The Badass of the Week.

Capitaine Jean Danjou

"The Legion dies;  It does not surrender!"

The French Foreign Legion is without a doubt one of the most hardcore military units ever assembled, and is probably one of the most badass organizations this side of the Praetorian Guard or the original N.W.A. lineup.  Around the time of its inception it was comprised exclusively of foreign soldiers led by French officers and had a reputation of being a tough-as-nails assortment of scoundrels and degenerates the likes of which would make Mos Eisley Cantina look like the lobby of the Ritz Carlton.  The lack of any background checks on incoming recruits meant that the Legion was largely comprised of criminals, mercenary thugs, and various assorted evildoers escaping their homelands for one dubious reason or another and who had probably received the death sentence on no less than twelve systems.  Of the hardcore thugs that escaped life to join the Legion, only a handful actually managed to make it through the most brutal basic training program in military history without deserting, going home and crying to their mothers, or suffering a severe case of Death By Bludgeoning and/or Heatstroke.  What remained after ten weeks of ball-busting training in the middle of the Algerian desert was a rugged cadre of disciplined motherfuckers who would just as soon shiv you in a parking lot with a broken spork as they would look at you.  It's a legion of badasses, and at no time in history did they prove that more than at the Battle of Cameron under the command of Capitaine Jean Danjou.

In 1863 the French Emperor Napoleon III was being a dumbshit and trying to fuck with Mexico for some reason that is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.  The important thing for this story is that the French Army was besieging the Mexican town of Puebla, and it wasn't really going so hot for them.  French command ordered that a crucial convoy carrying three million Francs and several hundred pounds of ammunition be brought up to re-supply the seige, and gave the 3rd Company of the Foreign Legion the task of making sure the supplies reached the front.  Well unfortunately, half of the goddamned Foreign Legion were crapping their pants with dysentery and consumption brought on by the harsh Mexican climate, including half of the 3rd Company's soldiers and all of their officers.  But little things like explosive diarrhea don't keep military units from completing their orders, so the 62 men who were still capable of self-locomotion formed up and prepared to march.  Since there were no officers left to lead the detachment, the Foreign Legion's Regimental Quartermaster, Captain Jean Danjou, volunteered to personally command the mission.

It took a total badass to command a unit of mercenaries and criminal dirtbags, and Danjou fit the bill perfectly.  He was a veteran of many combat operations, having served in Algiers, fought the Russians in the Crimean War, battled the krauts in the Austro-Sardinian War, and stomped nuts in Morocco.  He had his left hand blown off in combat years ago, and sported a badass fake wooden hand that he occasionally used to beat the shit out of disobedient soldiers or play hilarious practical jokes on his superiors.  He also had a mustache and goatee that proved he meant business.  Just check out that portrait if you don't believe me.

3 officers and 62 enlisted men headed out on 30 April, marching 15 miles before deciding to stop at Palo Verde for some much-needed rest.  Unfortunately, that rest was not to be had.  As soon as the legionnaires sat down, they heard the rumbling of horse hooves that indicated the rush of incoming cavalry.  Danjou immediately ordered his men to fix bayonets, form up into a square Duke of Wellington-style, and prepare to repulse the Mexican horsemen, who by this point were hell-bent on putting the pointy ends of their cavalry sabers right up the legionnaires' asses.  They were not successful.

The Legion began a fighting withdrawal back to the nearby town of Cameron, repulsing three separate cavalry charges while sustaining minimal casualties to themselves.  When they reached Cameron, they holed up in an inn in the middle of town, which was protected by a ten foot high wall and was surrounded by a tight courtyard that would make it difficult for any sort of cavalry maneuvers.  Little did Danjou know, he was facing more than just cavalry.  His sixty men were going to make their last stand against an onslaught of three Mexican infantry battalions and one cavalry battalion, comprised of a total of 1,200 men and 800 cavalry.

The Mexican commander approached the Cameron Inn under a flag of peace.  He told Danjou, "you guys are basically fucked so you might as well just give up".  Danjou looked at him cooly and responded: "We have munitions.  We will not surrender."  The Legion began to fortify their position, and the Mexicans attacked.

Sixty men stood in extreme heat without any sort of food or water, battling it out against a force of 2,000 enemy soldiers.  The legionnaires hadn't had anything to eat or drink in over twenty-four hours, they were exhausted from marching, and they were in a hopeless situation, but like true badasses they stood their ground and fought with everything they had - guns, knives, bayonets, elbow strikes to the groin, you name it.  Danjou ran up and down the line encouraging his men and firing his pistol into the endless horde of Mexican infantrymen who continually hurled themselves at the inn.  Legionnaires fell to the earth dead and wounded, ammunition ran low, the inn caught fire, but through it all Danjou shouted over the flames, "The Legion dies; It does not surrender!"

As the onslaught began to take its toll on the legion, Danjou was dropped by a sniper round in the chest.  While you'd think this would end the story, his death only made the Legionairres EVEN MORE PISSED, and they continued to battle the Mexicans.  Finally, after eleven hours of battle, only five men remained.  They were completely out of ammunition, and almost too exhausted to even stand.  Rallied by the inspiration of their fallen captain, the five survivors fixed bayonets and charged out from behind the protective walls of the inn, right into the heart of the Mexican formation.  Three were killed by gunfire, and two were beaten down by Mexican rifle butts.  Just as the Mexican troops were preparing to tear the two survivors into tiny gibs, their commander called his men off.  The Mexican general approached the two half-dead men and demanded their immediate surrender.

The men looked the commander in the eyes and demanded their immediate safe passage home, accompanied by their wounded, their fallen captain, their weapons and their regimental flag.  The Mexican commander looked back at them and said, "What can I do with such men?  No, these are not men, they are devils."  He granted their request, and the Legion withdrew from the field.

Over the span of 11 hours, 65 men resisted a force of 2,000 well-trained and well-armed Mexican soldiers, killing 300 and wounding an additional 300.  They were slaughtered nearly to a man, but their bravery under the command of Capitaine Danjou has since become legendary.  To this day, whenever the Mexican Army marches past the monument that was erected at the spot of the battle, they present arms as a sign of respect to the brave men that faced them that day.  The word "Cameron" now appears on the regimental flag of the Legion, and in France and throughout the Foreign Legion, every April 30th is known as "Cameron Day", where the wooden prosthetic hand of Jean Danjou is brought out and paraded around and French citizens celebrate the ultimate badassery that was displayed that day.


The Battle of Cameron

The Foreign Legion at Camerone



The Complete List

About the Author

Miscellaneous Articles