It is autumn 1777, and the cradle of liberty, Philadelphia, has fallen to the British. Yet the true battle has only just begun.
On both sides, loyalties are tested and families torn asunder. The young Redcoat Sam Gilpin has seen his brother die. Now he must choose between duty to a distant king and the call of his own conscience. And for the men and women of the prosperous Becket family, the Revolution brings bitter conflict between those loyal to the crown and those with dreams of liberty.
Soon, across the fields of ice and blood in a place called Valley Forge, history will be rewritten, changing the lives and fortunes of these men and women forever.
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About the Author
BERNARD CORNWELL is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales series, which includes The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, and, most recently, The Empty Throne and Warriors of the Storm, and which serves as the basis for the hit television series The Last Kingdom. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.
Read an Excerpt
The Bloodybacks stole through warm darkness to the killing.
A hidden moon silvered chasms of cloud and offered a wan glow which silhouetted the jagged spikes of pine tops on the western horizon. The eastern sky was unclouded; a pit of blackness studded with the clean brightness of stars. The paths beneath the trees were dark, utter dark, a blackness in which long files of men cursed softly.
The sun would rise to bring the steamy, breath-stealing heat of the full day; yet even now, in the night's small hours, there was a close, stifling warmth that made the men sweat beneath their thick woolen coats. Red coats. The men were soldiers; six companies of Redcoats who followed their leaders through a wooded defile toward a tavern, a crossroads, and the enemy.
A stream made its homely sound to the south, the wind rattled pine branches, while the night hordes of insects drowned whatever noise the nailed boots made on the dry and fallen needles. A whispered order was passed down the files of men. They stopped and crouched.
Private Sam Gilpin's hands were slick with sweat. His body prickled with the heat. A horse whinnied.
It had to be an enemy's horse, for the Redcoats had come on foot. Even the General was on foot. The sound told Sam that the enemy must be close, very close, and, despite the cloying warmth, he shivered suddenly.
His musket would not fire. None of the soldiers' muskets would fire, for they had been ordered to unscrew the dog-heads and take out their flints. A musket without a flint could not spark the powder, so it could not fire a bullet, but nor could a careless man stumble in the dark and fire ashot which would warn the enemy.
The Redcoats had come in the warm darkness, in silence, and the enemy was close.
"Follow!" Again the order was a whisper. Sam's company was led off the path into the blackness beneath the trees. Each man tried to walk silently, yet twigs snapped, dry pineneedles crunched together, and once a brass-bound musket butt crashed loud against a pine trunk.
The sound made the men freeze, but no warning shout came from the enemy lines. Sam wondered if the enemy was waiting, awake and ready. Were their muskets loaded, flints drawn back, cocked to blast flames and smoke and death into the trees? His heart pounded heavy with the fear of a soldier before the killing. Sweat stung his eyes. It was hard to breathe the resinous air. The file moved again and Sam saw the smear of a red glow to his left and he knew it marked the enemy encampment.
Sam stopped, crouched. The redness was the remnant of a camp fire. There were other dying fires visible through the trees. The glowing embers revealed the shapes of dark buildings. Again a horse whinnied, but Sam could see no movement around the fires.
"Bayonets! Bayonets!" The order was a hoarse whisper.
Sam tugged his bayonet free of its scabbard. He had sharpened the blade to a wicked point in the dusk; now he slotted it over his musket's muzzle and twisted it into place. The grease that kept the bayonet free of rust was sticky on his palm. All around him he could hear the scrape and click of blades being fixed and it seemed impossible for the enemy not to hear, but still there was no shout or musket flash. Sam took a leather lace from his ammunition pouch. He tied one end around the blade's shoulder, and the other. he lashed to the musket's sling-swivel. Now no enemy, could seize and wrench the blade away, nor, twisting the bayonet free of dead flesh, would he lose the weapon to a corpse.
There was fear in Sam, but also exhilaration. He feared letting his comrades down, he feared Captain Kelly's disappointment or Sergeant Scammell's scorn, he feared his own fear, yet he also had the fire of a young man's pride inside him. They were the redcoated Bloodybacks, the kings of the castle, cocks of the dungheap, and soldiers of the King, and in a moment they would be unleashed like rough-pelted hounds to tear and savage the King's enemies.
Footsteps sounded to his right and Sam saw the tall dark shape of Sergeant Scammell pacing along the company's front. "You're not here to fucking dance with the buggers, you're here to kill the fuckers. You hear me?" Scammell's voice was a mere whisper, but still fearsome. Few men in the company liked Scammell, but even those who hated him were glad of his presence this night, for, in the confusion of battle, the Sergeant displayed a chilling efficiency. The embers of the enemy's camp fires reflected dull red on the steel of Scammell's seventeen-inch bayonet.
Sam fingered his own greased blade. It was a threesided bayonet, channeled to release blood so that the blade would not stick in flesh. It was not a weapon for cutting, but for stabbing. "Go for their bellies or throats," Scammell was whispering. "Don't tickle the bastards, kill diem!"
Captain Kelly and Ensign Trumbull had their sabres drawn. The two officers stood at the edge of the trees, staring at the enemy. Kelly was tall, quiet, and liked by the men Trumbull was thirteen, a schoolboy given an officer's coat: and despised. Sam saw the small twitching of the Ensign's sabre blade and knew the boy was nervous.
Sam's twin brother was Also nervous. "You'll stay Close, Sam?" Nate asked.Redcoat. Copyright © by Bernard Cornwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I discovered Bernard Cornwell when I read his four-book series on the American Civil War, the Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles. I enjoyed his blending of factual historical events with his fictional characters which he used to put flesh and blood into events that shaped our country. I had hoped to experience the same with "Redcoat" and I was not disappointed.
While Sam Gilpin may be the main character of the story in the form of an English infantryman, a Redcoat, Cornwell includes an entire cast of characters from all spectrums of life in 1770's America. He gives a clear picture of life in that period from the foods they ate to the clothes they wore to their everyday routines. Added to that are insights into the personalities of both fictional characters and actual people who had a hand in shaping America's future.
As I had been reading history books dealing with the American Revolution at the same time as I was reading "Redcoat", I was impressed with Cornwell's accuracy in describing the events in his book and the personality of Sir William Howe and others. This is the "flesh and blood" I referred to earlier. While a history book is good for names, dates, etc. it does nothing for giving the reader a taste of what it would be like to actually live in that period. Cornwell excells in providing insight into daily life of this period.
Admittedly, Cornwell will appeal more to men than women in both subject matter and character development. The reader will learn just enough about a character to understand the why's and wherefores of their thoughts or actions which is all I, as a man, needed to know while my wife was left wanting for more emotional explanations.
If you have an interest in history and enjoy learning the experience of day to day existence of a particular period in time, Bernard Cornwell is able to provide that for you in an interesting and colorful manner. I enjoyed this book immensely and I look forward to beginning the Sharpe Series soon.
I have only read a few of Bernard Cornwell's books. They all have been very good and well written. However, they seem to start out slow which almost made me put it down... but they always progess to a very good read.
Redcoat is Bernard Cornwall at this finest. Every aspect of this book was fantastic. A must for historical fiction reader.
Best thing I have ever read on the Revolutionary War! Gives a more comprehensive and balanced view of the conflict, with great story and characters.
This is an amazing book, adequetly depicting the false idea portrayed by many history text books that war isn't bloody. Cornwell represents that the redcoats weren't evil, they were just doing their job, and were just boys who wanted honor and money. Sam is a likable boy that can enchant any reader. Cornwell also adds romance that does not take over the plot, but enhances it.
This was a wonderful introduction to Bernard Cornwell for me. There's a bit for everyone in this book: romance, battles, and the author makes you care enough about the characters to sit on the edge of your seat worrying for them. My only wish is that Cornwell had continued Sam's story.
With 'Redcoat' Cornwell has laid a fine foundation for a future series in the tradition of the 'Sharpe' series. Here is to hoping to read more of the adventurs of a redcoat in the American Colonies. Will he become a farmer, will he join the colonial forces, will he fight his former comrades?
This is a worthy novel of the American Revolution. Cornwell, famed for his Sharpe series, is in recognizable form here. The fictional characters are pretty standard creations on his part. Cornwall also seems to revel in descriptive, graphic violence. All of his novels are permeated by this element, which at times threatens to inbalance the often fine historical aspects of these novels. The plot and characters are standard Cornwall fair, the real strength of this work being its portrayal of General Howe's 1777 Philadelphia campaign. We get fine descriptions of the British night attack at Paoli Tavern, and the rebel counter-attack and near success at Germantown. The books depiction of the British outlook on the war is its best attribute. Also, through the characters the reader can get a pretty good idea of what motivated both sides in the conflict. If you can stomoch Cornwall's often graphic bloodletting, then this book is deffinitely a worthwhile piece of historical fiction on the American Revolution.