Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Old Guys

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)
When I was a teenager, I considered anyone above the age of 20 to be "old." When I hit my twenties, my definition of "old" was adjusted upwards by ten years. As I marked each embarkation upon another decade in my passage through this plane of existence, my personal definition of "old" moved upwards as well. Until I reached the lofty (to me) age of 50, the big Five-Oh as one of the progeny called it. (It may have been all three.) At that point, someone ten years older than me didn't seem to be "old" as I used to think of it.

"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.)
Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance. - David Mamet
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.)

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)
Yup. Old guys.

* Lobsterback, a New England nickname for the soldiers of the Crown. Due to their red coats, same color as a cooked lobster dontcha know?


  1. Pretty sure he didn't worry about "safe spaces". Great post! Now if I can just find my flight suit and boots.

    1. None of those old-timers did, they created their own safe spaces by destroying their enemies!

      (I wonder if my BDUs still fit?)

  2. The painting reminds me of one I saw of Daniel Boone.

    1. https://americangallery.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/daniel-boone.jpg

    2. I've never seen that portrait of Daniel Boone before.

  3. There were a lot of old (60+) guys that answered the call that April morning, most veterans of the French and Indian War and earlier battles. There's something about a tyrannical administration marching its minions through one's bucolic and peaceful village for the purpose of trampling long-held rights that energizes a man and melts away the years. American badasses all.

    1. Re: "a tyrannical administration marching its minions through one's bucolic and peaceful village for the purpose of trampling long-held rights".

      Yes, I'm seeing a parallel to current events.

      Be wary of the old, we will surprise you. (Having learned over time that surprise is the best way to win a fight!)

    2. Speaking of current events, did this weekend's festivities immediately put you in mind of Liberty's Last Stand?

    3. It did indeed. Of course, there is much going on in the country lately that reminds me of the book. Scary times.

  4. Thanks for the post.

    Yea old guys.

    Paul L. Quandt

  5. Brings to mind TR Junior. Fifty-six isn't elderly by any means but not many of that age group came ashore with the first wave on D-Day, suffering from WWI wound induced arthritis and symptomatic coronary artery disease. He and Terrible Terry Allen (a year younger) were COMBAT commanders in North Africa, Sicily and Italy before being sacked by Patton/Bradly. Not enough spit and polish and discipline. Yet both Brad and Patton cited Junior and Allen as the finest combat commanders of the war. Junior's MOH Citation gives a hint as to why.

    "For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in France. After 2 verbal requests to accompany the leading assault elements in the Normandy invasion had been denied, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt's written request for this mission was approved and he landed with the first wave of the forces assaulting the enemy-held beaches. He repeatedly led groups from the beach, over the seawall and established them inland. His valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack and his complete unconcern at being under heavy fire inspired the troops to heights of enthusiasm and self-sacrifice. Although the enemy had the beach under constant direct fire, Brig. Gen. Roosevelt moved from one locality to another, rallying men around him, directed and personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, and unfaltering leadership, assault troops reduced beach strong points and rapidly moved inland with minimum casualties. He thus contributed substantially to the successful establishment of the beachhead in France."

    Yeah. Old Guys. Steppin' on youthful enemy corpses down through the ages.

    1. TR Jr's actions on that day should ever be remembered and celebrated.

      Old guys are badass.

  6. That quote is one I have seen credited to Groucho Marx.

    1. I looked for the source of the quote (this is one form, there are others) could not find anywhere that had that attributed to Groucho. Not that he wouldn't agree with the sentiment.

  7. Yeah, my daughter qualifies for the DAR as did all my relatives. Jedidiah Munroe, killed the very first day of the Revolution. Most of us got better at surviving longer.

    1. One source I saw indicated that Jedidiah Munroe was wounded at Lexington, joined in with the attacks on the British and was killed that afternoon.

      I'd say that your ancestor wasn't a quitter!

  8. I truly do find the best history lessons on this blog. Thank you.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)