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The Fort: A Novel of the Revolutionary War Paperback – January 3, 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 239 customer reviews

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Product Description
While the major fighting of the war moves to the south in the summer of 1779, a British force of fewer than a thousand Scottish infantry, backed by three sloops-of-war, sails to the desolate and fog-bound coast of New England. Establishing a garrison and naval base at Penobscot Bay, in the eastern province of Massachusetts that would become Maine, the Scots—the only British troops between Canada and New York—harry rebel privateers and give shelter to American loyalists.

In response, Massachusetts sends a fleet of more than forty vessels and some one thousand infantrymen to “captivate, kill or destroy” the foreign invaders. Second in command is Peleg Wadsworth, a veteran of the battles at Lexington and Long Island, once aide to General Washington, and a man who sees clearly what must be done to expel the invaders.

But ineptitude and irresolution lead to a mortifying defeat—and have stunning repercussions for two men on opposite sides: an untested eighteen-year-old Scottish lieutenant named John Moore, who will begin an illustrious military career; and a Boston silversmith and patriot named Paul Revere, who will face court-martial for disobedience and cowardice.

Grounded firmly in history, inimitably told in Cornwell's thrilling narrative style, The Fort is the extraordinary novel of this fascinating clash between a superpower and a nation in the making.

A Q&A with Author Bernard Cornwell

Q: While you’ve written numerous historical novels, including a series set during the American Civil War, this is only your second book set during the American Revolution. What spurred your interest in this period at this time? Will you return to this period again?

Cornwell: The original spark was reading a life of Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore, who was the man who, more than any other, forged the magnificent army that defeated Napoleon. If he had not died beating Marshal Soult at Corunna in 1809 then Moore might well have been the hero of Waterloo instead of Wellington, but what intrigued me was to discover that, as a very young man, he had experienced his first taste of battle at Penobscot Bay in 1779. I had never heard of the Penobscot Expedition, so I read more, and discovered this amazing story! The Penobscot Expedition was an attempt by the militia and navy of Massachusetts to evict a small British garrison from Fort George in what is now Castine, in Maine. Massachusetts assembled the largest rebel fleet of the revolution . . . and lost it all. It's a story of incompetence and lost opportunities, which leads to the worst naval disaster in American history prior to Pearl Harbor. Will I ever write about the revolution again? I don't know...

Q: Of all the battles waged during the Revolution why did you choose to write about the Penobscot expedition? What lessons does this battle offer us today?

Cornwell: Choosing the Penobscot Expedition does seem perverse . . . after all, the fighting at Castine has been called 'the forgotten battle', and many people would probably prefer to leave it that way. But there was the lure of the very young John Moore whose later career would be so eminent, and there was another man in Penobscot Bay who, if anything, would become even more famous. That was Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Revere, the commander of the Massachusetts Artillery Regiment. I knew very little about Revere when I began to read about the expedition. I knew the famous poem, of course, but beyond that he was simply a shining hero of the revolution, so I was astonished to discover that the only time Revere ever fought the British was at Penobscot, and his record there was shameful. This was simply too intriguing to ignore, and as the relationship of myth to reality has always fascinated me, I set out to tell the story. Does it have lessons for today? I don't write to teach such lessons . . . maybe you can conclude that war is best left to professionals who know what they're doing.

Q: Given the obstacles the Americans faced—the colonists were not unified in the desire to break with the crown, the lack of a dedicated, well-trained, and disciplined standing military, perpetual lack of funding, among others—are you surprised that we actually succeeded in winning independence?

Cornwell: And again there's a gap between myth and reality. It suits America to draw a picture of amateur patriots defeating the well drilled redcoats, but that picture is nonsense. As a result of the Seven Years War there was a firm tradition of militia training in the Thirteen Colonies, and most of the revolution's leaders had served in that war. Then, early on, the rebels took steps to make a well-drilled and well-trained army. And, of course, they had France and Spain as allies. The largest army at Yorktown was the French army, the smallest was the British. So no, I'm not surprised. The British government played into the rebel's hands with their stupidity, and the rebels had the inestimable advantage of being able to surrender vast amounts of territory and survive, while the British never had the forces to control that large territory. In 1779, when the novel is set, New England is virtually independent already--there are no British forces in Massachusetts which has its own judiciary, legislature, and administration.

Q: While you have written several stand-alone thrillers, most of your fiction centers on war. What draws you to write military fiction? What is the most fascinating aspect of battle for you?

Cornwell: Warfare offer something unique; a loosening of the moral laws that govern our lives. Men and women are released to do things we abhor in peaceful times, and what interests me is how they react. Some react very badly, others attempt to hold onto their humanity through the horror. In The Fort there are no monsters, no horrors, but men struggling to understand what is happening to them. The hero, Peleg Wadsworth, second in command of the American army, emerges as a real hero! A man of moral substance and great strength. That intrigues me, that he can survive the loosening of moral bonds and emerge more resolute.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a slight departure from his usual sword and musket epics, Cornwell (Agincourt) delivers a straightforward fictionalized account of a disastrous 1779 American military campaign in today's Maine (then Massachusetts) that's heavy on historical figures and tense battle scenes. After the British establish a fort on the Penobscot River, the Massachusetts patriots mount an expedition to oust the redcoats. Unfortunately, the campaign is poorly planned and ineptly executed, pitting an ill-trained and undisciplined force against experienced British soldiers and the Royal Navy. The commander of the American land force is Gen. Solomon Lovell, a useless and dithering Boston politician, and the American navy is led by Cmdr. Dudley Saltonstall, an obstinate officer who refuses to risk his ships. Then there's Paul Revere, artillery commander and shameful yellow belly. In fact, the only American officer with any spirit for a fight is a former schoolteacher, Gen. Peleg Wadsworth. This is a rousing yarn of clashing personalities, crashing cannons, and lively musket and bayonet work, along with spies, cowardice, and moments of incredible bravery. Cornwell presents a fascinating, accurate, and exciting history lesson enlivened with a generous blast of gun smoke and grapeshot.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062010875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062010872
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #341,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Archie M. VINE VOICE on September 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Having never read any of Bernard Cornwell's many previous efforts I was unsure of what to expect. Historical fiction can be one of those tricky areas where an author can easily change events to match up with a particular agenda. Conversations can be invented, events can be changed, and historical people can be described in ways that paint them in either a good or bad light depending on the author's personal opinion. So as much as I enjoy most books in this genre I still take them with a grain of salt.

Having said that, Cornwell's "The Fort" is an absolutely fabulous read, one I could not put down. It tells of an occupation by British troops during the Revolutionary War and the attempt of the Massachusetts Militia, strengthen by ships of the Continental Navy as well as Privateers, to "Captivate, kill, or destroy" the British forces. What should have been a relatively short and easy, if not somewhat bloody, campaign against the uncompleted Fort George turned into an almost month long siege as the American Forces failed to even launch a credible attack on the fort. The long stagnant siege allowed the Royal Navy to arrive and destroy what was the largest American Fleet ever assembled during the war.

Although history lays the entire blame of the military disaster on Commodore Dudley Saltonstall for his failure to lead his fleet into the harbor to destroy three British warships and therefore help coordinate a joint land/sea attack on the fort, Cornwell successfully argues that the blame lies more on the land forces commanded by General Solomon Lovell.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Here are the good points about this book:

1. It's an interesting, true story about the Revolutionary War that is not well known but full of episode, color and historical significance: the Penobscot Bay campaign.

2. It's smoothly written with a measured flow and pace that draws you in, brings the narrative subtly alive and makes the events of military and naval action convincing, easy to follow and very engaging.

3. It's expert in its analysis and reliable in sticking to historical fact while providing a richness of fictional texture.

4. It's acute in its judgments of the real-life protagonists, making, for instance, the irresponsible and self-absorbed Revere come alive - alas - and bringing out with little need for embellishment or verbal flourish the decency and honor of many of the soldiers and sailors. The commanders with their vanities, ambitions and abilities and in too many instances their woeful inabilities are three-dimensional and very real, to the degree that the reader easily identifies with them or wants to move into the story and give them a big slap across the head.

The Fort has all the strengths of Bernard Cornwell's many other historical novels - The Sharpe Napoleonic War series, and the more recent ones centered around King Alfred, and the narrative of the Agincourt campaign. It seems to me to be better written than most of these; Cromwell can at times be a little lumbering and his characters somewhat patterned with their responses, emotions and motives repetitive. These are minor blemishes. I didn't see any of them in The Fort. It really is a pleasure to read.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Listen my children and you will hear
Of the unknown failure of Paul Revere
It twas the Summer of 1779.
Not a man left is still alive
Who recalls that infamous day and year

When the British came to Penobscot Bay
And a Massachusetts force came to drive them away
"Attack first by land",
"No, Attack first by sea"
While for the British, the commander McLean
Held Fort George though it was incomplete

While Lovell dithers, making Wadsworth seethe
And Saltonstall ships wait to engage the fleet
Col. Revere carries airs that you wouldn't believe
More interested in status than the British you see

Bernard Cornwell tells the tale
Weaving the story of land and sail
As once did he a fine story brew
Of Richard Sharpe and his Rifleman true
with Pelg Wadworth as the hero in lieu.

The tale is well written and the battles ring true
With fine characterzation and story too
Fans of his writing will no doubt cheer
Of the latest novel he presents to us here
The quality of his past is maintained
as a glimpse of a young Sir John Moore is made
long before his final fate
Is decided some decades and an ocean away

So if of Cornwell you are a big fan
Purchase the latest work of the man
Though fans of Revere might groan and wail
that he reminded the world of an embarrassing tale
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Fort" is another fine example of Bernard Cornwell's historical fiction, with the added benefit of addressing a little-known event in American Revolutionary War history. As with most of Cornwell's books the major historical events are factual, while many of the details and personal interactions are fictionalized. In this case, however, most of the main characters are also real historical figures, though of course the personalities and dialogue must be fleshed out to build on the bare facts provided in historical records. The most surprising aspect of the story is the portrayal of Patriot folk hero Paul Revere as an arrogant, insubordinate, and possibly even incompetent militia artillery officer who was ultimately court-martialed for his actions during the expedition. While this seems shocking to Americans familiar with him only for his heroic "midnight ride," Cornwell provides a historical analysis at the end of the book which provides pretty convincing evidence for his negative characterization of Revere.

The book covers the unsucessful Penobscot Expedition undertaken by American forces in the summer of 1779 in an attempt to dislodge British forces occupying Bagaduce Peninsula in Penobscot Bay (in what is now Maine). This event is not well known to most Americans-the expedition was an unmitigated disaster, and our forefathers likely preferred to forget it as quickly as possible. Americans tend to be raised on a rather fanciful mythology of the American Revolutionary War, in which bumbling Redcoats stand in the open to be shot at by crafty Patriot Woodsmen. This story illustrates the more common reality where Patriot militia were often amateurs facing well-led, disciplined British troops, while the Royal Navy provided overwhelming force in support of coastal campaigns.
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