Book Review: British Redcoat vs French Fusilier by Stuart Reid

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Publisher: Osprey Publishing (24 Mar. 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1472812433
ISBN-13: 978-1472812438
http://www.amazon.co.uk/British-Redcoat-French-Fusilier-America/dp/1472812433

The Combat series is fast becoming one of Osprey’s strongest assets as it bridges the gap between warrior, men at arms, elite and campaign, being a fair blend of them all. It fits in neatly with the spirit of the other lines the publisher has produced over the years. Bringing an in depth look at a specific point, and in addition “Versus” as it is also called, allows enthusiasts to actually investigate the age old “who would win” conversation.

This book examines the experiences of British and French regular soldiers during the French and Indian War 1755-1763. Essentially this is the story less told in the Last of the Mohicans, that of the red and white coats who formed the nucleus around which the more famous Rangers, Couriers du Bois, Indians and light infantry units were formed around.

Therefore bush warfare is not investigated here, rather it is the set piece battle in the open that the author, Stuart Reid looks at. At that immediately focuses the scope to a short period between 1759 and 1760 that nevertheless saw the little studied Battle of Fort Niagara, the legendary Battle of Quebec and the often overlooked Battle of St Foie.

These three battles don’t particularly reveal anything greatly striking about how conventional forces engaged each other in the 18th century. Rather they highlight some of the differences and challenges that regular troops, not trained for bush warfare, faced in North America. The French had to adapt set battle plans regarding columns to accommodate much smaller armies, they also had to make allowance for a large amount of militia being attached to regular battalions. The British were mostly refining their musketry, and did very little different, except in this sphere.

Both armies proved themselves to be incredibly flexible of course, but what the book actually revealed to me is a distinct lack on the part of field commanders, especially on the French side, which is telling, and how when push came to shove it was often down to battalion level officers to do the right thing. The lack of the horse in these campaigns would prove a distinct handicap to communications.

Maps and images, well chosen and properly accompanied by illustrative text, accompany every Osprey book, as do original paintings. Combat offers a look at both types of soldier, plus a split screen page were the same event is observed from both sides, and a traditional full page spread by Peter Dennis. As per usual with this artist, these illustrations are action packed, and very colourful. In the artist’s brief Reid must have stressed that Dennis pose the British Redcoat leaning forwards into the shot, which gives him a slightly strange look but highlights the sort of detail you can expect.

In other combat titles, a theme is used where either the same regiment, or the same soldier is used multiple times to allow a go pro “point of view” read. Here Reid’s combat analysis is based on the testimonies of a greater range of participants, which gives a more conventional “birds eye view” to the actions than is usual in some of the other ones, nevertheless it is an excellent short overview of linear fighting in America and highlights some interesting aspects of the war, showing how the two sides attitudes adapted to try and gain supremacy in Canada.

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