Battle Flag (Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles #3)

Battle Flag (Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles #3)

by Bernard Cornwell

Paperback(First Perennial Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060937188
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/18/2001
Series: Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles Series , #3
Edition description: First Perennial Edition
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 105,548
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.97(d)

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

Battle Flag
Starbuck Chronicles, Vol. 3

Chapter One

Captain Nathaniel Starbuck first saw his new commanding general when the Faulconer Legion forded the Rapidan. Thomas Jackson was on the river's northern bank, where he appeared to be in a trance, for he was motionless in his saddle with his left hand held high in the air while his eyes, blue and resentful, stared into the river's vacant and murky depths. His glum stillness was so uncanny that the marching column edged to the far margin of the ford rather than pass near a man whose stance so presaged death. The General's physical appearance was equally disturbing. Jackson had a ragged beard, a plain coat, and a dirty cap, while his horse looked as if it should have been taken to a slaughterhouse long before. It was hard to credit that this was the South's most controversial general, the man who gave the North sleepless nights and nervous days, but Lieutenant Franklin Coffman, sixteen years old and newly arrived in the Faulconer Legion, asserted that the odd-looking figure was indeed the famous Stonewall Jackson. Coffman had once been taught by Professor Thomas Jackson. "Mind you," Lieutenant Coffman confided in Starbuck, "I don't believe generals make any real difference to battles."

"Such wisdom in one so young," said Starbuck, who was twenty-two years old.

"It's the men who win battles, not generals," Coffman said, ignoring his Captain's sarcasm. Lieutenant Coffman had received one year's schooling at the Virginia Military Institute, where Thomas Jackson had ineffectively lectured him in artillery drill and Natural Philosophy. Now Coffman looked at the rigid figure sitting motionless in theshabby saddle. I can't imagine old Square Box as a general Coffman said scornfully. "He couldn't keep a schoolroom in order, let alone an army."

"Square Box?" Starbuck asked. General Jackson had many nicknames. The newspapers called him Stonewall, his soldiers called him Old Jack or even Old Mad Jack, while many of Old Jack's former students liked to refer to him as Tom Fool Jack, but Square Box was a name new to Starbuck.

"He's got the biggest feet in the world," Coffman explained. "Really huge! And the only shoes that ever fitted him were like boxes."

"What a fount of useful information you are, Lieutenant," Starbuck said casually. The Legion was still too far from the river for Starbuck to see the General's feet, but he made a mental note to look at these prodigies when he did finally reach the Rapidan. The Legion was presently not moving at all, its progress halted by the reluctance of the men ahead to march straight through the ford without first removing their tattered boots. Mad Jack Stonewall Square Box Jackson was reputed to detest such delays, but he seemed oblivious to this holdup. Instead he just sat, hand in the air and eyes on the river, while right in front of him the column bunched and halted. The men behind the obstruction were grateful for the enforced halt, for the day was blistering hot, the air motionless, and the heat as damp as steam, "You were remarking, Coffman, on the ineffectiveness of generals?" Starbuck prompted his new junior officer.

"If you think about it, sir," Coffman said with a youthful passion, "we haven't got any real generals, not like the Yankees, but we still win battles. I reckon that's because the Southerner is unbeatable."

"What about Robert Lee?" Starbuck asked. "Isn't he a real general?"

"Lee's old! He's antediluvian!" Coffman said, shocked that Starbuck should even have suggested the name of the new commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. "He must be fifty-five, at least!"

"Jackson's not old," Starbuck pointed out. "He isn't even forty yet."

"But he's mad, sir. Honest! We used to call him Tom Fool."

"He must be mad then," Starbuck teased Coffman. "So why do we win battles despite having mad generals, ancient generals, or no generals at all?"

"Because fighting is in the Southern blood, sir. It really is." Coffman was an eager young man who was determined to be a hero. His father had died of consumption, leaving his mother with four young sons and two small daughters. His father's death had forced Coffman to leave the Virginia Military Institute after his first year, but that one year's military schooling had equipped him with a wealth of martial theories. "Northerners," he now explained to Starbuck, "have diluted blood. There are too many immigrants in the North, sir. But the South has pure blood, sir. Real American blood."

"You mean the Yankees are an inferior race?"

"It's an acknowledged fact, sir. They've lost the thoroughbred strain, sir."

"You do know I'm a Yankee, Coffman, don't you?" Starbuck asked.

Coffman immediately looked confused, though before he could frame any response he was interrupted by Colonel Thaddeus Bird, the Faulconer Legion's commanding officer, who came striding longlegged from the rear of the stalled column. "Is that really Jackson?" Bird asked, gazing across the river.

"Lieutenant Coffman informs me that the General's real name is Old Mad Tom Fool Square Box Jackson, and that is indeed the man himself," Starbuck answered.

"Ah, Coffman," Bird said, peering down at the small Lieutenant as though Coffman was some curious specimen of scientific interest, "I remember when you were nothing but a chirruping infant imbibing the lesser jewels of my glittering wisdom." Bird, before he became a soldier, had been the schoolmaster in Faulconer Court House, where Coffman's family lived.

"Lieutenant Coffman has not ceased to imbibe wisdom," Starbuck solemnly informed Colonel Bird, "nor indeed to impart it, for he has just informed me that we Yankees are an inferior breed, our blood being soured, tainted, and thinned by the immigrant strain."

"Quite right, too!" Bird said energetically; then the Colonel draped a thin arm around the diminutive Coffman's shoulders. "I could . . ."

Battle Flag
Starbuck Chronicles, Vol. 3
. Copyright © by Bernard Cornwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Battle Flag 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
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Two books out of four and I cannot put this saga down. I match up battles in the books to actual battlefiel history. Amazingly accurate.
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This series is every bit as good as his Sharpe series. I just wish he would finish the Civil War!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you liked the Sharpe series, you'll like the Starbuck series. Standard Cornwell, which is pretty darn good stuff. Lots of action.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Books one and two of the Starbuck Chronicles were good, but volume three is even better.Volume four even beats all of the prior ones. The entire series is a must read for any Civil War fan. I just wish Mr. Cromwell would get around to writing the next volume, because the story is clearly not finished, its long overdue.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished Battle Flag and will soon order the next book in the series and anxiously await Cornwell to write more books in this series.The battle scenes are presented so perfectly it makes you feel you are fighting alongside the infamous Starbuck.The perfect mix of fact and fiction shows the skill of one of the world's best historical fiction authors.If possible, I would rate this book a 6,because it is ABOVE OUTSTANDING!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once again, Cornwell has pulled off a masterpiece of writing with historical accuracy of the civil war, and making the plots beleivable. A reader can actually picture what's going on as if they are in the novel itself. A full score in my opinion.