It would be fair to assume I had either given up on reading or doing book reviews on the blog but in reality it's been a mix of reading the wrong books and just not getting round to it. Expect a bit of a rush as I catch up with some of the books I should have reviewed.
Some of you may remember that I won a blog-giveaway some months ago ran by Loki on his excellent blog Lokis Great Hall. I collected the book (and a bonus second book at Blog Con two). It's a fairly slim book running to just 128 pages including the index but excluding the forward by Christopher Hibbert. The pages are not exactly filled with tiny text either so you can be sure it will rattle along at a fair pace.
Whilst most readers of this blog will not need introducing to Benjamin Harris a few will not be aware that this is the man Rifleman Harris from the Richard Sharpe books. Harris was made one of the Battalions cobblers and as such was often made to repair the boots and belts of his comrades even after long marches where all that was wanted was sleep!
Hibbert in the introduction points out that he has made no attempt to correct a few mistake is the original manuscript but also points out how well Harris had managed to remember the events that he recalled so many years later. Indeed praise should also be given to Henry Curling who took down what Harris as accurately as is assumed.
For the Napoleonic fan and indeed those of Sharpe it's an interesting book for sure, though I would disagree that it's essential or even all that important as it really does not fill in gaps others books may have failed to fill. Not that I think it's not worth reading, indeed if you have an interest in the period, especially early Peninsular then this is well worth reading and it does add some colour to the works dealing with the wider view. This after all is an account of one man, not privy the bigger picture and unable to distinguish the truth from what he did hear. Despite all this what you do get is a great insight to what the common soldier was expected to go through and what he thought of such. Whilst Harris would not have had much of an education he still was obviously quite intelligent. Not only could he spin a good tale he was able to keep it in context much of the time.
For such a short book he still manages to start being somewhat repetitive which in my mind adds to the account as it shows the level of mundane that takes over the troops lives when on both active and garrison duty. The retreats Harris was involved in are testament to this, Rifles lead the advance and take up the rear in retreat, something that Harris tells with a mix of pride and a sense of unfairness.
The book has had a good number of published versions through the years a testament to it's timeless appeal. The version of the book I own is on Amazon.co.uk for £10.00 new or from £0.01p second hand. Well worth the cover price but if your just wanting to read and be done then take the cheaper option. A different version not edited is also available on the Kindle for £3.20