Both military historians and military leaders have long regarded the notion of the “decisive battle” as central to warfare, with the ability to seek out a decisive engagement being the crux around which military strategy revolved for centuries. My research, however, based on an analysis of several battles and the work of a new generation of military historians, calls this notion into question. The term itself is a convenient concept that has been used to describe important battles in war throughout history, with both generals and historians using it as a simple method for explaining the course of events. The problem lies in the fact that there is no distinct definition of what constitutes a decisive battle, and categorizing battles in this way can easily lead to overestimating their value. This distracts from other important details of history, such as long-term trends of international relations or technological shifts, and allows the winners of history to continue to dictate the narrative. For this reason, I will be unpacking and reconsidering the concept of “decisive battle” by utilizing a strict definition of the term and applying it to several important battles fought throughout the 19th century. By looking at how well they do or do not represent a decisive moment in their time, I shed light on what is truly represented in a decisive battle.


Pozefsky, Peter




Arts and Humanities

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2019 Spencer John O'Keefe