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Fusiliers: How the British Army Lost America but Learned to Fight Paperback – 15 May 2008
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Praise for "Fusiliers": "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" Praise for Mark Urban's "Wellington's Rifles": "Urban successfully rounds out the character of this notable unit and achieves an authoritative history."--"Booklist" """A fascinating narrative...Urban gives readers remarkable insight into the battles of the Peninsular War from Talavera to Tarbes...Fans of Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe saga will find this an often eye-opening supplement."--"Library Journal" "The six years make for a great tale, and Mark Urban tells it superbly. If you like Sharpe, then this book is a must."--Bernard Cornwell, author of "Sharpe's Rifles"
Fusiliers by Mark Urban is the thrilling and untold story of one Redcoat regiment's epic battle against the Americans.
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As we have come to expect from Urban, the battle accounts are both accurate and stirring, but I particulary like the way he draws on personal accounts of the war from both men and officers of both sides, many of them never published before, making it a highly engaging read. I learned a great deal about commanders such as Howe and Cornwallis, Balfour and Calvert, and the role they played not only in the fortunes of the 23rd Foot, but also in the political and military heirarchy of the time.
Readers new to the period may be surprised to learn that although the war was lost, the British and their allies suffered few actual defeats in the field; on the contrary, it was the remarkable ability of the Americans to recover from defeat after defeat that ultimately brought them victory.
The AWI has always aroused passions on both sides of the Atlantic, and whilst he concentrates on the fighting and campaigning of this conflict, Urban does not shy away from examining the tragic atrocities committed by both sides that served to polarise opinion during the war. This is a sober and refreshing antidote to some of the one-sided episodes in movies such as Mel Gibson's "The Patriot".
Overall, a thorough and humane examination of Great Britain's first major humiliation on the world stage, and the effects it had on the army the British are still justifiably proud of today. Highly recommended.
Nor do I agree with the claim of the sub title "How the British Army lost America but learned how to fight". It is clear from reading the history of the previous French and Indian Wars that Britain learned its lesson on frontier fighting during that conflict. By the time of the War of Independence Britain had already succesfully learned to incorporate light companies into its regiments and to employ flanking strategies to deal with the American militia. I'm not sure Mark Urban ever really gives any convincing arguements to back up his claim except to say that the Americans were still better at this type of skirmishing warfare.
As a history of the War of Independence "Fusiliers" is too tightly focused on the military aspects, and specifically on the actions of the one regiment. For a broader overview I would reccomend Robert Harvey's book "A Few Bloody Noses" in its place.
This book would be of most interest to someone specifically interested in the military history of the War of Independence as there are some very good explanations of the weapons and tactics used and some detailed maps. However, it is not an easy read and could have benefited from more of a narrative history approach to add more colour and more descriptions to the story told in the letters quoted throughout.
The book is intersting in its portrayal of Earl Conrwallis, often derided by American historians, Mark Urban puts his contribution into context and shows him as an adaptable and effective soldier. I thoroughly enjoyed the book but I felt this was because I'm already familiar with the history and had the background knowledge to place the book within the greater context of the war (and unite some of the varying themes). If you are not familiar with the American war of Independence this wouldn't be the book to start with, being more of a supplementary history than a main-line one, but it would be a good second book...
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