A number of historically bloody battles actually took place either after the main enemy forces surrendered or, in some cases, even after peace was made among the belligerents. As such, to these battles were not necessary and only served to needlessly end additional human lives. This list covers ten such historically notable “last” battles of various important military conflicts, in chronological order.
10. The Battle of Stoke Field (June 16, 1487)
The final battle of the Wars of the Roses occurred nearly three years after Henry Tudor (Red Rose) decisively slew King Richard III (White Rose) at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485. With his victory seemingly complete, Henry became king as the first of the Tudor dynasty, and the Wars of the Roses seemed a thing of the past. Nevertheless, the House of Lancaster (Red Rose) fought against the House of York (White Rose) one last unnecessary time at Stoke Field, in an even bloodier battle than what was transpired at Bosworth Field.
The battle came after Yorkist rebels crowned Lambert Simnel, an impostor born around 1477 claimed by conspirators to be the Yorkist pretender to the throne, as King Edward VI. The real Edward, who would never reign, was actually confined to the Tower of London. The rebels next sailed for England; in the major battle that followed, all three leading commanders of the Yorkist forces perished, along with many of their soldiers. Yet, when the dust settled, Henry actually pardoned the young Simnel, whom Henry regarded as a puppet of the Yorkists. Simnel lived until sometime between 1525 and 1535. The actual Edward was beheaded for treason in 1499, thereby ending the legitimate male line of the House of Plantagenet.
9. The Bloody Part Of the Bloodless Revolution (1688 – October 1691)
What a glorious revolution the British had in 1688, when the seemingly peaceful mob overthrew James II, in favor of his daughter Mary II and her husband William III, in an event often referred to as the Bloodless Revolution. The problem is that James II did NOT just give up right then and there. His supporters, known as Jacobites, rose up against William and Mary soon after their arrival. They did so in both Scotland and Ireland. The Jacobites in Scotland won an early victory at the Battle of Killiecrankie (July 27, 1689) followed by a defeat at the Battle of Dunkeld (August 21, 1689) and another defeat at the Battle of Cromdale (April 30 to May 1, 1689.)
Over on the Emerald Isle, the Jacobites suffered defeats at the Battle of Newtownbutler (July 31, 1689) and the Battle of the Boyne (July 11, 1690.) Still, the Jacobites did not give up the struggle. They even won at the Siege of Limerick (August–September 1690), only to suffer a loss at the Siege of Cork (September 1690) and the Siege of Athlone (June 1691). By this time, things had decisively turned against the Jacobites. Following the defeat at the Battle of Aughrim (July 22, 1691), James II’s last hopes of reclaiming the throne were, for all intents and purposes, dashed with the Jacobite defeat at the second Siege of Limerick (August–October 1691). Following this defeat of French and Irish Catholic troops, Jacobite forces evacuated the island. William and Mary reigned until their deaths by natural causes.
8. The Second Battle of Fort Bowyer (February 7, 1815 – February 12, 1815)
You may be thinking that the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815 was the final battle of the War of 1812, given how often textbooks discuss it in connection to future president Andrew Jackson’s rise to preeminence, while noting how it was fought after the Treaty of Ghent was already signed. The real final land battle of this war, however, actually took place over a month later, in Alabama. This battle, however, was a British victory in which the American commander and over three hundred of his men were taken prisoner, only to have news of the peace reach the British forces just two days later, in one of the greatest cases of “saved by the bell” in recorded history.
7. The Battle of Issy (July 3, 1815)
Most people probably consider Napoleon’s epic defeat at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815 as the final battle of the Napoleonic Wars, but that is not so. Although Napoleon abdicated four days later, the war actually continued for a couple weeks longer. For all intents and purposes, the war should have concluded with Napoleon’s abdication, as he alone was considered the enemy rather than his country, but that was not to be. In between Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and his abdication, the French actually won a tactical victory at the Battle of Wavre on June 19, 1815, followed by a Bonapartist victory over Royalists at the Battle of Rocheservie the next day, that preceded the Treaty of Cholet of a week later, which ended hostilities between Bonapartists and Royalists.
Following Napoleon’s abdication, the French (now in theory “led” by the child emperor Napoleon II) again won a victory at the Battle of La Suffel on June 28, and again at the Battle of Rocquencourt on July 1. Finally, on July 3, the Prussians won the final real battle of the conflict at Issy, which represented the final and failed attempt of the French to defend Paris. As the forces of the Seventh Coalition entered Paris, King Louis XVIII replaced Napoleon II as the real ruler of France on July 8, and Napoleon I surrendered to the British one week later.
6. The Battle of Palmito Ranch (May 12, 1865 – May 13, 1865)
Most likely, you think of the Battle of Appomattox on April 9, 1865 as the final battle of the American Civil War; however, the decisive Union victory meant the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and thousands of his forces, but not all Confederate armies. As such, fighting did persist over the next month. Although the Battle of Columbus, Georgia (April 16) is officially considered the last battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Palmito Ranch in Texas took place nearly a month later, after the Confederacy had dissolved on May 5. The battle, a Confederate victory, was relatively small; only 500 Union soldiers squared off against 300 Confederates. Accordingly, the losses on both sides were minor compared to other major battles of the war. The defeated Union forces suffered four killed, twelve wounded, and 101 captured, adding to the hundreds of thousands of casualties sustained by the Union in the course of the bloodiest war ever fought in North America.
5. The Last “Battles” Of World War I (November 14, 1918 and January 5, 1919)
World War I has a traditionally poetic end date: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of … 1918 (the eleventh year was unavailable at the time.) The problem is that, although an armistice was agreed upon, not all German commanders received official word right then and there. World War I may have been a modern war, but it was not yet the Digital Age.
As such, two notable German commanders continued military operations. In East Africa, Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck took the town of Kasama following a British evacuation on November 13, and reached the Chambeshi River the next day when the British informed him of the armistice. He then agreed to a ceasefire, having held out considerably longer than any other German commander in Africa.
Meanwhile, Hermann Detzner’s unit did not surrender in the Asian and Pacific Theater of the war until January 5, 1919. They had spent four years in the unexplored interior of New Guinea during most of the war, attempting three times to escape. During this time, Australian forces had orders to shoot him on sight. After receiving news of the war’s end, he wrote a letter to the Australians offering to capitulate. His troops marched to their surrender in a column, with their commander in dress-uniform, almost two months after everyone else did.
4. The Battle of Prague (May 6, 1945 – May 11, 1945)
Not the suicide of Adolf Hitler on, the Soviet victory at Berlin, or even the capitulation of the Third Reich concluded fighting in the European theater of World War II. Prague in Czechoslovakia was not captured by Soviet forces until May 11, 1945, after a battle lasting several days. This battle was considerably larger than any of the others on this list, and a staggering 860,000 German soldiers were taken prisoner, with the remainder of the million-plus force either killed, missing in action, or forced to retreat. Allied losses (Soviet, Romanian, Polish, and Czechoslovak) surpassed 50,000.
3. The Battle of Poljana (May 14, 1945 – May 15, 1945)
Yet, not even the fall of Prague completely ended fighting in Europe. The true final battle of the war was most likely the Battle of Poljana, which did not conclude until May 15 1945, over two weeks after Hitler’s suicide, and a week after the so-called Victory in Europe Day. In this battle, Axis forces consisting of Germans, Croats, Slovenians, and Montenegrins fought against British and Yugoslav partisans in a two-day battle that resulted in an Anglo-Partisan victory in what is now Slovenia. Less than a thousand people were killed or wounded in this battle.
One more sort-of-battle took place during the above mentioned battles, and ended shortly afterwards. This last European battlefield of World War II is known as the Georgian uprising on Texel in the Netherlands. This incident lasted from April 5 to May 20, 1945. Georgians from what was then the Soviet Union actually formed a battalion of the German army, in the hopes of gaining independence from the Soviet Union. Unwilling to continue fighting the Allies in a hopeless cause, the Georgians rose up against the Germans, and nearly gained control of an island known as Texel. Although German forces quelled the uprising, fighting continued until Canadian troops arrived and disarmed what remained of the German troops on 20 May 1945.
Finally, some also consider the Battle of Odžak (April 19 to May 25, 1945) between Yugoslavia and Croatia as the last battle of World War II on the European continent; however, it did not involve the major antagonist of the war (Nazi Germany) and, as such, this designation is debatable.
Oh, and if you are wondering about the Pacific theater, some Japanese soldiers hiding out in various Pacific islands did not surrender until DECADES after the war ended, believing the announcement of Japan’s surrender to be propaganda and lies.
2. The Battle of Rumaila (March 2, 1991)
The Gulf War is typically dated from August 2, 1990 to February 28, 1991, or from Iraq’s attack on Kuwait until United States President George Bush declared a cease-fire, and that Kuwait had been liberated. Nevertheless, yet again, such declarations do not necessarily equate to the actual end of physical hostilities.
In this case, a rather large U.S. victory occurred at Rumaila on March 2, 1991. Perhaps 700 Iraqis died out of 7,000 soldiers, while all of their vehicles were destroyed in a confrontation also known as the Battle of the Junkyard. A day earlier at Safwan Airfield, a standoff had also occurred between Iraqi and U.S. forces, that fortunately did not result in any casualties for either side.
The thing is, even with a cease-fire declared, a United Nations-backed formal cease-fire was not passed until April 1991, and Operation Desert Storm was officially ended on November 30, 1995. Other military operations actually continued into the twenty-first century before the Iraq War began. These included the indecisive Operation Southern Watch from August 26, 1992 to March 19, 2003 as well as Operation Northern Watch from January 1, 1997 to March 17, 2003, in which American, British, Saudi Arabian, French, and Turkish forces monitored no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq.
Given the above, one almost has the impression that the conflict between Saddam Hussein and the American-led coalition against him never truly ended until his death and even then, few days go by without some kind of significant violent incident occurring in that country. Let’s not even get started on the infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner incident …
1. The Battle of the Palm Grove (September 10, 2010 – September 13, 2010)
Never mind, we’re starting. On May 1, 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush gave a speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in front of a giant banner reading “Mission Accomplished,” while asserting, “In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.” A few hours earlier, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had also declared an end to major combat operations in Afghanistan. As for Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, he was still not captured at that point, and even when he was (December 13, 2003) and later executed (December 30, 2006,) substantial fighting STILL had not abated in Iraq. The last U.S. troops would not leave Iraqi territory until December 18, 2011. During that time from the “Mission Accomplished” speech until the departure of American troops, full-on battles did indeed occur.
Arguably, the most notable “last” battle of the Iraq War was the battle of the Palm Grove in September 2010. Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers and police, along with American helicopters and some ground troops clashed with possibly dozens of insurgents in a tactical insurgent victory. All insurgents escaped, versus 5-11 killed and 13-22 wounded Iraqi security force members and two wounded U.S. Army soldiers.