A spirited portrait of life during the American Revolution from the perspective of the British army, with a particular focus on a regiment known as the Royal Welch Fusiliers.
The courageous yet ultimately doomed 18th-century campaign to prevent American independence is rendered in lavish detail by Urban (Wellington’s Rifles: Six Years to Waterloo with England's Legendary Sharpshooters, 2004, etc.). The author focuses primarily on the troops of the red-coated 23rd Regiment, aka the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Significant historical documentation has surfaced on the activities of the soldiers of the 23rd, and Urban draws on some colorful and often surprisingly candid written reminisces from its members. Urban begins by pointing toward officers who were so desperate to escape the battle that they leapt to their deaths in the sea as their ship set sail for America. The author moves on to fill in the gaps around the recollections of figures such as Sgt. Roger Lamb, Lt. John Lenthall, officer Harry Calvert and dozens of letters, heretofore unpublished, from soldiers caught in the heat of battle. The clashes with the American troops are well-documented by Urban’s vigorous prose, which often leaves little to the imagination. The most interesting sections are culled from the records of the internal workings of the regiment. These include a detailed examination of the dress regulations; a look at how raw some of the recruits were; a few passages on desertion (usually punishable by execution) and spies (whose heads were impaled on stakes by overzealous colonels); and notes from soldiers who found happiness in the army, such as the man who was glad that he got to “save a good deal of money.” Urban’s comprehensive and engrossing account concludes with details on the fates of remaining British soldiers after they surrendered, and how some even refused to believe they had been beaten.
A passionately presented book full of intriguing revelations.