7 Small Armies That Devastated Larger Foes

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1519-1521 AD – The Conquest of Tenochtitlan

When it comes to small forces overcoming larger ones, there is no more significant example than the conquest of the Aztecs by the conquistadores, led by Hernan Cortes. Setting off in February 1519, the intention had initially been to just meet with the Aztecs to trade and to explore the region. Still, once Cortes reached the Yucatan Peninsula, his intentions quickly changed.

He made alliances with local tribes who opposed the Aztecs’ power. With their help, he attacked the Aztec forces at Cholula, successfully massacring many of the citizens of Cholula, including the nobility. On November 8, 1519, Cortes and his small band of soldiers reached the massive Aztec city of Tenochtitlan and were initially welcomed.

However, Cortes would quickly betray the Aztecs by taking the Aztec emperor, Moctezuma, prisoner, but still allowed him to rule. By the summer of 1520, and with a force of only 3,000 Spanish and native warriors, they would take the city, slaughtering anywhere between 100,000 and 240,000 soldiers and civilians. The smallpox the conquistadores unwittingly brought with them would take care of the rest.

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