The opportunity to turn the tides of the battle after a seeming unavoidable defeat was rare and hard to pull off. A lot of factors could play to do this, be it weather, outside help, careful strategic planning, plain luck, or maybe the combination of all of these things. Throughout military history, there have been multiple times when sides managed to turn the tides of the war and defeat the enemy, regardless of how impossible it might seem. Here are some of those instances:

Battle of Saratoga

The Battle of Saratoga is considered a turning point in the American Revolution as it boosted the morale of the Continental Army and the Colonists at the same time, persuaded the Spanish, French, and Dutch to join the Americans against a common enemy.

Battle of Saratoga (September 19, 1777), print (MET, 33.104.2421) (Johann Martin Will, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The British wanted to cut off New England from the mid-Atlantic colonies and did so by sending huge amounts of troops to Albany. The Continental Army had just failed to invade Canada in what was known as the Battle of Quebec. They were beaten, sick, and in retreat: perfect timing for the British to try and squash the rebellion. They also wanted to stop any potential American allies like France from being part of the conflict.

While the troops were on their way to Albany, Sir William Howe, one of the leaders, decided to abandon the plan and instead try to invade Pennsylvania. On September 19, 1777, Howe’s group led by General John Burgoyne came face to face with the Continental forces on the abandoned farm of Loyalist John Freeman near Saratoga in New York. They battled for several hours resulting in the heavy losses of Burgoyne’s troops. The defeat of the British forces showed that the Colonists were not fighting for a lost cause and resulted in France’s decision to side with the Americans.