Most Lopsided Victories In History

May 2018
646
Michigan
#1
I was looking up some of the most lopsided victories in military history in terms of smaller forces tactically defeating much larger ones. I only include battles where there is a relative certainty about the numbers involved, as embellishment is a military tradition) I found three so far:

1. Battle of Watling Street - Gaius Seutonious Paulinus and 10,000 Roman Legionaries defeat 100,000-230,000.
2. Battle of Assaye - Wellesley and 9,500 British and Sepoy soldiers defeat 50,000-100,000.
3. Battle of Gaugamela - Alexander and 47,000 Greeks defeat as many as 250,000 Persians.
4. The Highway of Death (Desert Storm) - Roughly a Brigade? sized element takes on an entire Iraqi division (the elite Hammurabi Division), completely destroys it without suffering a single casualty.

I think the most certain we can be of numbers would be the Highway of Death or the Battle of Assaye. The other two are from classical antiquity, and the best estimates are those of modern historians. Note that I did not include sieges, I only included pitched battles. I also only included victories for the smaller force: although the Greeks stand at Thermopylae was heroic, it was a Greek defeat.

Any more?
 
May 2018
646
Michigan
#3
I don't know if the Highway of Death counts really, given the airpower the Iraqis were facing(lopsided to the wrong direction).
I debated including it because the Iraqi 1st Armored was retreating, not actually trying to destroy the American battalions. What I suppose is most impressive is that the Americans didn't suffer a single casualty: killing as many as 10,000 enemy soldiers without a single loss is pretty extraordinary, even with complete American air superiority.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,517
#4
Fox Hill during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir

233 men from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment held out alone against repeated human wave assaults by 10,000 Chinese soldiers for four days and nights until a battalion could break through enemy lines to reinforce them. They were outnumbered by a staggering 40 to 1 odds.

One of the Marines from the battalion that broke through to Fox describing the aftermath:

 
Mar 2018
713
UK
#5
I very much doubt the numbers in Wattling street are accurate on the Briton size. That would correspond to something like 10% of the entire population of Briton, and Boudicca could only have recruited from a few tribes. It simply isn't plausible.
 
Nov 2018
105
Idaho
#6
I very much doubt the numbers in Wattling street are accurate on the Briton size. That would correspond to something like 10% of the entire population of Briton, and Boudicca could only have recruited from a few tribes. It simply isn't plausible.
I also tend to doubt many of the numbers given for Alexander's battles for the same reason. The Persian Empire was quite large, but the more populous Roman Empire hundreds of years later had maybe 300k men in the field during peak warfare, and usually less than 200k. Romans rarely used armies more than ~50k in size, even when they had six times that number of troops. If the Persians did indeed have a 250k man army then one of the reasons they may have lost was because they had a uselessly high and uncontrollable number of troops. Several smaller armies staged to march around or lay in reserve would be much more effective (though I have read in the Cambridge History of Ancient Warfare that deliberate tactical and strategic reserves were a fairly uncommon practice in the ancient world, and the RTS strategy of Zerg rushing with all your available soldiers was common and was part of the reason why single battles could break kingdoms). I think 90k, over twice the size of Alexander's army, is both more plausible for logistic reasons and would be a much more practical field army. Still an impressive victory, but whenever a Greek or Roman claims he's defeated an army of X number of men you might consider halving it or even taking a zero off the end.
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
3,995
Connecticut
#7
I debated including it because the Iraqi 1st Armored was retreating, not actually trying to destroy the American battalions. What I suppose is most impressive is that the Americans didn't suffer a single casualty: killing as many as 10,000 enemy soldiers without a single loss is pretty extraordinary, even with complete American air superiority.
From what I read, the Iraqi division was cornered and ordered to break out to help put down a Shiite insurrection. I don’t think the whole division was wiped out since the Hammurabi still existed later. Btw one Abrams tank was destroyed, not in actual combat but by an exploding T-72.
 
Mar 2018
713
UK
#9
Sure, there's lots of reasons why large armies aren't believable. In the case of Wattling street, the numbers given are probably larger than the entire male population of fighting age of the rebels, making them completely impossible.
 
Likes: Hipparchist

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