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Thread: Pitched battles

  1. #21
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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Technically Battle of France means the whole campaign in northern France.
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    Blatta Optima Maxima's Avatar Definitely banned
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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    It's just a name. There were no true pitched battles there, either (at least none which decided anything), since the campaign was characterized by concentrated German forces bypassing the few main Allied concentrations destroying the spread out majority of the armies through operational maneuver. There were no cases of direct army vs army engagements.

    Due to the quite apparent success of this thread, I might make another one detailing my thoughts on another often deeply misunderstood aspect of military history - organization.

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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Quote Originally Posted by AUSSIE11 View Post
    Raided, Trained, defended, created a threat as a force in being. In many ways I actually think the Force in Being is possibly the most important aspect of an Army/Navy, particularly when outnumbered.

    For example an army of 10,000 men might sit at home on a border requiring a nighbor to either comit forces to attacking them, which if they are fortified may not be easy, or leave permenant garrisons on the border in order to protect against any possible assaults. These men are possibly denying their enemies from deploying thousands of men on other fronts by simply existing. This force could be tying up 10,000, 20,000 or even 40,000 of their opponents. however if they deploy, engage and are defeated they may just release these garrisons to be deployed on other fronts.

    An example of this is to consider how much of the British High Seas fleet was tied up by the Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and co. The RN had to maintain a force many times the size of the Germans in the North Sea just to keep an eye on them in case they broke out.
    10,000 men? Are you sure there isn't a more modern far more reasonable number we could suggest here?
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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Quote Originally Posted by Kanaric View Post
    10,000 men? Are you sure there isn't a more modern far more reasonable number we could suggest here?
    It's just a number to make a point. It could be the thousands of Allied troops involved in Operation Fortitude, the Relatively small British army in the Peninsular or the entire marine force in the first Gulf War, all of these where more use as a force in being than actually as a combat force. All these numbers were just to show how a force of size X, could keep amused a force of a size Greater than X and that sometimes it is not the best route to engage with that force as a defeat would release enemy troops to other theatres, areas or engagements.
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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Moving the point back to the ancient world, I think there are several campaigns whereby there were no major pitched battles. The Roman did not really conquer Hispania via pitched battles, but hundreds of small scale skirmish that lasted for decades, if not centuries.

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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Quote Originally Posted by ray243 View Post
    Moving the point back to the ancient world, I think there are several campaigns whereby there were no major pitched battles. The Roman did not really conquer Hispania via pitched battles, but hundreds of small scale skirmish that lasted for decades, if not centuries.
    Likewise, the Achaemenid conquest of Ionia was fought entirely by sieges.

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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Giving battle is a chancey decision, as, due to the lack of control such short and very concentrated engagements impose, they tend to come down to blind luck and low-level decisions by their very nature, and can potentially result in very heavy casualties.

    Why "lack of control"? "Lack of control" is typical for battles fought between not sophisticated opponents in terms of tactics & command - like two unorganized "barbarian hordes", for example (or some "rubble" from the Dark Ages). But for major part of world history it is not the case.

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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Few intelligent commanders elect to follow such a course of action unless believing that they have a decisive advantage

    Yes - if you believe you have tactical edge and qualitative advantage, you go for a pitched battle. Such an aggressive tactics ("hunger of battle") was typical for many commanders and armies in military history. Usually for armies and commanders that were convinced about their advantages in pitched battles.

    Neither victory, nor a decisive result can ever be guaranteed.

    If you have inferior resources or smaller numbers, but you also have tactical edge and qualitative advantage, pitched battle is the only way to win - because in such situations simple mathematics tells you that you cannot win in a prolonged positional / siege / trench / attrition warfare.

    Once again - this is one more of many reasons, why "hunger of battle" was typical for tactics and strategy of many armies in history - contrary to what you claim in this thread. But of course what you claim (i.e. pitched battles being rarity and not so decisive) was also typical for many conflicts - because often it was favourable for at least one side to avoid battles. But contrary to what you claim - this was never a "general rule" for all military conflicts in world history.

    It always depends on many factors - composition and size of armies, ratio of forces, terrain, how well fortified an area is (how many castles, cities, etc.).

    The Roman did not really conquer Hispania via pitched battles, but hundreds of small scale skirmish that lasted for decades, if not centuries.

    That's because Spanish tribes avoided pitched battles in most situations - not because the Romans did not want them.

    The conquest of Spain lasted for around 250 years and was very bloody for the Romans.

    But of course there were pitched battles - mostly they took place, when conditions were favourable for Spanish tribes (see for example Lusitanian leader Viriathus - he was an excellent commander in guerilla warfare, but also good in major ambushes and pitched battles - usually in rough, uneven terrain -, in which Viriathus decimated or completely slaughtered many Roman armies).

    here were no true pitched battles in France in 1940

    Pitched battle is in itself an obsolete term to use for 20th century and 21st century warfare, in which frontlines and such were involved.

    In my opinion pitched battle is a term that can be used only in relation to warfare up to 19th century - but not for 20th century onward.
    Last edited by Domen123; February 18, 2013 at 04:58 PM.

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    Lord Oda Nobunaga's Avatar Sixth Heaven Demon Lord
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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    ^Skirmishes and strategy, Probably what the Africa theatre of World War 2 should have been, Rommel knew he would lose and convinces himself that attacking is best. They can't even bring more troops to the campaign either and then they end up losing the war because the logistics issue leads to Rommel fighting huge battles which then leads to losing Africa and the Allies invading Europe. Also that last one sort of disproves that because the Persians had such a huge population then they therefore have a massive army with which to invade Greece, yet Germany did not mobilize their populace nor did they have the logistics to send more troops to the other theatre. So why would Persia.

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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Once again - in World War 2, speaking of pitched battles, is wrong.

    Pitched battles can be applied to times prior to the 20th century.

    In my opinion the concept of "pitched battle" simply doesn't work in WW2 (or perhaps even WW1) reality. The scale and scope is too vast - there were no battles like Waterloo in WW2, in which entire army fought vs entire army on a relatively small area and everything was decided in one day or a few days.

    The so called "battle" of Bzura - the biggest battle of the invasion of Poland in 1939 - lasted for many days and consisted of several phases, each of these phases consisted of many smaller battles, combats and engagements. The concept of "battle" in WW2 is something different than in 19th century and before.

    When we speak about the American Civil War, we talk for example about the Petersburg "campaign" - in reality, for example such a "battle" of Bzura of 1939, was fought on a much bigger scale and scope that that Petersburg "campaign" (the Bzura "battlefield" covered over 7,000 square kilometers of area, where combats of this "battle" were fought - show me a single so called pitched battle prior to the 20th century that was fought on such a vast area).
    Last edited by Domen123; February 18, 2013 at 05:11 PM.

  11. #31
    Lord Oda Nobunaga's Avatar Sixth Heaven Demon Lord
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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Rommel should not have gone on the strategic offensive, is what I am saying. He should have gone on the defense and tried use guerilla warfare on the invading Allies. If the Libyan ports weren't large enough to send in more troops and supplies then why not use Algiers and Tunis?

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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Quote Originally Posted by Domen123 View Post
    That's because Spanish tribes avoided pitched battles in most situations - not because the Romans did not want them.

    The conquest of Spain lasted for around 250 years and was very bloody for the Romans.

    But of course there were pitched battles - mostly they took place, when conditions were favourable for Spanish tribes (see for example Lusitanian leader Viriathus - he was an excellent commander in guerilla warfare, but also good in major ambushes and pitched battles - usually in rough, uneven terrain -, in which Viriathus decimated or completely slaughtered many Roman armies).
    My main point wasn't to argue why there was a lack of pitched battle in the Roman conquest of Spain, but demonstrating the point that entire peninsular can be won without any major pitched battles.

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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    but demonstrating the point that entire peninsular can be won without any major pitched battles

    Not really. There were pitched battles during the Roman conquest of Spain. And they - apart from siege battles - decided the outcome.

    But the conquest took such a long time, because the Spanish tribes were usually avoiding pitched battles and preferred guerilla war and ambushes.

    In other words - the Romans had great problems with catching and destroying their enemy in battle. Hence, the conquest took so long.

    Great Spanish leaders such as Viriathus were sometimes going for a pitched battle - but in favourable conditions, so they usually won them.

    When conditions were favourable for the Romans, wise Spanish commanders were avoiding battles.

    He should have gone on the defense and tried use guerilla warfare on the invading Allies.

    A bit hard in the desert unless you have great mobility advantage.

    And Rommel didn't have it - he also didn't have superiority in the air.
    Last edited by Domen123; February 19, 2013 at 09:03 AM.

  14. #34
    Blatta Optima Maxima's Avatar Definitely banned
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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Quote Originally Posted by Domen123 View Post
    Why "lack of control"? "Lack of control" is typical for battles fought between not sophisticated opponents in terms of tactics & command - like two unorganized "barbarian hordes", for example (or some "rubble" from the Dark Ages). But for major part of world history it is not the case.
    False. After two forces make contact, making adjustments without risking disorganization, heavy casualties and even breaking is pretty much impossible - that's the whole reason for having reserves. In a battle, due to the slow speeds of communication and all around confusion, decision often came down more to either a pre-determined advantage, or luck/low level decisions.
    Quote Originally Posted by Domen123 View Post
    Yes - if you believe you have tactical edge and qualitative advantage, you go for a pitched battle. Such an aggressive tactics ("hunger of battle") was typical for many commanders and armies in military history. Usually for armies and commanders that were convinced about their advantages in pitched battles.

    If you have inferior resources or smaller numbers, but you also have tactical edge and qualitative advantage, pitched battle is the only way to win - because in such situations simple mathematics tells you that you cannot win in a prolonged positional / siege / trench / attrition warfare.
    Yes, yes, if you actually read my post as whole you'd see that I made note of that - when you have a clear advantage, you want a battle. You may also want a battle when you are in a difficult strategic position, but have reason to believe a decisive engagament could favor you. But the thing is, in the vast majority of cases, this isn't true. Neither side has a decisive tactical advantage, and often the strategically superior side will simply deny battle.

    Both sides of this coin appear in William the Conqueror's career. When the French king repeatedly invaded his lands, William kept small, mobile cavalry units in the field while leaving most of his forces to garrison castles. This way he denied the royal armies any chance of decisive engagement in the field, despite their willingness to commit, and also prevented any positions from falling through attacking logistics and vulnerable elements of the enemy army. This way he emerged victorious on two separate campaigns. When attacking in France, he took care to single out important objectives and fulfill them as quickly as possible, to prevent the same strategy being used against him.

    On the other hand, when invading England, William was taking a massive risk, because he lacked the numbers and homeland logistical support to wage a protracted war against an organized enemy using Fabian strategy. Luckily for him, the Saxons responded to his devastation of the location well enough and decided to deploy in such a position where it was possible to engage them directly, even if they weren't quite intent on giving battle. If it wasn't for the oncoming end of campaign season and the overconfidence of Harold, William may well have been denied his chance. Nevertheless, he managed to engage the Saxons in a battle and kill Harold - which left the English without a king and thus a solid position on the isles for William, due to the collapse of English leadership. Even so he still had to capture many English strongholds and establish his hold on the country, but without a king, it was a much less difficult task than originally.

    Once again - this is one more of many reasons, why "hunger of battle" was typical for tactics and strategy of many armies in history - contrary to what you claim in this thread. But of course what you claim (i.e. pitched battles being rarity and not so decisive) was also typical for many conflicts - because often it was favourable for at least one side to avoid battles. But contrary to what you claim - this was never a "general rule" for all military conflicts in world history.
    Hunger for battle is NOT typical. That's why such an epithet exists. Most armed conflicts throughout history have been quite asymmetrical, and thus it's easy to understand why quite often one side might seek battle, but you must also acknowledge the fact that giving battle without an advantage was rarely done by competent leaders, and that battles were often indecisive, or just a conclusion to a victorious maneuver. True pitched battles, with both sides fully committing directly are always rare, always have been and always will be.
    It always depends on many factors - composition and size of armies, ratio of forces, terrain, how well fortified an area is (how many castles, cities, etc.).
    You see Fabian defenses and raid-style offenses both on the steppes and in the heavily fortified Medieval European environments. There's no real environment where direct battle gives an advantage.
    That's because Spanish tribes avoided pitched battles in most situations - not because the Romans did not want them.
    The Romans might have wanted them, but they had no reason to expect they'd get any, due to their massively superior numbers and tactical advantages. Instead, they went with the realistic approach of attacking Iberian positions and hinterland. Of course, the Spaniards fought back in the classic Fabian style.
    The conquest of Spain lasted for around 250 years and was very bloody for the Romans.
    But of course there were pitched battles - mostly they took place, when conditions were favourable for Spanish tribes (see for example Lusitanian leader Viriathus - he was an excellent commander in guerilla warfare, but also good in major ambushes and pitched battles - usually in rough, uneven terrain -, in which Viriathus decimated or completely slaughtered many Roman armies).
    A battle where only one side is deployed is not a pitched battle. Viriathus wasn't engaging Roman primary forces, for one, but detachments, and second, he didn't fight on equal terms (as in, when both sides elect to fight).
    Pitched battle is in itself an obsolete term to use for 20th century and 21st century warfare, in which frontlines and such were involved. In my opinion pitched battle is a term that can be used only in relation to warfare up to 19th century - but not for 20th century onward.
    This betrays the fact that you simply don't understand the concept of front lines. You see descriptions of warfare in the 19th century and earlier, talking about battles and marches. And then you see those neat front lines on maps talking about modern warfare, and assume something is inherently different. It isn't.

    You begin to see "front lines" as early as the Hundred Years War, and probably in many cases earlier, with general areas being dominated by forces of one side through holding the important fortifications and dominating in the fields (as in, higher concentration of troops in the general area). They would shift with forces moving and capturing positions along these "lines", with larger armies advancing deep into enemy dominated territory and destroying garrisons and patrols there, replacing them with their own, so as to give foothold for an advance across the board. Small forces everywhere engaged in raids, skirmishes, patrolling areas and defending positions. The impression that all troops were concentrated into the marching armies is simply blatantly untrue, shown as such by indentures for garrison troops, records of low intensity operations, etc. Occasionally the larger concentrations fight an engagement, usually to facilitate or prevent the capturing of a position.

    In the late 18th and 19th centuries, we begin to see ever larger forces take to the fields, and now there's often more than just a couple of major marching armies in the field, hence why larger units appear and the areas of operation expand to accommodate them. Maneuver now takes the shape of many marching forces acting in cooperation, taking care of operational objectives separately, etc. What would have been mere skirmishes with armies the size they were in the middle ages, now get described by battles due to the numbers of men involved, despite being essentially the same type of engagement. True pitched battles are even rarer as before, due to the large numbers of men being scattered across larger areas, often larger groups concentrating to destroy smaller enemy groups. This is why there's such a wide gap between most "battles", involving from a few hundred to a dozen thousand men per side, and a few exceptional ones, involving hundreds of thousands of men. In keeping with the manner of operations of the earlier eras, the first actually take the place of skirmishes, and the latter are the true pitched battles, when many of the separate marching units concentrate to engage a similar conglomeration of opposing units.

    With the dawn of the 20th century, armed forces have gotten so huge, and operating ever more openly, that by WW1, it's possible to cover an entire country's width by fanning out these armies to operate abrest. Also, the marching units - corps - are now the size of armies, each consisting of several corps, and grouped into the army groups. So, WW1 happens, and due to the massive, unpredicted advances in killing power, namely artillery, it's found that smaller forces deployed in a strong position can prevent much larger concentrations of men from advancing simply by virtue of incredible defensive firepower. Since concentration is no longer much good, units just start getting fanned out all along the front lines, creating defensive fortifications and trying to break their opponents'. Larger concentrations are used in attacking smaller ones from time to time with limited success, but pitched battles - like at Verdun - against similar opposing concentrations are immensely destructive. Thus it's all back to the old game of low intensity attritional warfare.

    With tanks, increased infantry firepower, even more deadly artillery and effective air power, the stalemate gets broken, and defensive, spread out forces are no longer viable. So there we get modern warfare - huge numbers of men in many, many marching detachments, engaging and maneuvering by concentrating or fanning out, and fighting primarily for strategically important positions, with some rough zones of control being marked by the saturation of an area with troops/their ability to dominate it. Larger concentrations can be used to destroy smaller ones and capture positions, expelling enemy forces, to give a foothold for advance, and spread out forces engage in raids, skirmishes and defending locations. Occasionally the larger concentrations engage enemy ones, usually to facilitate or prevent a position of utmost importance being captured. Sound familiar?

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    Publius Clodius Pulcher's Avatar Princeps Prior
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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    This is an intriguing conversation but I'd like some clarifications Blatta.

    1. What do you define as a "pitched battle" as compared (especially post Medieval) to skirmishes? I think one of the real problems in this discussion is figuring out what exactly would qualify. Just as someone pointed out earlier in regards to the Battle of France (which is an especially egregious stretch of the term battle), where is the line really drawn? Battle of Normandy? Battle of Utah Beach? Where does it turn from a battle to a skirmish and so forth. Honestly I'd prefer a non WW2 example as WW2 is somewhat transitory in my mind.

    2. What do you define as a war compared to low intensity/scale conflict? You mentioned Willaim of Normandy's conflict with the French King. In my mind, that wouldn't really be defined as a war per say. I'll grant that vassal/lord conflict is not a speciality of mine, but are those conflicts really "wars"?

    3. Finally, what do you define as rare? In my experience most wars do actually contain at least 1 ( or usually more) "battles". Does not happening every day mean their rare? Or do you think "battles" are grossly over exaggerated skirmishes?

    In my own opinion, we do take logistics and organization for granted when we study military history, especially when nonexperts do it. But "battles" do occur in the vast majority of wars in Western History, and advancing to battle is a common occurance. Perhaps it is an inheritance from the Greeks who loved to have pitched battles settle their conflicts (or would you consider the phalanx v phalanx battle wherein only a relatively low percentage of combatants die a skirmish?) In Greece a "battle" was expected (The Peloponnesian War was notable for the relative abscesses of them). In Rome, generals were supposed to pursue them until Hannibal broke them of that concept (or at what point in Roman History did "skirmishes" become "battles"?)






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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    1. What do you define as a "pitched battle" as compared (especially post Medieval) to skirmishes? I think one of the real problems in this discussion is figuring out what exactly would qualify. Just as someone pointed out earlier in regards to the Battle of France (which is an especially egregious stretch of the term battle), where is the line really drawn? Battle of Normandy? Battle of Utah Beach? Where does it turn from a battle to a skirmish and so forth. Honestly I'd prefer a non WW2 example as WW2 is somewhat transitory in my mind.
    A pitched battle is when the main concentration of troops in an area engages the corresponding enemy concentration with hopes of accomplishing their strategic goal. When it's fighting between detachments, it's skirmishing.

    2. What do you define as a war compared to low intensity/scale conflict? You mentioned Willaim of Normandy's conflict with the French King. In my mind, that wouldn't really be defined as a war per say. I'll grant that vassal/lord conflict is not a speciality of mine, but are those conflicts really "wars"?
    Yes. How else would you call them? But oh right, if it doesn't have pitched battles it's not a war!

    3. Finally, what do you define as rare? In my experience most wars do actually contain at least 1 ( or usually more) "battles". Does not happening every day mean their rare? Or do you think "battles" are grossly over exaggerated skirmishes?
    That's because your impression of "most wars" is skewed. Today we generally only study the campaigns with major battles in them, despite the fact that those without one were far more common. You know how many battles Henry V fought over the course of his career? 2. And that's with about 14 years of his life spent campaigning. The reason you think every war/campaign includes a battle is because they're the ones people prefer to write about.

    Note that I did mention there are some exceptions - when both sides are pressed by limited time and support, like in civil wars, battles are more common. But in a war between two states that have a border and an army to work with they're a much less inviting prospect.

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    Icon1 Re: Pitched battles

    Quote Originally Posted by Blatta Optima Maxima View Post
    A pitched battle is when the main concentration of troops in an area engages the corresponding enemy concentration with hopes of accomplishing their strategic goal. When it's fighting between detachments, it's skirmishing.
    This is still nebulous. "Main concentration" and "in an area" have no real definition. How large an area are we talking about. Is 51% of the troops a main concentration?

    How then would you define the "battle" of Jena-Austerdat? Two separate concentrations engaged two opposing concentrations a hundred miles apart. Are these both simply skirmishes?

    Yes. How else would you call them? But oh right, if it doesn't have pitched battles it's not a war!
    Raiding? Annual campaigning? In the Medieval era wasn't half the point simply to keep your men busy and loyal? I don't consider the across the Rhine raiding by Germanic tribesmen between 100-300AD a continual war.

    That's because your impression of "most wars" is skewed. Today we generally only study the campaigns with major battles in them, despite the fact that those without one were far more common. You know how many battles Henry V fought over the course of his career? 2. And that's with about 14 years of his life spent campaigning. The reason you think every war/campaign includes a battle is because they're the ones people prefer to write about.

    Note that I did mention there are some exceptions - when both sides are pressed by limited time and support, like in civil wars, battles are more common. But in a war between two states that have a border and an army to work with they're a much less inviting prospect.
    Well my impression of most wars may be skewed but I suppose it aligns with the entirety of Western History. We don't know intense troops movement details for every one of Charlemagnes 30+ years of raiding, but we do know certain battles and how they advanced his ends.

    To be honest e problem with disregarding battles is that they work. Raiding, disrupting supply lines etc don't achieve real victories as well as battles. Granted, maybe in the Medieval era they did so, but if you want to keep harping on Henry V I'm not gonna stop you. I'm not a medievalist and in the medieval era the concept of the decisive battle was probably at its nadir. But between the years of 500BC-300AD and say 1643-1945 battles and sieges ENDED wars. Did logistics and organization force those battles? Yes. But the battle itself is what ended it. Your definition above doesn't specify that BOTH parties need to WILLINGLY engage






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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    , heavy casualties and even breaking is pretty much impossible
    Breaking (detaching) from the enemy is possible, if you are fast enough.

    Hence we have accounts of multiple cavalry charges carried out by the same unit in one battle against the same enemy unit.

    A pitched battle is when the main concentration of troops in an area engages the corresponding enemy concentration with hopes of accomplishing their strategic goal.
    Pitched batttle definition from wikipedia:

    "A pitched battle is a battle where both sides choose to fight at a chosen location and time and where either side has the option to disengage either before the battle starts, or shortly after the first armed exchanges."

    Viriathus wasn't engaging Roman primary forces, for one, but detachments
    In several battles he was engaging Roman primary forces - on some occasions defeated Roman forces numbering over 10,000 or more.

    If I remember correctly, 10,000 was a typical strength of a Praetor's army while 20,000 of a Consular army. So yes - on some occassions he was engaging (and defeated) such armies. And those were "primary forces" (armies, not single cohorts or even single legions - although single legion is already a large force).

    but you must also acknowledge the fact that giving battle without an advantage was rarely done by competent leaders
    What kind of advantage do you mean? Numerical?

    I know commanders who were eagerly giving battles (and winning them) while being numerically inferior. And they are considered as very competent.

    Luckily for him, the Saxons responded to his devastation of the location well enough and decided to deploy in such a position where it was possible to engage them directly, even if they weren't quite intent on giving battle.
    The Saxons deployed in an extremely favourable, strong defensive position. That was not good for William. But he decided to attack anyway.

    You may also want a battle when you are in a difficult strategic position, but have reason to believe a decisive engagament could favor you.
    And this was not so uncommon as you claim throughout history.

    Hunger for battle is NOT typical. That's why such an epithet exists.
    This depends on many factors. Sometimes it was typical, sometimes it wasn't. You cannot claim that it was some unusual raririty.
    Last edited by Domen123; February 20, 2013 at 11:06 AM.

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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Quote Originally Posted by Publius Clodius Pulcher View Post
    This is still nebulous. "Main concentration" and "in an area" have no real definition. How large an area are we talking about. Is 51% of the troops a main concentration?
    No, the one which, if it exists, is the main striking force and preferably includes the high command.
    How then would you define the "battle" of Jena-Austerdat? Two separate concentrations engaged two opposing concentrations a hundred miles apart. Are these both simply skirmishes?
    From the French perspective it's quite clear - Jena was the main engagement, due to it being both the largest concentration by numbers and also the headquarters, with the high command. From the Prussians' perspective, it was just a cluster****. Napoleon concentrated his forces to the south, and destroyed the corps stationed near Jena, while to the north, the Prussian main force failed to destroy the two outlying corps at Auerstedt, and was forced to withdraw with heavy casualties. The latter is quite like a skirmish, when we look at if from a strategic perspective, but due to the numbers involved in early modern and modern warfare, most historians are tempted to call it a battle. Nevertheless, it was hardly pitched, as it was unintentional, for the most part.
    Raiding? Annual campaigning? In the Medieval era wasn't half the point simply to keep your men busy and loyal? I don't consider the across the Rhine raiding by Germanic tribesmen between 100-300AD a continual war.
    What? What the **** are you even talking about? I'm not talking about border raiding, I'm talking about actual wars. You know, with political entities attempting to achieve clear political and strategical goals. And lots of those were without battles. And even if a battle was fought, it was rarely a guarantee of anything, as the abundance of fortifications much reduced the long term consequences of defeat.
    Well my impression of most wars may be skewed but I suppose it aligns with the entirety of Western History. We don't know intense troops movement details for every one of Charlemagnes 30+ years of raiding, but we do know certain battles and how they advanced his ends.
    Because you assign all strategic achievements to battles, then. And you forget sieges, for whatever reason, because apparently it's easier to attack a strawman. I'm not talking about border raids and disrupting supply lines, I'm talking about everything that isn't a pitched battle.
    To be honest e problem with disregarding battles is that they work. Raiding, disrupting supply lines etc don't achieve real victories as well as battles. Granted, maybe in the Medieval era they did so, but if you want to keep harping on Henry V I'm not gonna stop you. I'm not a medievalist and in the medieval era the concept of the decisive battle was probably at its nadir. But between the years of 500BC-300AD and say 1643-1945 battles and sieges ENDED wars. Did logistics and organization force those battles? Yes. But the battle itself is what ended it. Your definition above doesn't specify that BOTH parties need to WILLINGLY engage
    Yes it does. That's the definition of a ****ing pitched battle - when two forces engage directly, with the chance of not engaging. And do tell me how the Eighty Years' War was won by pitched battles. Or Napoleon's campaign of 1812. Or the French re-conquest of Gascony in both 1370's and 1450's. Or the Roman conquest of Iberia.

    Battles do indeed offer a great way of disposing of an enemy force in one blow, but usually, when they actually occur, they're forced by one side through superior maneuver, and are quite a foregone conclusion. And for whatever ****ing reason you seem to utterly neglect the fact that I'm talking about everything that's not a pitched battle, and have been since the creation of this thread. Don't start trying to make strawmen, ok?
    Quote Originally Posted by Domen123 View Post
    Breaking (detaching) from the enemy is possible, if you are fast enough.

    Hence we have accounts of multiple cavalry charges carried out by the same unit in one battle against the same enemy unit.
    Cavalry units can do that, if they are supported by unengaged reserves, but I am talking about committing to battle in general. After the armies join battle, the conclusion is very much out of the general's grasp. Localized command is still possible, but the communications are simply too slow and inefficient to facilitate good overall coordination. That's why you so often see that ancient and medieval battles come down to low level commanders in crucial locations, and a variety of factors that might as well be described as sheer dumb luck, rather than great tactical skill by the general. But then again, many more are decided simply by one side having outmaneuvered the other operationally and strategically - the battle being just the full stop.
    Pitched batttle definition from wikipedia:

    "A pitched battle is a battle where both sides choose to fight at a chosen location and time and where either side has the option to disengage either before the battle starts, or shortly after the first armed exchanges."

    Yup, both sides, and if we're talking at high command level, cops fighting a corps is not a pitched battle. Of course, to them it is, but it's not when you look at the war from the strategical level.
    In several battles he was engaging Roman primary forces - on some occasions defeated Roman forces numbering over 10,000 or more.
    Did the Romans get the choice of fighting those battles? Did those forces represent the field army (i.e. by including the high command and being the largest force assigned to that strategic goal)? Also, what source is saying that? Let's not forget the propensity of ancient authors to massively overestimate numbers of men involved in battles. And ultimately, despite the possibility of them being pitched battles, it appears they decided exactly jack ****.
    If I remember correctly, 10,000 was a typical strength of a Praetor's army while 20,000 of a Consular army.
    Wrong period mate. During and after the Punic wars the old republican traditions of how large an army was to be raised in what circumstances very much went down the drain in favor of strategic necessity and logistical viability.
    So yes - on some occassions he was engaging (and defeated) such armies. And those were "primary forces" (armies, not single cohorts or even single legions - although single legion is already a large force).
    Again, what exactly did they decide, and how many were there? I somehow seriously doubt you can name more than one or two cases. Go ahead.
    What kind of advantage do you mean? Numerical?
    When I say "advantage", I mean advantage. If I had a specific advantage in mind I would say so.
    I know commanders who were eagerly giving battles (and winning them) while being numerically inferior. And they are considered as very competent.
    See above.
    The Saxons deployed in an extremely favourable, strong defensive position. That was not good for William. But he decided to attack anyway.
    Yes, ignoring strategy and logistics in favor of tactics would so work. Read my post again. I made it very clear why it was good for William. Sure, it was daunting from a tactical perspective - but it was far, far better than the alternatives.
    And this was not so uncommon as you claim throughout history.
    Aha. Now find one place where I say exactly how common pitched battles are, and this can be anything other than an empty attack that can't possibly be supported.
    This depends on many factors. Sometimes it was typical, sometimes it wasn't. You cannot claim that it was some unusual raririty.
    It was unusual enough to NOT be viewed as the most important aspect of warfare. Which is my point all along. Now, to avoid a continued, pointless quote war, this is my argument, the core of it, and the only part which you can agree or disagree with:

    Pitched battles aren't and weren't the most important aspect of warfare, and are thus overrated in mainstream military history. They do occur, and the do sometimes prove decisive, but they are not common enough, and generally not decisive enough to be viewed as such, not over the other facets of waging a war.
    Last edited by Blatta Optima Maxima; February 24, 2013 at 12:52 PM.

  20. #40
    MariusHealth's Avatar Signifer
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    Default Re: Pitched battles

    Both the soldiers and the public will want a quick and decisive victory. The enthusiasm only lasts so long. Who wants an endless grind? Losing a battle will deteriorate morale all over, but so will a long campaign. If you're avoiding the enemy - what does that say of your abilities? Perhaps the general has lost his nerves?

    Pompey reluctantly engaged Caesar at Pharsalus when Caesar was in a bad strategic situation. I'm sure you can come up with other examples of the same. Likewise you can probably find many examples where battles did not define wars.

    Just as saying that wars are only a series of battles - claiming that they are unimportant is wrong. Battles constitute the most important single aspect that I can name. When they happen they are usually defining.


    Since wars are defined by many factors, just looking at battles wont give you much insight.

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