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Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution [Hardcover]

Mark Urban
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 13, 2007 0802716474 978-0802716477 1st
The American Revolution from a unique perspective--as seen through the eyes of a redcoat regiment. 

From Lexington Green in 1775 to Yorktown in 1781, one British regiment marched thousands of miles and fought a dozen battles to uphold British rule in America: the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Their story, and that of all the soldiers England sent across the Atlantic, is one of the few untold sagas of the American Revolution, one that sheds light on the war itself and offers surprising, at times unsettling, insights into the way the war was conducted on both sides.
Drawing on a wealth of previously unused primary accounts, and with compelling narrative flair, Mark Urban reveals the inner life of the 23rd Regiment, the Fusiliers--and through it, of the British army as a whole--as it fought one of the pivotal campaigns of world history. Describing how British troops adopted new tactics and promoted new leaders, Urban shows how the foundations were laid for the redcoats' subsequent heroic performance against Napoleon. Fighting the climactic battles of the Revolution in the American south, the Fusiliers became one of the crack regiments of the army, never believing themselves to have been defeated.
But the letters from members of the 23rd and other archival accounts reveal much more than battle details. Living the Revolution day-to-day, the Fusiliers witnessed acts of kindness and atrocity on both sides unrecorded in histories of the war. Their observations bring the conflict down to human scale and provide a unique insight into soldiering in the late eighteenth century. Fusiliers will challenge the prevailing stereotypes of the enemy redcoats and offer an invaluable new perspective on a defining period in American history.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company; 1st edition (November 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802716474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802716477
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #465,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Brilliant, and new stuff on every page January 1, 2008
I have, over the years, read a lot of stuff on the American Revolution. The vast majority of the scholarship on the subject is from the American point of view. There have been a few exceptions, over the years, but most of the books have had little new to say about the war from the British point of view. This book then is almost unique, and adds a lot to what we know about the American Revolution.

Rather than study the British war effort in general, the author chooses to follow a particular British infantry regiment, the 23rd "Royal Welch Fusiliers". He explains everything in considerable detail, from the fact that the "Welch" part of their name is derived from the Prince of Wales, not from the unit being raised in Wales itself, around to the revelation that the term "Fusiliers", which had originally meant light infantry, was largely an honorific by the time of the American revolution. The Royal Welch Fusiliers actually had a company of grenadiers, which if you know your military parlance is contradictory. Regardless, the RWF fought in almost every major battle and campaign of the war, except Saratoga, starting out in Massachusetts at the march back from Concord, and concluding 8 years later at Yorktown.

The author works very hard to follow the regiment through each of the battles and campaigns that they fought in, and dissects everything from the way the Redcoats were recruited and equipped to how they were trained, and how they fought the war. The result is a detailed, intelligent overview of the British Army during the American Revolution which produces some surprises and a considerable amount of information. It turns out, for instance, that the British Army wasn't as competent as some historians would have you believe when the war started.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An interesting but critically flawed work June 9, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As others have mentioned a look at the American War of Independence written exclusively from the point of view of the British soldiers and line officers seemed to be a unique and welcome addition to the historical record of this conflict. The author cites a number of first-hand accounts from letters and diaries from the men of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and weaves these quotations into a general narrative of the conflict. Unfortunately a number of obvious factual errors and a stronger than necessary bias within the narrative detracted greatly from what would otherwise have been an interesting work.

My first concern came in the preface of the book in which the author said that even the better U.S. historians "stick to the enemy-image of the redcoat as a brutalized robot, marching on inept orders, " and that American writers only find "inventive leadership, enthusiasm and bravery" in the ranks of Washington's army. These pointed comments which I totally disagree with, were a good indication of what was coming. The book was filled with numerous minor unnecessary slights to Americans. For instance, 315 prisoners from the Battle of Brandywine are called "American deserters". Regarding the American army at Valley Forge in the winter of 1776 the author described their motivation for being there as "booze, food and clothing, as well as affording the prospect of adventure". What?!! These and countless other admittedly minor, but still tough to swallow "opinions" not backed up by any primary source materials made this an irritating and sometimes infuriating book to read.

While my complaint of bias might be argued by some as simply a matter of national perspective the factual errors mentioned above are not.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the firing line!! February 24, 2008
Mark Urban's Fusiliers is a classic example of the value of first hand accounts in the hands of a master craftsman. Urban is every bit the story teller as Thomas Fleming.

As the earlier very fair review noted, the author retells the battles of the American Revolutionary War from the point of view of the officers and enlisted men of a single British Regiment - the oddly named Royal Welch Fusiliers. Anyone interested in a more rounded picture of the Revolutionary War would not go wrong by fighting their way from Boston to Long Island to Brandywine to Charleston to Camden to Guildford Courthouse and ultimately to defeat at Yorktown with the indefatigible Sergeant Lamb, the maturing Lieutenant Calvert and the capable Col Balfour. The recounting of the initial combat at Lexington and Concord is truly masterful in combining the details of the fight with the drama of sitting on a powder keg. The Battle of Breeds Hill/Bunker Hill is told with equal attention to both detail and drama. It is also a much more accurate view of the war in the Carolina's than Mel Gibson's energetic but extremely inaccurate Patriot.

The author interweaves the battles with the mini-tragedies of the lives and deaths of the officers and soldiers, with the emergence of new infantry tactics and with both British Army politics and British politics in general. What emerged for me besides how tough soldiers of this period had to be was the both the tactical skill of Cornwallis and the strategic incompetence of almost the entire general staff of the British Army - but perhaps there was no winning strategy.

This is a well produced book with informative and clear maps of the geography and individual battlefields. The color illustrations are well chosen though military portraits of American leaders such as Washington, Gates, Greene and Marion would have rounded things out. Altogether it is a great read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars American revolution--British view
Different perspective on the revolution. Urban worked from original sources, not used before. I'm not sure how objective this story is, nor how representative the regiment was of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by alvin c ruppert
5.0 out of 5 stars wlch fusiliers
excellent history on the British military side of the war of independence. Its successes and failures. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Burton Packer
3.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting first hand accounts, some boring details
Some fine research and some good stories within the larger story. At times, however, the information got tedious and it seemed that some of the data collected could have been left... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Michael Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are into the British Army in America, its a must read
I was a re-enactor with the 23rd Royal welsh and fought on Lexington Green, Battle Road and a number of other locations. Read more
Published 10 months ago by steve reilly
5.0 out of 5 stars Fusilers in the American Revolution
This book is a wonderfully descriptive and human account of one regiment of the British army and its service to the Crown during the American Revolution. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Diane E. Tatum
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for anyone doing research!
This book is easy to read, gives a good intertwining of historical events with people's personal writings. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in studying this period!
Published 12 months ago by Righterzpen
3.0 out of 5 stars The Most Unbalanced Book on the American Revolution I Have Ever...
Urban appears to want to fight the Revolution all over again, much like Southern Revisionists creating the myth of The Lost Cause. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Pelaro
5.0 out of 5 stars Fusiliers
This is one of the best books I have ever read about the American Revolution. Mark Urban portrays most of the British soldiers as common men bewildered by military life and... Read more
Published on March 11, 2012 by Wayne R. Klatt
5.0 out of 5 stars Something New about the American Revolutionary War
I strongly recommend Fusiliers, where Mark Urban does what most historians only claim to do. He has sifted through two hundred year-old primary sources and put together an... Read more
Published on January 2, 2012 by Michael P. McHugh
4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Account By "The Other Side'
A very detailed, yet easy to read account of the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers' service just before and through the American Revolution. Read more
Published on November 25, 2011 by John T. OFarrell
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