The Most Common and Disastrous Military Mistakes of History

by Joshua Horn
From 100 Decisive Battles by Paul K. David
In the Bible we learn that God controls every aspect of history. He preordains every victory and defeat that has happened, and will happen, in all of time. God often uses the mistakes that military commanders make, to change the course of history. Now we will examine three of the most common mistakes of military commanders: the problem of relying on numbers too heavily, hesitating whether to attack or not, and not being prepared for an attack by the enemy at any time.
The first common blunder we will consider is relying on numerical superiority and prestige instead of their actual fighting power or tactical superiority. For example, in the battle of Crécy, in 1346, the French had more than five times as many men as the English, but the English longbowmen easily slaughtered the French knights. The proud French knights believed that they could not be stopped by archers, and so they charged headlong at the prepared English position. Another example is the defeat of the Russian fleet by the Japanese at the battle of Tsushima in 1905. The outdated Russian ships were easily defeated by the newer Japanese vessels. The Russians had relied too much on their prestige as having one of the most powerful navies in the world. This mistake of relying too much on numerical superiority has occurred during many battles in history.
Many times battles are lost because of a hesitation on the part of the generals. One example of this is in the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War. On the first day of the battle, July 1, 1863, the Confederate army stumbled upon a few Union brigades. They attacked, and after a hard fight drove the Unions off of the hill. General Richard S. Ewell, who commanded the Confederate forces who were leading the attack, instead of attacking and pressing the retreating Federal army, could not decide whether to attack the Union position, which he probably would have carried. This hesitation on his part probably cost the Confederacy the battle, and possibly even the war. Another example of this same mistake is in the battle of Dunkirk in 1940 during World War II. For some reason, Adolf Hitler delayed pressing his attack on the British at Dunkirk, who he had surrounded, which allowed the British army to escape back to Britain. This allowed England to have trained troops to defeat Hitler's attack in the Battle of Britain. If Hitler had not decided to hold off on his attack on Dunkirk for three days, Britain might very well be part of Germany to this day.
The third common strategic blunder is not always being prepared for an attack. Many times generals feel too secure and do not set out guard to watch for an approaching enemy. One example of this is in the battle of San Jacinto in the war for Texan independence. Santa Anna, the commander of the Mexicans, believed that he had the Texan army trapped between two rivers, and so he allowed his army to take a nap during the midday heat. Sam Houston ordered his outnumbered army of Texans forward against the Mexicans. They were completely surprised, and were easily routed and defeated. George Washington used a similar tactic during his attack on Trenton in the winter of 1776. He chose to attack on the day after Christmas, when the Hessian garrison was sound asleep from parties the night before. He crossed the icy river when no one expected him to be able to, and his army easily overcame the surprised Hessians. This victory at Trenton gave a moral boost to the Americans, and it gave encouragement to soldiers to join the American army, so that they could continue the war. Many surprise attacks such as these two have changed the course of wars, and ultimately of history. One of the most important principles of war is to not let yourself be surprised, and battles and wars have been lost by not paying attention to it.
We have just looked at three of the most common mistakes in military history. These are relying on numerical superiority, not being always prepared for an attack, and hesitating at the critical moment of the battle. God has used them many times in the course of history, and many battles and wars have been lost because the generals did not consider what military mistakes God had ordained to happen in the past, and did not watch out for those mistakes in their own generalship. These mistakes have occurred many times throughout the course of history, and God will probably use them many times more before the end of the world.
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