Author – Bernard Cornwell
Published – 2011
Genre – Historical Fiction
I’ve been a huge fan of Bernard Cornwell’s for a long time, and although it can seem that reading his books have become a habit, he really doesn’t disappoint. My initial introduction was through Redcoat and the Starbuck Chronicles – for some reason I am fascinated by the early conflicts in America, so I was delighted to find that the latest book was centred around a confrontation between the Redcoats and the Patriots.
Summer 1779. Seven hundred and fifty British soldiers and three small ships of the Royal Navy. Their orders: to build a fort above a harbour to create a base from which to control the New England seaboard. Forty-one American ships and over nine hundred men. Their orders: to expel the British. The battle that followed was a classic example of how the best-laid plans can be disrupted by personality and politics, and of how warfare can bring out both the best and worst in men.
I have to confess that I usually spend the first chapter or two of one of Cornwell’s books in a state of confusion. They usually avoid too much scene setting and plunge you straight into the story where you have to try to figure out who the different characters are & what’s happening. The Fort is no different and I’ve also broadened my knowledge of sailing and military terms!
The book is based on actual events that took place in 1779 and the historical notes at the end are great supplement to the story. But this is no weighty tome describing the events – Cornwell uses characters on both side of the conflict to put the reader in the midst of the action. Some of these characters – like Peleg Wadsworth and General McLean are true heroes – honourable, brave, patriotic, but there are others who are cowards, and malingerers. And Paul Revere – I don’t want to give too much away, but what a revelation.
As the assault by the Patriots on the newly constructed Fort George is by sea there is quite a mix of sea and land combat. Cornwell could never be accused of glorifying war and whether it’s on the fields of Waterloo or Azincourt there is huge attention to detail and the gruesome results. If anything I think that the skirmishes on the land let the book down a little – I would have preferred a bit more time spent in the thick of the action, but that’s a small gripe.
This was a fascinating story and a great read- made all the more remarkable because of the true story on which it is based.
Score – 4/5