Anecdotes III

    The Ottoman political landscape during the 17th century was a trifle unsettled at times
    Like Murat IV, [Grand Vizier] Tarhoncu Ahmet believed that only force and threats of force could secure the necessary results.  But he realized that his political position was tenuous.  So instead of antagonizing one or another of the major political groups by killing some of their members, he secured the needed result by dragging in several hundred poor men found in the prisons of Istanbul and beheading them in the major public squares in order to impress high and low alike with his ferocity and determination to eliminate malefactors at all cost!
    ---Stanford J. Shaw

    Antigonos, one of Alexander the Great's generals, had a dry sense of humour

    At another time, Demetrius [Antigonos' son], after spending several days in a debauch, excused himself for his absence, by saying he had had a violent flux.  "So I heard," replied Antigonus; "was it of Thasian wine, or Chian?"

    Once he was told his son was ill, and went to see him.  At the door he met some young beauty.  Going in, he sat down by the bed and took his pulse.  "The fever," said Demetrius, "has just left me."  "Oh yes," replied the father, "I met it going out at the door."

    During the First Punic War Consul P. Claudius Pulcher resolved to attack the Carthaginian fleet.  He knew enemy reinforcements were en route; therefore he must strike quickly.  But before the sea battle commenced he was warned that the omens were unfavourable.  The sacred chickens would not eat.  The impious and impatient Claudius threw the chickens overboard, remarking "Well, let them drink instead".

    The Romans were heavily defeated.

    More tactful diplomacy

    The Turks still retained their profound contempt for the West.

    "Do I not know," the grand vizier told the French ambassador in 1666, "that you are a Giaour [unbeliever], that you are a hog, a dog, an eater of turds?"

    ---Richard S. Dunn

    Two captains of the Champagne regiment, La Fenestre and d'Agay, had been mortal enemies for twenty eight years, and had met seven times on the field of honour.  La Fenestre had his head blown off by a cannonball at Vellinghausen, but his partisans noted with a point of pride that a fragment of his skull had put out d'Agay's right eye.

    ---L. Kennett

    Roughing it in the Age of Reason

    The baggage of a field officer could be expected to contain tents, beds, wardrobes, tables, chairs, kitchen utensils, table services and multiple changes of clothes.  The transport train of the grandee comprised coaches, carts and literally hundreds of draught horses and pack animals, in addition to a string of as much as twenty or thirty riding horses.  The whole could easily amount to 145 tons, like the baggage of the Duke of Cumberland.

    ---Christopher Duffy

    [At the siege of Mons in 1744 a French soldier picked up what he believed to be solid shot]...and he clung to it even though others shouted to him that it was a bomb, and that he must escape.  The charge took fire and the bomb exploded in his hands.  In a split second he was a dusky as a blackamoor.  His uniform and hair were burnt and his skin was a little singed.  He was otherwise intact, and by singular good fortune the splinters left him unscathed.

    ---Mr R*****, 1759.

    Ancient Warriors Indeed

    At this time the youngest of the Silver Shields [an elite unit of Alexander the Great's army] were about sixty years old, most of the others about seventy, and some even older; but all of them were irresistible because of experience and strength, such was the skill and daring aquired through the unbroken series of their battles.


    Although an officer of some experience - he had been a colonel of foot in the Dutch service - the Earl [of Essex] was no military genius.  As a strategist he must be considered distinctly suspect.  What other general fought three of his major battles with the enemy between his army and his base?

    ---Peter Young

    A well trained American Civil War gun crew could expect to fire four shots a minute at point blank range.  Veteran crews, inspired by the enemy charging at them, would occasionally achieve higher rates of fire.  This was done by the dangerous expedient of only sponging out the gun every fourth or fifth shot rather than every firing.  Sponging the gun would extinguish any smoldering remnants of the previous shot; not sponging would allow the gun to get very, very hot and risk prematurely igniting the next shot's powder charge.

    I shall never forget the behavior of our No. 1 in this action [when Stewart's Battery "charged" the Confederates at Bethesda Church in 1863 and wiped out an enemy battery at almost point blank range].  It was old Griff Wallace, of the 7th Wisconsin.  He was certainly an artist at the muzzle of a gun.  On this occasion he didn't pretend to sponge, except at every fifth load.  Meantime the hot vent was burning my thumbstall to a crisp and scorching my thumb, so I would call out:
    "For ------- ------'s sake, Griff, sponge the gun!"

    And he would answer:
    "Sponge, ----- -----!  Stick to the vent you little ------ -----!!  Stick!"

    Ordinarily I would have resented that epithet, but did not feel called upon to do so then.  Toward the last it was really painful.  As the leather kept burning through I would pull the thumbstall down until no more of it was left, and then I appealed to Griff that the vent was burning my flesh.  All the satisfaction I got was a fierce growl between his Irish teeth:
    "Thumb it with the bone, then, ------ ----- you!!"

    ---Augustus "Cub" Buell, 1890.

    Spartan Humour

    Before the battle of Thermopylae in Greece in 480 BC, Dienekes, a Spartan hoplite was warned that the enemy Persian army was so enormous that their arrows would blot out the sun.  He replied, "So much the better, we shall fight in the shade."

    During the Peninsular War, a Spanish uprising in Saragossa prompted some bitter hard fighting

    When the French were driven out of Saragossa, the Spaniards said it was the statue of the Virgin that stood at their gates that performed the exploit.  An Irish monk who has lived here [Corunna] for twenty years, and who told us the story, said: "a fig for their saints - the English have two saints, St. Powder and St. Ball, and when they want to enter a place they use very little ceremony."

    ---The Public Ledger, 1808.

    Ambassadors report to the Rus Prince

    The Bulgars bow down and sit, and look hither and thither, like men possessed; and there is no joy among them, but only sorrow and a dreadful stench.  Their religion is not good.

    ---The Russian Primary Chronicle, 986.

    The Seige of Badajoz

    Lieutenant Thomas Taylor Worsley of the 95th was hit under the ear by a musket-ball which made a circuit of his neck and turned his head permanently to the right.  At Waterloo he was hit in a similar place under the other ear, which injury straightened his head again!

    ---Philip J. Haythornthwaite.

    Successor Ruler Worship

    [Led by the example of Alexander the Great, many of his Successor generals instituted official state religious cults worshipping themselves.  But not all kings did so...]

    Antigonos II Gonatas, when a certain Hermodotus proclaimed him "offspring of the sun, and a god", replied: "the man who empties my chamber-pot has not noticed it."

    ---Michael Grant

    [The Battle of Sedan in 1870 marked the end of the Second French Empire]

    The French generals, observing the positions of the German watch-fires, began to realize what was in store for them; and Ducrot, marking up maps, summed up the situation in a single deathless sentence: "Nous sommes dans un pot de chambre, et nous y serons emmerdes."

    ---Michael Howard

    The Maximillian Adventure

    French General Bazaine managed to offend most segments of Mexican society, including the powerful Catholic Church

    The general had a habit of going scrupulously to Mass every Sunday.  When Monsignor Labastide, Archbishop at Mexico, threatened to have the doors of the Cathedral shut in his face, he answered:

    "If you do, I will shoot them open with my cannon."

    ---Octave Aubrey

    Previous anecdotes page or Next anecdotes page

    Home ~ Battles ~ Links ~ Armies ~ Rules ~ Anecdotes ~ What's New? ~ Email ~ Figures ~ Conventions