Cover image for Redcoat : the British soldier in the age of horse and musket
Redcoat : the British soldier in the age of horse and musket
Holmes, Richard, 1946-2011.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Norton, 2002.

Physical Description:
xxx, 466 pages : illustrations (some color), maps ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : HarperCollins, 2001.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA68 .H65 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Redcoat is the story of the British soldier--those noncommissioned men whom Kipling called "the backbone of the army"--from roughly 1760 to 1860. Based on the letters and diaries of the men who served and the women who followed them, this book is rich in the history of a fascinating era. Among the highlights are Wolfe's victory and death at Quebec, Wellington's Peninsular War, Waterloo, the retreat from Kabul, the Crimean War, and the Indian Mutiny. The focus of Redcoat, however, is on the individual recollections and experiences of the ordinary soldiers in the wars of Georgian and early Victorian England. Through their stories and anecdotes--of uniforms, equipment, floggings, wounds, food, barrack life, courage, comradeship, death, love, and loss--Richard Holmes provides a comprehensive portrait of an extraordinarily successful fighting force.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The British army in the nineteenth century was not particularly large compared with such Continental armies as those of France and Russia. The enlisted men were often recruited from the "scum of the earth." Many officers gained their commissions and promotions through family connections rather than valor on the battlefield. Both officers and "rankers" often drank to excess. Yet, the British army was often a devastatingly effective fighting force that was instrumental in the expansion and maintenance of the Victorian empire. Holmes, a military historian, has written a masterful survey of this proud institution from the American Revolution to the Indian Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. What emerges is a picture of a force whose discipline and esprit de corps overcame the individual shortcomings of both officers and enlisted men. This is not a chronicle of continuous triumph, as Holmes' description of the horrific retreat from Kabul illustrates. Still, there is an abundance of genuine heroism here, and this absorbing work also effectively conveys the sights, sounds, and smells of barracks life. --Jay Freeman

Choice Review

Holmes draws on his experience as a British army officer and his skill as a historian and writer to craft a thoroughly researched, in-depth account of the British soldier in the century that stretched from the 1750s to the Indian Mutiny. This is neither tactical nor operational history. Nor is it simply a social history of the British Army in the now fashionable "war and society" mode. Rather, it is a well-crafted amalgam of social history, the "face of battle" approach popularized by John Keegan, and an effort to capture the spirit of the redcoated soldiery whose prowess was so crucial to British power. Holmes is not a cheerleader, a fault to which military history is often prone. He understands that much of the story he has to tell is unpleasant, and some of it quite ugly. But the picture he builds up--of recruitment, training, marches, bivouacs, battle, wounds, drunkenness, savage discipline, remarkable comradeship (and some truly amazing women who followed the drum)--gradually coalesces into a picture of a world with an ethos of its own, one that held its members together under horrendous pressures and provided the victories that built an empire. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels and libraries. R. A. Callahan University of Delaware