The great battles

The great battles


From Actium to Waterloo, from Bouvines to Stalingrad, great battles have sealed the fate of men and nations.

Here is the story of the most famous battles and of the more or less inspired men who led them, putting their fate to that of arms.

This battleship won on October 21, 1805 by the British fleet, led by Admiral Nelson over the Napoleonic fleet, commanded by Admiral Villeneuve and supported by the Spanish fleet, took place off the cape of Trafalgar, in southern Spain near Cadiz. It pitted eighteen French and fifteen Spanish ships against twenty-seven British ships. Underestimated by Napoleon, it definitively established the naval domination of the United Kingdom and its determination to defeat the emperor.


Battle of Trafalgar (1805)


The paroxysm of the crisis which shakes the Roman Republic finds its culmination on the coast of Epirus, during the battle of actium (September 2, 31 BC) which sees the armies of the Roman West oppose the orders of Octavian, the future emperor Augustus, and of Agrippa, his military genius, to the Eastern armies commanded by Marc Antony and the famous Cleopatra. From this confrontation, nothing less than the Roman Empire was to be born and to bury in the facts the republican regime.


Actium, the most famous naval battle of Antiquity

On August 2, 216 BC took place the bloody battle of Cannes opposing Rome to Carthage in the context of the Second Punic War. Terrible defeat for the Roman army, however numerically superior, this battle consecrated the Carthaginian general, Hannibal Barca, among the greatest military strategists, his tactics still being taught in some military schools.


Battle of Cannes, Hannibal's last victory

The battle of the catalunic fields was the meeting between two worlds, that of Attila king of the Huns leading his formidable hordes across Western Europe and that of Gallo-Roman Gaul, former territory of the Roman Empire. This decisive fight did not take place near Châlons-en-Champagne as tradition reports, but near Troyes, at the Mauriacus campus. The Catalaunic fields relate more to the founding myth than to reality; in all likelihood, the Hunnic army was smaller and much more composite than medieval historiography has long claimed.


Battle of the Catalan Fields (451)

It is the epic and tragic story of a family hated and then worshiped by the Romans, still victorious and finally exterminated on the battlefield during the battle of Crémère or 306 Fabii illustrated themselves in a vain defense, but heroic… An atypical story chronicled by Livy as Dionysius of Halicarnassus.


The 306 Fabians at the Battle of Crémère (477 BC)

The battle of Crécy, August 26, 1346, is the prelude of a dynastic quarrel which will oppose for more than a century the kings of France and England. Act I of the Hundred Years War, which had the effect of a thunderclap in Christendom, will take place on a battlefield in northern France, near Crécy-en-Ponthieu (today ' hui in the Somme). First major engagement of the war, this Franco-English battle takes place after the second invasion of France by the King of England Edward III. It will be the start of a long series of defeats for the French knighthood.


Battle of Crécy (1346)

The battle of Bouvines, which took place on July 27, 1214 in the North, opposed the army of the King of France Philippe Auguste to a German-Flemish coalition around Emperor Otto IV. The unexpected rout of the allies will offer a brilliant victory to the Capetian, who will extend the royal domain and consolidate his power against his European rivals. It is one of the first battles, like Hastings, where a sovereign "tempts God", that is to say takes the risk of being stained with blood, and of losing his life in combat. . Bouvines also marks a milestone in the history of France because, following this victory, a "national feeling" would have developed.


Battle of Bouvines (July 27, 1214)

Multiple defeats, humiliations and clashes find their conclusion at the battle of Castillon, ultimate commitment of the Hundred Years War where the fate of the two great kingdoms of Christendom is played out. In 1453, all that remained of the prestigious continental empire formed by the Plantagenets were illusions and the wealthy Guyenne. Henry VI of England did not give up his claims to the throne of France and Charles VII now wishes to kick them out of the south of the Loire. The small town of Castillon will wash away more than a hundred years of French humiliations in one day.


Battle of Castillon (1453)

April 23, 1014 the battle of clontarf rages near Dublin, between the armies of the Irish king Brian Boru and the men of Leinster associated with Vikings. We remember that the victory made Brian Boru a national hero having driven the Vikings out of Ireland. Is this really what happened? What is myth and reality? More than 1000 years after this landmark episode in Irish history, it is appropriate to return to the circumstances of the battle.


Battle of Clontarf (Ireland, April 23, 1014)

The battle of valmy is the first military victory of the French revolutionary army, won against an Austro-Prussian army (reinforced by French emigres) on September 20, 1792. Against all expectations, after a strong cannonade, a beautiful harangue by Kellermann near the famous mill of Valmy, a few brief skirmishes and a demonstration of the Prussian infantry which did not shake the resolution of the French lines, the allies withdrew from the battlefield. Valmy will become a founding symbol, the first victory of revolutionary France against the coalition of European monarchies.


Battle of Valmy (September 20, 1792)

The battle of Marignan is a famous victory won by Francis I on an army of Swiss mercenaries in the north of Italy, September 13 and 14, 1515. This military success will bring to the young king of France, knighted knight on the battlefield by the lord of Bayard, a great popularity and a flattering reputation for bravery. 1515 is one of the dates most remembered by the French when it comes to history, sometimes adding Marignan. However, this battle deserves to be better known and put into context, also too little known: the wars in Italy. An epic that opened France to the wonders of Italy and to the Renaissance.


Battle of Marignan (September 13-14, 1515)

Thebattle of Rocroi is a decisive French victory won by the young Duke of Enghien, future Prince of Condé, over the Spanish armies on May 18 and 19, 1643, in front of the stronghold of Rocroi. Philippe IV of Spain, wanting to exploit the disappearance of Richelieu planned to invade the latter. The 26,000-strong Spanish armies of the Netherlands laid siege to Rocroi on May 10, in order to invest the place before marching on Paris. The French armies under the command of the Duke of Enghien, undertook successfully to free the besieged city. The Spanish infantry lost their reputation for invincibility in this battle, the impact of which was enormous.


Battle of Rocroi (1643)

The War of the Spanish Succession has been raging since 1704, but will end with the last great French victory, on July 24, 1712 during the battle of denain. A simple fight in four to five hours of time, a model of strategy admired in military schools, which had considerable results: this victory finally allows the signing of the peace treaty of Utrecht in April 1713 and draws the northern border of France, as it is more or less now.


Battle of Denain (July 24, 1712)

This battleship won on October 21, 1805 by the British fleet, led by Admiral Nelson over the Napoleonic fleet, commanded by Admiral Villeneuve and supported by the Spanish fleet, took place off the cape of Trafalgar, in southern Spain near Cadiz. Underestimated by Napoleon, it definitively established the naval domination of the United Kingdom and its determination to defeat the emperor.


Battle of Trafalgar (1805)

Sometimes called "Battle of the Three Emperors", Austerlitz is the most famous battle of Napoleon Bonaparte, undoubtedly the most celebrated too - at least in its time. A crushing victory won on the anniversary of his coronation as Emperor of the French, it erased the naval disaster at Trafalgar and enabled the war of the Third Coalition to be concluded favorably. Napoleon never created, among his marshals, a duke or prince of Austerlitz: it was his personal victory, and a formidable instrument of legitimacy to his power. The next day, the emperor addressed his army: “ Soldiers, I am happy with you ... It will suffice for you to say: I was at the battle of Austerlitz, for an answer: Here is a brave man! »


Battle of Austerlitz (December 2, 1805)

Won over the Mamluks of Egypt, the Battle of the Pyramids will leave to posterity one of the most famous quotes of Napoleon Bonaparte: "From the top of these pyramids forty centuries of history contemplate you! »… In the footsteps of Caesar and Alexander, the young general launched the armies of the Republic on a crazy military and scientific adventure in the land of the Pharaohs, occupied by the legendary Mamelukes… July 21, 1798, at the gates of Cairo , their mythical cavalry, reputed to be the best in the world, is struck down by the infantry of the French expeditionary force. Tale of an "Egyptian Azincourt" at the foot of the thousand-year-old pyramids.


Battle of the Pyramids (July 21, 1798)

Decisive battle that put an end to the Hundred Days and the Napoleonic epic, the battle of Waterloo which sealed the Belgian campaign determined the fate of Europe until the First World War. Waterloo, this apotheosis of heroism and tragedy, deeply inspired romantic and realist authors throughout the 19th century! Let us look again at this campaign, this battle which brought about the definitive fall of Napoleon.


Battle of Waterloo (June 18, 1815)

In popular culture, the battle of Frœschwiller-Woerth is known as "battle of reichshoffen ", From the name of the famous so-called" Reichshoffen "cuirassiers who heroically sacrificed themselves the August 6, 1870 during unnecessary charges against a much more numerous and powerfully armed enemy, during the Franco-Prusian war of 1870. The French commanded by Marshal Mac Mahon are defeated and the Prussian troops seize Alsace and Lorraine.


Battle of Reichshoffen (August 6, 1870)

The battle of Camerone is a founding episode in the Foreign Legion, which celebrates this French version "Fort Alamo" every year. In 1862, France came to the aid of Emperor Maximilian, which she imposed on the throne of Mexico. On April 30, 1863, a detachment of about sixty legionaries distinguished themselves in Camerone by standing up to 2,000 Mexicans. This minor event in history in the context of the Mexican expedition launched by Napoleon III allows us to understand how it was essentialized by the Legion to the point of becoming the keystone of its tradition.


Battle of Camerone (April 30, 1863)

On January 22, 1879, the all-powerful Victorian England suffered, at the foot of a mountain in South Africa, one of the most complete and humiliating military defeats of its history during the Battle of Isandlwana. British during what the Battle of Little Bighorn was in the United States of America, this defeat was inflicted on a United Kingdom sure of its strength and superiority by warriors armed mostly with spears and hide shields. of animals: the Zulus. In the aftermath of the death of Nelson Mandela, we take a look back at a South African history marked by migration and confrontation.


The Battle of Isandlwana (South Africa, January 22, 1879)

The Battle of Gettysburg, which took place July 1-3, 1863 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, is considered the turning point of the Civil War (1861-1865). The northerners won a costly but decisive victory on the battlefield over the southerners, who emerged from it permanently weakened and could never resume the offensive.


Battle of Gettysburg (1863), a Northerner victory

The first one battle of the Marne, delivered between September 5 and 12, 1914, halted German advance in north-eastern France and opened the era of "trench warfare." From the start of the First World War, the German army violated Belgian neutrality in application of the Schlieffen plan which consisted in outflanking the left of the French army to encircle it. On September 2, the German cavalry was 25 kilometers from Paris. Generals Joffre and Gallieni draw up a plan to rectify the situation and prevent the German army from reaching the capital ...


Battle of the Marne (September 1914)

On February 21, 1916, the battle of Verdun starts with a deluge of fire which crushed the French lines for hours. It is the beginning of a German offensive which aims to "bleed dry" the French army. The defense of this part of the front was quickly entrusted to General Pétain, who organized the supply to the front by creating the "sacred way", a widened and maintained road for the uninterrupted passage of two lines of trucks. The German advance will be blocked by the tenacity of the French fighters, at the cost of a dizzying number of dead and wounded.


Battle of Verdun (February 21 - December 18, 1916)

The battle of jutland is the largest naval battle of World War I, between the British and German fleets, on May 31 and June 1, 1916. As the war on land becomes mired in the trenches and then hell of Verdun, the clash has not yet taken place at sea between the two European rivals, the British Empire and the German Empire. It was at the end of May 1916, off the coast of Denmark, that their fleets finally met.


Battle of Jutland, May-June 1916

Very murderous episode, the Battle of the Somme (July 1 - November 18, 1916) is a turning point in the British engagement in the First World War. This first major Franco-British combined offensive, under the command of General Foch and Douglas Haig, did not, however, (contrary to what the General Staff expected) lead to the advance of Allied troops on the Western Front.


Battle of the Somme (July-November 1916)

The battle of stalingrad, which pitted the German and Soviet armies between August 1942 and January 1943, is considered a turning point of the second world war. Become a symbol, this battle is one of the most significant episodes in the military history of the 20th century. This titanic fight in which the belligerents engaged considerable means ended with a decisive victory for the Soviets which stopped the advance of the German armies in the Soviet Union. A stinging setback for the Axis powers, it was a precious psychological victory for the Allies.


Battle of Stalingrad (August 1942 - January 1943)

The battle of the coral sea, which took place May 4-8, 1942 between Anglo-American and Japanese forces, was a major naval and air engagement of World War II. The Japanese, who already controlled much of the Pacific region from Peral Harbor, planned to conquer Australia and positioned themselves to prepare for this invasion. Beforehand, the Japanese offensive was launched on May 4 in the Coral Sea. This battle by interposed aircraft carriers was a turning point in the course of the war because it hampered the Japanese advance towards the south.


Battle of the Coral Sea (May 1942)

The battle of midway was a decisive carrier battle in World War II, which gave the United States maritime supremacy over Japan in the Pacific Ocean. This battle took place from June 3-7, 1942 near the Midway Islands, northwest of the Hawaiian Islands. Since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of the British fleet in Singapore, the Japanese have gained absolute mastery of the seas in the Pacific. A conquest of Midway Atoll by the Japanese, the first step towards the Hawaiian Islands, would have meant the total withdrawal of American forces from the central Pacific ...


Battle of Midway (June 3-7, 1942)

TheOperation Barbarossa was a plan of attack drawn up by Hitler in December 1940, with the aim of invading the Soviet Union, and the implementation of which began on June 22, 1941. The failure of the Luftwaffe against England the The previous year led the Nazi dictator to abandon his invasion plan in October 1940, but led him to consider another conquest, even more important, that of the USSR. On the success or failure of Barbarossa will depend on the outcome of the world conflict that began in September 1939.


Operation Barbarossa, clash of the titans (June 1941)

The battle of Dien Bien Phu opposed in 1954 the French army and the Vietnamese communist forces of Viêt-minh in the deep plain of Dien Biên Phu, located in the north-west of Vietnam, near the border with Laos. This battle, in which the Viet-minh emerged victorious, marked the end of the Indochina War (1946-1954), but also that of French hegemony in this region. It resulted, during the Geneva agreements, in the partition of Vietnam into two distinct states.


Battle of Diên Biên Phu (1954)

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