Sharpe's Rifles
Richard Sharpe and the French Invasion of Galicia, January 1809
Author Bernard Cornwell
Publisher HarperCollins
Cover The Rearguard by James Princep Beadle
Written December 1988
Published 1988
ISBN ISBN 0002232332 (hardcover edition)
ISBN 0006176976 (paperback edition)
Preceded by Sharpe's Prey
Followed by Sharpe's Eagle
Richard Sharpe and the French Invasion of Galicia, January 1809

It is the bitter winter on 1809. Britain's forces are retreating towards Corunna, with Napoleon's victorious armies in pursuit. Lieutenant Richard Sharpe and a detachment of Riflemen are cut off from the British army and surrounded by enemy troops.

The story recounts Sharpe's exploits in the retreat to Corruna. Sharpe's battalion, acting as rearguard to the army, are cut down by a squadron of French regular cavalry. From then on the story follows the small band of surviving riflemen, of the 95th Rifles, as they try to foment an uprising in the city of Santiago de Compostela. Sharpe's Spanish ally is Major Don Blas Vivar and they are fighting the Don Blas Vivar's brother, the Count of Mouromorto. Which was killed in the end from his brother.

Sharpe's future friend and Sergent Patrick Harper is introduced as well as the core group of the surviving company for the first time. Running along in the background is the other Irishman in the series, the exploring officer and engineer Captain Michael Hogan, who appears for the first time at the very end of the novel.

In this book, he sees Captain Murray's heavy cavalry Sword as clumsy and cumbersome, yet in India he wishes he had such a heavy sword to butcher people with. During his time in India he used a claymore which he found less cumbersome than the cavalry sword.

During the story Sharpe's making the recalcitrant Rifleman Harper a sergeant, winning the respect of his troops and, alas, losing a fair young English girl. Later on this English girl, Louisa Parker, marries Major Blas Vivar, instead of Richard, who wanted to ask her the same.

This is the sixth episode, chronologically, in the adventures of Richard Sharpe, British infantryman during the Napoleonic Wars. This book was written ninth, which might seem fairly far along in the 24 book series, but it was still before the first five books that preceded it chronologically and the first movie in the tv series with Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe.



Other DetailsEdit

This is the first prequel of the Sharpe series, taking him back to the winter before Sharpe's Eagle. Bernard Cornwell has said that he had sworn not to create a prequel, intending to run the series smoothly from Sharpe's Eagle to Sharpe's Waterloo but was persuaded back in 1987 to change his mind when asked by the producers of the proposed Sharpe films.

The film's producers required a start to the story of Richard Sharpe, and with a Spanish company investing in the TV series, it seemed right to redress the balance and include a Spanish character in a major part. Bernard Cornwell wrote that "their request was also a reproof to me, for the Sharpe novels tend to give the impression that the French were defeated in Spain solely by the British army, but that army, while its achievements were magnificent, could never have won without the aid of Spanish and Portuguese forces and, of course, the guerrillas.


  • January 1809 - Retreat to Corunna

Book DetailsEdit

  • Copyright: Rifleman Productions Ltd 1988
  • First Published: 1989
  • ISBN 0006176976 - HarperCollins Paperback edition (1994)
  • ISBN 0745158765 - Chivers Audio Books Audio Cassette edition - Narrator: William Gaminara (June 1989)

See AlsoEdit