Quotations about   battle

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In case signals can neither be seen nor perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy.

Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) British admiral
Memorandum before the Battle of Trafalgar (9 Oct 1805)
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Added on 2-Feb-19 | Last updated 2-Feb-19
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This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d, —
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me,
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed,
Shall think themselves accurs’d, they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap, whiles any speaks,
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 4, sc. 3 [Henry] (1599)
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Added on 14-May-18 | Last updated 14-May-18
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O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company,
That fears his fellowship to die with us.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 4, sc. 3 [Henry] (1599)
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Added on 7-May-18 | Last updated 7-May-18
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I would give all my fame for a pot of ale, and safety.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 3, sc. 2 [Boy] (1599)
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Added on 2-Apr-18 | Last updated 2-Apr-18
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I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot;
Follow your spirit: and upon this charge,
Cry — God for Harry! England and Saint George!

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 3, sc. 1 [Henry] (1599)
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Added on 26-Feb-18 | Last updated 26-Feb-18
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Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace, there’s nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 3, sc. 1 [Henry] (1599)
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Added on 12-Feb-18 | Last updated 12-Feb-18
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Dissent is the native activity of the scientist, and it has got him into a good deal of trouble in the last years. But if that is cut off, what is left will not be a scientist. And I doubt whether it will be a man.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Lecture, MIT (19 Mar 1953)
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Reprinted as Science and Human Values, Part 3, sec. 5 "The Sense of Human Dignity" (1961).
Added on 6-Feb-17 | Last updated 6-Feb-17
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KING ARTHUR: Look, you stupid bastard, you’ve got no arms left!
BLACK KNIGHT: Yes I have.
KING ARTHUR: Look!
BLACK KNIGHT: It’s just a flesh wound.

Monty Python (contemp.) British comedy troupe
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Added on 11-Jun-16 | Last updated 11-Jun-16
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My life has been largely spent in affairs that required organization. But organization itself, necessary as it is, is never sufficient to win a battle.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Young Republican National Leadership Training School (20 Jan 1960)
Added on 19-Jan-16 | Last updated 19-Jan-16
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They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) American writer
“Notes on the Next War,” Esquire (Sep 1935)
Added on 5-Mar-14 | Last updated 5-Mar-14
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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.

Heraclitus (c.540-c.480 BC) Greek philosopher [also Heracleitus]
(Attributed)
Added on 28-Feb-14 | Last updated 28-Feb-14
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Courage (in a soldier) is maintained by a certain anger; anger is a little blind and likes to strike out. And from this follows a thousand abuses, a thousand evils and misfortunes that are impossible to predict in an army during war.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 22-Jul-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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So, as you go into battle, remember your ancestors and remember your descendants.

[Et majores vestros et posteros cogitate]

Tacitus (c.56-c.120) Roman historian, orator, politician [Publius or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus]
Agricola, ch. 32 [tr. Acheson, ch. 4, para. 22 (1938)]
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Alt. trans: "Think of your ancestors and your posterity" or "Think of your forefathers and posterity."
Added on 23-Apr-10 | Last updated 4-May-15
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The tactical result of an engagement forms the base for new strategic decisions because victory or defeat in a battle changes the situation to such a degree that no human acumen is able to see beyond the first battle. In this sense one should understand Napoleon’s saying: “I have never had a plan of operations.” Therefore no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.

Helmuth von Moltke (1800-1891) Prussian soldier
“On Strategy” (1871)

Translated in Daniel J. Hughes, Harry Bell, Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings (1993).

Paraphrases / variants:

  • "No plan survives contact with the enemy."
  • "No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy."
Added on 15-Jan-10 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, Book 3 “Christian Behavior,” ch. 7 “Forgiveness” (1952)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Dec-16
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