It is autumn , and the cradle of liberty, Philadelphia, has fallen to the British Yet the true battle has only just begunOn both sides, loyalties are tested and families torn asunder The young Redcoat Sam Gilpin has seen his brother die Now he must choose between duty to a distant king and the call of his own conscience And for the men and women of the prosperous Becket family, the Revolution brings bitter conflict between those loyal to the crown and those with dreams of libertySoon, across the fields of ice and blood in a place called Valley Forge, history will be rewritten, changing the lives and fortunes of these men and women forever I hadn't paid much attention to the Philadelphia side of the British occupation Good reflection of what was happening while Washington and the troops were freezing at Valley Forge. I've become accustomed to a littleaction in my books Redcoat had its flashes of battleand they were great It also gave a wonderful sense of humanity to historical figuresJohn Andre and Charles Lee my favorites, butI didn't find too muchto it that held my attention To put it bluntly it was only average, and I won't be giving it a reread in the future. Although this was written before the Sharpe series began, a lot of the themes and characters that would show up there made an appearance here first The enlisted man plucked from the ranks to become an officer, the horrid sergeant at odds with the hero Heroes and villains on both sides of the conflict, and of course the fantastic detailed battle scenes that Cornwell excels at.If you're a fan, this is certainly worth a read, and if you're new to Cornwell's works, you could do worse than start here. This early standalone novel from Bernard Cornwell has been criticised by his fans for two things The first is the swearing, with plentiful use of the ‘f’ word found nowhere else in Cornwell’s writing As Cornwell says, this is real life and the word WAS said, so I don’t see the problem! The second problem with this book is aserious one and it involves the lack of a decent character whom you can cheer on Sam Gilpin is a clear Sharpe derivative, a country boy enlisted up to the army, but he’s not a particularly sympathetic character by any means The romance between him and a female character is realistically handled but doesn’t help him to gain our respect in any way; he’s just a selfmotivated youngster with passion on his mind The real hero of the book seems to be Christopher Vane, introduced as a brave, loyal man but he undergoes a character arc that turns him into a ruthless villain by the novel’s close The problem is, Vane is actually right in most of the things he says and does, and I do realise that Cornwell was showing how power corrupts But you still end up rooting for this guy and it’s a shame he turned into a stock villain by the book’s closing pages.In all other respects, this is as wellhandled as any other book by the author The big picture, while complex, is explained in eminently understandable terms, and the small picture – all the book’s characters interacting – is portrayed particularly efficiently Cornwell paints an intriguing portrait of a city under siege from the British, and the good news is that things aren’t shown in purely blackandwhite terms; for instance, there are friends and foes on both sides of the US/English divide All in all this is a strong, wellwritten and perfectly readable book that really helps to explain the lives and politics behind the American War of Independence. Redcoat (1987), an early Bernard Cornwell historical novel, is his ninth book; as of 2019 he has published over 60 historical novels His mix of excellentlyresearched history and riproaring soap opera has made him among the most widely read and prolific authors His range, from the Saxon Tale of the 10th century to the Sharpe Saga of the Napoleonic Wars, as well as many other standalone novels, draws fans in who, having read some offerings, are ready forIt's interesting to read this early Cornwell and see how much he has grown over time.Redcoat is about the British effort to quell the revolution in America, seen largely from a British viewpoint It begins on September 17, 1777—the day the Second Continental Congress passes the Articles of Confederation in Philadelphia and flees the city along with many proAmerican patriots as rumors of the British Army's approach spread On the military front, MajorGeneral William Howe, the British CommanderinChief for North America, is progressing well in his contest with Washington Washington has won engagements with other British generals, but Howe has always defeated him He has driven Washington from New York after the Battle of Long Island (August 27, 1776), forcing him to cross the Hudson River into New Jersey On December 26, 1776 Washington won the Battle of Trenton, but then on September 11, 1777 he lost at the Battle of Brandywine Creek (September 11, 1777) This left Philadelphia open to the British Army, which will arrive on September 26 By that time many Patriots will have fled the city and the Loyalists will cheer the British arrival Washington's reputation as a military leader plunges but his standing with the Congress protects him from the Conway Cabal, an attempt led by Brigadier General Thomas Conway to replace Washington with General Horatio Gates Redcoat opens with British Army privates Nate and Sam Gilpin engaged in a local battle after raiding an American encampment The two are physical twins but have different allegiances: Sam is a Loyalist but Nate's sympathies are with the rebels Nate wants to desert and join Washington's forces, a thought made compelling by his attachment to a young woman named Maggie Scammel, who is sympathetic to the Americans but who happens to be the mistress of their harshly efficient Sergeant Michael Scammel, under whom both Sam and Nate serve Sam wants to prevent Nate's desertion—deserters are given 1,000 lashes, a sentence of death that will leave their corpses reduced to strips of hanging flesh, but Maggie wants to be rid of Sgt Scammel The scene shifts to the family of Abel Becket in Philadelphia The rebels have blocked the Delaware River and stopped Philadelphia's normal trade by sea, so Becket's trade of late has been with the American rebels even though, like the majority of Philadelphians, Becket is a Loyalist at heart His young nephew, Jonathan Becket, a Patriot at heart, is a bright and energetic nearcripple with a club foot who will inherit a portion of the business when he turns 21, the remainder at Abel's death Jonathan now works under Ezra Woollard, the operation's foreman Both Jonathan and Woollard are enad of Caroline Fisher, an American sympathizer: Woollard has asked her to marry him and been refused; Jonathan hopes to rise to a position where he can ask her.To his uncle's horror, Jonathan joins the Continental Army after Caroline promises to wait for him He will meet the Redcoats Sam and Nate Gilpin at the Battle of Germantown, a British victory in dense fog that Cornwell describes in his typically thorough way Sam has become aidedecamp to British Captain Christopher Vane, Sir William Howe's aidedecamp Captain Vane will become the evil in the British soul as he wiggles his way to power At the end of the battle Nate deserts the British Army to be with Maggie, a decision that leads to his death at the hands of Sergeant Scammel In the same battle Jonathan Becket is badly wounded with a musket ball in the leg The scene turns to Britishoccupied Philadelphia Jonathan has been returned to Philadelphia as a British prisoner He is teetering on the edge of death after removal of a severely gangrenous leg, and has been released from the prison hospital to be tended by his sister, Martha Crowl Martha is a wealthy widow and an outspoken Patriot She has a sense of humor, describing her deceased husband as, A man considerate enough to die early so that Martha, at twentysix, was a widow of fortune Jonathan's health has slowly improved under Martha's care, but Uncle Abel has forced Martha to release Jonathan into his care, not out of concern about Jonathan's health, just the opposite: if Jonathan dies before his 21st birthday the portion of the Becket business that he would inherit at reaching majority remains under Abel's control If Jonathan is under Abel's eagle eye, the odds in favor of Jonathan's death can be increased This family feud in Philadelphia is overshadowed by a failed British attempt in the Battle of Red banks to capture two rebel forts (Mercer and Mifflin) in the Delaware River that prevent British ships from traveling up the river This dismal failure is the result of Howe's loose lips: he told several people, including his mistress—the vivacious American, Mrs Elizabeth Loring—when the attack would occur So now there is a mole in Sir William Howe's office, and it is Sir William Howe Eventually the two forts are captured and British traffic on the river resumes, allowing the arrival of necessary supplies and reinforcement of British troops Still, war news doesn't comfort Sir William Howe In spite of victories in his theater, Boston he had abandoned Boston and his control of New York City is weakened by the need diverted troops to the Philadelphia and New Jersey campaigns The latest blow is that after General John Burgoyne's attack from Quebec and capture of Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain, on October 17, 1777 Burgoyne was soundly defeated at Saratoga; almost 6,000 British soldiers—20 percent of British troops in North America—were captured This major setback encouraged the French to enter the war on America's side Howe is well aware that this is an unwinnable war—Britain will provide only 30,000 troops for the North American campaign He estimates that if he had 100,000 he might be able to contain the rebels, but never to defeat them The only outcome is a long and painful stalemate that the King and Parliament will eventually abandon Howe resigns his position, the resignation is accepted, and Major General Henry Clinton is designated to replace him.Meanwhile, a subterranean story of love and loss i Philadelphia emerges Martha Cowl nurses brother Jonathan back to health, though he does lose his right leg, but in doing so she ignites the anger of Uncle Abel and the vengeance of Captain Christopher Vane, whose romantic intentions she rejects Sam Gilpin falls in love with Caroline Fisher, a woman whose trade is caring supplies and messages across the Delaware River; Caroline was pledged to Jonathan Becket, but that obstacle will be removed Captain Vane teams up with the alwaysvicious Sergeant Scammel to punish Sam Gilpin and Martha Cowl In short, the characters declare war on each other just as England and America had done The good guys will win in both cases.This is not the best of Cornwell's diverse offerings It's strength is in the historical setting and the knowledge Cornwell passes on about the American Revolution The contribution to soap opera is, well, meh. Historical fiction is how I prefer to get my history, and Cornwell does a great job of working in the minute details of the time and place to make that piece of history come alive for me.Did you know that it was considered a luxury to have dentures that were crafted from teeth yanked from the heads of soldiers who died on the battlefield? Cornwell's detailing gets delightfully nasty like that without going overboard, just enough to make me cringe and put me in the rawness of the period He also tosses in sublte touches of humor and romace without getting the least bit gushy about it.This paticular story has lots of main players, and their stories are nicely woven together There's one in particular that has me intriguedhe's bad, but he's also got potential for greatness That kind of depth of character is what keeps me turning the pages of any book.One thing that chuffs me about Cornwell's storiesI've noted it in other books I've read by him as wellis that the female love interests can't just be plain or regular pretty, they're all bestowed with astounding physical beauty that nears perfection Martha would've made a kickass heroine no matter what she looked like. I've been a fan of Cornwell for years, and this fictional account of the events occurring during the British occupation of the city of Philadelphia in 1777 during the American Revolution didn't let me down It's fast paced, and interspersed with the historical events that transpired that over that winter that I wasn't aware of, such as the extent that the British CommanderinChief,William Howe,tried to bring a lasting peace to the colonies while fighting a rebellion, with a love triangle involving a private in the British army, a Patriot woman and a Philadelphian merchant.The story begins as the British defeat Washington at Germantown prior to entering the city, and ends with Howe transferring command to Clinton the following spring Well written and researched, this is pleasant reading for the historical enthusiast. Once again, I have to emphasize Cornwell's unrivaled mastery of researching and chronicling historical events, whether it be the 14th century or the 19th He did not disappoint with Redcoat.For those who prefer the history in historical ficton, you get plenty of it with vivid details of the Revolutionary War and its players, both real and fictitious Some readers lament that this novel lacks Cornwell's trademark epic battle scenes, espousing every gory detail Some lament that it is uncharacteristically (for Cornwell) a romance novel One of the main reasons I liked this Cornwell novel so much was that it was balanced compared to some of his others—not thick with the nauseating barbarity of war but certainly not a soppy love story, either.I applaud Cornwell's character development here, allowing us to see the war from the perspective of both Americans and British Redcoat is an entertaining, actionpacked narrative and an excellent history lesson. This book by Bernard Cornwall was a bit different from many of his novels that take place during a war This is his first to take place during the American Revolution Rather than depicting great battles, this story explores the complicated relationships that resulted from the British capturing Philadelphia It’s overarching theme is how love can be the ultimate motivation in ones decision making That element of war was not part of our history classes If the measure of a good novel is how it draws the reader to want to find out what happens next, this book deserves five stars There are many surprises and that makes you want to read on to see how the main character is able to persevere That is typical of Cornwell’s novels I look forward to the next one on my list.