Cover image for Damn the torpedoes : fighting words, rallying cries, and the hidden history of warfare
Damn the torpedoes : fighting words, rallying cries, and the hidden history of warfare
Burrell, Brian, 1955-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : McGraw-Hill, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiii, 218 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
U21.2 .B86 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This is a fascinating look at--and behind--the legendary words of war that distinguish--and disguise--military history. It is a book about "war viewed through the filtering lens of fighting words and battle cries," in the author's phrase, and about how war becomes history. Featuring incidents of glorious defiance and inglorious surrender, Dam the Torpedoes reveals what standard narratives leave out--how real men (not paper heroes) have gone into battle.

Author Notes

Brian Burrell is also the author of The Words We Live By: The Creeds, Mottoes, and Pledges that Have Shaped America. Both author and book have prominently featured on The Today Show, on CNN's Booknotes, and in USA Today, The Boston Globe, and Parade.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. ix
Chapter 1 Don't Flinch from the Fire, Boys!p. 3
The Battle of New Orleans (1862)
Fighting Wordsp. 3
A Sailor of Fortunep. 4
Is It to End This Way?p. 11
History Repeats Itselfp. 13
I Buy a Chinese Family and Join a Pirate Brigp. 16
Chapter 2 Charge, and Give No Foot of Ground!p. 21
Going over the Top of Balaclava
The Chargep. 21
The Battle Studies of Charles Ardant du Picqp. 23
The Charge of the Light Brigadep. 26
Chapter 3 Fire at Will!p. 39
Explaining Sergeant York
Reluctance under Firep. 39
A Capsule History of Reluctance in Battlep. 44
The Phenomenon of Sergeant Yorkp. 48
The Price of Battle Readinessp. 51
Chapter 4 Don't Fire until You See the Whites of Their Eyes!p. 57
In Search of the Perfect Volley at Fontenoy and Quebec
Ready, Level, Fire!p. 57
The Battle of Fontenoyp. 59
The Battle of Quebecp. 64
The Effectiveness of Volley Firep. 66
The Fastest with the Mostestp. 70
Chapter 5 Come on, Lads! Who Will Follow Me?p. 75
Little Round Top and Other Local Situations
Points of Viewp. 75
Why Battles Look More Realistic at the Cinemap. 76
The Struggle for Little Round Topp. 78
Who Will Follow Me?p. 81
Tales That Redound to the Glory of Our Armsp. 84
Chapter 6 Sauve Qui Peut!p. 89
The Tricky Business of Retreat
Pandemoniump. 89
Conquer or Diep. 91
He Who Leaves a Fight Loses Itp. 95
Xenophon and the Ten Thousandp. 97
War and Peace: Bagration at Schon Grabernp. 101
Chapter 7 We Few, We Happy Fewp. 109
The Unreliability of Numbers in History
The Advantage of Being Outnumberedp. 109
Effectives and Effectivenessp. 111
Gideon's Raidp. 112
The Battle Royalp. 115
The Cult of the Three Hundredp. 117
Hans Delbruck's Crusade for Truth in Numbersp. 119
Chapter 8 I Have Not Yet Begun to Fight!p. 129
The Annals of Defiance from Thermopylae to Waterloo
Bastognep. 129
Le Mot de Cambronnep. 132
Go Ahead, Make My Day!p. 133
The Birth of the "Nuts" Scenariop. 134
Come and Take Themp. 136
There's a Shot in the Lockerp. 138
Send More Japsp. 141
Contempt for the Enemyp. 143
Ifp. 145
Chapter 9 Cry Havoc!p. 149
Letting Slip the Dogs of War at Harfleur and Fort William Henry
Harfleurp. 149
The Nasty Business of Siege Craftp. 151
The Massacre at Fort William Henryp. 154
The Ultimate Victims of Siegesp. 158
Chapter 10 You Were Not There!p. 165
Opportunities Won and Lost
Brave Crillonp. 165
The History of Nations Is the History of Their Armiesp. 166
Dulce et Decorum Est pro Patria Morip. 168
Go Tell the Spartansp. 171
Follow Me, and Dethrone the Czarp. 174
Where Wert Thou, Brave Crillon?p. 178
Chapter 11 Damn the Torpedoes!p. 181
Farragut at Mobile Bay (1864)
England Expectsp. 181
The Use and Abuse of Historyp. 184
Farragut at Mobile Bayp. 187
The Main Eventp. 192
It Is Well That War Is So Terriblep. 197
Further Readingp. 201
Indexp. 205