Redcoat : The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket

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Magnificent history of the common British soldier from 1700 to 1900 by one of Britain's best-known and accomplished military writers and broadcasters. Red Coat is non-fiction Sharpe, filled with anecdote and humour as well as historical analysis. 'Redcoat is a wonderful book. It is not just a work of history - but one of enthusiasm and unparalleled knowledge.' BERNARD CORNWELL Redcoat is the story of the British soldier from c.1760 until c.1860 - surely one of the most enduring and magnetic subjects of the British past. Solidly based on the letters and diaries of the men who served and the women who followed them, the book is rich in the history of the period. It charts Wolfe's victory and death at Quebec, the American War of Independence, the Duke of York's campaign in Flanders, Wellington's Peninsular War, Waterloo,the retreat from Kabul, the Sikh wars in 1845-9, the Crimean war and the Indian Mutiny.The focus of Redcoat, however, is the individual recollection and experience of the ordinary soldiers serving in the wars fought by Georgian and early Victorian England.Through their stories and anecdotes - of uniforms, equipment,'taking the King's shilling', flogging, wounds, food, barrack life, courage, comradeship, death, love and loss - Richard Holmes provides a comprehensive portrait of a fallible but extraordinarily successful fighting force. 'Such a scene of mortal strife from the fire of fifty men was never witnessed...' writes Harry Smith of the 95th Rifles, recounting the death of a brother officer in Spain in 1813. 'I wept over his remains with a bursting heart as, with his company who adored him, I consigned to the grave the last external appearance of Daniel Cadoux. His fame can never die.' Smith's account is typical of the emotions and experiences of the men who appear on every page of this book, sporting their red uniforms to fight for King and more

Product details

  • Paperback | 400 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 38mm | 439.99g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Index
  • 0006531520
  • 9780006531524
  • 173,627

Review quote

'I have never met Richard Holmes, but I am deeply jealous of him for Redcoat opens with the re-enactment of a Napoleonic battle that I wish I had written myself... The redcoat and his family were never appreciated, but Richard Holmes has written them a marvellous memorial. Redcoat is a wonderful book, full of anecdote and good sense. Anyone who has enjoyed a Sharpe story will love it, anyone who likes history will want to own it and anyone who cherishes good writing will read it with pleasure.' BERNARD CORNWELL, Daily Mailshow more

About Richard Holmes

Celebrated military historian and television presenter Richard Holmes is famous for his BBC series 'Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolutionary War'; 'Wellington: The Iron Duke'; 'Battlefields'; 'War Walks' and 'The Western Front'. He is the author of many bestselling and widely acclaimed books including 'Firing Line', 'The Western Front', 'Sahib' and 'Tommy' '. He is general editor of the definitive 'Oxford Companion to Military History'. He taught military history at Sandhurst for many years and is now Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University and the Royal Military College of Science. He lives near Winchester in more

Review Text

In this book, Richard Holmes, one of the UK's foremost military historians, focuses on a neglected subject: the day-to-day lives of ordinary soldiers in the 18th and 19th centuries. The broad picture of the politics and strategy of empire-building has been well documented - but what were the battles like for the non-commissioned officers who fought in them? These foot-soldiers, the redcoats, were often recruited while drunk and pumped up with notions of glory and, importantly, a decent living wage. Those who took the King's shilling found themselves pitched into a contradictory world. Glamorous and disciplined in a certain light, these were mostly lice-ridden and diseased men, spending much of their time in alcoholic stupor. Holmes's account is organised thematically rather than chronologically, ranging from details of how the army was financed, through to the varieties of uniforms, the cavalry horses, the food rations, and the draconian punishments issued for breaches of discipline. Holmes is particularly good on the practicalities of the dangerously unreliable weaponry. This was the age of the Brown Bess, the flintlock musket famous for its short range and inaccuracy, flaws which necessitated close fighting using blocks of men marching in strict discipline. Battles were bloody and terrifying, and Holmes does justice to the 'murderous contest of musketry' where, enveloped in powder-smoke, it wasn't even possible to see. The author has woven together a dense fabric created from the letters sent home from this massive army: at its height, in 1815, Britain had a force of 233,852 soldiers. Writing with judgement and panache, Holmes celebrates the achievements of these men - and the women who travelled with them - whilst accepting the problems. A significant proportion, Wellington said, were the 'scum of the earth'; they were drawn from a restless, downtrodden working-class where violence was endemic. Nevertheless, from the Seven Years War, through the Napoleonic Wars, until Crimea - the scope of this book - few battles were lost. Copiously illustrated in colour, using paintings from the period, this is a thoroughly referenced and indexed account, invaluable to both general reader and academic historian. (Kirkus UK)show more

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403 ratings
4.03 out of 5 stars
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2 4% (16)
1 0% (2)
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