History is full of interesting and exotic people places and events.
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Posts should be summarized in your own words, combining one or more sources, so it is something unique.
Additional Ideas (12)
The Battle on the Ice: (Russian: - Battle of Chud Lake), 1242, also called the Battle of the Lake Peipus, was the greatest defeat sustained by the Teutonic knights until the 15th-century Battle of Grunwald. It effectively stopped their Northern Crusade against Novgorod and other Russian territories in the aftermath of the conquest of Estonia.
Hoping to exploit Russia's weakness in the wake of Mongol and Swedish invasions, the Teutonic knights occupied Pskov, Izborsk, and Koporye in the autumn of 1240. When they approached Novgorod itself, the local citizens recalled to the city 20-year-old prince Alexander Nevsky, whom they had banished to Pereslavl earlier that year. During the campaign of 1241, Alexander managed to retake Pskov and Koporye from the knights.
In the spring of 1242, the knights defeated a reconnaissance detachment of Novgorodians 18 km to the south from the fortress of Derpt. In the hope of gaining easy victory over Novgorod, the main force of the Teutonic knights under leadership of the Grand Master of the Order entered the vast ice-covered Lake Peipus and marched on towards Pskov.
On April 5, 1242 the armies clashed on the ice of the lake. After hours of hand-to-hand fighting, Alexander ordered the left and right wings of his archers to enter the battle. The knights started to retreat in disarray, and the appearance of the fresh Russian cavalry made them run for their life. Under weight of heavy armour, thin ice started to collapse, and many knights drowned. Only the grand master, bishops, and a handful of mounted knights managed to return back to Derpt after the battle.
In the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (AD 9), an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius (also known in German as Hermann), the son of Segimerus of the Cherusci, ambushed and wiped out a Roman army of three entire Legions.
The battle established the Rhine as the boundary between Romans and Germans in Germania inferior. The Romans never got any further north.
The Defeat of Varus
The Roman force was led by Publius Quinctilius Varus, a noble from an old family, who had become the governor of Germania in AD 7. The battle is thus also known as the Varusschlacht in German (battle of Varus). His force was made up of three legions (Legio XVII, Legio XVIII, and Legio XIX), six cohorts and three squadrons of allied cavalry.
His opponent Arminius had lived in Rome as a hostage in his youth, where he had received a military education and had even been given the rank of Equestrian. After his return, he was expected to be an ally of Rome, and behaved accordingly towards Varus. In secret, he forged an alliance of Germanic tribes that had traditionally been enemies, but which he was able to unite due to outrage over Varus' arrogant style of governing the province.
While Varus was on his way from his summer camp to the winter headquarters near the Rhine, he heard reports of a local rebellion, fabricated by Arminius. Varus decided to quell this uprising immediately and take a detour through territory unknown to the Romans. Ariminus, who accompanied Varus, most likely directed him deliberately to a route that would faciliate an ambush and then left under some pretext or other, to meet his troops who must have been waiting in the vicinity.
The Roman force appears to have been poorly organised during the march, and as they passed into a forest they found the track narrow and marshy; a violent storm had also arisen. In passing through the forest the Roman forces had lost their structure, and they were ambushed by the Germans repeatedly over two or three days. Arminius knew Roman tactics very well and could direct his troops to counter them effectively, using local superior numbers against the spread-out Roman legions. Finally the remaining Romans stood their ground, and as the rains continued in the ensuing assault they were slaughtered to the last man. Around 30,000 Roman soldiers died; Varus is said to have taken his own life. Upon hearing of the defeat, the emperor Augustus, according to Roman author and historian Suetonius, shouted "Quintili Vare, legiones redde!" ('Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!')
The shock of the slaughter brought an end to Roman attempts to extend their territories eastward from the Rhine across Germany. These attempts had dragged on since around 20 BC with variable success. This had long term historical consequences as it set the boundary between Romance languages and Germanic languages and hence the borders between the future France and Germany near the Rhine.
Due to the actual nature of the battle, the lack of a written German language at the time, and the lack of Roman survivors it has long been realised that contemporary reports are almost all hearsay. For Roman historians to say "Lucius Eggius gave as honorable an example of valor as Ceionius gave of baseness" or "Numonius Vala... was guilty of abominable treachery" is unverifiable.
Site of the Battle
For almost 2,000 years, nobody knew for sure where the battle really took place, and the main source of information about it was the Germania of Gaius Cornelius Tacitus, which located the battle in the saltus Teutoburgiensis. During the 19th century Herrmann-"boom", theories about the true site of the battle abounded, and the followers of a particular popular theory even managed to have the region around their chosen site renamed Teutoburg Forest in popular usage; the monument was erected there.
However, late 20th century research and excavations, among them the descovery of some leaden Roman sling ammunition by British amateur archaeologist Major Tony Clunn, led to the discovery of what is now believed to be the actual site of the battle. It is located at Kalkriese (part of the city Bramsche), at the fringes of the Wiehengebirge hills north of Osnabrück in the state of Lower Saxony. This is some 50 km away from Detmold, south of Osnabrück, where the statue was erected.
While the initial excavations were done by the archaeological team of the Kulturhistorisches Museum Osnabrück under the direction of Prof. Wolfgang Schlöter, after the dimensions of the project became apparent, a new foundation was created to organize future excavations, erect and run a new museum on the site, and centralise publicity work and documentation.
First Part from Wikipedia. Second part from (not verbatim) Battlefields Then & Now
Rorke's Drift was a mission station in Natal, South Africa. The defence of Rorke's Drift (January 22 - January 23, 1879) during the Anglo-Zulu War immediately followed the British Army's humiliating defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana earlier in the day. At Rorke's Drift 139 British soldiers successfully defended their garrison against an intense assault by roughly 5000 Zulu warriors.
The Battle of Rorke's Drift is probably the most famous "Last Stand" of all time, with the possible excception of Custer's. The British, led by Lieutenant John Chard, used mealie bags and cracker booxes as sandbags to improvise a wall around the base. They had two buildings, a hospital and a storehouse. The British were so outnumbered that even the hospitalized were given rifles. The British soldiers defending the hospital found themselves under attack very rapidly. The outnumbered British divided themselves up, some breaking holes through the walls into the next room, and others defending these holes. Finally, they got into the fortified area behind the hospital. The Zulus, unable to follow, set the building on fire. The British retreated to a wall of cracker boxes. The British battled the Zulus for almost twelve hours before the Zulus retreated, an hour before dawn. Chard sent out men, telling them to recover every weapon they found. Fortunately for the British, the Zulus decided not to launch a second attack. In total, fifteen British men were dead, almost all were wounded. Afterwards, eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders, the highest number of VCs ever awarded in a single day.
The Battle of Midway, fought in World War II, took place on June 5, 1942 (June 4-June 7 in US time zones). The United States Navy defeated a Japanese attack against Midway Atoll, marking a turning point in the war in the Pacific theatre.
Fought just a month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, Midway was the turning point of the Pacific Campaign. Skill, daring, and luck all played a part. The attack on the island of Midway, which also included a feint to Alaska by a smaller fleet, was a ploy by the Japanese to draw the American carrier fleet into a trap. With the remaining American ships destroyed, the Japanese hoped to avenge the bombing of the Japanese home islands two months earlier during the Tokyo Air Raid, plug the hole in their Eastern defensive perimeter formed by U.S. control of Midway, finish off the US Pacific Fleet, and perhaps even invade and take Hawaii.
Considerable academic debate has centered on whether Japan could or would have threatened attack against the US West Coast. Had the Japanese achieved their objective at Midway of a quick knock-out of the US Pacific Fleet, the US West Coast would have been essentially defenseless against the Japanese Navy. The remaining US naval ships were fully deployed halfway around the world in the North Atlantic. One academic camp stresses that regional conquest, and not conquest of North America, was the Japanese objective; another argues that is irrelevant, and that threatened or actual attacks on the US West Coast would have caused the US to divert military assets away from Europe, thereby at best lengthening the war in the European theater, and at worst allowing Germany to prevail.
Not exactly a battle, but I find it intriguing:
The Great Escape (1963; director: John Sturges) is a famous World War II film, based on a true story about Allied POWs with a record for escaping from POW camps. The Nazis and Gestapo place them in a new more secure German camp, from which they promptly form a plan to break out as many as 250 men.
The story was inspired by an actual escape from prison camp Stalag Luft III in 1944. While the film condenses various aspects of time and place, a disclaimer claims it to be true to the original as much as possible. This includes all the real-life details of the plans, tunnels, successes and tragic outcome of the "great escape." Paul Brickhill, an inmate of the original camp, wrote an account of the escape under the same name, upon which the film was based.
Featuring an all-star cast - including Steve McQueen (whose motorcycle chase is the film's most remembered action scene), Richard Attenborough, James Coburn, James Garner, Charles Bronson, and Donald Pleasence - The Great Escape is regarded as a classic, and is traditionally shown in Britain during the Christmas season. The march tune that serves as the film's main theme, written by Elmer Bernstein, has also become an easily recognisable classic.
The few Americans involved in the true story of the Great Escape were members of either the British or Canadian military (mostly the RAF or RCAF, but John Dodge was in the British army). The POWs were mainly British and Canadian.
Herodotus assures us that the Greek victory that stunned both sides was the result of a shrewd battleplan: the great Athenian general Miltiades chose not to deploy his troops in the traditional way, with the bulk of his men in the middle of a phalanx of soldiers. Instead, he thinned out the ranks in the center, giving the Persians a false sense of imminent victory. After the Persians easily broke through the ranks, they were swarmed by Greek soldiers attacking from the flanks (Athenians from one side and Plataeans from the other). Herodotus also tells us that for the first time Athenian slaves were freed so that they could fight for the Athenian cause. After the battle, the Athenians built a treasury at Delphi to hold all their votive offerings to the oracle.
The Battle of Marathon spawned legends immediately: witnesses swore that the ghost of Theseus (mythical king of Athens) loomed over the field, giving confidence to his countrymen; the messenger Phidippides is said to have run into the god Pan on his way to ask for help from the Spartans and received the god's help instead (and too, the old story about how he died after running the equivalent of 26 miles to deliver news of the victory at Marathon is not supported by any ancient source...); and some say that the clash of arms can still be heard today on the Plain of Marathon at night.
Pausanias (1.33.2) tells us that the Persians were so sure of victory that they had brought with them a block of marble to be carved into a victory monument. Instead, the great Athenian sculptor Pheidias carved it into a statue of the god Nemesis, avenger of wicked actions, plainly indicating that the Persians got exactly what they deserved.
The battle was fought in the year 480 BC between an alliance of Greek city-states (lead by Leonidas) and an invading Persian army at the mountain Pass of Thermopylae. Though vastly outnumbered, the Greeks held back the Persian advance until a defector informed the Persians of an alternate route during the night. Rather than sacrifice the entire Greek fighting force by allowing it to be surrounded, the Spartan King Leonides ordered all of the other allied Greek armies to flee before daybreak and raise new armies in the rest of Greece, while he and only 300 Spartans held off the advancing Persians for as long as they could.
The 300 Greeks held the pass against the Persian army of a quarter of a million men for three days before finally being killed to the last man. In the process, they killed over 10,000 Persians. By the time the Persians reached and sacked the city of Athens, it was a hollow victory: thanks to the sacrifice at Thermopylae, the Athenians had enough time to evacuate the entire city of Athens and hide most of their strong navy amongst nearby coastal islands. The forces of Greece would then rally and destroy the Persian invasion army.
It is due to Themistokles' powers of persuasion that the Athenians suffered no loss of life when the Persians marched into Athens and burned it to the ground. The Oracle of Delphi had warned that everything Athenian would be burned to the ground except for what lay behind a wooden wall: some thought that meant that the populace should huddle within the walls of the Acropolis and try to outlast a Persian siege. But Themistokles rightly concluded that the "wooden wall" referred to the battleline of the great Athenian warships. So when the Persians did march into Athens and burn down the city, the women and children had already been transported safely to the nearby city of Troezen (birthplace of Theseus), the old men were taken to the nearby island of Salamis, and only those few who remained behind the walls lost their lives.
In April, 1937, Claire L. Chennault, then a captain in the United States Army Air Corps, retired from active duty and accepted an offer form Madame Chiang Kai-shek for a three month mission to China to make a confidential survey of the Chinese Air Force. At that time China and Japan were on the verge of war and the fledgling Chinese Air Force was beset by internal problems and torn between American and Italian influence. Madame Chiang Kai-shek took over leadership of the Aeronautical Commission in order to reorganize the Chinese Air Force. This was the beginning of Chennault's stay in China which did not terminate until 1945 at the close of World War II. Chennault's combat and other experiences between 1937 and 1941 in China are another story, but it was these experiences together with the knowledge he attained of combat tactics and the operations of Japanese Air Force over China that laid the ground work for the organization of the American Volunteer Group in 1941.
Early in 1939 the Japanese began their tremendous effort to break the back of Chinese resistance by sustained bombing of every major population center in Free China. It was the virtually unopposed and continuous bombing of the major centers of Free China by Japanese Air Force that directly led to the organization of the American Volunteer Group. In the fall of 1940 the Generalissimo instructed Chennault to go to the United States for the purpose of obtaining American planes and American pilots to end the Japanese bombing.
Planes were a tough problem. China had been a long-time, profitable customer for Curtiss-Wright, so my old friend, Burdette Wright, Curtiss Vice-President, came up with a proposition. They had six assembly lines turning out P-40's for the British, who had taken over a French order after the fall of France. If the British would waive their priority on 100 P-40B's then rolling off one line, Curtiss would add a seventh assembly line and make 100 later-model P-40's for the British. The British were glad to exchange the P-40B for a model more suitable for combat.
"The P-40B was not equipped with a gun sight, bomb rack or provisions for attaching auxiliary fuel tanks to the wing or belly. Much of our effort during training and combat was devoted to makeshift attempts to remedy these deficiencies. The combat record of the First American Volunteer Group in China is even more remarkable because its pilots were aiming their guns through a crude, homemade, ring-and-post gun sight instead of the more accurate optical sights used by the Air Corps and the Royal Air Force.
Personnel proved a tougher nut to crack. The military were violently opposed to the whole idea of American volunteers in China. Lauchlin Currie and I went to see General Arnold in April of 1941. He was 100% opposed to the project.
It took direct personal intervention from President Roosevelt to pry the pilots and ground crews from the Army and Navy. On April 15, 1941, an unpublished executive order went out under his signature, authorizing reserve officer and enlisted men to resign from the Army Air Corps, Naval and Marine air services for the purpose of joining the American Volunteer Group in China.
Although, the A.V.G. was blooded over China, it was the air battles over Rangoon that stamped the hallmark on its fame as the Flying Tigers. The cold statistics for the 10 weeks the A.V.G. served at Rangoon show its strength varied between twenty and five serviceable P-40's. This tiny force met a total of a thousand-odd Japanese aircraft over Southern Burma and Thailand. In 31 encounters they destroyed 217 enemy planes and probably destroyed 43. Our losses in combat were four pilots killed in the air, one killed while strafing and one taken prisoner. Sixteen P-40's were destroyed. During the same period, the R.A.F., fighting side by side with the A.V.G., destroyed 74 enemy planes, probably destroyed 33, with a loss of 22 Buffaloes and Hurricanes.
In describing the genesis of the name "Flying Tigers" and the group's insignia, Chennault says:
"Before I left the United States in the summer of 1941, I asked a few friends in Louisiana to watch the newspapers and send me any clippings about the A.V.G. Now I was being swamped with clippings from stateside newspapers, and my men were astonished to find themselves world famous as the Flying Tigers. The insignia we made famous was by no means original with the A.V.G. Our pilots copied the shark-tooth design on their P-40's noses from a colored illustration in the India Illustrated Weekly depicting an R.A.F. squadron in the Libyan Desert with shark-nose P-40's. Even before that the German Air Force painted shark's teeth on some of its Messerschmitt 210 fighters. With the pointed nose of a liquid cooled engine it was an apt and fearsome design. How the term Flying Tigers was derived from the shark-nosed P-40's I never will know. At any rate we were somewhat surprised to find ourselves billed under that name. It was not until just before the A.V.G. was disbanded that we had any kind of group insignia. At the request of the China Defense Supplies in Washington, the Walt Disney organization in Hollywood designed our insignia consisting of a winged tiger flying through a large V for victory."
The A.V.G. was finally disbanded on July 4, 1942. The group celebrated its final day in the air by knocking down five enemy fighters over Hengyang and escorting U.S. Army Air Forces B-25's to bomb the Japanese air base at Canton. At midnight on July 4, 1942, the American Volunteer Group passed into history. In summarizing that history over the preceding year, Chennault states:
"The group that the military experts predicted would not last three weeks in combat had fought for seven months over Burma, China, Thailand, and French Indo-China, destroying 299 Japanese planes with another 153 probably destroyed. All of this with a loss of 12 P-40's in combat and 61 on the ground, including the 22 burned at Loi-Wing. Four pilots were killed in air combat; six were killed by anti-aircraft fire; three by enemy bombs on the ground; and three were taken prisoner. Ten more died as a result of flying accidents. Although the Japanese promised on their radio broadcasts to shoot A.V.G. prisoners as bandits, they treated our three prisoners as well as regular British and American POW's. I took it as an indication of the enemy's genuine respect for our organization.
CHINA'S SOUNDEST INVESTMENT
"The group had whipped the Japanese Air Force in more than 50 air battles without a single defeat. With the R.A.F. it had kept the port of Rangoon and the Burma Road open for 2 1/2 precious months while supplies trickled into China. With less than one-third of its combat strength it saved China from final collapse on the Salween. Its reputation alone was sufficient to keep Japanese bombers away from Chunking. It freed the cities of East China from years of terror bombing and finally gave both Chinese and American morale an incalculable boost at a time when it was sagging dangerously low. All this cost the Chinese $8,000,000 - about $3,000,000 in salaries and personnel expenses and $5,000,000 for planes and equipment. After the final accounting was made, I wrote Dr. Soong my regrets that expenses had exceeded my original estimates.
"He replied, 'The A.V.G. was the soundest investment China ever made. I am ashamed that you should even consider the cost'."
PRESIDENT PRAISES GROUP
In April, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote of the American Volunteer Group:
"The outstanding gallantry and conspicuous daring that the American Volunteer Group combined with their unbelievable efficiency is a source of tremendous pride throughout the whole of America. The fact that they have labored under the shortages and difficulties is keenly appreciated . . . "
After the American Volunteer Group was disbanded on July 4, 1942, the China Air Task Force of the United States Army Air Forces, commanded by General Chennault, officially took over air operations in China. In early March, 1943, the 14th Air Force was activated under the command of Chennault and replaced the China Air Task Force. Chennault remained in command of the 14th Air Force until the end of July, 1945. General Chennault formally retired from the military for the second time in October, 1945.
Complete page here
Not all battles are great affairs with thousands of men. Smaller "battles" can have a greater impact upon history.
The Battle of the Overpass was an incident on 26 May 1937, in which labor organizers clashed with Ford Motor Company security.
The United Auto Workers had planned a leaflet campaign entitled, "Unionism, Not Fordism," at the pedestrian overpass over Miller Road at Gate 4 of the Rouge complex. There demands were not outragous by todays standards, but at the time they were greatly out of line. The campaign was planned for shift change time, with an expected 9,000 workers both entering and leaving the plant.
At approximately 2 p.m., several of the leading UAW union organizers were asked by a Detroit News photographer to pose for a picture on the overpass, with the Ford sign in the background. While they were posing, men from Ford's Service Department, an internal security force, came from behind and began to beat them. The number of attackers is disputed, but an accepted number is 25.
The organizers were beaten severly by the security forces, as were various union supporters including some women who had been hired to pass out the leaflets. The security forces tried to destroy the photographic evidence, but quick thinking by the photographer managed to save the real plates (hidden under his back seat, by giving them other plates he had on his front seat.)
The press had a field day with this story. It recieved national attention. The incident greatly increased support for the UAW and hurt Ford's reputation. Ford and company were later reprimanded by the National Labor Relations Board for their actions. Three years later Ford reluctantly signed a contract with the UAW. Because Ford forged a contract, eventually other big manufacturers signed union contracts to avoid the problems Ford had.
This kind of battle has been played out time and time again in history, as guilds/ unions/ freeman leagues attempted to gain some rights or advantages for their members and the owners/ noblity repressed them. Usually the lack of prestige and the built up resistance of the workers (usually because of the event) eventually caused the owner/ nobility to soften and conceed some degree.
This was the last of the *range wars* in the Wild West. In 1892 fifty rich cattlemen and hired gunmen tried to wipe out those in Johnson County, Wyoming, who they thought were cattle theives. They managed to shoot dead a couple of them but news got ahead of them and the sheriff, William Angus, gathered a posse that was up to three hundered strong and trapped the cattlemen and their gunmen at the KC Ranch. Attempts by the cattlemen to get help were impeded by the fact that the cattlemen had earlier cut the telegraph wires.
Just as Angus's posse was about to blow up the cattlemen with their own dynamite, the US Caverly intervened and escorted the cattlemen out to prison in Cheyenne, through snow and sun that froze and sunburned the cattlemen and gunmen alike. The cattlemen got off the charges through getting rid of witnesses and by having good lawyers but they didn't try again to wipe out their opponents.
The Siege of Amida took place in 359, when the Sassanids (Persians) under Shapur II besieged the Roman city of Amida.
When Shapur II took control of the Sassanid Empire he sought to regain old territories previously lost to the Eastern Roman Empire. After crushing the Arabs in the south, he moved east to deal with nomadic forces, the most prominent being the Huns. Following a prolonged struggle, the Hunnic tribes were forced to conclude a peace, and their king, Grumbates, accompanied Shapur II in the war against the Romans.
He started the west campaign in 359. Initially, some of the Roman-held cities surrendered to him. However, as his forces approached the city of Amida, the Romans resolved to stand and give battle. The Sassanids began the attack with siege towers and attempted to take the city hastily, the siege dragged on for weeks with the Sassanids finally capturing the city.
According to Ammianus Marcellinus, a Greek officer in the Roman army:
The king himself Shapur II, mounted upon a charger and overtopping the others, rode before the whole army, wearing in place of a diadem a golden image of a ram's head set with precious stones, distinguished too by a great retinue of men of the highest rank and of various nations. But it was clear that he would merely try the effect of a conference on the defenders of the walls, since by the advice of Antoninus he was in haste to go elsewhere.
The siege took 73 days. Shapur attempted to capture the city several times but every time it ended with disaster. Many times siege towers were set on fire by the Romans; even the son of King Grumbates was killed in one of the failed attempts. During the siege, plague broke out in Amida but ended after ten days by a light rain, according to Ammianus Marecllinus.
Finally, the city was captured on the night of day 72 when Shapur and Grumbates simultaneously stormed the city with siege towers and flaming arrows.
Charles Edward Stuart was away from his army, at Moy Hall in 1746 AD, when Major General Lord Loudon got to hear about it and marched with 1500 men on a dark, moonless night to capture him and claim the £30,000 bounty on his head. However, a handful of Charles's bodyguards opened fire on them and shouted the war cries of their clans. Thinking that they had run into the clan army, Loudon's men turned and ran for their lives, trampling their officers in the mad rush to escape the imagined army of thousands of Highland clansmen that they were certain was chasing them. It must have caused Loudon and his men great embarassment when they found that they had ran away from an army that only existed in their own minds.