The bold and the dutiful: 21 courageous quotes from history’s biggest badasses



Read about any period of history and one thing you’re guaranteed to come across is bloody, gut wrenching wars. It’s one thing that we humans excel at, whatever the era and whatever the culture. Yet amidst all this terrible, and often pointless, slaughter we sometimes get glimpses of great bravery in the face of terrible odds. It’s during these moment, when all looks doomed, that certain types of men and women go full bad ass. In honour of their devil-may-care attitude to danger, here are some of their finest moments immortalized in their finest words. Prepare to be amazed. 

1. Robert Surcouf, a French corsair (privateer) and all-around badass, talking with a British officer after capturing his ship, the Kent:

British officer: “You French fight for money, while we British fight for honor.”

Robert Surcouf: “Sir, a man fights for what he lacks the most.”

[gard group=’2′]
2. 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.”

Sparta: “If.”


3. George S. Patton:

“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.”

4. Lucius Cornelius Sulla’s epitaph:

“No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full.”


5. Vice President Thomas Marshall at the time of Theodore Roosevelt’s death:

“Death had to take him sleeping, for if Roosevelt had been awake there would have been a fight.”


6. Attributed to Hannibal, on being told he couldn’t cross the Alps:

“Either I will find a way or I will make one”

[gard group=’2′]
7. Heraclitus:

“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”


8. Otto von Bismarck, who started (and won) 3 wars:

“Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war”



9. General Chesty Puller:

“We’re surrounded. They’re in front of us, behind us, to the left and right of us. They can’t get away this time”


10. George S. Patton:

“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no one because I am the most evil man in the valley.”


11. Winston Churchill:

“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”


12. Winston Churchill:

“I like a man who grins when he fights”


13. Teddy Roosevelt, giving a campaign speech just after an attempted assassination:

“Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot — but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”


Theodore Roosevelt


14. Napoleon Bonaparte:

“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.”


15. Emiliano Zapata:

“I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.”


16.James Mattis:

“Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”



17.Robert Erskine Childers, Irish rebel after his firing squad had missed the first time:

“Take a step closer lads it will be easier that way.”


18. Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, the one-armed, one-eyed admiral who established the British naval supremacy in the 19th century:

“England expects that every man will do his duty.”


19. Major General Creighton Abrams:

“They’ve got us surrounded again, the poor bastards.”


20. Sergeant Major Dan Daly while leading a charge in WWI:

“Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?!”


21. Thomas de Mahy, Marquis de Favras, after reading his death sentence:

“You have made three spelling mistakes.”


Mad and bad, crazy and courageous, these fighting words show that when the going gets tough the tough get badass. But we know there’s tons more times throughout history when men and women have shown true grit. So, if any spring to mind, be sure to share in the comments below

Follow the web’s hottest history blog on Twitter and Facebook

5 replies
  1. tar and feathers
    tar and feathers says:

    Be interesting to hear what happened after they uttered these quotes. Presumably quite a few of them died

  2. Jimmy Vick
    Jimmy Vick says:

    Makes me wonder what the machines will say to one another when they alone are doing the fighting…


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *