Islam spread by the sword?

In a previous post I posed 10 questions to Allah. The second of these questions was this:  If Islam truly is the one true glorious faith, why did your Prophet and his followers need to spread it by the sword?  
A Muslim reader, Kat, said in response to the post that my question was based upon misinformation. Here I try to explain why I posed the question and why I believe it is a fair point to raise with Muslims.
I know that many Muslims share the opinion expressed, for example, by The way To Truth website (http://www.thewaytotruth.org/islam-humanity/rapidspreadofislam.html): “Islam’s rapid expansion, unequaled (sic) by any other religion, was due to its religious content and values… Many have sought to answer the questions of why the triumph of Islam was so speedy and complete? Why have so many millions embraced the religion of Islam and scarcely a hundred ever recanted?...Islam […] spread rapidly because of its tolerance.”
Now I don’t dispute that many of those who were conquered by the Muslims may have found Islam to be an inspiring faith and thought its followers cultured, spiritual and hence to be a good advert for this new faith. They may have thus converted willingly, I don’t know. But to suggest that Islam spread because it was a tolerant faith and that its amazingly speedy conquest was due purely to its religious content is surely nonsense. Are not these apologists forgetting the word "conquered"?  Do such apologists claim that the following eighty or so battles and wars were fought for nothing then, or that they were all purely defensive in nature?
·     623 - Battle of Waddan.623 - Battle of Safwan.623 - Battle of Dul-'Ashir.624 - Muhammad and converts begin raids on caravans to fund the movement.(624 - Zakat becomes mandatory).624 - Battle of Badr.624 - Battle of Bani Salim.624 - Battle of Eid-ul-Fitr and Zakat-ul-Fitr.624 - Battle of Bani Qainuqa'.624 - Battle of Sawiq.624 - Battle of Ghatfan.624 - Battle of Bahran.625 - Battle of Uhud; .625 - Battle of Humra-ul-Asad.625 - Battle of Banu Nudair.625 - Battle of Dhatur-Riqa.626 - Battle of Badru-Ukhra.626 - Battle of Dumatul-Jandal.626 - Battle of Banu Mustalaq Nikah.627 - Battle of the Trench.627 - Battle of Ahzab.627 - Battle of Bani uraiza.627 - Battle of Bani Lahyan.627 - Battle of Ghaiba.627 - Battle of Khaibar..630 - Muhammad conquers Mecca.630 - Battle of Hunsin.630 - Battle of Tabuk.(632 - Muhammad dies).632 - Abu-Bakr, Muhammad's father-in-law, along with Umar, begin a military move to enforce Islam in Arabia.633 - Battle at Oman.633 - Battle at Hadramaut.633 - Battle of Kazima.633 - Battle of Walaja.633 - Battle of Ulleis.633 - Battle of Anbar.634 - Battle of Basra.634 - Battle of Damascus.634 - Battle of Ajnadin.(634 - Death of Hadrat Abu Bakr. Hadrat Umar Farooq becomes the Caliph).634 - Battle of Namaraq.634 - Battle of Saqatia.635 - Battle of Bridge.635 - Battle of Buwaib.635 - Conquest of Damascus.635 - Battle of Fahl.636 - Battle of Yermuk.636 - Battle of Qadsiyia.636 - Conquest of Madain.637 - Battle of Jalula.638 - Battle of Yarmouk.638 - The Muslims defeat the Romans and enter Jerusalem.638 - Conquest of Jazirah.639 - Conquest of Khuizistan and movement into Egypt.641 - Battle of Nihawand.642 - Battle of Rayy in Persia.643 - Conquest of Azarbaijan.644 - Conquest of Fars.644 - Conquest of Kharan.(644 - Umar is murdered.  Othman becomes the Caliph).647 - Conquest of the island of Cypress.(644 - Uman dies and is succeeded by Caliph Uthman).648 - Campaign against the Byzantines.651 - Naval battle against the Byzantines.654 - Islam spreads into North Africa.(656 - Uthman is murdered.  Ali become Caliph).658 - Battle of Nahrawan.659 - Conquest of Egypt.661 –( Ali is murdered).662 - Egypt falls to Islam rule.666 - Sicily is attacked by Muslims.677 - Siege of Constantinople.687 - Battle of Kufa.691 - Battle of Deir ul Jaliq..700 - Military campaigns in North Africa.702 - Battle of Deir ul Jamira.711 - Muslims invade Gibraltar.711 - Conquest of Spain.713 - Conquest of Multan.716 - Invasion of Constantinople.732 - Battle of Tours in France.740 - Battle of the Nobles.741 - Battle of Bagdoura in North Africa.744 - Battle of Ain al Jurr.746 - Battle of Rupar Thutha.748 - Battle of Rayy.749 - Battle of lsfahan.749 - Battle of Nihawand.750 - Battle of Zab.772 - Battle of Janbi in North Africa. 777 - Battle of Saragossa in Spain. 


So my question remains. If Islam is so self-evidently the way of God, why should it have required so much bloodshed to spread? Is this the way for a religion of peace to establish itself? 
I'm not a Christian, but the very early spread of Christianity is surely an interesting comparator.