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Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution Hardcover – November 13, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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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.


“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


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1st edition (November 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802716474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802716477
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David W. Nicholas on January 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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