1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Bloodiest days in human history

Discussion in 'History & Literature' started by Fo Shizzle, Oct 26, 2016.

  1. Fo Shizzle

    Fo Shizzle Rising...

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Messages:
    2,583
    Likes Received:
    329
    Supports:
    Nottingham Forest
    I've read before about the Somme and Gettysburg and the unbelievable loss of human life in such a short space of time there. But yesterday I bought 'SPQR History of Rome' by Mary Beard, and it has a part in it that refers to the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC, where Hannibal's Carthaginian forces surrounded and out-manoeuvred the Roman Legions and completely slaughtered some 70,000 Romans in an afternoon (according to Polybius).

    Any other days of a similar or more destructive nature?
     
    #1 Fo Shizzle, Oct 26, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2016
    Adam likes this.
  2. SpursLegend

    SpursLegend Formarly known as Lockie

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2008
    Messages:
    31,120
    Likes Received:
    3,358
    Supports:
    Spurs - COYS!
    Stalingrad must be up there? Plus obviously Hiroshima.

    And away from warfare, the 2004 Tsunami must be top of the list for a single day?

    Sent from my SM-G900F using Tapatalk
     
  3. Bacchus

    Bacchus ストエデ | b a c c h u s w a v e | ンへのパス

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2012
    Messages:
    5,699
    Likes Received:
    754
    Location:
    The wrong side of history™
    Supports:
    MK
    The Yangzhou Massacre in 1645 is probably the worst in history with up to 800,000 killed over ten days in a failed revolt against the Qing dynasty in imperial China. The D-Day landings, the Rape of Nanjing in 1937, the Soviet mass execution of 24,000 Polish PoWs at Katyn in April 1941, the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of up to 70,000 Huguenots in France on 23rd August 1572 and the bombing of Dresden in early 1945 are also noteworthy events with exceptionally high death tolls over a short period.

    Another now generally forgotten one I studied was the Sack of Magdeburg in 1631 during the Thirty Years' War. For the size of the population at the time it was unprecedented for a major European city of 30,000 (second largest English city at the time was 35,000) inhabitants to be sacked so violently with 25,000 killed over two days. Besieging Imperialist commanders lost control of their army when it broke through the city's walls and turned to frenzied looting and religiously-motivated violence against the inhabitants. Most of the city's residents were trapped in their homes and burned to death after fires started during the chaos destroyed nearly the entire city save from the cathedral and a handful of nearby buildings. It was remembered until WWI as one of the biggest atrocities in European history only eclipsed by others in both world wars.
     
  4. Adam

    Adam Are you cereal?

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2012
    Messages:
    19,256
    Likes Received:
    4,648
    Location:
    Liverpool
    Supports:
    Liverpool
    Mary Beard is great and SPQR is one of the most entertaining books on Roman history I've read. I find that face-to-face slaughter far more bloody that someone dropping a bomb from thousands of feet in the air.

    With Cannae if the sources are to be believed the slaughter went on for hours after the battle ceased to be a contest. Imagining the Carthaginian army hacking their way through a mass of trapped Romans one by one is horrendous and the aftermath must have been carnage.

    An example that always stands out to me is the sack of Isfahan by Tamerlane in the 14th century. It's said that after the inhabitants were massacred (perhaps 100,000/200,000 people) towers of heads were made, perhaps as many as 30 with 1,500 heads a piece to serve as a warning to other towns who thought about rebellion.

    The Mongols could be lenient especially if a town surrendered immediately, but most of the worst sacks of the Middle Ages can be traced back to one Mongol conqueror or another.
     
    Fo Shizzle likes this.
  5. Fo Shizzle

    Fo Shizzle Rising...

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2005
    Messages:
    2,583
    Likes Received:
    329
    Supports:
    Nottingham Forest
    Good shout. I was listening to the Hardcore History podcasts recently and I was fascinated by the idea of a town being 'sacked'. The idea that the losing side sometimes just loses its entire civilisation and the innocents caught in the crossfire are simply raped, robbed, killed or enslaved and then that's it, it's just the accepted reality of warfare as the winning soldiers were often taking their spoils which for Romans was sometimes the only way of getting paid. It really does take some thinking about.

    Obviously the humanitarian instincts and values that we hold today find this sort of life completely alien but it still blows my mind how human beings can do that on that kind of scale.
     
    Adam likes this.
  6. Adam

    Adam Are you cereal?

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2012
    Messages:
    19,256
    Likes Received:
    4,648
    Location:
    Liverpool
    Supports:
    Liverpool
    Hardcore History is fantastic.

    We have to recognise that this was the way soldiers were paid for much of history. The professional armies of Rome were the anomaly and even then sacks were common. Generals often risked mutiny if they did not allow their armies to seize property and slaves after a tough campaign.

    Even in the 19th century, Wellington could not restrain his men from ruthlessly sacking Badajoz during the Peninsular War. We have to understand that these men often spent weeks or months in horrendous conditions, routinely ravaged by disease, as well as the mental and physical exhaustion that would result from the constant strain. In those conditions it's not hard to understand why once the battle was over they would abandon all restraint and seek revenge, usually whilst intoxicated.

    The difference with the Mongols of course was that it was often a deliberate tactic. They'd make an example of a major city just to show what they were capable of and scare others into surrendering without a fight. It was a brilliant tactic and one they were wise enough to understand would only work if it was followed by leniency.

    There's an interesting moral question that's bounced around for centuries as well, whether or not it's best to have a bloody campaign that is short than a long campaign that is restrained. So maybe making an example early doors will in the long-run result in a shorter conflict and fewer deaths than having to besiege every single city over years and years.
     
    Fo Shizzle likes this.
  7. Bacchus

    Bacchus ストエデ | b a c c h u s w a v e | ンへのパス

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2012
    Messages:
    5,699
    Likes Received:
    754
    Location:
    The wrong side of history™
    Supports:
    MK
    The process of besieging a fortified or walled town or city by the 17th Century is almost surreal in how formal and routine it was in most cases. Although it did reflect the increasingly entrepreneurial approach to warfare in this era with war being an excuse to make potentially huge fortunes for the colonels, other senior officers and commissioners.

    'Sieges' started out as a business-like transaction that would begin with formal negotiations between colonels and town or city councillors with offers of terms which could vary from food or money to weapons and supplies and/or an agreement to billet troops. Depending on the negotiations they usually ended in the 'besieging' army being paid off or given uncontested passage or accommodation or they turned to conflict. But then in situations where either the residents refused to pay or felt they could successfully resist it and they locked the gates it became a 'siege' in the conventional sense with access being cut and blockades formed outside the town or city. While most cases this happened eventually lead to either surrender or relief if it came to the rarer outcome of storming a settlement things were completely different.

    While it differed depending on context and other motivations it usually had an established process after this of with informal 'rules' being accepted by all sides that if the walls or gates were breached effectively looting becomes fair game as payment for the efforts of the besieging army. In nearly most all cases it involved intensive violence, but for the purposes of extracting information on hidden loot or payment usually rather than just chaotic general wanton violence and killing. There's a number of diaries and accounts around from the period and several conflicts that give an insight into the at times surreal 'process' of negotiated looting.

    There's one example for instance of Croatian mercenary looting the house of a Bavarian wool merchant in 1632, initially the merchant offered a set of silver spoons and serving dishes, but the Croat wanted more. So what does he do? Starts beating the merchant over a table with a broom until his wife caves in and improves his offer to the silk drapes from his reception room. Even that's not enough and sensing the merchant is much richer than he's leading on he invites several other mercenaries who attempt to rape his daughters until the merchant intervenes before they can and revealed a hidden purse of coins up the kitchen chimney. The book didn't have the rest of the diary but the last few sentences implied the family's fear that after only the first looter he'd given up nearly everything he could offer. It's a bizarre formality of sacking in this era that homeowners who resisted usually had to plan ahead and keep enough loot to satisfy every potential looter save they turn to either killing or severely beating them or a servant or child for non-payment. It's almost like a warped version of trick-or-treating when you read into personal accounts.

    The process continues on into the 18th Century but slowly disappears and becomes more formalised with the advent of professional armies rather than for-profit mercenaries who relied on supplying themselves and often created some of the worst conditions of wars in this period. It's an unbelievably surreal process to try and imagine how business-like something as chaotic as siege warfare had become by this period compared to earlier Medieval approaches to siege warfare.
     
    Fo Shizzle likes this.
  8. PorkchopExpress

    PorkchopExpress The Blackfish

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2015
    Messages:
    8,612
    Likes Received:
    2,642
    Location:
    Norn Iron
    Supports:
    Manchester United
    D-Day wasn't that bloody, as the Allies were so good at hiding their plans and deceiving the Axis as to when and where they would attack.

    Allied deaths were "only" 4.5k, which is remarkable considering the scale of that invasion.

    Some of the battles between China and Japan before WWII have awful levels of casualties, however they were usually fought over months rather than days.

    For single day battles I would include Agincourt and Hattin.

    At Agincourt the French lost a lot of men, including many nobles. All their men that had been taken prisoner had to be slaughtered as well, as they outnumbered the english so much.

    At the Battle of Hattin the Crusader armies all matched into the desert without water, and the Saracen horse archers wiped most of them out. Those that survived were exhausted and so few in number they were easily finished off by the battle hardened, much more organised Saracen army that Saladdin had put together.
     
  9. zippy

    zippy The friendly Fascist

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2006
    Messages:
    42,605
    Likes Received:
    1,911
    Supports:
    Sheffield United,FC Bayern
    Stalingrad was a campaign fought over 5 months.

    Towton was the bloodiest battle in England with 28,000 dead.
     
  10. Stuarty

    Stuarty Banned

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2014
    Messages:
    570
    Likes Received:
    70
    Supports:
    marseille
    if you mean the most people killed in one day then
    1. Shaanxi Earthquake:
    The 23 January, 1556 earthquake in Shaanxi, China is the deadliest earthquake in recorded history. It is estimated that 830,000 people died because of this earthquake in a single day,

    10 Bloodiest Days In History When All Of Humanity Felt Threatened
     
    #10 Stuarty, Nov 3, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018

Share This Page