From the Publisher
“his [Urban's] assiduous research uncovers numerous human-interest stories. The paucity of records generally precludes composition of unit histories for the war, but Urban capitalizes on an exception, one that readers accustomed to the Patriot side of the struggle will not want to miss.” Booklist
“A spirited portrait of life during the American Revolution from the perspective of the British army...comprehensive and engrossing account...A passionately presented book full of intriguing revelations.” Kirkus
The Royal Welch Fusiliers, who became the most celebrated British corps in "the battle for America" and served from the initial skirmish at Lexington in 1775 through the surrender at Yorktown in 1781, provide "a narrative that mirrors the wider story," according to Urban (Wellington's Rifles). Drawing on letters and diaries, Urban paints an often grim but ultimately heroic picture of the life of the ordinary soldier fighting an unpopular war in a hostile environment. The Royal Welch Fusiliers-few of whom were Welsh-surrendered at Yorktown as "a sadly depleted party" of a few dozen men, but they and their leaders had learned important tactical lessons in fighting the Americans, especially the necessity of "rapid manoeuvre." Former Fusilier officers like Harry Calvert would use "the bitter lessons of America to educate an army that one day would defeat Napoleon." Urban, diplomatic editor of BBC's Newsnight, offers "a British-army-centered version," but is admirably evenhanded in his analysis and conclusions. Readers interested in military history will appreciate this insightful and sobering perspective on soldiering in the 18th century. (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Urban (BBC; Wellington's Rifles) tells the story of the British 23rd Regiment, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, during its involvement in the Revolution. He chose this unit because its men served in North America for the duration of the conflict and left behind ample archival records. The author dispels the myth that the British army was invincible by showing continuing problems of indiscipline, desertion, and logistical failures. He weaves stories of several individual soldiers through the text to provide the regiment's tale with a more personal flair. He concludes the book with the 23rd's service in Europe leading up to the Napoleonic Wars and mentions the lessons they learned in America, which were mostly lost on the general staff's ears. Urban succeeds in contributing a more Anglo-centric approach than one finds elsewhere, but certain inaccuracies detract from the text's value: Urban claims that Francis Marion impaled his enemies' heads on spikes but offers no sources in support of that story. Known sources indicate that Marion saved many captured Tories from execution and curbed pillaging among his men. Recommended, in spite of the occasional flaw, for Revolutionary War collections seeking to expand their British unit histories.
Matthew J. Wayman