The United States has won several major battles, but there were also battles lost due to insufficient weaponry, bad weather, and being outnumbered. Sometimes it's not always the enemy that causes havoc but overconfidence and poor leadership.
There were even unnecessary battles that could have been avoided in the first place. Many important lessons are learned from failures, so we rounded up the worst U.S. military fails of all time
The Siege of Charleston (1780)
On May 12, 1780, the Americans suffered their worst defeat of the Revolutionary War when American commander Benjamin Lincoln surrendered Charleston and its 5,000-man garrison. The South Carolina capital was an important part of the defense of the southern American colonies. With Lincoln’s surrender, no Continental Army was left in the region and Continental ofﬁcers and men became prisoners of war, making it one of the worst U.S. military fails in history. By contract, for the Brits, it was their greatest victory of the war.
Invasion of Canada (1812)
When the United States declared war on Britain in 1812, the latter was also at war with Napoleon’s French forces in Europe. Many U.S. leaders assumed that conquering Canada, a British colony, would be a cakewalk and even falsely believed that the Canadians would welcome them as liberators.
Due to their arrogant expectations, the Americans heavily relied on state militias led by William Hull who surrendered to the tiny British force and headed home.
Battle of Bladensburg (1814)
In retaliation for the earlier U.S. invasion of Canada, British troops attacked Bladensburg, Maryland, on August 24, 1814. Upon facing the British veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, the U.S. militia force at Bladensburg dropped their weapons and ran from the field of battle.
It’s one of the greatest disgraces in American history, as the British troops easily entered Washington, D.C. and burned the White House, the Capitol, and many government and military buildings.
Battle of Chancellorsville (1863)
One of the worst military bloopers and tragedies in history, Confederate general Stonewall Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men.
He was leading the battle in Chancellorsville, but when he and his troops tried to return to their own lines, the members of the 18th North Carolina Regiment mistook them for enemy cavalry and fired. It wasn’t his wounds that killed him—his left arm was amputated, but he actually died from pneumonia on May 10, 1863.
Formosa Expedition (1867)
In March 1867, a U.S. ship named Rover wrecked near Formosa (now Taiwan) and the Paiwan tribesmen killed all the survivors.
The United States launched a retaliatory expedition to punish the Paiwan—if the American forces could find them. As they marched into the jungle, they faced a series of ambushes as the natives just retreated further into the jungle. After a long-day game of cat and mouse, the Americans withdrew to their ships and failed their mission.
Battle of Little Bighorn (1876)
After gold was discovered in Black Hills, the U.S. Army tasked Colonel George Custer to relocate all Native Americans in the region.
Custer believed he could defeat any number of Native Americans, so instead of waiting for reinforcements, he weakened his forces of 600 men by dividing them into groups. In less than an hour, his troops were defeated by thousands of Northern Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux warriors near southern Montana’s Little Bighorn River.
Defense of Bataan (1941-1942)
After the Japanese forces struck Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, it was clear that the Philippines, a U.S. overseas territory, would be next in line.
However, the American commanding general Douglas MacArthur didn't take appropriate action. When the Japanese attacked the Philippines the next day, the defending American forces in the country had no combat experience. Thousands of Filipinos and American soldiers were forced to surrender and killed during the Bataan Death March.
Battle of the Kasserine Pass (1943)
During World War II, the United States had its most humiliating defeat against Germany in North Africa at the Battle of Kasserine Pass.
The U.S. II Corps was led by General Lloyd Fredendall, who made several tactical mistakes. Instead of strengthening frontline positions, he established distant underground headquarters. Not only did he divide troops too far away from each other but also laid minefields in front of them marked with flags—and the Germans appreciated his thoughtfulness.
Battle of the Hürtgen Forest (1944)
One of the forgotten military fails in history, the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest was a fruitless battle that should have never been fought.
Instead of bypassing the forest to advance into Germany, the U.S. Army had a foot soldier’s fight from beginning to end, as airpower and armored forces were useless. Tens of thousands of American soldiers were killed or died of exhaustion, hunger, and pneumonia. After the enormous losses and sacrifices, the Americans finally received orders to withdraw.