An Irrefutable Argument
Though himself of Prussian origins, in 1806 Count Helmuth von Moltke - the father of the great Prussian-German Field Marshal of the same name - was serving as a major in the Danish Army, commanding a battalion of militiamen. At the time Denmark was allied to Napoleonic France, which was at war with Prussia. The good major and his battalion were thus activated for service against Prussia. Moltke was ordered to take his battalion and join the pursuit of a Prussian division that was in retreat towards Mecklenburg. But when the pursuers reached the Danish-Mecklenburg frontier, the troops refused to cross, claiming that they were only obligated to serve in defense of the fatherland, and not for duty in foreign areas.
Undismayed, Moltke made a few arrangements and then ordered the troops into formation so that he could address them. When they had done so, Moltke addressed his men.
"Soldiers, I hear that some of you are reluctant to march across the frontier. A soldier's disobedience to his king is punished by death; he who is disobedient out of cowardice loses what is of more value than his life - his honor. If you retreat, it will be over my dead body, for I at least have no inclination to lose my honor. Loyalty then, and obedience to our most gracious king! One, two, three, Hurrah! - Forward!"
Meanwhile, even as Moltke spoke, a battery of artillery came up, promptly deployed, loaded with grapeshot, and aimed at the mutinous troops.
Seeing the inherent logic and good sense of Moltke's argument, the troops complied enthusiastically, crossing into Mecklenburg to a man.
Ser Giovanni Acuto and the Monks
Giovanni Acuto was a mercenary in fourteenth century Italy. Actually an Englishman, Sir John Hawkwood, he had a most successful career, rising to great wealth and power at the head of the famed "White Company." Hawkwood was typical of the mercs of his - or any other - time, brutal, treacherous, and, well, mercenary, by no means the nice fellow to be found in the novel The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
One day Sir John was out walking near his estates at Montecchio, in Tuscany, when he chanced to encounter two mendicant friars.
The good monks greeted him by saying, "May God grant you peace."
Hearing this, Hawkwood replied coldly, "And may God take away your alms."
Stunned by this response, the monks protested, "Sir, why do you speak to us thusly?"
"Don't you know that I live by war?" came the quick reply, "and peace would destroy me? As I live by war, so you live by alms."
Thoroughly chastened - or perhaps intimidated - the good friars made good their escape.