|Series||Richard Sharpe stories|
|26 February 1998|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback) and audio-CD|
|Pages||400 pp (hardcover edition)
384 pp (paperback edition)
|ISBN||0-00-225630-4 (hardcover edition)|
|Preceded by||Sharpe's Tiger|
|Followed by||Sharpe's Fortress|
Sharpe's Triumph is the second historical novel in the Richard Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell, first published in 1998. Sharpe is a sergeant in the army, who attracts the attention of General Arthur Wellesley at Ahmednuggur.
Sergeant Richard Sharpe and a small detachment of men arrive at an isolated East India Company fort to collect ammunition for the armory at Seringapatam. Whilst Sharpe and his men rest, a company of East India Company Sepoys arrive under the command of Lieutenant William Dodd. Dodd abruptly orders his men to parade and then fire on the company troops, instigating a massacre. Sharpe is wounded in the fight and feigns death, allowing him to escape once Dodd's company withdraw.
Back in Seringapatam, Sharpe tells his commanding officer, Major Stokes, that he blames himself for the massacre. Whilst Stokes reassures him that it wasn't his fault, Sharpe's friend Colonel McCandless, whom Sharpe met a couple of years earlier during the siege of Seringapatam (Sharpe's Tiger), arrives and questions him about Dodd. It is revealed that Dodd deserted the East India Company, with all his men, and McCandless has been tasked with hunting him down. McCandless orders Sharpe to accompany him in the search for Dodd since he will be able to recognize him. By now Dodd has returned to Colonel Anthony Pohlmann, commander of Daulat Scindia's army, at the city of Ahmednuggur and is rewarded by a promotion to Major and command of his own battalion. Since the Mysore Campaign, the British have been pushing further north in India where the Maratha Confederacy holds sway and Scinda is one of the Maratha rulers resisting the British expansion. Scinda orders most of his men out of Ahmednuggur so Pohlmann gives Dodd command of the city and instructions to hold it as long as possible but not be captured.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill figures out that Sharpe killed the Tippoo Sultan 4 years earlier at Seringapatam and so frames him for an attack on his former company commander, Captain Morris. Given the authority to arrest Sharpe, Hakeswill recruits a group of men to help him murder Sharpe, once arrested, so they can steal the Tippoo's treasure from him.
Sharpe and McCandless travel to the British army, escorted by Syud Sevajee, a Maratha working for the East India Company, and his men. They reach the army, now under the command of Major General Arthur Wellesley, Sharpe's former regimental commander and the future Duke of Wellington, which is pushing into Maratha territory. Reaching the army, Sharpe earns Wellesley's gratitude by successfully bleeding his favorite horse. McCandless explains the nature of their mission and Wellesley allows them to join the army. Upon arrival at Ahmednuggur, Wellesley launches a risky escalade in a bid to quickly capture the poorly fortified town and succeeds, to the amazement of Dodd who does not rate Wellesley as a general. Despite this, Dodd manages to extract himself and his troops from the rout and retreats to Pohlmann's army, much to McCandless's anger. During his retreat, Dodd settles on naming his regiment the Cobras. In the chaos of the battle, Sharpe rescues Simone Joubert, the French-Mauritian wife of a French officer in Dodd's regiment. Under the pretence of returning Joubert to her husband, McCandless decides to use this as an opportunity to spy on the Maratha army. They do not leave immediately however, and Sharpe spends the night in Ahmednuggur with Simone.
The next day they follow Dodd's retreat and catch up to the Maratha army. Having returned Simone, Pohlmann correctly deduces that McCandless's real intentions were spying on his army. Knowing that his army vastly outnumbers the British, and so confident in victory, Pohlmann openly shows McCandless all he wants by arranging for his men to parade and drill for the colonel. At the same time, Pohlmann tries to recruit Sharpe to his army as he wants European officers commanding his troops. He tells Sharpe of the various successes that Europeans have had in India, including his own story of how he went from being a sergeant in the East India Company to commander of Scinda's army. That evening, Sharpe considers defecting to the Maratha army but, before he can make a decision, his and McCandless's horses are stolen with McCandless being wounded during the theft. Sharpe apprehends one of the thieves, trying to escape, who turns out to be one of Dodd's men. Both Sharpe and Pohlmann suspect that Dodd ordered the theft but, without proof, they cannot take action against him. The captured thief is executed by being crushed beneath an elephant's foot. Back with the British army, Hakeswill takes his request to arrest Sharpe to Wellesley, who informs him that Sharpe is in enemy territory and will not return for some time. He assigns Hakeswill to the baggage train in the meantime, infuriating the impatient sergeant.
The Maratha army moves on, leaving McCandless in the care of a local woman. Sharpe decides to stay to help look after the wounded colonel which he uses as a reason to refuse Pohlmann's offer of a commission in his army, nevertheless, Sharpe begins to wonder about how he might become an officer. McCandless admits that Sharpe could be successful if he joined Pohlmann but soon comes to understand that Sharpe wishes to become an officer in the British army. Recognizing the ambition Pohlmann has stoked in the sergeant, McCandless cautions Sharpe about being commissioned. At the time, almost all of the officers in the British army came from wealthy families and paid for their commissions. Officers commissioned from the ranks often ended up being made quartermasters with little authority and were rarely able to advance. Whilst McCandless recovers, Syud Sevajee locates them and delivers McCandless's scouting report to Wellesley.
When McCandless is suitably recovered, he and Sharpe reunite with the army as it advances towards Borkardan. Using some of the jewels he took from the Tippoo Sultan, Sharpe buys one of Wellesley's spare horses for McCandless, though he pretends that McCandless is the one buying the horse when the transaction takes place. He then delivers the horse to the surprised McCandless who finally confronts Sharpe about the Tippoo's death. Though he doesn't explicitly state it, Sharpe hints that McCandless's suspicions are correct and that he was the one who killed the sultan. The next day, as they travel with the army, Hakeswill attempts to arrest Sharpe, but McCandless doctors the warrant, smudging the ink, so that it reads that “Richard Sharp”, not “Sharpe” is to be arrested. Over Hakeswill's protests, McCandless orders him back to Seringapatam to get a new warrant. McCandless later confronts Sharpe about the charges and admits that he had tampered with the warrant since he could not believe what was alleged was true. Sharpe assures him that he did not attack Captain Morris and tells the colonel that Hakeswill has framed him. Despite being denied the opportunity to arrest Sharpe, Hakeswill stays with the army and is sent back to the baggage train.
After ordering their army to march, seemingly aimlessly, for the last few weeks, the Maratha leadership meet and decide to engage the British near Assaye and Pohlmann is given overall command of the Maratha armies. The British are split in two armies at this point, one under the command of Wellesley, and the other commanded by Colonel Stevenson. Pohlmann plans to confront one then the other and destroy them in turn however, before he can move his men, Wellesley’s army stumbles across the Maratha forces.
The Maratha forces deploy at the ford of the River Kaitna near Taunklee but Wellesley deduces that there is a ford further down the river that allows access between the villages of Peepulgaon and Waroor. Using the ford, Wellesley is able to gain time to deploy his men as Pohlmann redeploys to face him. As Wellesley fords the river, his aide is killed and Sharpe is recruited into taking his place. Sharpe is then there to witness Wellesley's command of the army. Back with the baggage, McCandless confronts Hakeswill about the warrant and realizes that the date of the attack on Morris was after Sharpe had left Seringapatam. He warns Hakeswill that he knows he lied about witnessing Sharpe attack Morris tells him that he will inform his commander about the deception. On the British left, the 78th Highland Regiment and the Sepoys bravely advance through heavy artillery fire and rout many of the Maratha infantry. On the right, however, the 74th and the Pickets of the Day advance too far towards the village of Assaye and are forced to form square to defend from the Maratha light cavalry. Dodd’s regiment then decimate the two units who are unable to move due to the threat of the cavalry.
Meanwhile, as the 78th and the Sepoys continue to demolish the Maratha infantry, a number of Maratha gunners retake their guns so Wellesley leads a cavalry charge to stop them. During the fight he is unhorsed and Sharpe saves him, killing several men single handed. A shaken Wellesley is joined by the rest of his staff and shepherded away leaving Sharpe alone. With the collapse of the Maratha right, Dodd is forced to retreat, first towards Assaye then across the River Juah. McCandless enters Assaye with the British troops and finds Pohlmann’s pet elephant but is then killed by Hakeswill to prevent him from revealing Sharpe’s innocence.
As the Maratha forces flee in disarray, Sharpe comes across Pohlmann but allows him to leave as he is annoyed at Wellesley for his perceived ingratitude after Sharpe saved his life. He also finds Simone Joubert, Dodd killed her husband during the retreat so Sharpe promises to protect her. Eventually, he catches up to Wellesley’s staff and is astonished when he is given a battlefield commission for gallantry and is enlisted as an Ensign in the 74th. After Wellesley leaves, Colonel Wallace, commander of the 74th and a friend of McCandless, congratulates Sharpe only to be interrupted by Hakeswill attempting to arrest Sharpe again. It is hinted that McCandless told Wallace about the bogus warrant so Wallace prevents Sharpe’s arrest and divulges his new position as an officer. Wallace leaves Sharpe with the horrified Hakeswill, who refuses to acknowledge Sharpe’s new status. Sharpe throws Hakeswill in the elephant enclosure and orders it to crush the sergeant beneath its foot in the same manner he saw Pohlmann do. Leaving the now screaming Hakeswill, Sharpe goes to scavenge the necessary officers equipment from the battlefield before joining his new regiment.
Characters in "Sharpe's Triumph "
- Richard Sharpe – British Army Sergeant, protagonist
- Major General Arthur Wellesley – commander of British and Indian Allied Forces in South Central India
- Lieutenant Colin Campbell - who led the storming of the walls of Ahmednaghar
- Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill – Sharpe's enemy in the British Army
- Simone Joubert – wife to the Frenchman Joubert
- Colonel Hector McCandless – Scottish intelligence officer for the British East India Company
- Colonel Anthony Pohlmann – the defected Hanoverian sergeant who became Scindia's army commander
- Major William Dodd – the traitorous British East India Company lieutenant now serving Scindia, he commands a specialize Sepoy company known as Dodd's Cobras
- Daulat Scindia – the Indian raja of Gwalior, a state within the Maratha Confederacy
- Raghji Bhonsle – the raja of Berar, an ally of Scindia
- Captain Morris – the commanding officer of the 33rd Light Company
- 1998, UK, HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-225630-4, Pub date 26 February 1998, hardback (First edition)
- 1998, UK, HarperCollins ISBN 978-0-00-105482-0, Pub date 1 June 1998, Audio book cassette
- 1999, UK, HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-651030-2, Pub date 5 July 1999, paperback
- 2000, USA, HarperCollins ISBN 0-06-095197-4, Pub date ? August 2000, paperback
- 2001, UK, Chivers Audio Books ISBN 0-7540-5474-8, Pub date ? December 2001, Audio book CD
- 2005, USA, HarperTorch ISBN 0-06-074804-4, Pub date ? June 2005, paperback
- 2006, UK, HarperCollins ISBN 0-00-723506-2, Pub date 18 April 2006, paperback (recent TV tie-in)