The Corner

On Soldiers Obeying (or Not) a Lawful Order

Sorry, a bit late with this, news-cycle-wise, but I thought it worth a

mention. The following passage is from John Keegan’s fine military classic

THE FACE OF BATTLE, p.189 of my 1976 edition:

“Howard [Major Howaard of the British 10th Hussars, fighting at Waterloo],

at the very end of the day, was ordered to charge a French regiment. he

asked another officer what he thought of his chances, ‘who said that without

the co-operation of infantry it was better not as the [enemy] square was

well-formed … Major Howard said that having been ordered to attack he

thought it a ticklish thing not to do it, and gave the order accordingly.’

Grove, of the 23rd Light Dragoons, saw him ride forward: ‘we nodded to each

other … and a very fine handsome fellow he was; but he evidently looked as

if his time had come.’ A few moments later, ‘he gave the order [to charge]

and did it with effect, though the enemy stood well, the [British] Officers

being wounded close to their bayonets and Major Howard falling so that a man

in the ranks [stepped forward and] struck him with the butt end of his

musket’ (in fact he beat his brains out). Howard’s open-eyed ‘going upon

his death’ seems to have epitomized for most Waterloo officers what

honorable conduct was, for he is picked out for mention more than any other

British soldier present and his kinsman, Lord Byron, who made a pilgrimage

to his grave, wrote a funerary ode for him.”

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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