Mark Urban has sought to recreate his earlier success with 'Rifles' by following a single regiment through a war. In choosing the 23rd Regiment (Royal Welch Fusiliers), he has plumped on a unit that fought throughout the American War of Independence from Bunker Hill to Yorktown, and can therefore act as illustrative of the war as a whole. Unlike the 95th Rifles, however, the 23rd were a 'line' regiment with none of the glamour of 'special' troops, although much of the action surrounds their detached light company. And given the very fluid organization of the army it is easy to see problems trying to carry out a single regiment narrative thread. As his Royal Welch witnesses come and go, he has had to use eyewitnesses wherever he could get them; not all are Royal Welchmen, nor are they necessarily eyewitnesses to the actual events he is discussing.
Mr Urban's lack of military background and wider understanding is sometimes apparent. As Donald Graves has noted, his belief that Revolutionary War tactics were important in Europe is dubious, and he is unfairly harsh on David Dundas. The essential need to train the army on a common doctrine was not possible until the Duke of York became Commander-in-Chief, with the full weight of Royal authority behind him. If the correct solution was a fusion of the `German' and `American' schools, that was never possible given the stresses of service until Sir Ralph Abercromby got nearly two months to properly train his army in 1800-1 before Egypt. He was the first British commander to have that opportunity after the reserve of trained troops was dissipated in the West Indies in 1793-5.
Due to these reservations I was only going to give the book four stars, but as a former Royal Welchman myself I thought, 'How can I!' Because in all honesty, Mr Urban has written a very engaging book about the British army in the Revolutionary War, when there are not many others (Hugh Bicheno and Christopher Hibbert come to mind) to choose from. He has also done much to dissipate the many myths beloved by American authors, particularly concerning their own tactical effectiveness. This is the book's greatest strength; a unit level account of a forgotten period in the army's history when they were fighting a bad war in a bad place at a bad time, trying to carry on as professionally as possible.