Clever Battle Tactics

Mar 2007
266
Philadelphia
What are among the most ingenious battle tactics you've read in history? Here is one of my favorites from Herodotus (8.27):

"A few years before the Persian king's expedition, the Thessalians and their allies invaded Phocis with their whole army. When the Phocians were besieged on Parnassus, they had with them the diviner Tellias of Elis. Tellias devised a stratagem for them: he covered six hundred of the bravest Phocians with gypsum, themselves and their armor, and led them to attack the Thessalians by night, bidding them slay whomever they should see not whitened. The Thessalian sentinels were the first to see these men and fled in terror, supposing falsely that it was something supernatural, and after the sentinels the whole army fled as well. The Phocians made themselves masters of four thousand dead..."
 
  • Like
Reactions: Steel of Fury

Theodoric

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,926
Yötebory Sveriya
The Battle of Thymbra. Cyrus the Great vs Croesus of the Lydian Empire. Cyrus used 300 camels to scare 60,000 cavalry (Xenophon’s numbers), turning them back toward the infantry. In the disruption, Cyrus had his Persian archers rain arrows down upon the Lydian army.

Then fell a mighty Empire as prophesied by the Delphic Oracle.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,461
Dispargum
Crazy Horse supposedly once used a false retreat to lure a pursuer into an ambush.

Circa 530, the Thuringians dug holes in the ground in front of their shield wall and covered the holes with turf so the holes looked like solid ground. When the Frankish cavalry charged their horses stepped onto the turf, fell through, and the charge was broken, with many horses breaking their legs, I'd imagine. It was only a temporary setback as the Franks later won the day.

The very first time a well armed force tricked an enemy into attacking them by appearing to be a soft target. It has been repeated many times since then. The first time was ingenious.
 
Jan 2013
1,019
Toronto, Canada
Robert the Bruce sidestepping Henry de Bohun's charge before Bannockburn and splitting his head open with an axe.

Warfare is about psychology as much as anything and moments like that can make an army feel invincible.
 
Oct 2018
1,506
Sydney
Originally posted in Best Military Tactics In History.

Some clever tactics by the fourth-century BC Athenian general Iphicrates, who was evidently a big fan of deception:

Frontinus, Stratagemata 1.4.7: When the Athenian general Iphicrates was engaged in a campaign against the Spartan Anaxibius on the Hellespont near Abydus, he had to lead his army on one occasion through places occupied by enemy patrols, hemmed in on the one side by precipitous mountains, and on the other washed by the sea. For some time he delayed, and then on an unusually cold day, when no one suspected such a move, he selected his most rugged men, rubbed them down with oil and warmed them up with wine, and then ordered them to skirt the very edge of the p31 sea, swimming across the places that were too precipitous to pass. Thus by an unexpected attack from the rear he overwhelmed the guards of the defile. (See also Polyaenus, Stratagemata 3.9.33)

2.1.5: Iphicrates, the Athenian, having discovered that the enemy regularly ate at the same hour, commanded his own troops to eat at an earlier hour, and then led them out to battle. When the enemy came forth, he so detained them as to afford them no opportunity either of fighting or of withdrawing. Then, as the day drew to a close, he led his troops back, but nevertheless held them under arms. The enemy, exhausted both by standing in the line and by hunger, straightway hurried off to rest and eat, whereupon Iphicrates again led forth his troops, and finding the enemy disorganized, attacked their camp. (See also Polyaenus, Stratagemata 3.9.53)

2.1.6: When the same Iphicrates had his camp for several days near the Lacedaemonians, and each side was in the habit of going forth at a regular hour for forage and wood, he one day sent out slaves and camp-followers in the dress of soldiers for this service, holding back his fighting men; and as soon as the enemy had dispersed on similar errands, he captured their camp. Then as they came running back from all quarters to the mêlée, unarmed and carrying their bundles, he easily slew or captured them. (See also Polyaenus, Stratagemata 3.9.52)

2.5.42: Iphicrates, the Athenian, on one occasion in the Chersonesus, aware that Anaxibius, commander of the Spartans, was proceeding with his troops by land, disembarked a large force of men from his vessels and placed them in ambush, but directed his ships to sail in full view of the enemy, as though loaded with all his forces. When the Spartans were thus thrown off their guard and apprehended no danger, Iphicrates, attacking them by land from the rear as they marched along, crushed and routed them. (For a more detailed account, see Xenophon, Hellenika 4.8.32-39)

Polyaenus, Stratagemata 3.9.58: When Iphicrates was commander at Chios, he suspected that a group of the Chians were supporting the Lacedaemonians. In order to prove their guilt, he ordered the captains of some ships to weigh anchor secretly during the night, and then to return into the harbour the next morning, dressed in Lacedaemonian clothes. As soon as those, who favoured the Lacedaemonian cause, saw the ships, they ran with joy to the harbour to greet them. Then Iphicrates advanced with a body of troops from the city, arrested them, and sent them to Athens to be punished. (See also Frontinus, Stratagemata 4.7.23)

3.9.62: Iphicrates captured many of the Odrysians in Thrace. When he was being harassed by the enemy's slings and arrows, he stripped his prisoners naked, and with their hands tied behind their backs placed them in front of his army. The Odrysians saw that their friends had been put in the place of danger, and stopped attacking from a distance with slings and arrows.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Todd Feinman

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,961
Sydney
Hannibal victory of Cannae ,
on a flat open ground a numerically inferior army surround the well equipped and led Romans ,then dice them as cattle to the slaughter
to this day than is the most masterful display of tactical brilliance

Napoleon victory of Austerlitz
a numerically inferior French army assault the enemy center ,breaking their forces

Caesar Pharsalus . very heavily outnumbered he rolled Pompey left flank like a carpet creating an overwhelming local superiority

Robert the Bruce Bannockburn , his morning charge negated the English two main advantages of Archers and Heavy cavalry
 
Last edited:
Sep 2015
363
The Eastern Hinterlands
What are among the most ingenious battle tactics you've read in history? Here is one of my favorites from Herodotus (8.27):

"A few years before the Persian king's expedition, the Thessalians and their allies invaded Phocis with their whole army. When the Phocians were besieged on Parnassus, they had with them the diviner Tellias of Elis. Tellias devised a stratagem for them: he covered six hundred of the bravest Phocians with gypsum, themselves and their armor, and led them to attack the Thessalians by night, bidding them slay whomever they should see not whitened. The Thessalian sentinels were the first to see these men and fled in terror, supposing falsely that it was something supernatural, and after the sentinels the whole army fled as well. The Phocians made themselves masters of four thousand dead..."
The Battle of Cowpens from the American Revolution. One of the most brilliant tactics ever employed, the peeling away like an onion by the Continental troops to wear down and defeat the stronger British army is a hallmark of skill and efficiency.
 

Theodoric

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,926
Yötebory Sveriya
William Wallace getting the Scottish army to moon the English army until they could take no more and surrendered!
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,961
Sydney
Wellington sending the Scots regiments to battle at Waterloo
the French ran in horror screaming
"they are sending women in short skirts and they are all incredibly ugly "
 
  • Like
Reactions: Todd Feinman