Sharpe's Siege (novel)

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Sharpe's Siege
Sharpe's Siege front book cover.jpg
First edition
Author Bernard Cornwell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Richard Sharpe
Genre Historical novels
Publisher Collins
Publication date
1987
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback) Audiobook
Pages 352
ISBN 0-00-221431-8
Preceded by Sharpe's Christmas
Followed by Sharpe's Revenge

Sharpe's Siege is the eighteenth historical novel in the Richard Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell first published in 1987. The story is set on the Atlantic coast of France in the Napoleonic wars during the British Invasion of France in 1814.

Plot[edit]

Major Richard Sharpe joins a combined naval and infantry expedition to the French coast with the intention of capturing a fortress and several chasse-marées, and inciting a monarchist rebellion in Bordeaux. The mission is intended primarily as a diversionary action to draw French forces from defense against a British crossing of the Adour River, but Sharpe is unaware of this. The chassee-marées are needed to construct a floating, temporary bridge of the Adour, and British intelligence holds out little expectation of an actual monarchist uprising. Sharpe is accompanied by naval Captain Horace Bampfylde and, at the last moment, is joined by the Comte de Maquerre, ostensibly a member of the Chasseurs Britannique but in fact a spy for French intelligence.

Bampfylde bungles the combined operation and wanders perilously close to an ambush set by American sailors under the command of Cornelius Killick. Sharpe intervenes decisively to capture the fortress and the American troops. Bampfylde later plans to hang all of the Americans as pirates but Sharpe again intervenes and, after swearing Killick to an oath of future non-aggression, sets the Americans at liberty. Sharpe then marches inland, toward Bordeaux, while Bampfylde consolidates the landing position and writes official reports wherein he claims all of the successes as his own. Sharpe prosecutes a successful raid on a supply and reinforcement column and then retreats back toward the fortress. He is met by de Maquerre who claims Bordeaux has risen in open rebellion; de Maquerre then travels to the fortress and informs Bampfylde that Sharpe's contingent has been destroyed to the man, and that a vast French force is moving rapidly toward the fortress. The cowardly Bampfylde strips the fortress of supplies, spikes the guns, and detonates the main arsenal—seriously damaging the fortress' defensive capabilities. He then sails home, leaving Sharpe abandoned and without supplies.

Hours later, an astounded Sharpe falls back to the ruined fortress and improves his position. Meanwhile, French intelligence agent Major Pierre Ducos joins with General Calvet and a large French force to lay siege to the fortress. Sharpe's men fight against impossible odds but manage to hold off several assault waves. Ducos orders Killick to break his oath and participate in the siege against Sharpe. Sharpe then travels secretly by night and meets with Killick to arrange for a contrived surrender. In exchange for being released from the non-aggression oath, Killick agrees with Sharpe's proposal. The next morning Killick's ship makes a minor preparatory bombardment of the coastal fortress, prior to the French assault, whereupon Sharpe surrenders to the American privateer. While confusion runs through the French forces, Sharpe's men rapidly board the American privateer. The last boats leave the beach as an enraged Ducos orders a technically illegal assault on the ostensibly American-held fortress. Killick lands Sharpe close to British lines, and Sharpe leads his men to safety. He then makes a final report, in the process insulting Bampfylde and killing the traitorous de Maquerre upon the newly completed floating bridge.

Characters[edit]

  • Richard Sharpe: Major in the British army
  • Patrick Harper: Sergeant in the British army, close friend and ally to Richard Sharpe.
  • Cornelius Killick: Captain in the United States Navy
  • Horace Bampfylde: Captain in the British Royal Navy
  • Pierre Ducos: Major in the French army, intelligence agent.
  • Calvet: General in the French army.
  • Comte de Maquerre: member of the Chasseurs Britannique (Frenchmen for Britain) but in fact a spy for French intelligence.

Television adaptation[edit]

The novel was adapted for the fourth season of the Sharpe television series, guest starring Christian Brendel as Maquerre, Christopher Villiers as Bampfylde and James Ryland as Captain Palmer. The adaptation gave Maquerre a sister, Catherine (played by Amira Casar), who remains behind at the fort when it is captured by the British and serves as a secondary love interest for Sharpe. The nautical element is removed, making Bampfylde the new commanding officer of the Prince of Wales' Own Volunteers and omitting Killick altogether. Hogan was replaced with Major-General Ross, a character created for the series, and both he and Sharpe's wife Jane suffer from fever but recover. Ducos poses as the Mayor of Bordeaux, who is a separate character in the novel, and Maquerre's death is altered, with him remaining with the French and being shot from a distance by Hagman. The adaptation ends with Bampfylde being arrested for deserting his post.