I encountered this expression here

Napoleon once described Ney as 'ignorant of my projects as the last joined drummer boy', yet he still made him Commander of the Army's left wing at Waterloo.

I find this expression weird. How can "the last joined drummer boy" be related to ignorance?

  • 2
    Someone who has been in the army a very short time will know very little about it. How is this difficult? – TimLymington Nov 18 '13 at 15:44
  • 4
    And a drummer boy has the lowest rank position in the army, and so can be expected to know the least about the army. Here, "ignorant" means "lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified" and not "lacking education". – Peter Shor Nov 18 '13 at 15:46

The "last joined drummer boy" (the drummer boy who most recently joined) is new. He is untrained and knows little about what, where, when, and how to do all that needs to be done. The comparison implies that Ney knows as little about the army as said newly joined drummer boy. There is also an extra possible implication that the drummer boy is naught but a child and thus is even less likely to even have life experience that would be helpful.

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