Here we take a look at just some of the greatest military last stands that have occured over the decades. Which would you add in? We’ll look at more of these at a later date:
The Battle of Rorke’s Drift – January 22-23, 1879
Immediately after their victory at nearby Isandlwana, a large Zulu army attacked a company of British soldiers at the Rorke’s Drift outpost. Though badly outnumbered, the English managed to hold off their opponents and inflict heavy casualties through sheer determination and bravery. The successful defense was a bright spot compared to the debacle at Isandlwana and 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded among the participants.
The Battle of Camarón – April 30, 1863
This is the French Foreign Legion’s defining battle. A company-sized patrol of 65 Legionnaires escorting a supply convoy was overtaken by a force of 800 Mexican cavalry, later reinforced by some 2,200 infantry. The French soldiers took cover in the nearby Hacienda Cameron Inn and swore to defend it to the death. The ensuing battle lasted around seven hours and ended only when the last 5 Legionnaires made a bayonet charge. The last two men alive were given permission by the Mexican commander to leave with the body of their commander, Captain Danjou, who had a wooden hand. Today that hand is the most revered artifact in the Legion’s long history.
The Lost Battalion: The Men of the 77th Division, October 2-8, 1918
Some 554 men of the US 77th Division were surrounded by German troops when the French forces on their flank were stopped, leaving them isolated. Wishing to restore this hole in their lines the Germans attacked the American for six days; almost two-thirds of them became casualties. Despite this and shortages of food, water and ammunition, the Americans held out until other allied attacks forced a German retreat, relieving the beleaguered Yanks.
The Battle of the Little Big Horn – June 25-26, 1876
America’s most famous last stand. Lt. Col. George A. Custer led the 7th Cavalry Regiment against a large Native American encampment. Underestimating his foe, Custer split his command into three separate elements and attacked a much larger force of native warriors. The column led by Custer was wiped out. The remaining columns later linked up and made their own stand on a hill, surviving when their enemy moved off the next day. The events of the battle are even today the subject of much speculation and argument.
Wake Island – December 8-23, 1941
This isolated Pacific outpost was attacked the day after Pearl Harbor but a mixed forces of US Marines, Sailors and civilian workers managed to fend off the first landing attempt by the Japanese on December 11, sinking two destroyers and damaging a cruiser. Afterward the Japanese applied more resources to taking the island and a second attempt on December 23 succeeded despite heavy casualties. The small American force inflicted casualties all out of proportion to its size but suffered greatly in captivity after the battle.
The Siege of the Alamo – February 23 – March 6, 1836
This famous battle pitted rebellious Texans, some of whom were Americans, against a Mexican army sent to crush their nascent independence movement. Mexican leader General Antonio Lopez De Santa Anna laid siege to the small mission, bombarding it for days and having several small skirmishes before a final assault on the night of March 5-6. All the combatants in the Alamo were killed other than one man, a slave of the Texan officer Col. William Travis, and several women. This short term Mexican victory backfired when “Remember the Alamo!” became the rallying cry. It has since become arguably the most famous battle of the American West.