Friday, December 30, 2011

"Bravest of the Brave"

After yesterday's post concerning the Black Horse Cavalry and a Confederate soldier designated "the bravest of the brave," I couldn't help but hearken back to my Napoleonic/French Rev days.

The gentleman to the right is the original "Bravest of the Brave," Michel Ney, Marshall of France under the Emperor Napoleon.

Ney was not highly born, so chose to go into the French Revolutionary Army, where he fought with such distinction that he was asked to remain in the Army after 1804. He continued to serve, becoming one of the elite. A "Marshall" was the highest one could go in the Napoleonic Army structure.

He, of course, served in the ill-fated invasion of Russia, and because he was so concerned with getting his men out as safely and quickly as possible, he stayed in Russia a bit too long. He almost got captured, and was on the run for weeks, trying to catch up with Napoleon.

Napoleon had assumed he had lost Ney--his own version of Jackson, his right hand. Then--Ney showed up! He was the last man in the Army to leave Russia, and his General was brought to tears to see him.

For this, Napoleon bestowed upon him the sobriquet "The Bravest of the Brave--le Braves des Braves.

When Napoleon was forced to abdicate, Ney stayed in the Army, biding his time until the Hundred Days. With Napoleon's return, he once more served the General he loved. When that attempt failed, Napoleon was sent into exile.

Michel Ney--having served France for 28 years, fought and commanded in over 100 engagements, and received many wounds--was executed by the stinking, elitist running dog Bourbons.

He was given the "honor" of being able to command at his own execution. and he stood in front of the firing squad, not blindfolded, but facing the guns with his eyes open, and gave the final command of his life, "Fire," whereupon he fell for the last time, finally dying for France.

Thus the origin of the expression, "Bravest of the Brave."

1 comment:

  1. You can trace a direct line from Ney to Jim Morrison and Elvis. One of the first great "not really dead" stories (if I'm remembering it correctly) was that Ney (a Mason) got out of being executed by the influence of Masons who staged his execution and set him on his way to America. In some version of the old "Virginia Cavalcade" magazine in the 1960's there was an article on his second life as a school teacher in southwest Virginia. Probably none of it true, but a great story nonetheless.