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A battle is a combat in warfare between two or more armed forces. A war usually consists of multiple battles. In general, a battle is a military engagement that is well defined in duration, area, and force commitment.[1] An engagement with only limited commitment between the forces and without decisive results is sometimes called a skirmish.

Wars and military campaigns are guided by strategy, whereas battles take place on a level of planning and execution known as operational mobility.[2] German strategist Carl von Clausewitz stated that "the employment of battles ... to achieve the object of war"[3] was the essence of strategy.

Battle of Gibraltar of 1607, Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom

Battles are usually named after some feature of the battlefield

Battles are usually named after some feature of the battlefield geography, such as a town, forest or river, commonly prefixed "Battle of...". Occasionally battles are named after the date on which they took place, such as The Glorious First of June. In the Middle Ages it was considered important to settle on a suitable name for a battle which could be used by the chroniclers. After Henry V of England defeated a French army on October 25, 1415, he met with the senior French herald and they agreed to name the battle after the nearby castle and so it was called the Battle of Agincourt. In other cases, the sides adopted different names for the same battle, such as the Battle of Gallipoli which is known in Turkey as the Battle of Çanakkale. During the American Civil War, the Union tended to name the battles after the nearest watercourse, such as the Battle of Wilsons Creek and the Battle of Stones River, whereas the Confederates favoured the nearby towns, as in the Battles of Chancellorsville and Murfreesboro. Occasionally both names for the same battle entered the popular culture, such as the First Battle of Bull Run and the Second Battle of Bull Run, which are also referred to as the First and Second Battles of Manassas.

Sometimes in desert warfare, there is no nearby town name to use; map coordinates gave the name to the Battle of 73 Easting in the First Gulf War. Some place names have become synonymous with battles, such as the Passchendaele, Pearl Harbor, the Alamo, Thermopylae and Waterloo. Military operations, many of which result in battle, are given codenames, which are not necessarily meaningful or indicative of the type or the location of the battle. Operation Market Garden and Battle of 73 Easting in the First Gulf War. Some place names have become synonymous with battles, such as the Passchendaele, Pearl Harbor, the Alamo, Thermopylae and Waterloo. Military operations, many of which result in battle, are given codenames, which are not necessarily meaningful or indicative of the type or the location of the battle. Operation Market Garden and Operation Rolling Thunder are examples of battles known by their military codenames. When a battleground is the site of more than one battle in the same conflict, the instances are distinguished by ordinal number, such as the First and Second Battles of Bull Run. An extreme case are the twelve Battles of the IsonzoFirst to Twelfth—between Italy and Austria-Hungary during the First World War.

Some battles are named for the convenience of military historians so that periods of combat can be neatly distinguished from one another. Following the First World War, the British Battles Nomenclature Committee was formed to decide on standard names for all battles and subsidiary actions. To the soldiers who did the fighting, the distinction was usually academic; a soldier fighting at Beaumont Hamel on November 13, 1916 was probably unaware he was taking part in what the committee named the Battle of the Ancre. Many combats are too small to be battles; terms such as "action", "affair" "skirmish", "firefight" "raid" or "offensive patrol" are used to describe small military encounters. These combats often take place within the time and space of a battle and while they may have an objective, they are not necessarily "decisive". Sometimes the soldiers are unable to immediately gauge the significance of the combat; in the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo, some British officers were in doubt as to whether the day's events merited the title of "battle" or would be called an "action".[citation needed]

Battles affect the individuals who take part, as well as the political actors. Personal effects of battle range from mild psychological issues to permanent and crippling injuries. Some battle-survivors have nightmares about the conditions they encountered or abnormal reactions to certain sights or sounds and some suffer flashbacks. Physical effects of battle can include scars, amputations, lesions, loss of bodily functions, blindness, paralysis and death. Battles affect politics; a decisive battle can cause the losing side to surrender, while a Pyrrhic victory such as the Battle of Asculum can cause the winning side to reconsider its goals. Battles in civil wars have often decided the fate of monarchs or political factions. Famous examples include the Wars of the Roses, as well as the Jacobite risings. Battles affect the commitment of one side or the other to the continuance of a war, for example the Battle of Inchon and the Battle of Huế during the Tet Offensive.

See also