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A rout is a chaotic and disorderly retreat or withdrawal of troops from a battlefield, resulting in the victory of the opposing party, or following defeat, a collapse of discipline, or poor morale.

A routed army often degenerates into a sense of "every man for himself" as the surviving combatants attempt to flee to safety. A disorganized rout often results in much higher casualties for the retreating force than an orderly withdrawal. On many occasions, more soldiers are killed in the rout than in the actual battle. Normally, though not always, routs either effectively end a battle, or provide the decisive victory the winner needs to gain the momentum with which to end a battle (or even campaign) in their favor. The opposite of a rout is a rally, in which a military unit that has been giving way and is on the verge of being routed suddenly gathers itself and turns back to the offensive.


Historically, lightly equipped soldiers such as auxiliaries, light cavalry, partisans or militia were important when pursuing a fast-moving, defeated enemy force, and could often keep up the pursuit into the following day, causing the routed army heavy casualties or total dissolution. The slower moving heavy forces could then either seize objectives or pursue at leisure. However, with the advent of armoured warfare and blitzkrieg style operations, an enemy army could be kept more or less in a routed or disorganized state for days or weeks on end. In modern times, a routed formation will often cause a complete breakdown in the entire front, enabling the still-organized foe to attain a quick and decisive victory in the overall campaign. For example, in the blitzkrieg warfare that characterized World War II, the French Army was decisively defeated in the Battle of Sedan (1940) opening a 20 kilometer gap in Allied lines, into which Heinz Guderian poured his mechanized forces. German tanks kept the rout going for weeks, and the French were unable to stabilize their lines before the Wehrmacht occupied Paris and forced the capitulation of the French government.


Routs may be feigned to entice an enemy into pursuing the "retreating" force, with the intent of causing the enemy to abandon a strong defensive position or leading the enemy into a prepared ambush. However this carries some risk; a feigned rout can quickly turn into a real one. It is thought that Breton cavalry performed this maneuver at the Battle of Hastings.

Other uses of the term

A rout is also a synonym for an overwhelming defeat as well as a verb meaning "to put to disorderly retreat" or "to defeat utterly", and is often used in sports to describe a blowout.

In law, a rout is a disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons acting together in a manner that suggests an intention to riot, although they do not actually carry out the intention.

Rout is personified as the eponymous deity in Homer's Iliad as the cowardly son of Ares.

A rout is also one of several collective nouns for a group of snails.

See also

  • Crowd psychology


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