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‘Can a Man Learn to Do That?’
A Danish-American Soldier of Fortune in Honduras, 1858

While serving as a mercenary officer in “an ill-fated expedition” to Honduras, Thomas Hoyer Monstery, fencing master and colonel, was imprisoned on false charges of being a revolutionary. One day, while walking by a guard, the guard took his action as an attempt to escape and attempted to bayonet him. Monstery, who taught every weapon from the fist and dagger to the lance and the bayonet, disarmed the guard and dazed him with a punch, whereupon he was attacked by eight other guards.

The soldiers serving as prison guards did not employ loaded muskets, but uncharged, bayonet-mounted weapons. Monstery took the fight to these men—later claiming that if he had fought with his back to the wall as recounted in heroic fencing literature, he “would have been stuck like a pig.”

These conscripts were unskilled and he managed to break three of their bayonets and stab two. Out of breath and nearly faint, he was then saved by the voice of Commandant Valdarama, who had watched with much interest from a doorway and then said to Monstery, “My God, can a man learn to do that?”

Monstery concluded to the interviewer later in life, “I told him that a sure-enough man could. He gave me my liberty at once and I return I gave him instruction.”

Taken from a reprint of Monstery’s Self-Defense for Gentlemen and Ladies, edited by Ben Miller. Thanks to Big Ron for the gift of this book.

Reverent Chandler: The Saga of Fend

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Sam J.April 7, 2017 6:12 PM UTC

I read about a Marine trainer in, I think not sure, the book "With the Old Breed" by Eugene Sledge. He would give the recruits a gun with a bayonet and let them charge him and try to stick him. They never would be able to. So he would train them to do this.