Meng Zhifan (孟之反) was a minister of the state of Lu who was known for his modesty and self-deprecating humor.
According to an account in the Chronicle of Zuo (左傳/ Zuǒzhuán), in 485 BCE he led an army that was soundly defeated by a force from the state of Qi in a battle that took place near to Qufu, the capital of Lu. During the retreat he showed great valor by fighting off the enemy in an effective rearguard action that allowed his surviving soldiers to escape.
Appearances in the Analects of Confucius
Book 6, Chapter 15
Confucius said: “Meng Zhifan isn’t given to boasting. When he and his soldiers were in retreat, he stayed with the rearguard. It was only when they reached the city gate that he spurred his horse and said: ‘It wasn’t courage that kept me at the rear. My horse wouldn’t run.’”