In the Influence of Sea Power Upon History, Thomas Mahan laid out his decisive argument for the impact of navies on a nation’s global position. Though written in 1890, its evidence is no less compelling today. Take a look at my list of the eleven most influential sea battles (taken from historians, military experts and other bloggers) and their impact on the countries involved.
Actium — 31 BC
The decisive confrontation of the Final War of the Roman Republic. Mark Antony lost his fleet (200 ships sunk or captured) and his army deserted in large numbers. This ultimately led to the death of Ark Antony and the suicide of Cleopatra.
Battle of the Atlantic — 1939-1945
The longest continuous military campaign of World War II running from 1939 through to the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945
Battle of Jutland
The largest Naval battle during WWI and the only full-scale clash of battleships in that war
Battle of Lepanto–1571
It broke the Turkish navy, and buried their dreams of conquering the Mediterranean effectively halting the Turkish invasion of Europe.
Battle of Midway — 1942
Fought over and near the tiny U.S. mid-Pacific base at Midway atoll and represents the strategic high water mark of Japan’s Pacific Ocean war. Prior to this action, Japan possessed general naval superiority over the United States. After Midway, the two opposing fleets were essentially equals and the United States soon took the offensive.
Battle of Trafalgar
France vs. Britain. The victory of the British ships commanded by Admiral Lord Nelson was so complete that it confirmed the preeminence of the British navy over all others
Bonhomme Richards vs. Serapis – 1779
The nascent United States vs. Britain in British waters, no less. The outcome of the battle convinced the French crown of the wisdom of backing the colonies in their fight to separate from British authority. Best remembered for John Paul Jones infamous quote, We have not yet begun to fight!
Monitor vs. the Merrimack
one of the most revolutionary naval battles in world history. Up until that point, all battles had been waged between wooden ships. This was the first battle in maritime history that two ironclad ships waged war.
Peloponesian War Naval Battles — 431-404 BC
When Athens, a Greek Naval power, lost to Sparta, it heralded the end of Athens maritime empire
Siege of Candia
The blockage of Candia, the then capital of the island of Crete, by the Ottoman Empire in the 1600’s, is widely regarded as the longest siege in history. The Ottoman’s began the siege in 1648, and finally took over the city after twenty one years of constant blockade.
Spanish Armada vs. the British Navy, the battle at Gravelines (off the Irish coast) — 1588
Spain lost the battle and suffered enormously from storms trying to return home (lost over 24 ships) which led to British control of the seas