Tuesday 22 January 2013

The Fort

Finished January 22
The Fort by Bernard Cornwell, read by Robin Bowerman

This novel covers the real American Revolutionary battle over the settlement of Majabigwaduce on Penobscot Bay (in present-day Maine) in the summer of 1779. We follow characters on both sides. On the British side we see things from the point of view of Brigadier General McLean and Lieutenant John Moore (later a well-know British military leader). On the American side we see things from the viewpoint of General Wadsworth, a former schoolteacher.
The British have three warships and a couple of transport ships and a half-finished fort (the titular Fort George), a Scottish brigade of professional soldiers, and control of the harbour. The Americans have the largely untrained Massachusetts militia, a few Continental Navy ships with marines, and several Privateers. They outnumber the British in both ships and men.
General Saltenstall is in charge of the Warren and the American naval forces, but worries more about the safety of his ship than his responsibilities to attack the enemy when appropriate. The leader of the army is General Lovell, a former farmer and nervous in his role. Paul Revere is a Colonel in charge of the artillery and comes across very badly as vain, self-important, and a bad military leader. The bullheadedness of Generals Saltenstall and Lovell create a standoff in which Saltenstall refuses to attack the British ships until the fort is taken, and Lovell refuses to attack the fort until the ships are vanquished. The bad leadership of Revere leads to ineffective artillery, lost equipment, and captured men. The resultant siege allows the fort to be further fortified and the British Navy to send reinforcements. Wadsworth is angry and frustrated with all of them, rightly so, but lacks the authority to force the correct responses to the situation. Both Wadsworth and the Continental marines come across well here, as well as a few other American officers and men, but the amateur nature of the majority of the men on the American side is part of the problem that leads to the final outcome of the battle. Definitely a case where personalities and training, or lack thereof, showed.
It was interesting, historically enlightening, and an overall good read.

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