Skip to content
Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions


Cowardice: A Brief History

Cowardice:  A Brief History

by Chris Walsh,
Psychology Today, October 14, 2014

The idea of cowardice, which is widely regarded as the most common and profound human failing, has preoccupied Americans for centuries, especially in times of war. About 500 Union soldiers were court-martialed for cowardice during the Civil War and other offenses, including desertion and self-mutilation, were associated with cowardice. Recruitment posters in World War I played on the shame of cowardice. In the middle of World War II, General George Patton accused two soldiers who claimed they were suffering from battle fatigue with cowardice and slapped them. And in the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson repeated that he would be branded a coward if he withdrew American troops from South Vietnam.


Read the full article (PDF)