Saturday, August 9, 2014

Great Bada$$es of History


This past May I wrote a short piece on the Great Jackasses of History.  In case you missed that one, you may find it here.  Today, I look at a$$es of a different kind (and no, you perverts, not the kind you are hoping to find).  Badasses.  The Urban Dictionary, which is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, defines a badass as "an ultra cool mo-fo."  While I do not take issue with that definition, it leaves out an important part of the term.  I prefer to go with Merriam-Webster on this one.  They define a badass as a person of "formidable strength or skill."  That version is more suited for our purposes here.

I can already see your hands raising in objection!  Who are you, a Half A$$ to judge who is and who is not a badass.  Well, Dear Readers, I once had a student describe me as "one bada$$ mo-fo!"  So as you can see, I think I am more than qualified to pontificate on such as subject.  So read on.  And no peeking until the end or else Chuck Norris will go all Walker Texas Ranger on you.

5. Queen Boudica:  Ever heard of Xena Warrior Princess?  I admit, I watched the show religiously while I was in college.  I even had a Xena action figure which is, among other things, probably why I didn't date that much.  Move over Xena.  Celtic Queen Boudica is a bigger badass than you!  Celts tended to treat women with a little more respect than many other ancient tribes.  However, Boudica ran afoul of the Romans.  Her daughters were raped while she was forced to watch.  While this was going on, the Romans were also flogging her.  There is one thing you should never, never do.  Piss off a redhead.  She raised an army and led a revolt against Roman rule in Britain and even waxed a couple of Roman units in battle.  Legend has it that she rode into battle in a chariot with her daughters on both sides of her.  Alas, ultimately might prevailed and she was defeated.  No one knows the exact site of her death.  Nor do we really know how she died.  Some say she fell in battle.  Others say she killed herself to avoid being taken prisoner and tortured to death by the Romans.  I say maybe there is another option.  She didn't die but was simply taken up to Heaven by the gods.  But for a brief moment in time, a redheaded woman made the whole of the Roman Empire tremble in fear.  For that, I award her the fifth spot on my list.  Did I mention that I like redheads?

4. King Leonidas of Sparta:  In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that the movie 300 was the most godawful movie I have ever seen. (Other than Titanic, but that goes without saying)  After the movie came out, everyone was all "Go Sparta!" and I found it rather amusing, given how little those people knew about Spartan life.  However, none of that takes away from the badassery of King Leonidas.  He and his troops remained behind to cover the retreat of the Greek Army in the face of an overwhelming Persian force.  Prior to the campaign, the Oracle said that either Sparta would be destroyed or their king would die.  Choosing to remain on a battlefield in the face of certain death makes you a bada$$.  I just wish the movie would have been a little better.

3. Stonewall Jackson: While waiting for the Civil War to begin where he could display his feats of badassery, Thomas J. Jackson was a bit of an odd duck.  Whilst teaching at the Virginia Military Institute, he earned the nickname Tom Fool from his students based on his absent minded professor persona.  (I know a little about that myself.)  But then came war and the opportunity for Jackson to demonstrate what he was really made of!  First of all, he stood like a stone wall at First Manassas, thus earning his nickname.  (After he was struck in the hand by a spent musket ball which broke his finger!)  During the Valley Campaign, his troops march over 600 miles in 50 days and defeated five different armies which combined to equal four times as many men as he commanded.  He dazzled the Yankees at Second Manassas and his flank march at Chancellorsville is legendary.  Alas, his badass conduct came to end when he was accidentally shot by one of his own men.  How'd you like to be descended from that guy!  Jackson had his arm amputated but pneumonia set in and he passed on to Valhalla.  

2.  Hannibal:  No Clarice.  Not Hannibal Lectar.  I mean Hannibal, son of Barca.  This guy crossed the freaking Alps with elephants!  You can't get much more badass than that!  During the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage, Hannibal decided to take the fighting to the Roman homeland.  A wise choice perhaps.  Setting out from Spain with a massive force including war elephants, which had to be really freaking scary, he battled his way to the Alps.  To a normal person, elephants and a mountain range do not a pleasant journey make.  Ah, but Hannibal was a badass!  This was no obstacle for him!  Boldly he set out to cross the Alps and did, though I imagine he lost a lot of elephants (and soldiers) along the way.  Once he arrived in Italy, he beat the living crap out of the Romans at Cannae, thus perfecting the double envelopment that generals have sought to accomplish ever since.  His troops slaughtered something like 70,000 Romans and lost ten percent of that themselves.  Way to go Hannibal!  That will pay the Romans back for inventing Latin.  And did I mention, he crossed the Alps with freaking elephants!

And now (insert drum roll).........for my pick for the Biggest Badass in History.................

1.  George S. Patton, Jr.  Any guy who carries ivory handled revolvers on a twentieth century battlefield is an eternal badass.  Prior to establishing his reputation as one of, if not the, greatest battlefield commander in American History, Patton competed in the Olympic Games!  While serving on the US/Mexican border during the Pancho Villa crisis, Patton and a couple of his men surprised some of Villa's henchmen.  Patton put rounds in all three of them though it is not known if any of his were the fatal shots.  Still, putting three rounds in people who are shooting at you is pretty badass.  He commanded tanks after the US entered the First World War.  At one point, as his tanks moved towards a German held village, he freaking walked in front of them to inspire his troops!  Later, he rode on top of one to do the same thing.  Given such courage, it should come as no surprise that he suffered a wound, yet stayed on the field and continued to command.  

His World War Two exploits are legendary and are the subject of a movie, so I won't belabor that here.  However, I will say that Patton and the men of his Third Army pulled off one gigantic feat of badassery during the move to the relief of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.  I would take my helmet off to them all except I am not wearing one and Patton frowned on not wearing your helmet.  

I know some of you may take issue with my list and have your own to mention.  That is fine.  This is Murica and we are all free to have our own opinions, largely due to badasses like General Patton!  There are a few who came close to being included here, but I only had five spots available.  Sorry if I left out one of your favorite people. 

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ Historian.

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