Sharpe's Rifles (novel)

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Sharpe's Rifles
BernardCornwell SharpesRifles first.jpg
First edition
Author Bernard Cornwell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Richard Sharpe
Genre Historical novels
Publisher Collins
Publication date
December 1988
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback) and audio-CD
Pages 356 pp (hardcover edition))
352 pp (paperback edition)
ISBN 0-00-223233-2 (hardcover edition)
ISBN 0-00-617697-6 (paperback edition)
OCLC 16715266
Preceded by Sharpe's Prey
Followed by Sharpe's Havoc

Sharpe's Rifles is chronologically the sixth, but the ninth published, historical novel in the Richard Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell, first published in 1988.

Lt. Richard Sharpe is involved in the French Invasion of Galicia, Spain in January 1809.

Plot summary[edit]

The story recounts Sharpe's exploits in the retreat to Corunna. Sharpe's battalion, acting as rearguard to the army, are cut down by a squadron of French regular cavalry. Sharpe takes up Captain Murray's heavy cavalry sword after the Captain dies. Patrick Harper chooses to fight the tall lieutenant; their encounter is stopped by Blas Vivar, who aids Sharpe in taking on his proper leadership role in the group of surviving soldiers.

The small band of surviving riflemen (from the 95th Rifles) join with Spanish Major Don Blas Vivar, not realizing at first that he has his own agenda. They try to stir the Spanish in the city of Santiago de Compostela to fight for the cause of Spain against Napoleon. Spain is split, as some support Napoleon and others, like Vivar, see him as an invader.

As they march on, Sharpe encounters a smiling engineer Michael Hogan, who is pleased to see the small group of soldiers.


  • Richard Sharpe – Lieutenant in the 95th Rifles
  • Patrick Harper – one of Sharpe's new group of Rifles
  • Captain Michael Hogan – an Engineer, also one of Wellesley's exploring officers.
  • Daniel Hagman– ex-poacher who is one of Sharpe's new group of Rifles
  • Sir John Moore – commander of the British army in Portugal (mentioned, but does not appear).
  • Major Blas Vivar – a Spanish ally
  • Count of Mouromorto – A Spanish foe, ally to the French and brother to Blas Vivar
  • Major Warren Dunnett – Sharpe's commanding officer who is captured by the French
  • Captain Murray – Sharpe's superior who dies leaving Sharpe his own sword
  • Louisa Parker – Young Englishwoman whom Sharpe takes a fancy to. Ends up marrying Major Blas Vivar.

Allusions/references to actual history, geography and current science[edit]

References are made to incidents during the Peninsular War and in the 1809 retreat to Corunna.

The uprising in Santiago de Compostela is incited by the legend of Saint James the Moor-slayer.

Television adaptation[edit]

Sharpe's Rifles was adapted as the first episode of the Sharpe television series starring Sean Bean as Sharpe, Brian Cox as Hogan and Daragh O'Malley as Harper and guest starring Simon Andreu as Vivar, Julian Fellowes as Major Dunnett and Tim Bentinck as Captain Murray. The adaptation also introduced the character of Teresa Moreno (played by Assumpta Serna), Sharpe's future wife, prior to her introduction in the novels in Sharpe's Gold, as a colleague of Vivar and replaced the company of men from the novels with five key characters: three of these, Hagman (John Tams), Cooper (Michael Mears) and Tongue (Paul Trussell), came from the novel, the other two, Harris (Jason Salkey) and Perkins (Lyndon Davies), were invented. It added an opening sequence of Sharpe saving the life of Sir Arthur Wellesley (David Troughton) and earning a battlefield commission (an event that happened during the Second Mahratta War in the novels). Major Dunnett, who is merely captured in the book, is killed in the opening ambush, as is Sergeant Williams who survives until halfway through in the book. The backdrop of the retreat to Corunna was dropped and instead Sharpe is searching for an army banker, James Rothschild (Kerry Shale). Louisa, the primary love interest from the novel, is reduced to a minor character whose uncle turns out to be a colleague of Hogan and whose "aunt" is Rothschild in disguise (in the book she travels with her actual aunt and uncle). Hogan is given a larger role, manipulating Sharpe into assisting Vivar. The death of the primary villain Colonel De L'Eclin is altered slightly: In the book, he hides in Santiago with an army, in the television version, he returns alone to confront Sharpe and is killed by Perkins when he pulls a gun on him.

Release details[edit]

  • 1988, UK, HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-223233-2, Pub date ? December 1988, hardback (First edition)
  • 1989, UK, Chivers Audio Books ISBN 0-7451-5876-5, Pub date ? June 1989, Audio book cassette
  • 1994, UK, HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-617697-6, Pub date 1 January 1994, paperback

External links[edit]