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Napoleonic Military Books

Fix Bayonets!: A Royal Welch Fusilier at War, 1796-1815
Fix Bayonets!: A Royal Welch Fusilier at War, 1796-1815
Donald E. Graves
Hardback 0 pages


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Jon Latimer: Donald Graves is probably Canada's foremost military historian; his accounts of battles of the American War of 1812 are models of historical reportage, and here he turns to biography with the same consummate skill. Fix Bayonets! tells the story of a regimental officer who saw service throughout the Napoleonic Wars in Egypt, the Netherlands, Martinique, the Peninsula and North America. The result is a brilliant evocation of the period.

Thomas Pearson eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General, but this was through seniority, and by 1841 his fighting days were long behind him. But the story of his active service is remarkable for its variety, and it reveals an enormous amount about soldiering during the period. This attention to detail is one feature that sets Graves' work apart, but others include the elegant style and lack of sensationalism, whether describing an action or the human cost in its aftermath.

When Pearson's unit, 1st Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers, arrived in Lisbon to join Wellington's efforts to drive the French from the Iberian Peninsula, it formed the `Fusilier' brigade with 1st and 2nd Royal Fusiliers. In 1811 the brigade fought at Albuera, described by Sir John Fortescue as one of the four hardest battles fought by the British Army before the First World War, and it was immortalised by William Napier as `that astonishing infantry'. The reality of their attack, as Graves shows, was `not quite as dramatic' as Napier would have us believe, but it is far from `plodding': this is military history at its very best, an account that draws the reader in completely, yet is based on thorough and dispassionate research.

Pearson was wounded some months later and, aged 31, went to Canada shortly before America declared war on Britain in 1812. It was the professionalism of officers like Pearson that enabled the small British garrison and Canadian militia to repel repeated American invasion attempts. Never an easy man to work with, Pearson earned the nickname `Tartar' among Canadians; but he also earned the right to a biography, and is very fortunate to have Donald Graves to write it.