Famous Civil War Battles

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Introduction

War is a terrible thing but when it divides a country in two, it has the power to divide families either by geography or by philosophy. Protecting one’s borders against an enemy without can often mean that the enemy within and growing discord can tear a country apart. Here is a list of ten of the most notable battles from the most famous civil wars throughout history

 

1. Battle of Pharsalus 48BC

Battle_of_Pharsalus,_48_BC

The Roman Republic and later the empire were beset by a number of civil wars but none were more so important than the civil war between the forces of Gaius Julius Caesar and his opponents in the Senate. Pompey, who had once been a friend and ally of Caesar, faced his foe at this the decisive battle of the war at Pharsalus in Greece. Despite having the better supply line, being on higher ground and in familiar territory, the Senate’s army was routed and Pompey fled with his family to Egypt

2. Battle of Siffin 657

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The death of a charismatic and powerful leader nearly always leads to a civil war as the successors vie for power. The early days of Islam were marked with political struggles between the various groups. One of the best-known battles of the first Fitna (Islamic Civil War) was this battle that took place in modern Syria. The battle lasted just two days, this despite the fact that both armies had been camped for 100 days or more. Battle-weary, both sides decided in the end to call a halt to the battle – it ended in stalemate

3. Battle of Ã’¡amurlu 1413

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The Ottoman Empire lasted several hundred years, finally coming to an end just after World War I. Like any large and successful empire, it suffered periods of unrest. The Civil War / Interregnum period saw a number of battles between two warring brothers to decide who would succeed their father Bayezid I. The winner would reunite the empire which had split due to divided loyalties. It was the final and decisive battle which saw the death of Musa Ã’¡elebi and the ascension of Mehmet I

4. Battle of Cuzco 1532

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The imperialist nations of Europe ‘ such as Spain – were responsible for the end of some great empires of South America through the direct action of war. Spain was also unwittingly the cause of the only Incan civil war. Huayna Capac and his son Ninan Cuyochi had both died of smallpox leaving his other sons Huáscar and Atahualpa to squabble over succession. This was the final and decisive battle that saw Atahualpa attack the capital of his rival and end the war for good. A year later, the Spanish would begin their conquest

5. Battle of Torrington 1646

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The English Civil War was actually three mini wars covering a nine year period. This was the most pivotal battle of the first English Civil War (1642-1646) and it saw the end of Royalist support across the entire West Country ‘ except for the city of Exeter which fell a month later. It began some miles to the east of the town but when the Cornish lines broke, they fell back to the town. An explosion at the church led to panic amongst the royalists. The Parliamentarian victory at Torrington began the slow demise of the crown.

6. Battle of Prague 1648

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Wars are not just fought over political ideologies ‘ religion is also a major contributing factor to widespread hostilities. The Reformation led to the breakup of the Holy Roman Empire and a war that lasted 30 years. This, the final act of the war, lasted several months and ended with the final capture of Prague Castle. It also saw the end of the extended conflict that had become far more complex than it started out. The modern settlement of several nation states began in the wake of the war

7. Battle of Gettysburg 1863

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This is the most famous battle of the American Civil War purely because of the high number of casualties with each side acquiring – over 23,000 each. A Union victory but their losses were only 180 fewer than the Confederates who would eventually retreat. American historians consider it the turning point of the entire Civil War. The battle so shocked Lincoln that he was compelled to write his famous Gettysburg Address in which he defined the war as a battle for freedom and equality

8. Battle of Aizu 1868

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The Boshin War was the struggle that brought Japan into the 19th century and toward building a truly prosperous empire capable of keeping up with The British Empire and the USA. Unfortunately, the Samurai had other ideas and wanted to stick to their traditional ways. There were other non-altruistic reasons but regardless of this, they were unwilling to change. Aizu had been a stronghold of the Shogun for generations and when this fell decisively to Imperial forces it signalled the beginning of the end of an ancient way of life

9. Battle of Peregonovka 1919

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Though most children learn about the Russian Revolution and the rise of Communism, most are not aware that the country descended into Civil War straight after the Revolution between the White Army (a mix of former royalists, capitalists and socialists) and the Red Army. A lack of cohesion within the White Army would lead to their eventual defeat. This battle was a series that took place in Ukraine and is considered not just part of the Civil War, but also part of Ukraine’s War of Independence. It was a another decisive victory for the Red Army

10. The Battle of Guadalajara 1937

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The last major Civil War in Europe took place while most of the rest of Europe were looking eastwards toward the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The democratically elected Republicans (largely Socialist and Communist) and the Nationalists (Fascists) of Franco were engaged in a bitter war over the future of Spain. This battle took place just outside of Madrid when the Italian allies of Franco attacked the Republican line. Despite being outnumbered, the Republicans celebrated an enormous victory over Franco but it would ultimately be their final victory before losing the war

 

Conclusion

There’s nothing civil about war and Civil Wars can be the most hard-fought, bloody and devastating to a country often purely on grounds of a simple difference in ideology. You can never protect against people wanting to break from the norm. In March 2014, Ukraine finds itself on the brink of a Civil War due to the desires of the west of the country differing from those in the east

 

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