Outnumbered but not Outmatched.
How did Hannibal’s 55,000 Carthaginians turn the tables on an 80,000-strong force of the ancient world’s most efficient military machine, the Roman army? What allowed 6,000 Englishmen to overcome 30,000 French at Agincourt in 1415? Which errors in judgment doomed a Russian army twice as large as its opposing German force at the Battle of Tannenberg during World War I?
Author Cormac O’Brien’s powerful and vivid recreations of history’s most surprising military victories illuminate the cunning strategies, secret weapons, fateful decisions, and changes of fortune that turned the tide of battle in the most extraordinary and unanticipated ways: the risky Greek ruse that trapped the Persian Fleet at Salamis in 480 BCE; the snowstorm that helped a Swedish force destroy a Russian army four times its size at the Battle of Narva in 1700; the newly introduced firearm that enabled 150 British soldiers to hold off an attacking horde of 4,000 Zulus at Rorke’s Drift, Africa, in 1879.
Even a commander as fearless, self-assured, and battle-hardened as Alexander the Great, leading 40,000 Macedonian troops, must have quailed at the sight that met him as he neared the village of Issus, Asia Minor, in 333 BCE: an unexpectedly and unimaginably vast Persian force of some 100,000 men, spanning the Mediterranean coastal plain as far as the eye could see. For warfare had already demonstrated, and has confirmed ever since, that numerical superiority consistently carries the day. And yet, every once in a while, such lopsided engagements have had an unexpected outcome, and proved to be a crucible in which great leaders, and history, are forged.
Outnumbered chronicles fourteen momentous occasions on which a smaller, ostensibly weaker force prevailed in an epochal confrontation. Thus, Alexander, undaunted, devised a brilliant and daring plan that disoriented and destroyed the Persian force and, consequently, its empire. Likewise, during the U.S. Civil War, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, despite being outpositioned and outnumbered more than two to one by Union forces at Chancellorsville, Virginia, hatched an audacious and surprise strategy that caught his enemy completely unawares. Other equally unexpected, era-defining victories are shown to have derived from the devastating deployment of unusual weaponry, sheer good fortune, or even the gullibility of an enemy, as when Yamashita Tomoyuki, commander of 35,000 ill-supplied Japanese troops, convinced the 85,000-strong British Commonwealth army to surrender Singapore in 1942.
Together these accounts constitute an enthralling survey that captures the excitement and terrors of battle, while highlighting the unpredictable nature of warfare and the courage and ingenuity of inspired, and inspiring, military leaders. A thrilling tour of the battlefields of history, replete with dramatic encounters, sudden twists of fate, and intriguing character studies, Outnumbered demonstrates that, even when the odds seem insurmountable, the path to glory can still be found.