Key point: These battles still inspire soldiers today.
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.
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 Fetterman Massacre – December 21, 1866