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"dogali vs little big horn vs rorke's drift vs islandlwana" Topic

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paperbattles13 Sep 2021 5:01 a.m. PST

I put together these battles that have in common an Eurpean (or with European standards) army versus an unconventional/different enemy.

Well let's have a look to the numbers:

1876 LITTLE BIG HORN 211 US troops vs 2000 Indians: 1 US troops every 9,5 indians (Indian Victory)

1879 ISANDLWANA 1.800 british vs 20.000 Zulu = Zulu victory; proportion 1british every 11 Zulu

1879 RORKE'S DRIFT 139 British vs 4000 Zulu: 1 British every 28,7 Zulu warrios

1887 DOGALI 500 Italians vs 10.000 Abyssinians:
Abyssinians victory; proportion 1 Italian every 20 Abyssinian

1996 Adowa: 17.700 Italian vs 120.000 Abyssinians: 1 Italian every 6,7 Abyssinian warriors. (Italian deafeat)

Elements in common: all the not European amry were also armed with rifles, mostly the Abissinians.
The 2 battlle of Little big Horn and Dogali presented the same problem: patrols: The Italians had 80 each and the US Cavalry had 100 each while at Rorke's drift the British had plenty of patrols.

The latest is the only battle with good defensive position (in comparation to Dogali for instance or Little Big horn)

So the question is: the defeats depended on patrols, defensive positions or quality of the men ? (this is because some comment about Italian soldiers… I read)

bargainbindm Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2021 6:35 a.m. PST

..I think I would remove Rorke's Drift out of this list, at least based on what I think your criteria is. Those trapped there did have some idea of what was coming at them, and they also had some time to prepare their defenses. Isandlwana was a large camp, but they weren't laagered and didn't have the prepared defenses that they did at Rorke's Drift.

Also Adowa was fought with a large proportion of Ascari, so if you are looking for thoughts on how the Italians fought the mix of native and Italian troops clouds the issue a bit. I think the Ascari at the time of Adowa, were in better shape in the sense of morale than the Italians. The Italian govt. was unable to support the Abyssinian forces, and what my reading the Italian troops were unsupported, and knew it.

Little Big Horn and Dogali, particularly Dogali, would probably have had the same outcome no matter which "western" army was the loser. The odds at Dogali made for an untenable situation, and at Little Big Horn the tactics and numerical superiority made the difference.

I think if the Italian soldiers had been better led, better supplied and the govt. had a sense of reality about how to fight a native army they they might be viewed in a better light.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2021 6:42 a.m. PST

I think I'd need a little clarification on what you mean by "patrols" pb. And "armed with rifles" can be fairly flexible. Contemporary reports said about half the Sioux & friends were armed with bows and arrows, and about half of those with firearms had repeaters. That would be vastly better than those Zulu armies. As I recall the Abyssinian forces included a modern army, though by no means all of them were such.

In general terms, me for defensive position was critical. Consider Adobe Walls, the Wagon Box--and the Fetterman Massacre. Even with a very substantial numbers advantage, it was hard for "native" troops to destroy forces under cover who couldn't be outflanked. But of course that only gave the European forces a defensive win. Winning wars required winning field battles or undercutting economies.

If you really want to discuss the quality of a late 19th Century Italian expeditionary force, please do so. And you might bring up Billy Hicks for comparison. The overall quality of Italian soldiers is yet another question, and I don't feel up to "national characteristics" today.

bargainbindm Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2021 8:16 a.m. PST

I have found the first (less popular but far more interesting to me!) Battle of Adobe Walls very interesting. Carson got into trouble, but was able to calmly do some damage control and extricate himself.

Cut Knife Hill was another battle that could have gotten extremely ugly if Poundmaker had turned his collectively loose on the bewildered milita.

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