Retreat Does Not Always Mean Defeat – 10 Epic Retreats From Military History

 
 
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6. Battle of Chamkaur

battle_of_chamkaur

In 1704, Gobind Singh, the 10th Guru of the Sikh religion, was trapped in Anandpur Fort with 40 of his followers. To end the siege, the Moghuls granted them safe passage out on December 5, so they went to the city of Chamkaur.

The Moghuls followed. Forty Sikhs fought them off to the death from December 21 to 22, allowing Gobind to escape. Their sacrifice and martial skills so impressed others that many converted.

To commemorate their valor, Gobind wrote the Zafarnama (declaration of victory), which became a religious doctrine to justify violence when peaceful means fail.

7. Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia

Vasily Vereshchagin's "On the High Road," an oil painting of Napoleon's retreat from Russia
Vasily Vereshchagin’s “On the High Road,” an oil painting of Napoleon’s retreat from Russia. Photo Credit

On 24 June 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia with 680,000 men to get Tsar Alexander I to stop trading with Britain. Instead of facing him, Russian forces retreated, letting the French capture towns and cities.

As winter drew closer, they burned their own fields to starve the invaders out. Napoleon made it to Moscow on September 14, only to find it largely empty and burning. He was forced to retreat, but it was too late. Winter had started and the Russians began harassing his retreating forces.

By December 14, barely 22,000 men made it out of Russia.

8. 1920 Battle of Warsaw

Polish soldiers stationed in the village of Janki near Milosna in August, 1920
Polish soldiers stationed in the village of Janki near Milosna in August, 1920

Russia and Poland had been at war since 1919 over Ukraine, but in June 1920, the Russian 1st Cavalry Army defeated the Poles, forcing them to retreat. By August 16, the Russians were close to the capital at Warsaw.

The Soviets tried to surround the city, but failed to adequately defend their southern flank. Polish Commander Józef Piłsudski took advantage of this and routed the invaders. Russian losses were high, estimated at 10,000, while the Poles lost 4,500.

This would secure a peace treaty with Russia till 1939 when half of Poland was annexed into the Soviet Union and the other half by Nazi Germany.

9. Battle of Kursk

Soviets firing machine guns at German forces at the Battle of Kursk
Soviets firing machine guns at German forces at the Battle of Kursk

The battle started on 5 July 1943 as part of Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Kursk is some 280 miles south of Moscow, the Germans hoped to overcome superior Russian numbers by nullifying the Kursk salient and thereby shortening their own lines of defense.

But Allied intelligence had warned the Russians, so they dug in. The Germans also delayed their attack as they awaited reinforcements, giving the Russians even more time to prepare. By August 23, the German attack had failed and they were routed from Kursk.

It was the first of many major German defeats in WWII, allowing the Soviets to go on the offensive and causing the Germans to ultimately retreat all the way back to Germany and losing the war.

10. Battle of Chosin Reservoir

Members of the 1st Marine Division move through Chinese lines after breaking out of the Chosin Reservoir.
Members of the 1st Marine Division move through Chinese lines after breaking out of
the Chosin Reservoir.

On 25 October 1950, the US X Corps under Major General Ned Almond were spread out along the Chosin Reservoir, as were other American units. They thought the Korean War was won when suddenly the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army under General Sòng Shílún attacked.

Almond contacted the other units and ordered a retreat toward the coast. Despite being surrounded and dealing with the freezing weather, some of the Americans fought their way out and were rescued at Hungnam – known as the Chosin Few.

There were 2,000 American fatalities to the estimated 35,000 killed on the Chinese side.