I was reading about Khalid ibn al-Walid, a commander in the Muslim's era. What is interesting about him is that he was never been defeated in any of the hundred battles that he encountered. Are there military commanders similar to him fought hundred of hard battles and wasn't defeated?

From Wikipedia:

Khalid is said to have fought around a hundred battles, both major battles and minor skirmishes as well as single duels, during his military career. Having remained undefeated, he is claimed by some to be one of the finest military generals in history.

It's a side question, but how did he accomplish to win all of these battles without being defeated? In the article it is explained that he was smart and brave, but Napoleon was also considered a smart general with new tactics, yet he was defeated in his battles.

  • 14
    The difficulty in comparing different commanders from different eras is that they fought different opponents in different circumstances. You might be a brilliant commander but if your opponents are too and they happen to have stronger armies, you might never get to show it. If you are lucky, and your enemies are less talented and their armies weaker, then you get to shine.
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 24 '16 at 6:35
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    Julius Caesar comes close, with only Gergovia being a questionable victory: although Caesar suffered heavy casualties and abandoned the field of battle (a tactical defeat) the losses inflicted on the Gauls forced them in turn to relocate to Alesia, where Vercengetorix was forced to surrender some weeks later. Jun 24 '16 at 6:43
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    Another possibility is Louis-Nicolas Davout: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis-Nicolas_Davout. Perhaps also George S. Patton Jun 24 '16 at 6:45
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    I know one battle he was defeated: battle of Mu tah. Although he was not the original commander in chief and only became so due to the death of his superiors. still counts as a defeat though. Furthermore there are defeats where he was not the leader [Battle of the Trench] (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Trench)
    – User999999
    Jun 24 '16 at 6:50
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    @User999999 yes I did read that in the wiki battle of Mu tah , but they didnt consider it as a defeat.
    – moudiz
    Jun 24 '16 at 7:09

Several other examples would be:

Some further correct examples offered by NSNoob

  • Fyodor Fyodorovich Ushakov (1766–1812): Russian Admiral who served in the Black Sea. Fought the Turks & the French on 43 recorded occasions without losing a single engagement or ship
  • Bai Qi: General of the Qin Dynasty (during the Warring states period). No records were found of him losing a battle.

Some further correct examples offered by Brasidas

  • Bajirao I: He was important to the rise of the Maratha Empire. Although he did not always lead the armies during the campaigns, he was never defeated in the field.

I found this interesting list. But I wasn't able to completely check it yet: Supposed undefeated military leaders

  • 3
    Add Jan Zizka, Duke of Marlborough and Wellington, and you have an answer there.
    – Brasidas
    Jun 24 '16 at 7:42
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    @Brasidas I know i was forgetten some genius Generals.
    – User999999
    Jun 24 '16 at 7:43
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    Ooops, wikipedia has listed some defeats for Wellington: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Brasidas
    Jul 31 '16 at 0:44
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    @Brasidas some of the lost battles shown are in fact "victory in the field for the British" but "defeat in the strategic sense" as they were successful delay actions by the French (hence the "French Victory"). Yet I did see 2 (lost) battles that i'll investigate further. +1
    – User999999
    Aug 3 '16 at 8:36
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    @Brasidas added Bajirao I. Can't add Demetrius I of Bactria yet. Though he is claimed to be invincible, I can't find any reliable (& complete) records of his campaigns and battles.
    – User999999
    Oct 4 '16 at 12:52

I'm actually a little dubious of the "never defeated" claim in the first place. Not only does it seem highly unlikely, but then there's this:

Khalid utilized his better understanding of terrain in every possible way to gain strategic superiority over his enemies. During his Persian campaigns, he initially never entered deep into Persian territory and always kept the Arabian desert at his rear, allowing his forces to retreat there in case of a defeat

That seems pretty unnecessary (and certainly not worth noting as a smart tactic) if he truly never suffered a rebuff. The more likely explanation is that he was using this tactic to stage ambushes, and then retreating once (if) the superior force organized itself.

Now in military terminology of course both sides like to claim victory if they can at all make a case for it. So what we have taken to doing in order to be somewhat objective about it is saying that the side that retains the field at the end of the engagement was the victor. Admittedly this means often the "victor" has suffered some manner of strategic setback, but that's how we term it.

In either case, any time a commander uses the tactic quoted above to effect a retreat, it is technically considered a "defeat" in the engagement. That doesn't mean its a dumb thing to do, but you can't say he's "undefeated".

I bring this up because history is full of commanders who were very successful overall, but in part because they knew when to retreat, and could do it in good order. In fact, its pretty much required. The counter-example is Pyrrhus, who is said to have "won" pretty much all his major battles against Rome (no retreats), yet lost his war.

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    I'd suggest that keeping a contingency plan is mark of a smart leader. Defeats can happen. A smart leader keeps his escape route open and his plan ready. A silly leader puts his soldiers in chains to avoid a rout. It's not like he would have known that every battle he would fight would turn out to be a clear or strategic victory for him.
    – NSNoob
    Jul 14 '16 at 6:57
  • Ah just read the last lines "but in part because they knew when to retreat, and could do it in good order".
    – NSNoob
    Jul 14 '16 at 6:58

According to Winston Churchill, "A History of the English Speaking People," pp. 90-91:

"For ten years, [the Duke of Marlborough led the armies of the Grand Alliance, [England, the Netherlands, several German states] and during all that period he never fought a battle he did not win or besieged a town he did not take. Nothing like this exists in the annals of war."

He won major battles against the French during Queen Anne's War from 1702-1711 at Blenheim, Ramilles, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet, although some consider the last a "Pyrrhic" victory.


I was told that the Malplaquet battle was a French victory since the British lost too many men to continue. Villars even said "Si Dieu nous fait la grâce de perdre encore une pareille bataille, Votre Majesté peut compter que ses ennemis sont détruits" (Which means that if the French would lose another fight like this, their foes would be destroyed). Maurice de Saxe was also never defeated.

[Source: Wikipedia article on Bataille de Malplaquet in French]

  • 2
    It would be nicer if you could add some reference or research that can support your answer.
    – Rathony
    Oct 5 '16 at 10:48
  • Well I used the french wikipedia page and my notes from military history class.
    – Elcyr
    Oct 5 '16 at 11:14
  • There could be users who can read French and you can always link the page. Also, it would be nicer if you could translate the essential parts (two or three sentences) to English so that a user like myself can read it. Thanks.
    – Rathony
    Oct 5 '16 at 11:17
  • For the translation my english is not good enough to do it precisely ... It will not be better than what I already wrote.
    – Elcyr
    Oct 5 '16 at 11:54

Not yet mentioned: Muqali, one of Genghis Khan's finest commanders.

During the invasion of Jin China, Muqali acted as Genghis Khan's second-in-command, and was promoted to Viceroy of China, and was entrusted with a great degree of autonomy once Genghis Khan departed to conquer Central Asia. Unlike many Mongol leaders who were willing to massacre to gain any advantage, Muqali usually attempted to convert foes into friends by more conciliatory means, and change the Mongol image in China. By the time of Ogedei's reign (1229-1241), he was viewed as the best of the extraordinarily talented pool of Mongol generals. Given his undefeated record despite very limited resources, he is likely one of the greatest military commanders in history.

There is also Nader Shah, the last great Asiatic conqueror. Many have called him a military genius comparable to Alexander the Great & Napoleon. He won many victories in spite of being heavily outnumbered. I am not aware of him ever having lost a battle (although he did fight numerous campaigns and I did not look through all of them).

Finally Han general Han Xin is apparently undefeated as well.

Han Xin is best remembered as a brilliant military leader for the strategies and tactics he employed in warfare, some of which became the origins of certain Chinese idioms, he was undefeated in battle and for his accomplishments he was considered the "God of War".

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