Was guerilla warfare possible before the 20th century?


Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
I keep seeing posts and such that the Confederacy should have used guerilla warfare. It seems like it was used in the Vietnam War and some anti-colonial wars. It was mostly used by forces that had semi-automatics, grenades and so on, but not the tanks, planes, etc. of their enemy.

The term originated in the defense of Spain against Napoleon. The Confederacy did have Mosby's, Quantrill's and others raiders. However, I question when people suggest guerilla warfare for times when it was not considered or understood, and maybe not feasible.


Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
Depends on how you want to define guerrilla warfare. If you mean avoiding decisive battle that is not in one's favour, use of difficult terrain against an attacker, and wearing down a stronger enemy or sapping their will to fight through small, concerted attacks, then Byzantium against the later Umayyads and the Abbasids would be a good example. This is the table of contents of a mid-10th c. military manual prepared for fighting the Muslims along the Tauros Mountains, and I'd say it qualifies as guerrilla warfare:

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Jun 2012
Guerrilla warfare is as old as warfare itself You just hv no choice but to go creative & unconventional when you're facing an invading enemy which is overwhelmingly superior in numbers, logistics, weaponry etc. You fight in a way that basically the enemy can't see & hit you, but you can see him & hit him. It will simply roil him & stress him out no end, becos he's then like essentially fighting a ghost army.
Sep 2017
United States
I'm not sure if the Fabian Strategy counts entirely as guerilla warfare, but it certainly was similar.

I think guerilla warfare becomes more feasible in more modern times though for a variety of reasons.
Likes: Chlodio
Sep 2014
Queens, NYC
Feasible; but chances of success were limited by the fact that in the old days, slaughter of a resistant populace was standard. If one side couldn't win in a "conventional" war, its chances of winning a guerilla war were limited. Note that Wales was submitted to the English.
Feb 2019
The Peninsular War saw large scale guerilla warfare by the Spanish, it is also the war in which the term originated. The Spanish guerillas, with some support from Britain conducted the war against Napoleon and constantly harassed the French armies. Elsewhere in the Napoleonic Wars there were also partisans and insurrections in Naples which might also count as guerilla warfare. There were similar instances long before the Napoleonic Wars and if we count the Fabian strategy as guerilla warfare then yes, it was possible long before the 20th century however it did become more feasible in more modern times.
Likes: sparticulous
Feb 2016
It’s is called “Guerilla” from the Spanish who fought Napoleon.

That style of warfare however is old.. arguable some theatres of the AWI involved Guerilla Warfare, as did the French Indian War at times.


Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
The Byzantine chroniclers report that the Slavs used hit and run tactics as a means for warfare in the 6th and 7th century, if that is what you mean by guerilla warfare.
Likes: bedb