|Jean Thurel, fusilier of the Touraine Regiment at 89 years of age. His three Médaillon Des Deux Épées medals and his Légion d'Honneur medal are visible in this 1788 portrait by Antoine Vestier, which was modified in 1804 to include the Légion d'Honneur. (Source)|
"That's because you're now officially old Dad." (Again, I can't attribute this to a specific offspring as it's quite possible that all three said that. At one time or another.)
While I can't really vouch for that saying's veracity, I do like the sound of it. I have used it on the progeny and am always immediately presented with a plethora of instances where youth and exuberance would win. (Most of those involving some sort of athletic contest. I must admit, I ain't as spry as I used to be.)Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance. - David Mamet
By now you're no doubt wondering what this doddering old fool is on about. And say, doesn't that fellow in the opening picture look somewhat past his prime. Well, depends on how you define "prime."
For you see, Fusilier Thurel is approaching his 90th year in that painting. And he was still on active service in the French Army!! (No, seriously, Fusilier Thurel enlisted at the age of 18, in 1716, and served until he was 93 years of age, giving him 75 years and four months on active duty.)
Monsieur Thurel came to my attention via this Sipsey Street Irregulars post. As is my wont, I just had to dig further. I love historical tidbits like this. Seems he wasn't the only soldier "back in the day" who stuck to his post long after a modern man would have probably retired to a nursing home, or worse. I'm not saying they made them tough back then...
Well, yes I am actually.
At the age of 88, Monsieur Thurel's regiment was ordered to the coast to embark on transports, bound for some foreign port no doubt. Due to his advanced age he was offered the opportunity to ride in a carriage. He turned it down, allegedly saying that as he had never ridden a carriage to war before, he certainly wasn't going to start then!
A tough old bastard, neh?
Wounded twice, both seriously (musket ball to the chest, seven sword wounds in one battle, six to the head), disciplined only once, this amazing soldat fought in damn near every major battle fought by France in the 18th Century, to include Minden and Fontenoy, not to mention Yorktown!
He lost three brothers killed in action, all at Fontenoy. He also lost his son in combat, killed aboard ship at the Battle of the Saintes. Where was Père Jean when this was going on? Not far away, father and son were serving in the same company!
Oh, that painting above? Pretty fancy for a private soldier isn't it? Well, it was paid for by the officers of his regiment, shortly after Fusilier Thurel was decorated by the King himself, Louis XVI. He spent his entire career in the ranks, refusing promotion on more than one occasion. Yup, the man clanked when he walked.
You can read more about this old warhorse here, here, and here. That last link? Seems that Fusilier Thurel wasn't the only old-timer in history to kick some serious ass. That link has ten old dudes who showed the young 'uns how to fight. Old Jean isn't even first on the list! That honor is reserved for Samuel Whittemore of the Bay State.
On the day of Lexington and Concord, Mr. Whittemore grabbed his musket and was heading out to shoot himself some lobsterbacks*. He didn't have to go far, essentially he shot and killed three of them right outside his front door! Naturally the soldiers of the Crown were not pleased. They shot old Samuel in the face, clubbed him to the ground with their musket butts then bayoneted him multiple times and left him for dead.
Nope, the family found him bloody but unbowed, working on reloading his musket! Taking him away for treatment they fully expected the old soldier to die. Which he did...
Twenty years later.
Yup, badass. (For more on Mr. Whittemore, read this.)
Never piss off an old guy, you might be unpleasantly surprised!
Some of them have seen and done things you couldn't begin to imagine.
|Sgt Taria of the Grenadiers de la Garde Impériale (Source)|
|Sgt Lefebre of the 2e Régiment du Génie (Source)|
* Lobsterback, a New England nickname for the soldiers of the Crown. Due to their red coats, same color as a cooked lobster dontcha know?