1. George Washington
The father of the nation was of course also a badass general. After the defeat at the Battle of Long Island in August 1776 Washington engineered a tactical retreat into Delaware, at the same time lulling the villainous Brits into a sense of false security. Then in December 1776, Washington took his army on boats across the Delaware river at night and surged into the British camp the next morning, killing hundreds of red coats and capturing over 1000. There were hardships to come, of course, but Washington’s outrageously daring action turned the tide of the War of Independence.
2. Andrew Jackson
The only president to have fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, Jackson was also notoriously touchy about his honor. In 1806 he challenged Charles Dickinson, a journalist, to a duel after Dickenson published scurrilous rumours about Jackson’s wife. At the duel, Dickenson shot first and hot Jackson near the heart (the bullet was never removed), and under the rules he had to stand still while Jackson returned fire. The future president made no mistake, and killed Dickenson where he stood.
3. Zachary Taylor
Known mainly for dying after only 13 months in office, leading to the equally unremembered Millard Fillmore becoming president, Taylor had been a superb tactician in the Mexican-American War of 1846. In his first major battle of the war he took the impregnable city of Monterrey in only three days, despite being outnumbered by over 1000 men.Later, despite again being hugely outnumbered, he refused Santa Anna’s offer of terms of surrender, and successfully defended Buena Vista against a 15,000 strong Mexican army. He won the presidency just 18 months later.
4. Theodore Roosevelt
This is not a surprising entry on this list. Known as the Bull Moose, Teddy preached the strenuous life, and led by example. In his 60 years on this planet, he was a New York State Assemblyman, a cowboy in South Dakota, New York City Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Army Colonel (famously leading the charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War), vice president, president, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Amazon explorer, big game hunter, and author of over 35 books.
After leaving office in 1909, he became disillusioned with his successor, William Taft, and decide to run again for the highest office. While giving a speech in Milwaukee he was shot in the chest. The bullet was slowed by the copy of his speech he had in his pocket. Despite needing medical attention, TR shrugged off his injury and delivered his 90-minute speech as planned. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said as he took the stage, “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” Bad. Ass.
5. Harry Truman
The unassuming, gentle Truman is arguably a strange entry to this list, but as the only human ever to have ordered the dropping of the world’s most destructive weapon, he claims his place. Covered in controversy in the 70 years since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Truman took one of the most difficult decisions anyone has faced to end the worst war the world has seen. Without doubt, that was a badass move.