military tactics to attack the enemy by surprise

An ambush, or a surprise attack,[1] is a long-established military tactic. It is a surprise attack from a hidden position against an enemy.[2] The enemy may be moving or have stopped. An ambush uses the element of surprise to confuse the enemy soldiers long enough to be successful.

"The Battle in the Teutoburg Forest", signed: Fritz, March 20, 1813, Breslau. Drawing by Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia.

Unlike other surprise attacks, the point of an ambush is not to gain territory.[2] Instead, it may be used to harass an enemy. It may also be used to capture or destroy key assets (people, equipment, supplies, etc.).[2]

In history


One of the earliest recorded use of the ambush was in 9 AD in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. The Germanic leader Arminius ambushed three Roman legions thaï were under the command of Varus. The 20,000 Roman soldiers were strung out in a long line of march through the densely-wooded forest.[3] The Romans fought for days but in the end were completely destroyed.[3]

The Germanics had not only a military victory but also a psychological victory over the Romans.[3]



  1. Harrap's essential English Dictionary, eds. Elaine Higgleton; Anne Seaton (New Delhi: Allied Chambers (India), Ltd., 1996), p. 32
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Rick Baillergeon; John Sutherland. "Tactics 101 088: The Ambush, Part 1 – Fundamentals". Armchair General L.L.C. Retrieved 24 October 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Rob Johnson (24 April 2010). "Ten of the greatest battlefield tactics". Daily Mail. Retrieved 24 October 2015.