When David Beat Goliath: 10 Small Armies that Defeated Large Ones
When David Beat Goliath: 10 Small Armies that Defeated Large Ones

When David Beat Goliath: 10 Small Armies that Defeated Large Ones

Michelle Powell-Smith - September 5, 2016

When David Beat Goliath: 10 Small Armies that Defeated Large Ones
Lacolle Mills. Image: By Pierre Bona – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11400402

The Battle of Lacolle Mills, 1814

In the War of 1812, the United States had suffered a significant defeat at the hands of the British at the Battle of Chrysler’s Farm. Following the defeat, U.S. Major General James Wilkinson retreated to winter quarters in French Mills, New York. Wilkinson’s failure was likely to lead to his removal from a position of command, so he made a plan to gain some victories and repair his reputation.

Near the border between Canada and the United States, along the Lacolle River, British forces maintained a small garrison at Lacolle Mill. Wilkinson attacked the outpost on March 27, 1814 with a large force of American troops, made up of 4,000 soldiers and artillery. The weather and conditions proved troubling, as artillery could not be moved near Lacolle Mill.

Wilkinson attacked the outpost, but the British successfully responded, using Congreve rockets. Additional British and Canadian troops heard the gunfire and responded. Wilkinson and his troops retreated that evening, having failed to defeat the small garrison of troops at Lacolle Mill. American losses totaled 154 men. The British and Canadians lost only 60 men to the battle.

When David Beat Goliath: 10 Small Armies that Defeated Large Ones
Finnish soldiers in the Winter War. Image: By Finnish Army personnel – http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/finland/fi01_05a.jpg – The Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=549346

The Winter War, 1939-1940

The Winter War was a war between Finland and Russia for some five months, between November 1939 and March 1940. The Finnish state was quite small, and maintained only a minimal peacetime army and small reserve forces, as well as very limited artillery. The Finnish forces were immensely outnumbered by the Russian army. Russia sent some 810,000 troops to invade Finland; however, Finland was intensely nationalistic and its troops knew how to operate in small groups in Finland’s heavily wooded landscape. Russia’s army was used to fighting on open ground, and could not operate independently.

The Finns were effectively able to pick off Russian tanks, and to take down Russian convoys by blocking the roads and attacking from the back and sides. The small Finnish force effectively controlled the war from November 1939 to January 1940 in a number of engagements.

While the small Finnish army won many of the battles of the Winter War, they did not win the war. The Winter War ended with a peace settlement, the Treaty of Moscow, in March 1940 after significant Finnish concessions.

When David Beat Goliath: 10 Small Armies that Defeated Large Ones
Israeli soldiers in the Six Day War. Image: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/1967toc.html

The Six Day War

The Six Day War was fought between June 5 and June 10, 1967, between the state of Israel and neighboring countries, including Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Also known as the June War, the Six Day War was one in an ongoing serious of tense interactions between Israel and neighboring states. Relations between these countries had not normalized following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

The relatively small Israeli state quickly gained the upper hand in the war by using air strikes. Israel attacked preemptively as tensions increased, effectively destroying most of Egypt’s military. This was followed by a rapid and effective ground offensive into the Sinai and Gaza Strip. Largely defeated, Egypt asked for assistance from Syria and Jordan.

Israel successfully seized East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, then Golan Heights from Syria in the days that followed. In total, the land area under Israeli control tripled in the Six Day War. Israel succeeded in the Six Day War through the use of smart tactics, including the preemptive air strikes.
The Six Day War created a significant refugee crisis, and led to the expulsion of Jews from many Arab countries. The tensions that led to the Six Day War continue in Israel today.