Bonifacius Takes Care of His Troops
The late Roman general Count Bonifacius (fl., c. 400-432) was not only a capable field commander, but was also very devoted to his troops. Careful of his men’s lives, he took care to see that they were well provisioned, listened to their complaints, often fought in the front lines, and was generous with loot, all of which earned him the devotion of his men.
It is said that once, one of Bonifacius’s young soldiers learned that, despite the fact that the army was camped only a few miles from his home town, his wife was having an affair with a barbarian from an allied contingent. Not knowing what to do, the young man appealed to Bonifacius. The general questioned him closely. “Where are the adulterers cavorting? Who is the man?” When the young soldier had finished answering his questions, Bonifacius instructed him to rest easy, and return the next day.
That night, when everyone was asleep, Bonifacius quietly left the camp. He rode the 70 stades (c. 8 miles), to the town where the young soldier’s house was. There he came upon the soldier’s wife and the barbarian, in passionate embrace. Quickly drawing his sword, Bonifacius severed the barbarian’s head. Taking this grisly souvenir, Bonifacius rode back to his camp, arriving before dawn.
The next day, the young soldier reported to Bonifacius, as instructed. Much to his surprise, Bonifacius presented him with a head, and asked, “Do you recognize this man?” The young man did, and expressed his thanks to the general. And so Bonifacius’s reputation grew even greater.
As for the adulteress, well, she probably had one heck of a laundry problem.
Afterwards: In later years Bonifacius was governor of the province of Africa. Although he is blamed by some for inviting the Vandals to occupy the province due to a falling out with the Empress Placidia, the tale seems untrue, for he is known to have put up a stout defense of the city of Hippo against them. And certainly when he returned to Italy in 432, the Empress received him with favor, promoting him to Master of the Soldiery. Another general, however, coveted the post – and the imperial favor that it implied – and provoked a battle with Bonifacius. Although Bonifacius won the battle, at Rimini in 432 he was grievously wounded and died three months later.
"There is No Doubt on That Point."
In July of 1814 an American Army under Maj. Gen. Jacob Brown, invaded Canada across the Niagara River. Seizing Ft. Erie by a coup de main on July 3rd, Brown pressed on to win a hard fought victory at the Battle of Chippewa two days later (traditionally the occasion of the famous cry “Those are regulars, by God!”). The British and Canadians, under Maj. Gen. Gordon Drummond fell back toward Lundy’s Lane. Brown delayed following up for several days, to gather reinforcements and supplies. Late on July 25th, Brown made his move; the resulting Battle of Lundy’s Lane was a hard six hour fight that remains the bloodiest battle ever on Canadian soil.
In the course of the battle, the principal American attack, a frontal assault by Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott against the British-Canadian line, was actually a holding action; while Scott was pinning their attention to their front, Maj. Thomas Jesup’s 25th Infantry traversed a fairly dense woods to fall on the British left.
As the 25th Infantry emerged from the woods and began rolling up British and Canadian units, British Brig. Gen. Phineas Riall was severely wounded in the arm. One of his aides attempted to get the general to the rear, only to find that their way blocked by a group of soldiers. The aide shouted, “Make room there men, for General Riall.”
An officer replied, “Aye, aye, sir!,” and made way for the two men to pass. But as they did so, he suddenly grabbed the general.
“But I am General Riall!”
“There is no doubt on that point,” replied the officer, and I, Sir, am Captain Ketchum of the United States Army.”
“Ketchum!” echoed the shocked Riall, adding, “Well, you have caught us sure enough!”
Afterward: The battle resulted in about 900 casualties on each side, including the both senior commanders on both sides, the Americans Brown and Scott and the British Drummond and Riall, who were severely wounded. As a result, the Americans did not press their advantage, and shortly retired from Canadian soil. Of the noted participants that day, both Brown and Scott later served as General-in-Chief of the Army, the latter becoming the conqueror of Mexico in 1847, while Jesup served as Quartermaster General of the army from 1818 until his death in 1860. Drummond was later named Commander-in-Chief of Canada, knighted, and rose to lieutenant general, while Riall eventually became Governor-General of Grenada, in the West Indies, and retired as a full general with a knighthood. As for Captain Daniel Ketchum, a native of Connecticut, he was rewarded for his actions at the battle with a brevet for major. Shortly after the war the 25th Infantry was incorporated in the new 6th Infantry, in which he served until his death from natural causes in 1828.