Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Bravest of the Brave

The decorated fellow above is one Michel Ney born this day 1769 in Saarlouis, France. The son of a master cooper, Ney, after the usual education, became a notary in his hometown. The life of a civil servant did not suit him, and I can feel his pain in the regard, and he enlisted in a Hussar regiment in 1787. His talent got him quickly promoted through the ranks, and he was promoted general de brigade in 1796, and general de division in March, 1799. He was clearly a man of war, and the world was obliging he was born right in time to be involved in the Napoleonic wars that were to ravage Europe for nearly 25 years. He was promoted to Marshal of the Empire in 1804, and was given many commands under Napoleon. He fought in Austria, Spain, and Italy, and was given the command of a Corps during the disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. He was one of the few French generals to enhance his reputation during the murderous retreat from Moscow.He was given command of the rearguard during the retreat, and was cut off, and managed to rejoin the main body more than once. It was for these feats that Napoleon gave Ney the title "the Bravest of the Brave." Legend has it that he was the last French solider to cross the bridge at Kovono thus being the last Frenchman to exit Russia. He supposedly was given up for lost, but burst into a French outpost, and demanded some soup. The French soldiers had no clue who he was, and up asking he replied "I am the rearguard!" With the defeat of Napoleon, Ney swore allegiance to the restored Bourbon monarchy, but during the Hundred Days Campaign went back over to Napoleon's side. It was to be his last, and a fatal mistake. After Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo, Ney was tried for treason, and executed on December 6th, 1815. He refused the blindfold, and was given the right to give the order for the firing squad to fire. His last words were "Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her ... Soldiers, Fire!" Thus, one of the bravest men of his generation was no more, but for keeping the rearguard body and soul together during impossible conditions, and proving his bravery over and over again Michel Ney (January 10th, 1769-December 6th, 1815, at the age of 46), you are my (140th) hero of the day.

1 comment:

tideliar said...

Now that's a fuckin epitaph eh! Right up there with Spike Milligan's "I told you I was sick..."