A pitched battle or set piece battle is a battle where both sides choose to fight at a chosen location and time and where either side has the option to disengage either before the battle starts, or shortly after the first armed exchanges.
A pitched battle is not a chance encounter such as a skirmish or meeting engagement, where one side is forced to fight at a time not of their choosing such as happens in a siege. For example, the first pitched battle of the English Civil War, the Battle of Edgehill, was fought when the Royalists chose to move off an escarpment to a less advantageous position so that the Parliamentarians would be willing to fight. In contrast the Battle of Gettysburg, fought during the American Civil War, started by chance as a skirmish, but as both generals chose to reinforce their positions instead of disengaging, they turned what was initially a skirmish into a pitched battle.
Citations and notes
- p. 649, Blackwood's
- Oxford English Dictionary, Second edition 1989. battle, n. 1.b "With various qualifying attributes: ... pitched battle, a battle which has been planned, and of which the ground has been chosen beforehand, by both sides ..."
- "Policy of the Protectionists". June 1852. pp. 645–68. http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/ilej/image1.pl?item=page&seq=7&size=1&id=bm.1852.6.x.71.440.x.645.
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