If starting from the Gauls....
-Battle of the Allia (387 BCE): A Gallic force under Brennus destroys a Roman army and sacks Rome itself, leading to the destruction of all prior Roman historical records.
-Siege of Gergovia (52 BCE): Vercingetorix hands Caesar the worst defeat of his career.
(note: the Franks fall under both French and German military history since they laid the political foundations for both countries)
-Battle of Soissons (486): The Franks under Clovis I defeat the last Roman army in Gaul.
-Battle of Tolbiac (496): The Franks under Clovis I defeat the Alamanni tribe.
-Battle of Vouillé (507): The Franks under Clovis I defeat the Visigoths under Alaric II, the conqueror of Spain.
As a result of these victories, the domains of Clovis quadruple.
-Battle of Toulouse (721): The Aquitanians defeat an Islamic force, giving the Frankish Charles Martel enough time to build a veteran force and crush the Muslims at the...
-Battle of Tours (732): One of the most celebrated victories in Western history, the Franks under Charles 'the Hammer' Martel crush a large Islamic invading force. It probably did not have the enormous significance that is often claimed, but it was nonetheless a huge symbolic victory.
-Battle of Pavia (773): The Franks under Charlemagne crush the Lombards, led by their king Desiderius, in Italy.
-Saxon Campaigns (773-804): The Franks under Charlemagne repeatedly subdue over three decades of Saxon insurrections.
-Siege of Paris (885-886): With 200 men defending Paris, the Western Franks manage to halt and, when outside help arrived, defeat a Viking invasion force of 30,000.
-Battle of Hastings (1066): A Franco-Norman army under William, the Duke of Normandy, trounces an exhausted Anglo-Saxon army under King Harold. It was the last successful military invasion of England that was seriously contested. (Note: At this point, William was a vassal to the King of France and the Normans were culturally an amalgam between their Viking traditions and new-found Christian roots. Hastings, therefore, can be counted as a French military victory).
-Battle of Dorylaeum (1097): A Crusader army under various Christian leaders defeat the Seljuk Turks in modern-day Turkey.
-Battle of Ascalon (1099): A Crusader army under Godfrey de Bouillon thrashes the Fatimids just north of modern-day Gaza.
-Battle of Montgisard (1177): A Crusader army under Baldwin IV, King of Jerusalem, and Raynald de Chatillon gives Saladin the worst defeat in his military career, slaying 20,000 of his 30,000 troops.
-Battle of Bouvines (1214): About 15,000 French troops under Philippe Augustus rout a larger Flemish-German army of 25,000 led by Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV. The French suffer about 1,000 casualties while the Flemish and the Germans incur about 10,000. The struggle is often called "The battle that made modern France" because the victory undid the Anglo-German alliance and allowed France to develop independently.
-Saintonge War (1242): King Louis IX of France defeats the English at the battles of Taillebourg and Saintes, but unfortunately does not follow up these victories by annexing Guyenne.
-Hundred Years War (1337-1453): This incorrectly titled conflict witnessed four major wars between England and France in 116 years. England won two of those wars, and France won the other two. The last decisive war (roughly from 1428 to 1453) was thoroughly won by the French and ended Anglo-French military rivalry on the European continent. Some of the more prominent victories in that phase include:
-Battle of Patay (1429): A French army under Joan of Arc hands the English one of the worst defeats in their military history.
-Battle of Formigny (1451): This decisive French victory led to the recapturing of Normandy.
-Battle of Castillon (1453): The last major engagement of the Hundred Years Wars, it saw a French army triumph against an English army led by their most able commander, Sir John Talbot, who lost his life in the battle. By 1453, the only English possession in mainland France was Calais (this was given up in the 1550s).
French victories in other phases of the Hundred Years War....
-Campaigns of Bertrand du Guesclin (1370-1380): A strategy of avoiding battle with the English pays huge dividends for de Guesclin, who ends up taking back nearly all of the territory lost by the French in the first phase of the war (ended by the Treaty of Bretigny).
-Battle of La Rochelle (1372): A Franco-Castilian naval victory leads to the end of English dominance in the English Channel.
In the Italian Wars...
-Battle of Agnadello (1509): The French destroy a Venetian army. This battle marks the fall of Venice as a great power.
-Battle of Marignano (1515): In one of the most significant engagements in French military history, the French under Francis I crush the hitherto invincible Swiss pikemen. Swiss power in Italy declines.
-Battle of Ceresole (1544): The French defeat an Imperial-Spanish army in Northern Italy.
In the Thirty Years War and the Franco-Spanish War...
-Battle of Rocroi (1643): Perhaps the second most important battle in the Thirty Years War after Breitenfeld, it sees the French under the Great Condé defeat the infamous Spanish tercios. There are about 4,000 French casualties and 7,500 Spanish. The battle marks the symbolic end of Spanish power in Europe and the resurgence of the French after decades of strife in the Religious Wars during the late sixteenth century.
-Battle of Nordlingen (1645): The French defeat an Imperial army.
-Battle of Lens (1648): The French defeat an Imperial army again; instrumental in ending the Thirty Years war.
-Battle of the Dunes (1658): An Anglo-French army defeats the Spanish and concludes the Franco-Spanish War in French favor.
The Wars of Louis XIV....
-War of Devolution (1667-1668): The French capture the Spanish Netherlands and overrun the Franche-Comté in a brilliant campaign by Condé.
-Franco-Dutch War (1672-1678): Although Anglo-French naval forces were held off at sea by the brilliant Dutch Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, the French army walked all over the United Provinces, taking Maastricht after a short siege and going on to capture Utrecht as well. By the end of the conflict, the French were given the large territory of Franche-Comté from Spain.
-War of the Reunions (1683-1684): French forces easily defeat Spanish troops in the Spanish Netherlands, capturing a number of cities.
The Nine Years War was a draw and the War of the Spanish Succession was somewhat of a French defeat, but France had victories in both of them....
-Battle of Fleurus (1690): The French under Marshal Luxembourg defeat an Anglo-Dutch army.
-Battle of Beachy Head (1690): The French inflict a significant naval defeat on a combined Anglo-Dutch navy.
-Battle of Landen (1693): A French army under Marshal Luxembourg heavily defeats an Anglo-Dutch army, inflicting 19,000 casualties out of 50,000.
-Battle of Denain (1712): Marshal Villars leads French forces to victory against the impeccable Eugene. (Note: In the final phases of the War of the Spanish Succession, the French were winning in Northern Italy, having driven the Austrians out, in Spain, having captured Barcelona, and in almost all other significant theaters).
War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748)...
-Battle of Fontenoy (1745): The French under Maurice de Saxe defeat an Anglo-Austrian-Dutch-Hanoverian army very severely.
-Battle of Roucoux (1746): The French under Maurice de Saxe defeat another one of those armies again.
-Battle of Lauffeld (1747): And again....
-Siege of Maastricht (1748): It all culminates in the fall of Maastricht, leaving an impressive seal on this fine campaign by Maurice de Saxe.
The Seven Years War (1756-1763) was a French defeat, but there was mild success in the European theater (victories in the North American theater will be covered in another section)...
-Battle of Hastenbeck (1757): The French defeat an English army in Germany.
American Revolutionary War (1776-1783)...
-Battle of Yorktown (1781): Franco-American forces besiege Cornwallis' army at Yorktown and force one of the most significant defeats in British military history.
-Battle of the Capes (1781): Although tactically indecisive, this naval battle was a huge strategic victory for the French as it prevented the British navy from resupplying Cornwallis.
French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802)....
-Battle of Valmy (1792): There were only 500 casualties in this battle that is noted more for its artillery duel than any actual fighting. Nevertheless, it was a huge symbolic triumph and paved the way for the formation of the First Republic two days later (September 22, 1792).
-Siege of Toulon (1793): 10 British warships go up in flames as French forces led by (later) Dugommier, who was implementing the ideas of Napoleon Bonaparte, thoroughly squash counter-revolutionary activity.
-Battle of Fleurus (1794): A French army under Jourdan inflicts a crushing defeat on the Austrians. The victory allows French forces to overrun Belgium and the Netherlands.
-First Italian Campaign (1796-1797): A whirlwind tour de force, the Army of Italy under Napoleon Bonaparte repeatedly defeats larger Austrian forces, captures Mantua, and imposes the Treaty of Campo Formio on the Habsburgs, leaving France in control of Italy. Some important victories:
-Battle of Lodi (1796): The main Austrian army manages to escape, but the French crush the Austrian rearguard, inflicting 2,000 casualties.
-Battle of Castiglione (1796): The French defeat another Austrian army.
-Battle of Arcole (1796): And another....
-Battle of Rivoli (1797): And yet another...this is Napoleon's most spectacular victory up until 1797. 17,000 French troops defeat an Austrian army of 28,000, leaving the Austrians with 14,000 casualties at the cost of just 5,000 French losses.
Campo Formio ends the First Coalition with a resounding French victory....begin War of the Second Coalition (1798-1801)....
Egyptian Campaign (1798-1799)...
-Battle of the Pyramids (1798): Western-style tactics destroy an Egyptian army led by brave but foolish mamelukes. 6,000 Egyptian casualties vs. 300 French.
-Battle of Mount Tabor (1799): French forces hovering around 2,000 crush a Turkish army of 35,000 in the Levant.
-Battle of Abukir (1799): Napoleon marches his troops back to Egypt to defeat another Turkish force at Abukir, causing the loss of the entire Turkish army which had been ferried to Egypt by the Royal Navy. At this point, both the Army of Damascus and the Army of Rhodes have been defeated by the French, leaving Egypt momentarily secure from foreign invasions.
-Second Battle of Zurich (1799): French forces under Massena crush a Russian army in Switzerland, turning the tide of the war.
-Battle of Marengo (1800): French troops under Napoleon inflict a narrow but sufficient defeat on the Austrians under Melas.
-Battle of Hohenlinden (1800): The French under General Moreau sharply defeat an Austrian army led by Archduke John. The threat of an advance on Vienna prompts the Habsburgs to seek another peace treaty at Luneville. 1801 is the final year of the Second Coalition, which, like the first, was heavily defeated by the French. Britain makes peace in 1802 at the Treaty of Amiens.
Napoleonic Wars (1805-1815)....
War of the Third Coalition...
Ulm Maneuver (1805): A rapid march by the French army bags an entire Austrian army under the unfortunate Mack. At 2,000 French casualties, the French capture 60,000 Austrian troops.
Battle of Austerlitz (1805): French forces under Napoleon severely rout a Russo-Austrian army of equivalent strength. 27,000 Allied casualties vs. 9,000 French. The Third Coalition ends in another spectacular French victory when Austria signs the Treaty of Pressburg on December 26, 1805.
War of the Fourth Coalition....
-Prussian Campaign (1806): The French under Napoleon inflict the worst military defeat in Prussian history. By the end of the campaign, the Prussians have lost 25,000 killed and wounded, 140,000 captured, and over 2,000 cannon. Practically all of the Prussian army has been eliminated, although a few units do survive. Some important engagements:
-Battle of Jena (1806): The French crush a Prussian army, inflicting 25,000 casualties out of 38,000.
-Battle of Auerstadt (1806): 27,000 French troops under the legendary Marshal Davout defeat a Prussian army of 63,000. The Prussians break with 13,000 casualties and 115 captured guns. It is one of the most impressive tactical victories in all of the Napoleonic Wars.
-Polish Campaign (1807): The French defeat the Russian armies that were too late to help Prussia in 1806, bringing to an end two years of bloodshed on the European continent at Tilsit.
-Battle of Friedland (1807): French forces under Napoleon trounce a Russian army led by Bennigsen. 20,000 Russian casulaties vs. 8,000 French. The enormous victory leads to the Treaty of Tilsit and leaves France as the overwhelming military power on the European continent. End of the Fourth Coalition, once again in French victory.
War of the Fifth Coalition....
-Danube Campaign (1809): After a hard fight against a much better Austrian army, the French manage to impose yet another peace treaty on Vienna by the Autumn of 1809. Significant French victories:
-Battle of Eckmuhl (1809): The French defeat an Austrian army under Archduke Charles. 12,000 Austrian casualties vs. 6,000 French. The fall of Ratisbon after this battle leads the Austrian army to flee and abandon Vienna once more to French occupation.
-Battle of Wagram (1809): French forces under Napoleon defeat the Austrians at this massive two-day battle. It is not a spectacular victory, but the Austrians sue for peace nonetheless. 32,500 French casualties vs. 40,000 Austrian losses. End of the Fifth Coalition with yet another French victory; Peace of Schonbrunn redraws map and causes loss of 3 million people to the Austrian Empire.
Peninsular War, Russian invasion, War of the Sixth Coalition, and War of the Seventh Coalition were all French defeats, but there were a few prominent French victories in them.....
-Battle of Medellin (1809): French troops under Marshal Victor crush a Spanish army under Cuesta.
-Battle of Ocana (1809): French troops under Marshal Soult rout a larger Spanish army and take control of Southern Spain.
-Battle of Borodino (1812): A very mild victory by a multi-national army under Napoleon. 30,000 French casualties vs. 45,000 Russian. Kutuzov decides to retreat after the defeat and the road to Moscow is open.
-Battle of Dresden (1813): Even though in an ultimately losing effort, this battle was one of Napoleon's greatest victories. An outnumbered French army heavily defeats an Allied army converging on Dresden; 38,000 Allied casualties vs. 10,000 French.
-Six Days Campaign (1814): Napoleon takes a miniscule French army of 30,000 and inflicts 20,000 casualties on Blucher's 100,000-strong Prussian army.
-Battle of Ligny (1815): Napoleon's last victory. It could have been more impressive were it not for incompetent staffwork. 16,000 Prussian casualties vs. 11,500 French.
Waterloo ends Napoleonic Wars....begin modern period...
-Battle of Trocadero (1823): A French army defeats Spanish liberals who refuse to make Spain a monarchy.
-Crimean War (1864-1856): French, British, Sardinian, and Ottoman armies invade the Crimea to stop possible Russian expansionism in the Mediterranean. The war ends successfully for the Allies when Sevastopol is taken.
-Battle of Malakoff (1855): The decisive attacks on the Malakoff redoubts were made by French forces. The Russian position was now hopeless. Sevastopol fell and the war ended.
-Franco-Austrian War of 1859 (also known as the Second Risorgimento War, referring to the wars for Italian independence): 130,000 French troops join 70,000 Sardinian allies in permanently ending Austrian domination of Italy. After this victory, Italy becomes an independent nation in 1861.
-Battle of Solferino (1859): A gruesome battle which inspired the founding of the International Red Cross, Solferino saw the greatest Austrian defeat of the entire war. 22,000 Austrian casualties vs. 18,000 French. Napoleon III signed the Treaty of Villafranca to end the war and gained Nice and Savoy from Sardinia as recompense for the French efforts.
-World War I (1914-1918): The greatest conflict in human history up until that time, World War I saw French armies ultimately arrayed throughout the European continent in a manner not seen since Napoleonic times, from the Rhine in Germany to Hungary in the Balkans. Important conflicts:
-First Battle of the Marne (1914): 1.2 million French and British soldiers (1.1 million were French troops) defeat 1.5 millin German soldiers. 250,000 French casualties and 250,000 German. The Marne was the largest battle in human history when it was fought. Defeat there denied the Schlieffen Plan and may have been one of the most resounding strategic triumphs of the 20th century.
-Battle of Verdun (1916): Thinking he could "bleed the French white," Falkenhayn underestimated French resistance. In this epic struggle between France and Germany, French forces regain all initially lost positions. 380,000 French casualties vs. 340,000 German.
-Second Battle of the Marne (1918): What began as a German attack was transformed into a counter-attack by one of the finest commanders in the war: Ferdinand Foch. 24 French army divisions, backed by American, British, and Italian troops, inflicted a sharp reversal on the Germans, one which began a chain reaction of Allied victories that finally ended the war. 95,000 French casualties, 13,000 British, 12,000 American, and 170,000 German.
-Balkan Offensive (1918): Mainly French and British troops, led by French general d'Esperey, one of the greatest commanders of the war, broke through and overran nearly all of the Balkans by the time the armistice was signed.
World War I ends with the Treaty of Versailles. France becomes the most powerful nation in Europe once again and retrieves Alsace-Lorraine after losing it to the German states in the Franco-Prussian War.
-Ruhr Invasion (1923): French and Belgian troops invade and occupy the western part of Germany to enforce provisions of the Versailles treaty.
World War II was ultimately a French victory, but France was not decisive in bringing about that victory. However, French arms did have glorious moments throughout the war...
-Battle of Koufra (1941): Leclerc marches French colonial troops 1,500 miles and captures the heavily-defended Italian fort of El-Tag in the Koufra oasis with just one artillery gun.
-Northern France Campaign (1944): The French 2nd Armored Division under Leclerc conducts a whirlwind tour in this campaign, saving Paris and destroying the German 9th Panzer Division. The 2nd Division inflicts casualties of 4,500 dead and wounded, 8,800 captured, and causes the loss of 118 medium and heavy German tanks. The 2nd Division eventually ends its run in Berchtesgaden, Hitler's resort town in Bavaria.
-Operation Dragoon (1944): The French First Army under Tassigny liberates Marseilles and Toulon, causing thousands of German casualties.
French military action since World War II has generally been alliance-driven. For some of the more prominent instances, look up the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Gulf War of 1991 (participation of the French 6th Light Armored Division and the French Foreign Legion), the Kosovo War (participation of the French air force), the War in Afghanistan (naval Task Force 437).
French colonial victories
In the Seven Years War (also known as the French and Indian War)....
-Battle of Carillon (1758): A French force under General Montcalm defeats a British force five times its size, inflicting 2,000 casualties.
-Over 17 years, the French subdue Algeria by successively defeating a number of local warlords.
-Battle of Foochow (1884): The decisive engagement of the Sino-French War, the French destroy the Chinese navy that, ironically, they themselves had helped create. France established dominance over Indochina.
-Battle of Maysalun (1922): French forces easily rout a poorly-equipped Syrian army designed to prevent the mandated French takeover.
In the Ivory Coast in 2004....
-The French destroy the air force of the Ivory Coast.
The End. Once again, this list is very incomplete and certainly scores of battles and wars that have ended in victories for French peoples have either been forgotten or deliberately ignored. For example, from 1792 to 1815, French armies won 172 battles (whose names you can see in the Arc de Triomphe in Paris). Mentioning all of them would be ridiculous.