Monday, March 05, 2007


au·dac·i·ty [aw-das-i-tee]–noun, plural -ties.
1. boldness or daring, esp. with confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety, conventional thought, or other restrictions.
2. effrontery or insolence; shameless boldness: His questioner's audacity shocked the lecturer.
3. Usually, audacities. audacious acts or statements.
[Origin: 1400–50; late ME audacite < L aud?c-, s. of aud?x daring (adj.) + -ite -ity]

—Synonyms 1. nerve, spunk, grit, temerity, foolhardiness. 2. impudence, impertinence, brashness.
—Antonyms 1, 2. discretion, prudence.

"Fear made the gods; audacity has made kings."
~ Prosper Jolyot de Crebillon

At the battle of Ashdown in A.D. 871, Alfred, younger brother of King Aethelred, routed the Viking army in a fiercely fought uphill assault. However, further defeats followed for Wessex and Alfred's brother died. By 878, defeated and reduced to hit and run attacks, seizing provisions when they could, the King of the West Saxons (Wessex), Alfred, was living a hunted life in the tidal marshes of Somerset. The Danes had defeated the Anglo-Saxons in place after place. Only the Kingdom of Wessex had remained.
A resourceful fighter, Alfred reassessed his strategy and adopted the Danes' tactics by building a fortified base at Athelney in the Somerset marshes and summoning a mobile army of men from Wiltshire, Somerset and part of Hampshire to pursue guerrilla warfare against the Danes. In May 878, Alfred's army defeated the Danes at the battle of Edington.

Realising that he could not drive the Danes out of the rest of England, Alfred concluded peace with them in the treaty of Wedmore. King Guthrum was converted to Christianity with Alfred as godfather and many of the Danes returned to East Anglia where they settled as farmers. In 886, Alfred negotiated a partition treaty with the Danes, in which a frontier was demarcated along the Roman Watling Street and northern and eastern England came under the jurisdiction of the Danes - an area known as 'Danelaw'. Alfred therefore gained control of areas of West Mercia and Kent which had been beyond the boundaries of Wessex.

[...] By stopping the Viking advance and consolidating his territorial gains, Alfred had started the process by which his successors eventually extended their power over the other Anglo-Saxon kings; the ultimate unification of Anglo-Saxon England was to be led by Wessex.
courtesy of The Anglo-Saxon Kings

Alfred was audacious. He could have surrendered, or fled to Europe, or wasted away his life as a hunted man. But instead he took his time, planned a way to fight back, and led his tiny band from the tidal marshes into History. The only British Ruler to ever gain the appellation "The Great". All it took was audacity.

"Tact in audacity is knowing how far you can go without going too far."
~ Jean Cocteau

When 100,000 enemy troops invaded Korea on June 25, 1950, South Koreans could not withstand the onslaught. The natives of South Korea came very close to losing sovereignty in their country. American troops stationed in Japan were rushed to Korea to help halt the enemy invasion of South Korea. These U.S. soldiers, followed by U.S. Marines, were sent into the fray in order to stop the entire peninsula from being captured by Communist forces. With great courage and much human sacrifice, American veterans foiled the invasion. Because American veterans tenaciously held on to the toehold known as the Pusan Perimeter, South Korea is free today.(Korean War Educator)

But it might not have beeen. Despite the courage and ferocity of the defenders of the Pusan Perimeter, all might have been lost. And the Americans knew that something had to be done. Enter General Douglas MacArthur.

On 15 September 1950, after hurling itself fruitlessly against the Pusan Perimeter for nearly a month and a half, the weakened North Korean army was suddenly confronted with a grave threat in its rear. U.S. Marines had landed at the western port city of Inchon, near Seoul, and were poised to move inland to retake the capital and decisively cut the already tenuous North Korean supply lines.

This daring amphibious operation was conceived by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Though strategically tempting, Inchon was a tactically challenging amphibious target, with long approaches through shallow channels, poor beaches and a tidal range that restricted landing operations to a few hours a day. It took all of MacArthur's unparalleled powers of persuasion to sell his concept to doubting Army, Navy and Marine Corps commanders.

Forces gathered for the Inchon invasion included the First Marine Division, the Army's Seventh Infantry Division, some South Korean units, virtually every available amphibious ship, and dozens of other Navy warships. Most of the Marines had recently arrived from the U.S., while the rest were withdrawn from the Pusan Perimeter defenses.

Preliminary naval gunfire and air bombardment began on 13 September. The 1st and 5th Marines went ashore on the morning of the 15th. Resistance and casualties were modest, and initial objectives were quickly secured. Over the next several days, as supplies and troops poured ashore at Inchon, the Marines moved relentlessly toward Seoul. Kimpo airfield was taken on 17 September and was in use to support operations two days later. On 29 September, after days of hard street fighting, Seoul was returned to the South Korean government.

A hundred miles to the southeast, the Pusan Perimeter's defenders went on the offensive on 16 September. After resisting for a few days, the now-isolated North Korean army retreated and progressively collapsed during the rest of the month. On the 27th, U.S. Army units moving southwards from Seoul met those coming up from Pusan.
courtesy of The Inchon Invasion

A military stalemate, one that could have resulted in a disaster of Dunkirkian proportions, was averted by sheer audacity. MacArthur had to push and wheedle the commanders of the three cooperating services to join in his plan to break out from Pusan, another Anzio in the making. He was audacious to expect it to succeed, yet he knew that only the willingness to gamble would win the day. And it did.

"Audacity augments courage; hesitation, fear."
~ Publilius Syrus, Roman Writer 85 BC - 43 BC

"Success is the child of audacity."
~ Benjamin Disraeli

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy spoke to the nation announcing that the United States would land a man on the moon within the decade and return him safely to the Earth. Audacious! At the time our Space program was a crap-shoot. Rockets continued to explode on the launch pad, or in flight. The thrust of our space program was to build a vehicle that could takeoff from a runway, achieve orbit, and return to the earth. That was the idea behind the X-series of "rocket-planes" that many of us recall. At the time we were, in fact, far ahead of the Soviets in technology.

Then the Soviets, using old World War Two-era rockets, cobbled together, launched the Sputnik. The public demanded that the US win the "Space Race"! What the media didn't understand then, or probably now, was that we were already winning. But the brakes were put on and we went all out to put a man in orbit. Kennedy's audacious call was answered in less than nine years, in July 1969. Along the way we developed amazing technology to fulfill the task set by JFK. Many said it could not be done (some insist it never was done), and many said it would take longer than a decade to achieve.

But Americans have ever been audacious people. We made it, visited a few times, then let the moment slip away as the nay-sayers and bean-counters pulled us out of space, back to Earth, and into the mire of "The War on Poverty", "The Drug War", and other losing propositions.

"Never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity."
~ Karl Von Clausewitz

In the winter of 1776, the cause of American Independence was dying. General George Washington, defeated repeatedly by the British in New York, and hounded down through New Jersey, was wintering in Pennsylvania with less than 5,000 men, many of whom were unfit for duty. With their enlistments due to expire by the end of the year, Washington had few choices left to him. He had a barely functional force, few supplies, and scarce reinforcements entering the Patriot camp.

What he did have though, was an audacious plan. He would re-cross the Delaware River near Trenton, New Jersey, and attack the Hessian forces in Trenton.
Indeed, everyone in the American camp felt the situation to be desperate. Col. Joseph Reed wrote Washington "that something must be attempted to revive our expiring credit, give our cause some degree of reputation, and prevent a total depreciation of the Continental money, which is coming in very fast- that even a failure cannot be more total than to remain in our present situation." Washington admitted in a letter that "the game was about up."

On December 22 nd 1776, Washington had 4707 rank and file troops fit for duty.

Washington had a staff meeting and decided to attack. At first he wanted to attack von Donop at Bordentown, but the militia in the area, under Col Griffin were too weak. The Hessians in Trenton were in an exposed position, and it was known that they would heartily celebrate Christmas on the night of Dec. 25 th. Washington decided on a predawn attack on the 26 th, while the troops and officers were tired, and hopefully some suffering hangovers. It is a misconception that the Hessians were expected to be drunk. Some of the officers might have been expected to party late into the night, not the troops.

Washington ordered the troops ferried across just after dark, but a storm arose, first snow, then freezing rain, snow and hail.Washington's aide, Col. John Fitzgerald wrote at 6 PM as the troops started across: " It is fearfully cold and raw and a snowstorm is setting in. The wind northeast and beats into the faces of the men. It will be a terrible night for those who have no shoes. Some of them have tied only rags about their feet: others are barefoot, but I have not heard a man complain." Col. Glover's reg't from Marblehead, Mass, who were primarily sailors, manned the boats at McKonkeys Ferry. They managed to get 2400 men, their horses and 18 cannon across the icy river. Two other units, one to cross to the south of Trenton at the Trenton Ferry, and one farther south at Bristol, were unable to cross, or unable to land on the other side, due to the storm and ice.

Delayed by the storm, Washington's troops did not get across until 4 am, well behind schedule for a predawn attack. They marched south to Trenton in two columns, one along the river, the other along the Pennington road, with Generals Sullivan and Greene commanding, Washington commanding overall, and riding with Greene.

In a severe winter storm, the troops advanced south. By 6 am they must have been complaining, in fact it is reported that two men froze to death, but Washington is determined. Gen. Sullivan sends word that the men's muskets will not fire due to being exposed to the storm all night. Washington sends word back to rely on the bayonet-"I am resolved to take Trenton."

In Trenton, Hessian Major Dechow decided because of the severe storm not to send out the normal predawn patrol, including 2 cannon, to sweep the area for signs of the enemy. Though the storm cause extreme misery for the troops, it allowed them to approach undetected.

courtesy of The Battle of Trenton

The outcome? The Hessians were routed at Trenton and some fled toward Princeton. Others escaped south toward Hessian positions at Bordentown. 868 were captured. 106 were killed or wounded. The American casualties were reported as 3 or 4 wounded and 2 or 3 men frozen to death. Victory following Washington's great audacity. The tide had turned, though more long years of struggle remained.

“Audacity, audacity-always audacity.”
~ Frederick the Great
18th century king of Prussia

Unhappy with the demonstrating and counter-marching up the western banks of the Tennessee River, that was ordered by the Union leadership of the Army of the West, Brig. General U.S.Grant sent a plan to attack Fort Henry, Tennessee, to his commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck. Responding to rumors that Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard would soon arrive in the theater with large numbers of reinforcements, Halleck gave his consent to Grant on February 1st, 1862. Grant was on the move on the next day. Working in concert with the naval forces of Foote, grant launched his invasion of Tennessee on February 4th. By the time his land forces were ready, the Fort had been surrendered to Foote's naval bombardment. Grant, unlike so many of the Union commanders, did not tarry, but headed east again. This time aiming for Fort Donelson.

Again in concert with Foote's naval flotilla, the attack began on February 13th. This time the Confederate cannons forced the flotilla to retire, and Grant surrounded the Fort.

The Fort's defenders managed a surprise attack while Grant was away from the field, conferring with the naval flotilla. But he returned, rallied his troops, and the Confederates retreated to their Fort. The Confederates now asked for his terms of surrender, expecting to be treated generously.
On the morning of February 16, [General Simon Bolivar] Buckner sent a note to Grant requesting an armistice and terms of surrender. Buckner had expectations that Grant would offer generous terms because of their previous relationship. In 1854, Grant had lost a command in California partly because of a drinking problem, and U.S. Army officer Buckner had loaned him money to get home after his resignation. But Grant showed he had no mercy towards men who had rebelled against the Union. His reply was one of the most famous quotes to come out of the war, giving him his nickname of "Unconditional Surrender":

"Sir: Yours of this date proposing Armistice, and appointment of Commissioners, to settle terms of Capitulation is just received. No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.
I propose to move immediately upon your works.
I am Sir: very respectfully
Your obt. sevt.
U.S. Grant
Brig. Gen."
Grant was not bluffing. Smith was in a good position, having captured the outer lines of fortifications, and was under orders to launch an attack, supported by the other divisions, the next day. Grant believed his position now allowed him to forgo his planned siege and storm the fort successfully.[33]

Buckner, although objecting to Grant's "ungenerous and unchivalrous terms," shortly surrendered from 12,000 to 15,000 troops and 48 guns, the first of three Confederate armies that Grant captured during the war (the second was John C. Pemberton's at the Battle of Vicksburg, the third was Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia). He also surrendered considerable equipment and provisions, which Grant's hungry troops needed badly. Over 7,000 Confederate prisoners of war were eventually transported from Fort Donelson to Camp Douglas in Chicago; others were sent elsewhere throughout the North. Buckner was held as a Union prisoner until he was exchanged in August.

courtesy of Wikipedia
All the while Grant had been moving from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson, he had no idea that his superior officers were planning his dismissal from command. He was too impetuous for them, too risky. In a word, Grant was too audacious. That Audacity he was to demonstrate time and time again in the Civil War. It served him and the Union well. It would garner him and the Union victory over the Confederacy. Around him Grant would gather other audacious officers such as Phillip Sheridan and William Tecumseh Sherman.

Audacity was what it took to defeat the Confederacy.

"Such is the audacity of man, that he hath learned to counterfeit Nature, yea, and is so bold as to challenge her in her work."
~ Pliny the Elder

In every field of Human endeavor it has taken audacity to move forward. Audacity allowed men to cross mountains and seek new lives in lands they had never seen. Audacity made men take to flimsy boats and ships and cross turbulent waters to find new continents and new lives. Audacity moved the Apostles of Christ to speak out to the citizens and the rulers of Rome, look Death in the eye, and declare that Christ had risen and would rule the entire world despite all that the Caesars could do.

Audacity allowed the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Hoover Dam, and the World Trade Center. It took wing with Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, orbited the Earth with Yuri Gagarin, stepped onto the Moon with Neil Armstrong. Audacity has confounded the experts for millennia as it has inspired Humanity to excel and explore, to seek and discover. Audacity lent impetus to Cuban doctor and scientist Dr. Carlos Finlay, who deduced that mosquitoes carried and spread the infamous Yellow Fever.

"In every artist there is a touch of audacity without which no talent is conceivable"
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Imagine General George S. Patton without his amazing audacity: you have General George McClelland and the Army of the Potomac. Lend audacity to a deaf German composer and you will find Beethoven composing his 9th Symphony.

Audacity will not alone guarantee success. But without audacity, Mankind moves with all the flair of the snail, and with as unsatisfying results. There are times when we seem to be rooted in place, where Civilization seems hide-bound and complacent. But there will always be those who wonder how things can be better, who wonder what lies over the horizon, and who have the audacity to do what the experts insist cannot be done.

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
~ Theodore Roosevelt


camojack said...

I try to be audacious, myself.

benning said...

I'd say you usually are, Camo. Welcome back! How was the vacation?

Joubert said...

Another three course meal. Americans seem to be the only humans who now have any audacity - as long as we don't let the Chicken Littles rule the roost.

Brooke said...

Does being outspoken count towards audaciousness? HEh.

benning said...

Think Patrick Henry, Brooke!

camojack said...

The vacation? I was in Hawaii for a month...'nuff said.