Regimental Sergeant Major Patrick Harper is a fictional character created by Bernard Cornwell in the "Sharpe" series of novels. Harper is a large, fierce-seeming man from Donegal, Ireland. He joined the 95th Rifle Regiment as a rifleman. Harper and Richard Sharpe are enemies initially, but Harper becomes Sharpe's best friend and most reliable companion, rising in rank to sergeant and later to regimental sergeant-major. Along with Sharpe he is one of the principal protagonists of the series, and appears in most of the books.
Harper was born in Tangaveane, County Donegal in 1784. He was one of many children born into a farming family in the Catholic peasantry that predominated in rural Ireland at the time. As a youth he was extremely hungry. It was this hunger that eventually led him to join the British army that garrisoned Ireland.
Despite serving in the British Army, Harper remains proud of his Irish heritage and, on more than one occasion, expresses confusion about his ambivalent situation and wonders whether he could fight against his friends on Ireland's behalf. During this period he gained a reputation as a troublemaker, one of the wildest men in the British army. Consequently he was transferred from regiment to regiment, until eventually he settled in the 95th Rifles shortly after its formation.
As a greenjacket Harper got his first taste of battle when, in 1806, he was part of the disastrous attempt to capture Buenos Aires and the following year saw action at the Battle of Copenhagen (1807). He arrived in Portugal in 1808 with the rest of his regiment, and fought at Rolica and Vimeiro. At this point Harper was still a hothead, and during the retreat to Corunna he led a mutiny amongst his fellow men.
It was only when he met Richard Sharpe and was promoted by him to Sergeant that Harper began to settle down. Sharpe was able to harness the Irishman's wild enthusiasm, and they formed an effective partnership. In 1809 he transferred with Sharpe to the South Essex Regiment, with whom he spent the rest of his military career. He served throughout the Peninsula War displaying great courage and seemingly embracing a cause he believed in -- defeating Napoleon -- despite his misgivings about the British for whom he fought. Harper served at almost every battle of the war, from Vimeiro to Battle of Toulouse, before he 'retired' from the army in 1814, effectively by deserting.
Harper is in fact a kind, gentle man, with a particular love for birdwatching, but in battle he becomes a fierce fighter, shouting in Irish. His weapon of choice is a hugely powerful seven-barrelled Nock gun that Sharpe gave him. Harper helped Sharpe capture the French Imperial Eagle at the Battle of Talavera.
Harper is wrongly flogged during the Sharpe's Company novel, as a result of the machinations of Sharpe's enemy Obadiah Hakeswill. Harper and Sharpe develop a more intense bond of friendship as a result.
During their time in Spain, Harper met Isabella, whom he later married and brought to Ireland. (In the films her name is Ramona.) Sharpe helped him obtain a discharge from the army after The Battle of Toulouse, but this did not stop Harper from returning to help Sharpe at Waterloo.
After the wars, Harper set up a horse-thieving business in Dublin, which he used as an excuse to Isabella to leave for Waterloo. Harper also owns a successful pub in Dublin. He bought it, and his other property, using his share of the money that Harper and Sharpe got from selling the jewels they recovered from the French baggage train at Vitoria, documented in the book Sharpe's Honour. He is considered a gentlemen and has wealth and status.
While Sharpe and Harper were in the 95th, the sergeant of the small dispatch of men was killed in action, which prompted Sharpe to force Harper to accept a promotion to Sergeant. In Sharpe's Regiment, when the Regimental Sergeant Major was killed, Sharpe once again promoted Harper to Regimental Sergeant Major.
He speaks fluent Gaelic this was his native language.