art of the general", 'the art of arrangement' of troops...

  • Naval battle
    Naval battle
    A naval battle is a battle fought using boats, ships or other waterborne vessels. Most naval battles have occurred at sea, but a few have taken place on lakes or rivers. The earliest recorded naval battle took place in 1210 BC near Cyprus...

  • Pitched battle
    Pitched battle
    A pitched battle is a battle where both sides choose to fight at a chosen location and time and where either side has the option to disengage either before the battle starts, or shortly after the first armed exchanges....

  • Skirmisher
    Skirmisher
    Skirmishers are infantry or cavalry soldiers stationed ahead or alongside a larger body of friendly troops. They are usually placed in a skirmish line to harass the enemy.-Pre-modern:...

  • War
    War
    War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

  • List of battles

Sources

  • von Clausewitz, Carl
    Carl von Clausewitz
    Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

    , Bemerkungen über die reine und angewandte Strategie des Herrn von Bülow oder Kritik der darin enthaltenen Ansichten, Verstreute kleine Schriften
    Kleine Schriften
    is a German phrase often used as a title for a collection of articles and essays written by a single scholar over the course of a career. "Collected Papers" is an English equivalent. These shorter works were usually published previously in various periodicals or in collections of papers written...

    , Ed. Werner Hahlweg, (Osnabrück: Biblio Verlag, 1979), 77.
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