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The Napoleon Series > Book Reviews > Books on military subjects

British Rifleman 1797 - 1815

Haythornthwaite, Philip. British Rifleman 1797-1815. (Warrior Series, 47) Oxford, UK: Opsrey, 2002. 64 pages. ISBN# 184176177. Softcover. 10.99/$16.95.

Wellington's Army in the Peninsula 1809-1814

Philip Haythornthwaite certainly needs no introduction from me to those who study the military history of the Napoleonic Era. With over 40 books published and having written innumerable articles and papers on military subjects, he is an acknowledged specialist in the field. He now turns his attention to the British riflemen.

The Osprey "Warrior" series takes a closer look at the soldiers who fought in the wars and brings their story to the general reader. Mr. Haythornthwaite covers everything from the early riflemen through the weapons, equipment, uniforms, recruiting, training, tactics to the services of the rifle corps. Along the way he touches upon not only the famous 95th Regiment of Foot (Riflemen), but also the lesser known rifle corps which served in the British Army of the time. He gives nearly equal time to the other riflemen in the peninsula, the 5th Battalion of the 60th Regiment of Foot (Royal American) a unit which predates the formation of the 95th Regiment. Reading of the formation and growing pains of the riflemen is as interesting as reading about its service.

As with all Osprey's, there are numerous black-and-white illustrations, which Mr. Haythornthwaite has nicely balanced between the weapons, uniforms and portraits of the better known officers along with some biographical details. Sprinkled throughout the work are quotes and contemporary observations with reference end notes. He includes a bibliography divided into works on the history and arms and on the memoirs of those who served in the rifles and an index.

The colour plates are the focal point of the books and the ones by Christa Hook in this book do not disappoint. With ten colour plates, we get a fine look at the uniform and equipment of the riflemen and then some scenes showing recruitment, tactics in action and battle scenes. A feature of Opreys is a notice of the availability for purchase of the original paintings from which the colour plates are taken.

For a time, the short chapter on George Morrison of the Rifles in The Universal Soldier (1971) was one of the few places to read about campaign life in a rifle regiment. Now you can get the bigger picture in a concise form. If you follow the rifle adventures in the highly popular Richard Sharpe series of historical fiction or read the newer histories of the rifles, then this "Warrior" title makes a fine companion to them.

Reviewed by Ron McGuigan, FINS
Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2004