13 Quotes From The Field Of Battle So Savage They Sound Made Up - But Aren't
When Redditors offered some of the most savage quotes from history they could find, many of those lines were once spoken in battle. Battlefield quotes from famous battles like Lexington and Concord, the Alamo, and Belleau Woods speak to the bravery and determination of the men who fought on both sides.
Inspiring and gritty military quotes before battle, offered by the likes of General George S. Patton, motivated troops as they entered the brutality of combat. Post-battle statements, on the other hand, reflect frustration and anger in the wake of victory and defeat.
Famous battle quotes from history span the ages and, understandably, offer some savage truth. Here's a list of some of the most biting words offered on the field of battle.
- Photo: Jona Lendering / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
From Redditor u/AxtionJaxion07: Phillip II of Macedon to Sparta: "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."
Context: Philip II of Macedon (d. 336 BC) built a dominant military during the fourth century BC, one he used to push through Greece and conquer individual city-states. As Philip made his way to Athens, Thebes, and Corinth, Sparta watched on as their Greek neighbors fell to the Macedonian king.
By 338 BC, Sparta was essentially alone in its resistance to Philip, but they remained confident in their abilities to fend him off. After Philip offered Sparta a peaceful surrender, officials from the city-state made a simple, curt reply. Spartans, known for their "steeled and sharpened... way of speech," responded with one solitary word.
- Age: Dec. at 46 (381 BC-335 BC)
- Birthplace: Pella, Greece
- Photo: Frank Schoonover / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain23,210 VOTES
Captain Lloyd Williams Thought The Party Was Just Getting Started At Belleau Wood
From Redditor u/50_Amp_Fuse: "Retreat? Hell, we just got here!"
Context: Attributed to several soldiers over the years and varied in how the story has been told, Captain Lloyd Williams was credited with the quip in 1932. At that time, the Marine Corps' History Division accepted the following explanation from Captain J.D. Murray, Williams's commanding officer:
Captain Corbin, second in command of the 51st Company, came to me and told me that a French officer had been so insistent with Captain Loyd Williams that he drop back that he sent Corbin to find out if there were such orders. I told him that there were not and asked him what Captain Williams had said and done.
Corbin replied that Williams tried to explain to the French officer that he couldn't drop back without orders but he became so garrulous that [he]... finally... said impatiently, "Retreat, hell, we've just gotten here!"
- Photo: US Army / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
From Redditor u/bspearb: "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."
Context: There's no lack of quotes attributed to General George Patton (1885-1945), many of which attest to his no-nonsense, profanity-laden style of speech. Before sending his men into battle, Patton offered words of inspiration, while simultaneously acknowledging the fear and uncertainty that lay before them.
It was in this spirit, according to Colonel James Gavin, that Patton offered his perspective on perishing in battle to soldiers bound for Italy from North Africa in 1943. Gavin used both "bastard" and "son of a b*tch" when he recounted the speech, but the spirit of the message remains the same.
Similar language can be found in Patton's speeches leading up to the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June 1944. The exact wording of those oratories varies and is often informed by the words uttered in Patton, the 1970 biopic starring George C. Scott in the titular role.
- Age: Dec. at 60 (1885-1945)
- Birthplace: San Gabriel, California
- Photo: USMC Archives/Adolph B. Miller / Flickr / CC-BY 2.043,337 VOTES
Daniel Daly Asked A Not-So-Rhetorical Question At The Battle Of Belleau Wood
From Redditor u/JohnProbe: "Come on, you sons-o'-b*tches! Do you want to live forever?"
Context: Daniel Daly was a first sergeant in the 73rd Machine Gun Company fighting at Belleau Wood in June 1918. The Marine found himself and his platoon under heavy gunfire during the fight, struggling to advance against German forces.
Daly rallied, yelling, "Come on, you sons o' b*tches! Do you want to live forever?" or some variant of the phrase. Daly recalled saying, "For Christ's sake, men - come on! Do you want to live forever?" but the Marine Corps has immortalized the former in a carving at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia.
- Photo: Leonardo Guzzardi / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain51,896 VOTES
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, Used An Old Battle Wound To Defy Orders
From Redditor u/nickmathieu: When signaled to retreat, British Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) moved his telescope to his blind eye, telling his staff, "I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes... I really do not see the signal."
Context: As a naval commander, Vice-Admiral Nelson fought throughout the world - receiving injuries in most of his battles. During the 1790s, Nelson lost vision in his right eye and his right arm. He turned the former affliction into an excuse as to why he didn't follow orders at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801.
As the British efforts at Copenhagen stalled, Nelson was signaled by Admiral Hyde Parker to retreat. Once the order was brought to his attention, he reportedly turned to the ship's flag captain, Thomas Foley, and said he didn't see it. This was only after he looked for the signal with his nonfunctional eye. Nelson continued fighting, leading the British to victory against the Danes.
After the battle, Admiral Parker explained what happened, from his perspective. Parker claimed he made "the signal of recall for Nelson's sake," so he could continue, if able, or as "an excuse for his retreat, and [so] no blame can be imputed to him."
When he entered into peace negotiations with Danish officials later, Nelson was said to have again referenced his vision, stating, "Though I have only one eye, I see all of this will burn very well."
- Age: Dec. at 47 (1758-1805)
- Birthplace: Burnham Thorpe, England
- Photo: Marcel Baschet / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
From Redditor u/TFielding38: "My centre is giving way, my right is retreating, situation excellent, I am attacking."
Context: French general and strategist Ferdinand Foch was an adamant supporter of aggressive offensive action in combat. During WWI, Foch gained a reputation for his determination, even when it was perceived as misguided. He often pushed ahead at times when other military commanders urged caution, notably at the First Battle of the Marne in 1914.
As the leader of the outnumbered and depleted Ninth Army, Foch staved off an advance by German forces at the Marne, and is said to have sent a telegram to his commanding officer, Joseph-Jacques-Césaire Joffre about his plan. It paid off, and the French defeated the German forces, although each side saw roughly 250,000 casualties.
Foch, who later became the commander of the Allied Forces on the Western Front, may or may not have actually sent the message, but it did capture his brazen spirit on the battlefield.
- Age: Dec. at 77 (1851-1929)
- Birthplace: Tarbes, France