No Quarter Given

And no, it does not refer to being drawn and quartered.

One term you hear bandied about in both piratical circles and in military reenactments is No Quarter Given.  This can be said during a duel or during a battle but either way, it amounts to the same thing.  Basically, No Quarter means that there will be no mercy, but where does that come from?

quartering1No Quarter refers to quartering soldiers, in other words, they will not be giving shelter to captured soldiers.  In most times of battle.  The victorious side in a battle would house  the captured soldiers after the battle.  The soldiers would be cared for, they would be sheltered and after they were able to be moved they would be moved to a new location.  Part of the reason for this, is that the opposing side, whether the winner or the loser, would then have healthy enemy soldiers that they could exchange for their own soldiers.  When an enemy commander said: “No Quarter Given” that meant that they would not be housing or taking care of or sheltering or patching up the wounds of enemy soldiers that were captured.  All enemy soldiers, prisoners of war, would be executed.

If you remember your history, the idea of quartering soldiers was part of the reason for the list of grievances given tot he British by the American colonists.  British troops were constantly quartered in private homes without notice, without the owners of the home being compensated for housing this troops.  Obviously, if you roll the concepts together, there might have been a time when colonists were housing wounded enemy soldiers in their homes.  This thought gives you a whole new outlook on the revolutionary war.

Another concept is that the quarter mentioned in No Quarter Given was that the value of a soldier was a quarter of their pay.  This is supposedly from an agreement between the Dutch and the Spanish where they decided before a battle what the cost of a soldier that had to be ransomed would be.  So, after the battle, getting your soldiers back would cost you a quarter of their pay, per soldier.  I am not sure that I completely buy this etymological explanation of the term but it is certainly worth noting.

The idea of No Quarter was brought into the dueling lifestyle as a way to say that the duel would be to the death and not just until one person gave up or asked for quarter.  Two duelists deciding that there would be no quarter given or asked meant that they had both decided to fight to the death and then they would not ask for a surrender or ask to surrender during the duel.

So, if you are looking for another phrase to throw into your verbal lexicon, try No Quarter Given and its opposite phrase No Quarter Asked.