top 5 historical badasses

top 5 historical badasses: #4 ulysses s. grant + william t. sherman

“Well, Grant, we’ve had the devil’s own day, haven’t we?”

“Yes. Lick ‘em tomorrow, though.”

I couldn’t choose between them. They were such BFFs anyway, I wouldn’t dare split them up. Basically, both of these guys define badass. The Civil War was a veritable hell of confusion, particularly because no one could figure out how to fight the war. Almost every general had been educated at West Point, so they all used the same tactics when planning and fighting battles, lining up their infantry and attempting to turn their enemy’s line by surprising them from the side. This was the way wars had been fought for centuries in Europe, but those straightforward tactics didn’t always work so well in the Civil War – using traditional tactics almost inevitably led to MASSIVE casualties because of how advanced the weaponry was at this time. Most often, the generals who “stuck to the book” failed epically.

And then you’ve got this freewheeling duo, men who had all but flunked out of West Point, men who were both more than a little unhinged. Grant had gained a reputation as a drunkard and always dressed like a hobo. Sherman had had a nervous breakdown at the start of the war and was taken out of action for his ~nerves; he suffered from depression and anxiety all his life. But the fact was that they were the only guys getting ANYTHING done on the Union side of things. They were both crazy enough to take risks and do things that hadn’t been tested in battle before. Grant started taking ships up and down river to support his land forces, which no one had ever thought to do before. Together, he and Sherman decided to start waging a “total war” against the South, confronting them in incessant battles so the South’s limited manpower would wear down, and destroying farms and supply stations all along the East Coast. By the end of the war, they were certainly the most hated men in the South, and Abraham Lincoln considered them indispensable.

BUT SERIOUSLY, THEY ARE JUST LOVELY. Grant was finally named General of the Armies in 1864, which meant he had to be in Washington a lot, and he hated it. Everyone in the city knew his name, and he couldn’t enter a room without people screaming, “Speech! Speech!” He was so short that he’d have to stand up on a couch just so people could see him. And while Sherman mostly recovered from his earlier breakdown, he often stayed up into the early hours of the morning just STARING into the campfire like a psychopath. Which he kind of was. At the very least, he had no illusions about what ~war was, and he could easily view death as statistics, not as a massive loss of individual life. He knew from the outset how much sacrifice the war would require on both sides. Both Grant and Sherman had real insight into how the war would be won, and they saw themselves as the only ones willing to do the dirty work necessary to get it done.


“General Grant is a great general. I know him well. He stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk; and now, sir, we stand by each other always.”


top 5 historical badasses: #5 louis xiv of france

L'etat, c'est moi.

This list was actually really hard for me because, as much as I love history, most of my favorite historical figures are decidedly not badasses, but just people who are mostly ordinary and stuck in really shitty situations. (MARIE ANTOINETTE, HAVE A GO.) So, while I would have loved to included some of my favorites, I chose to define “badass” as someone who kicked butt and took names and didn’t give a shit about hurting ~feelings, etc, okay, whatever. 

So I’ve always loved Louis XIV. His life was just so full of things. He reigns for 72 YEARS. Just think about how long that is. He lives through the Fronde uprising, and when he grows up, he’s all like, “SCREW THAT, WE NEED TO FIX OUR NOBILITY’S ENTITLEMENT PROBLEM, YOU CAN’T JUST BE THROWING ROCKS IN WINDOWS, COME ON NOW.” And the entire Versailles endeavor is just this incredibly intricate plot to convince the nobles that it is such an honor to hold the King’s toilet brush and basically, Louis was just a giant troll. Then, of course, he did all the other usual stuff: reform, patronage of the arts, attempts at forming religious unity (through violence, if necessary). AND HE WENT TO WAR WITH EVERYONE. AS FRANCE DOES. (LOL WHEN FRANCE GETS LABELED WITH THE SURRENDERING STEREOTYPE. THEY WERE THE ONES WHO YOU COULDN’T GET TO STOP.)

He also had a crapton of mistresses, all of whom were badasses in their own right, and he really gave them a voice in the way he ran things. And the whole Sun King thing is just hilarious to me. I don’t know, he’s just awesome. AND LOOK AT THOSE HEELS, DAMN BOY, I WANT THEM.