A new Sharpe novel is rare and a sign that my productivity this week would take a hit! This novel is based on the less well-known Almaraz action of May 1812 (a bridge over the Tagus in western Spain), led by 'Daddy' Hill. A rare example of a detached command under Wellington, who trusted Hill more than his other generals. Sharpe is a Major at this stage of the Peninsular War, and his small band of riflemen are tasked with scouting the French positions.
Due to captured dispatches, Wellington knew how vital the bridges and forts were to Marmont. It was a key supply base and how he could join with Soult. Wellington dispatched Hill with 7,000 men (two British and one Portuguese brigade with cavalry support) to destroy the forts and bridges.
Sharpe is supposed to liaise with a guerilla band, which doesn't quite work out, and he gets more involved with the French than any scout is supposed to. Particularly as the Hill's advance was supposed to be a secret. However, I won't spoil the story.
The map below is taken from Oman (A History of the Peninsular War, Volume V) and shows the castle at Miravete, which blocked the direct route to the river.
|Rifles on the right of this photo, partisans on the left, Harper with a small unit in reserve. Four units of French line and a skirmisher unit attacking.|
|The French break-in and Sharpe retreats. This is unheard of in a Sharpe novel!|
|Harper to the rescue. One blast of the volley gun and the French retreat. It took another two rounds of fire before he drove off the other French unit.|