We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Battle Exhortation

The Rhetoric of Combat Leadership

Keith Yellin

Publication Year: 2013

In this groundbreaking examination of the symbolic strategies used to prepare troops for imminent combat, Keith Yellin offers an interdisciplinary look into the rhetorical discourse that has played a prominent role in warfare, history, and popular culture from antiquity to the present day. Battle Exhortation focuses on one of the most time-honored forms of motivational communication, the encouraging speech of military commanders, to offer a pragmatic and scholarly evaluation of how persuasion contributes to combat leadership and military morale. In illustrating his subject's conventions, Yellin draws from the Bible, classical Greece and Rome, Spanish conquistadors, and American military forces. Yellin is also interested in how audiences are socialized to recognize and anticipate this type of communication that precedes difficult team efforts. To account for this dimension he probes examples as diverse as Shakespeare's Henry V, George C. Scott's portrayal of General George S. Patton, and team sports.

Published by: University of South Carolina Press

Series: Studies in Rhetoric/Communication

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

pdf iconDownload PDF (62.9 KB)
pp. 2-7

Table of Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (37.4 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more

Series Editor’s Preface

pdf iconDownload PDF (54.8 KB)
pp. ix-x

In Battle Exhortation: The Rhetoric of Combat Leadership, Keith Yellin considers the history and the generic features of speech addressed by commanders to troops about to go into battle. Yellin, a former United States Marine Corps captain with a Ph.D. in communication from the University of Iowa, brings together an unusual range of learning and experience, which he puts to excellent use in this analysis of a mode of address that has gone largely without ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (31.6 KB)
pp. xi-13

In some endeavors fidelity is the expectation. To stand faithfully beside another may be difficult, but it is one’s obligation, one’s duty. This project by contrast has taught me more about generosity. To give generously of one’s resources when there is neither obligation nor personal advantage is beyond expectation. Only as the beneficiary of such generosity have I been able to produce ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (72.2 KB)
pp. 1-6

A familiar practice is so pervasive, in civilian and military life alike, that we take it for granted. Troops about to go into harm’s way expect to hear from their commander. Athletes about to begin or resume play expect to be addressed by their coach. Employees anxious about their own or their employer’s future expect to be told what the future holds. Political enthusiasts...

read more

1. Bracing for Combat

pdf iconDownload PDF (306.1 KB)
pp. 7-43

Speeches alone do not compel men to fight or fight well. Xenophon rightly observed, “There is no exhortation so noble that it will in a single day make good those who are not good when they hear it. It could not make good bowmen, unless they had previously practiced with care, nor spearmen, nor knights.” There are innumerable sources of combat motivation: previous...

read more

2. Indoctrination

pdf iconDownload PDF (279.8 KB)
pp. 44-77

In order to observe the prominence of battle exhortation in our culture and to start noting its conventions, let us examine four exemplars. The first three are classics, which cultivate the appeals of battlefield fraternity and the exceptional commander: exhortations by Plutarch’s Spartan mother, Shakespeare’s Henry V, and George C. Scott’s Patton. The fourth, a parody by Bill...

read more

3. Tensions

pdf iconDownload PDF (270.6 KB)
pp. 78-109

Certain tensions are necessary for battlefield enterprise. They are tonics within a difficult environment that otherwise can leave military units to dis-integrate, revolt, rampage, or sit idly by. These tensions are not synonymous with the many indoctrinating topics we observed in the previous chapter,although topics contribute to them. Neither do these tensions characterize the...

read more

4. Evolutions

pdf iconDownload PDF (281.6 KB)
pp. 110-143

The tensions discussed in the previous chapter are inherent to the battlefield and influenced quite personally by the exhorting commander. Broadening our focus, let us now consider how environmental and audience concerns affect the discourse. To enable greater depth of treatment, I choose an era and place most familiar: U.S. battle exhortation from the past two generations....

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (82.6 KB)
pp. 144-149

At the start I alluded to the pervasive use of battle exhortation, in civilian as well as military life, and chose to focus on theory and practice within martial settings. Even in its primary context, the battlefield, however, the genre has not been a popular object of study. Morally, it can be regarded as suspect, this advocacy of fighting, this talk. Practically, it is sometimes deemed affected ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (240.7 KB)
pp. 151-171


pdf iconDownload PDF (123.9 KB)
pp. 173-182


pdf iconDownload PDF (85.9 KB)
pp. 183-191

E-ISBN-13: 9781611173567
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611170542

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Studies in Rhetoric/Communication