The Fort: A Novel of the Revolutionary War by Bernard Cornwell


Reviewed by Cy Hilterman

The Fort:  A Novel of the Revolutionary War by Bernard CornwallThe little known story depicted in this book took place in the territory of Massachusetts, now Maine. It is a frustrating story of a several month battle between British and American troops in 1779 in an area called Majabigwaduce that was surrounded by a Harbor and a river of the same name and Penobscot Bay. The area contained many British warships, even more American ships of various types, some government ships, and some privateers that had gotten their ships mostly by pirating. Some of the American military were naval men, some marines, some conscripted from Boston or other areas nearby, and some civilians from the area. The Americans were “led” by several generals that were in constant bickering against each other whether on land or sea, seemingly never to agree for any length of time to get something accomplished. The British were led quite well by their officers on land and sea.

This story is historical fiction but fiction only for several characters thrown in to make understanding easier but the battles and actions were true and gives one a sense of why this battle didn’t go better for the Americans. They had superior amounts of men and ships but too many differences of opinions as to how and when a battle should start. They bickered about positioning of ships, men, where and when to move them, and how strong their tactics should be. One of the officers that caused much trouble was Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Revere who most of us know of through the “midnight ride of Paul Revere” to warn the area that “the British were coming” in his earlier years. It seems that Revere wasn’t such a hero and he never did complete his famous ride, only starting it with others continuing to spread the word. In this particular action he was the artillery officer but always balked when he was ordered to move his artillery where his superiors wanted it. He seemed to be disruptive about most all he did, or didn’t do.

The British started building Fort George in the area but it was slow going. The American forces and the British forces would lob all types of weapons at each other, some from rifles, some from cannons or other artillery. They moved the large guns from ship to shore and back again as ordered and depending on which general was giving instructions. Rains would present huge logistic problems in the mud for weapons and men. Fog was present most days, and that along with the smoke from exploding shells, balls, and ammunition of many kinds, made visibility poor almost all the time. The descriptions of battle are very vivid telling how humans can be torn apart by other humans.

Some from the small villages took sides with one or the other nations even to the point that they had signed an agreement of loyalty with the British (who had controlled the ground areas) even if they were neutral or favored the Americans. The descriptions of what actually occurred every day was so frustrating to me as the reader. I could see how the Americans could have won the battle if they had struck strong and early, saving lives and possibly taking control of the area. Dissention reigned partly because of self-esteem, not respecting each other, or, as in Reveres case, wanting to do his own thing in his own time, but usually not wanting to do anything!

I will not mention all the military and non-military men and their leaders so as not to confuse you. The author keeps the story clear with his great style of writing. I can only tell you this is a must read for history buffs especially of the Revolutionary War period. I had always thought this war was fought south of this area but live and learn every day.

Disclosure in Accordance with FTC Guidelines 16 CFR Part 255


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