My question comes from a video game I am playing:

I am playing Austria, in Napoleonic wars. I am fighting France as main adversary, but I just captured and looted Bavaria and Saxony, two little states allied to France. Thus, some countryside with no resources (looted) will separate my territory from the great danger caused by France.

The particularity is that I am specifically attacking in order to loot (gain resources) and retreat to let France recover the devastated territory. France will have to pay for re-building them, and I will have the resources to develop my armies.

I am wondering if there is such examples in history? I already find two, but there are not really what I am searching:

  • Trojan war: Achilles looted multiple cities allied to Troy, but the problem is that Troy was already surrounded so this did not lead to the protection of Troy
  • Nazi Germany retreating in Baltic states: multiple destruction's were made to block the advance of the Red Army, but the Baltic states were already part of Soviet Union (after previous annexation) and were not captured in the intent of looting them and then quitting them.

EDIT: Thanks for the Edit by Tom to the question. To answer the comment: The third country, being devastated, could be either neutral or already an enemy. But it should be independent from the first enemy.


Not sure why the example in video game did not lead to a specific case I was searching for, but I will try theoretically to explain what I am looking for:

  • Country A: A country with military forces and a territory
  • Country B: A country with military forces and a territory, at war with A
  • Country C: A country with military forces and a territory, at war with A. It is not a protectorate of B. OR C is neutral to A and B's conflict

Country A has a plan, at a certain stage of the war: An army enters the territory of C. It loots the territory. By looting, I mean:

  • Go inside a city, destroy the infrastructure of military and economical use
  • In the rural parts, burn the crops

The A army might have to fight successfully armies of C, in order to loot. Then the army withdrawals, before any reinforcement from B could have been sent to C. C is very weakened by this action, so B sends some armies to help C protect its territory against a potential new raid, or even to seize control of C's territory. A is keeping its armies for new fights against B or C, depending on their initiatives.

Note: What I described in the plan of A. If any problem is encountered, I am even more interested to learn about the case. For example:

  • If the raid of A in C's territory is more costly to A in military resources than to C (ie looting is not efficient)
  • If the raid of A in C's territory is opposed to B's reinforcements before it could retreat

Date limit: No date limit, but the objective of looting might change at the different dates.

  • 9
    if what you are asking about is for an example of scorched earth tactics, not on your territory, nor on that of your enemy, but on that of a third party, presumably in-between/buffer, country, then you should clarify that. I almost sense that your question is regarding initially neutral 3rd countries, but that's for you to clarify as well. Aug 23, 2019 at 20:30
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because This is not a site about computer games
    – Alex
    Aug 23, 2019 at 21:46
  • 12
    @Alex Huh? This isn't a question about computer games. It may be a bit vague and broad, but off topic it is not.
    – yannis
    Aug 23, 2019 at 21:51
  • Not exactly a third country, but the Harrying of the North was William the Conqueror's attempt, in the winter of 1069–70, to subjugate northern England, where the presence of the last Wessex claimant, had encouraged Anglo-Danish rebellions en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrying_of_the_North Aug 23, 2019 at 23:22
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    I basically like this question but @LangLangC's concerns need addressing. You might be able to get this reopened if you specify that the third country must be neutral (allowing other enemies really makes it too broad as LangLangC has shown). Also, I think a little more clarification on devastation is needed. Aug 25, 2019 at 9:21

5 Answers 5


The British bombardment of Copenhagen in September 1807, to deny to the French the possible use of the Danish fleet, seems to fit the bill. The impacts, explosions, and fires resulted in nearly 1,000 direct civilian casualties in a neutral country. It also delayed and nearly ended attempts to publish the first modern edition of Beowulf, due to scholarly work that was destroyed in the fires...rather ironic considering Beowulf is shared English / Danish cultural inheritance.

  • Would Mers-el-Kébir count as well? Aug 24, 2019 at 7:33
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    This is a good example but I'm not sure it exactly fits the OP's theme of "captured in the intent of looting them and then quitting them". The British aim was to prevent the Danish fleet falling into the hands of the Emperor Napoleon and being used to facilitate an invasion of Britain. It was not a British aim to appropriate the Danish fleet (or anything else) for British use. Although the city suffered greatly, I would not describe this as "one country devastating a third" - There is more to the country of Denmark than Copenhagen. Aug 24, 2019 at 12:35
  • @VladimirF: It has the same issues - in that 1) "looting" implies taking something for you own use, not destroying it. and 2) destroying a fleet is not the same as devastating a country. Aug 24, 2019 at 12:44
  • Thank you for the example. This is not about city and the money/hardware gain for the British were little, but the idea is there Aug 24, 2019 at 13:13
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    While it might not have been the aim of the British to appropriate the Danish fleet, that was certainly what happened. Of the Danish fleet that was taken, 35 of the ships ended up in the British Royal Navy while only four vessels were burned. In addition, the (very valuable) contents of the stores of the naval dockyards were taken too. I think looting is a fairly apt word for that process.
    – Steve Bird
    Aug 24, 2019 at 13:13

The Athenian destruction of Melos in 416 BC during the Peloponnesian War damaged Sparta's image and interests.

Thucydides (see the Melian dialogue) asserts that the motive for the Athenian attack on the neutral island of Melos was to demonstrate its power and send a message to potentially rebellious states that resistance to a greater power was futile. However, whatever Athens' main motives were, she also gained booty and strengthened her grip on the Aegean sea. As Donald Kagan has noted,

Thucydides’ account of the ensuing discussion has caused at least as much scholarly debate as any part of his History.

Source: D. Kagan, 'A New History of the Peloponessian War: The Peace- of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition'

At the same time, Sparta's failure to aid fellow Dorians (with supposed ancestral links) further emphasized her powerlessness at sea and denied her the possible future use of a potentially valuable port. There is also evidence that, although she had declared herself neutral in the conflict between the Athenian empire and Sparta and her allies, Melos may have provided some financial support to Sparta; the ruling elite at least were certainly more favourably inclined towards Sparta and (according to Thucydides) believed that the Spartans would help.

The Melians relied on their special relationship with Sparta for their security, and, ironically, this may help to explain the timing of the Athenian attack. Frustrated by Spartan arms in the Peloponnesus and by Spartan diplomacy in the north, the Athenians may have been eager to demonstrate that, at least on the sea, the Spartans were powerless to do Athens harm.

That Sparta did nothing proved the Athenian point (according to Thucydides' version) that the Spartans lacked boldness. Following the surrender after the siege, Melos as a political entity was totally destroyed; the men were executed and the women and children sold into slavery.

Other sources:

Lawrence A. Trittle, 'A New History of the Peloponnesian War'

Anton Powell, 'Athens and Sparta: Constructing Greek Political and Social History from 478 BC

George Cawkwell, 'Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War'


History is full with those examples. Feel free to add more to the list:

  • Typical case is the nomadic or semi-nomadic tribe that loots an agrarian country, they invade, loot and retreat. Good example are the gauls that sacked ancient Rome.
  • Vikings raids where basically a loot of territory to later retreat to the sea. Vandals (another sack of Rome) and pirate raids are the same concept.
  • Failed attempts of european nations during the colonization of America, for example Florida, where indians destroyed settlements.
  • Air bombing during any recent war aims to destroy enemy infrastructure.
  • I might add the invasion of Kuwait in first gulf war, before iraqi forces left Kuwait, they burned most oil fields.
  • WW2 UK sinking French fleet might also be a relevant example - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_on_Mers-el-K%C3%A9bir
    – Peteris
    Aug 23, 2019 at 23:17
  • 5
    these aren't however 3rd party countries that weren't originally involved in the hostilities. examples like this are a dime a dozen, but they all involve either nuking your own stuff to deny it. or nuking your enemy's. the OP's question is more about other people getting caught in the middle of a war they had no part in previously and in the sense of scorched earth tactics - so Belgium in WW1 isn't really a fit either. that's what makes it an interesting question. Aug 24, 2019 at 0:16
  • Such tribes don't loot agrarian areas as third-parties in a conflict to create a scorched-earth buffer. Ditto for viking raids. Air raids are not, in general, on third parties. As for the Iraqis in Kuwait - they were burning their own oil fields (Kuwait is an artificial principality given to British collaborators, and anyway at that point it had been occupied with the intent to keep it). So, -1.
    – einpoklum
    Aug 24, 2019 at 8:55

Belgium (and it's historical antecedents) is the roadway that everyone tramples through to get at each other. Leaving it worse off than before and leaving it for the other guys to pick up and dust off is par for the course.

Palestine (in all its various names and shapes) and, as need demands, extending up into Lebanon and Syria, is like Belgium but worse. Even though it looks like mainly only Egypt on the other side there has been a vast amount of trampling, sacking, pillaging, levying and general beating about the head over millenia.
In modern times it has continued, with both the same and new additional motives.
In historical times Judaism was almost incidental to the events that happened - except that they were more than averagely stubborn & stiff necked instead of learning to roll with the punches as others might have.


You're thinking of what's known as a "raid". There're plenty of examples. Here are two from the American Civil War:

Price's Raid

[Price] reported to Kirby Smith that he "marched 1,434 miles (2,308 km), fought 43 battles and skirmishes, captured and paroled over 3,000 Federal officers and men, captured 18 pieces of artillery ... and destroyed Missouri property ... of $10,000,000 in value."

Sherman's March to the Sea

The March to the Sea was devastating to Georgia and the Confederacy. Sherman himself estimated that the campaign had inflicted $100 million (about $1.4 billion in 2010 dollars) in destruction, about one fifth of which "inured to our advantage" while the "remainder is simple waste and destruction." The Army wrecked 300 miles (480 km) of railroad and numerous bridges and miles of telegraph lines. It seized 5,000 horses, 4,000 mules, and 13,000 head of cattle. It confiscated 9.5 million pounds of corn and 10.5 million pounds of fodder, and destroyed uncounted cotton gins and mills.

  • 3
    Sorry, I don't understand this answer. Where's the third country?
    – Stew
    Aug 24, 2019 at 23:56

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