Friday, May 4, 2012

American History Quotes, from TR

      As I've noted at the top of my home page, I'm reading Theodore Roosevelt's Naval War of 1812, which is still considered by historians to be a standard study of the subject.  As I was reading, I came across some remarkable statements made regarding the attitudes held by officers of the American and British navies towards one another.
     TR includes in his description of the encounter between the USS Enterprise (no, not that one) and HMS Boxer, the surprsing account of a toast offered at a dinner party for the officers of the Enterprise. Oh, by the way, the Enterprise won. "The crew of the Boxer; by law enemies, but by gallantry, brothers." 
        Where, oh where has our nobility of spirit gone?  Could we even concieve, in this day, of raising a toast to the crew of a captured enemy vessel, just because they fought like men to defend it, albeit unsuccessfully?

     In another chapter, TR includes an excerpt from a letter written by a British officer, who had led a successful boarding party from the frigate HMS Narcissus to capture the cutter USS Surveyor.  The letter was to the Master of the Surveyor (which was too small to rate a Lieutenant, let alone a Captain). It read in part, "your gallant and desperate attempt to defend your vessel against more than double your numbers  . . . excited such admiration on the part of your opponents [the British] . . .  has induced me to return you the sword you had so nobly used, in testimony of mine.  I am at a loss which to admire most, the [defensive preparations] aboard the Surveyor, or the determined manner in which her deck was disputed inch by inch."
     TR notes that the British lost 3 dead and 7 wounded in the taking of the Surveyor.  Yet here is the British officer, writing a letter of commendation to his opponent, who was primarily responsible for the British casualties.
     This is the kind of thing that makes me aspire to be a gentleman, and teach my sons to be gentlemen as well. Aren't we as Christians commanded to love even our enemies?


Kobold said...

Amen to that. We have lost the spirit of gallantry - now we are taught to dehumanise, demonise and totally destroy our opponents, whether in debates, politics, or on the battlefield.

Library Bob said...

Found this today from the TV Tropes site: a whole page of Worthy Opponent anecdotes. Check out the section at the bottom - tropes from Real Life.