13 Decisive Battles in History That Changed the World

6. Battle of Cajamarca

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16 November 1532. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro ambush Inca ruler Atahualpa at Cajamarca, modern-day Peru. He slaughters thousands of unarmed Inca nobles, triggering a long struggle between the two sides. After months of espionage and diplomacy, Pizarro invited Atahualpa to Cajamarca to strike peace. Atahualpa arrived with 80,000 men with an unarmed retinue as a show of goodwill. He was asked to accept Christianity, which the Inca ruler denied. The Spanish opened gunfire on the Inca contingent from hidden points. Atahualpa was captured and executed.

7. Battle of Leipzig

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The Battle of Leipzig is also known as “Battle of Nations”. The allied armies of Austria, Prussia, Sweden, and Russia took on the French forces of Napoleon Bonaparte from 16-19 October 1813 at Leipzig. It was a grand finale to Napoleon’s fall campaign that involved over 600,000 men, the largest before World War I. The French emperor’s army also included Italian, German, and Polish troops but that couldn’t guarantee victory. Defeated, Napoleon returned to France, followed by his exile at Alba and the last stand at Waterloo.

8. Battle of Waterloo

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The final battle that ended Napoleon’s rule as the emperor of France. It took place on 18 June 1815 at Waterloo (present day Brussels) against the Seventh Coalition. It was one of the most decisive battles in history and also marked Napoleon’s end of “Hundred Days” rule after his return from exile. The Coalition forces handed him a crushing defeat and Napoleon was exiled in Saint Helena, where he died in 1821. Over the next couple of centuries “Waterloo” became an idiom meaning “complete rout”.

9. Battle of Gettysburg

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3 July 1863 became the turning point of the American Civil War and one of the great battles of history. The Union forces, led by Gen George Meade, prevailed against the rebels under Robert E Lee on 1 July. The Confederates had just won at Chancellorsville and hoped to progress further north when the two armies clashed. The Confederates won the first day, but by the third, they were already retreating with at least 100,000 dead. Their hope to reach Harrisburg or Philadelphia was quashed. The Battle of Gettysburg and South’s defeat at Vicksburg on 4 July, altered the course of American history.

Also Read: 13 Fascinating Facts About Hannibal Barca

10. Siege of Stalingrad

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Among the major decisive battles of World War II. In August 1942, German dictator Adolf Hitler bombed Stalingrad (now Volgograd) with air assaults and then landed his infantry. The strapped Soviet army enlisted volunteer citizens, most of them with no weapons, to battle the invading Germans. Three months later the Germans reached the Volga when the Russians launched a major counteroffensive. Hand-to-hand combat took place on the streets of Stalingrad with the action often entering the city’s homes. The Germans slowly started losing troops. By February 1943, the brutal Russian winter had depleted their ranks. Out of food and ammunition, the Nazi forces surrendered. Nearly two million people died in the siege.