Last Battles the Losers Won?

In different wars, which was the last battle won by what would be the losing side? I’ve been curious about this trivia for a long time but it seems to be difficult to search for.

I’m sure there will be some debate about what counts as a victory (in a battle or the larger war) and whether it was a meaningful battle or not, so the answer might not be clear about when the last bit of good news reached the loser’s headquarters. Still, I’d appreciate thoughts and suggestions for things like:

The last battle the Japanese/Germans won against the Allies in WWII


The last battle won by the Byzantines against the Ottomans

And so on. Thanks!

American Civil War - Battle of Palmito Ranch, in Texas, after Lee had surrendered in Virginia.

The last battle in the East won by the Confederacy was the Battle of Cumberland Church, two days before Appomatox Court House.

Interesting. I had read that the Battle of Cold Harbor was Lee’s last victory, but I didn’t know what had come later. Thanks!

Re-reading Wikipedia articles, it seems that Cold Harbor was the last Confederate victory that happened while the South still had real hope of victory, is that right?

It’s hard to say in World War I. The Kaiserschlacht was clearly the last German offensive but it’s hard to say whether or not they won it. It depends on how you define success and when you say the battle ended.

On the one hand, the Germans did stage a major advance and inflict a lot of Allied casualties. Which was their goal - so in that sense they did what they set out to do. But they were hoping the Allies would collapse and they didn’t - so in that sense, the battle accomplished everything it was supposed to but failed anyway.

And if you just limit the battle to the period from March to July, it all went pretty well for the Germans. But then the Allies launched a counterattack in August and took back everything the Germans had gained.

The Battle of Little Big Horn by the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.

I’m hard-pressed to think of any battle the Byzantines won against the Ottomans. The only pitched battles I can think of is very early clash at Bapheus in 1302 and another at Pelekanon in 1329, both rather small battles/large skirmishes and both more or less disasters for the Byzantines. Otherwise the only winning battles I can think of involving the Byzantines and Ottomans were when the Ottomans were fighting as allies of the Byzantines ( well…factions thereof ). The Byzantines regained Gallipoli in 1367, but not through any actions of the their own - it was taken in the Savoyard Crusade and returned to the Ottomans just a few years later. Dribs and drabs of territory were regained during the Ottoman interregnum of the early 15th century but again weren’t taken by military action, but rather were a matter of negotiated concessions from an Ottoman ally.

Constantinople did weather a few sieges, but I’m not sure I’d be generous enough to call any of those out and out “victories.” Bayezid I’s was abandoned due to the intervention of my namesake. Musa Celebi’s was interrupted by his brother during the chaotic civil war of the post-Bayezid interregnum. Murad II’s was called off due to a need to deal with an upstart younger brother ( granted this time there was some Byzantine statecraft involved, but it probably wasn’t decisive ).

The problem was that the Byzantine state was already a badly declined shell by the time the Ottomans began their rise. After the civil wars of the 1340’s and 1350’s the decline was probably terminal, but even before that the odds were poor. The 14th and 15th century emperors simply never had the resources to challenge the Ottomans. The expedition to Pelekanon in 1329 was really the first and last directed attempt and at that was a pretty weak effort ( Bapheus, if it happened as recorded, was launched against Turkish incursions generally and faced a composite opponent - though it appears to have made Osman I’s career ). The bulk of the fighting involved raiding and passive siege warfare as Byzantine towns and fortresses were slowly starved out and worn down by the Ottomans often after multiple years. That the Byzantine state lasted even as long as it did involved a good dose of luck and plenty of outside interventions.

Do “battles” even take place in the traditional sense anymore? I’m trying to think of examples of most recent battles won by America in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, but can’t think of anything specific.

Set piece ones don’t, thats for sure. The Israelis and Syrians fought a few pitched ones in Lebanon in 1982, Sultan Yacub for instance and India and Pakistan fought a few brigade plus size engagements in Kashmir.

Gulf War I was the great outlier.

That mainly depends on what is considered a separate battle. For example the Wehrmacht managed to recapture Bautzen on April 26, 1945 and hold it until the end of the war.

The Battle of the Alamo by Santa Anna and the Mexican army, later resoundingly defeated by Sam Houston and the Army of Texas at San Jacinto.

Battle of Germe in 1304, where a Byzantine force broke the siege of Philadelphia?

Nope, probably not. Though early Ottoman history is a little shadowy, I think all of the Catalan Company’s successes were against other Turkish emirates/beyliks, not the nascent Ottoman statelet per se. I think at Germe it was Germiyan ( who had launched the siege of Philadelphia ), Menteshe, and Aydin that were the opponents.

I don’t think the South had any real hope of victory after Gettysburg. At any rate, Confederate forces under Beauregard won the Battle of Petersburg following Cold Harbor, requiring a nine-month siege by Grant before it was finally taken. I think they had as much hope of victory after Petersburg as before, since their main hope would have been Lincoln’s defeat in the upcoming presidential election. Holding out at Petersburg still made that a possibility.

(My great-great-grandfather was at Cold Harbor and was taken prisoner during the Battle of Petersburg, later dying of scurvy in Andersonville Prison Camp.)

I agree that the Confederates’ last real hope was Lincoln losing the 1864 election. But I think the military event which swung the election was the Georgia campaign. And while there were battles fought during that campaign, none of them were really decisive to the campaign as a whole. The major effect of the campaign hadn’t been who won or lost battles along the way; it was that the Union army had been able to march through Georgia and the Confederate army hadn’t been able to stop them.

The Battle of Coleto happened after the Alamo fell. It was the last battle around Goliad–I had to look it up. Not much of a battle–the Texians surrendered. Then they were massacred, per Santa Anna’s orders. General Urrea, who’d won the battle, wanted to be civilized–but he was overruled.

Napoleon’s last military “victory,” I suppose, was the conquest of Moscow… which Kutuzov and the Russian army had abandoned. I don’t know if that counts as a battle.

Ligny, preceding Waterloo, was technically Napoleon’s last victory. If you count that as part of the larger Waterloo engagement, I think it would be Vauchamps, the final battle in the remarkable Six Days Campaign which highlighted Napoleon at his absolute best as a tactician.

Of course all of the above were tactical victories on the road to strategic defeat.

Scratch that - Reims was the last of that war. And Montereau ( another victory ) preceded Reims and followed Vauchamps.

Napoleon actually rattled off a quite impressive set of tactical victories after being smashed at Leipzig. All ultimately to no avail.

Dang it. Curse you, Osman, and your string of unbroken victories!