Have you ever wondered how America won the Revolutionary War? If not, you probably haven’t read Bernard Cornwell’s latest historical novel The Fort.
As I’ve mentioned before, I think Cornwell is one of the best authors writing about warfare, and his research, which he details in the engaging afterword to the novel, is meticulous. I am always amazed at how skillfully Cornwell takes the historical record and makes it a coherent and engaging narrative. I highly recommend his books, and I think his British history books are particularly outstanding.
But back to The Fort: this novel deals with the “battle” of Penobscot Bay, a little known episode in Revolutionary War history. I can’t remember learning about it before, but that may be because the Americans conducted themselves awfully and you can see why it might get swept under the rug.
Indeed, reading this book, which includes well known figures such as Paul Revere (who, it turns out, was NOTHING like the popular poem and was in fact court-martialed for his cowardice and conduct unbecoming at Penobscot Bay) I kept reading faster and faster, determined to find perhaps ONE example of clear thinking or decent strategy on the American side, but to no avail. Truly, it’s a wonder that America made any headway at all, and certainly it was not due to any of the characters in this book (with one possible exception). The Fort is a great story but is full of example after example of stupidity. I began to feel that the average eight year old girl could have conducted a better battle armed only with My Little Ponies (or their Colonial equivalents).
My dad, who as a retired Colonel has made quite a study of warfare, assures me that history is full of examples like this, and I know he is right, but somehow reading it in novel form really drives it home.
If you like to read about battles and strategy and history in an engaging rather than textbook format, you might really enjoy The Fort, as well as Cornwell’s other books.
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