Books, TBR Challenge

Cora’s TBR Challenge Check-In

We’re 2/3 of the way through 2020, fellow readers. Are you 2/3 of the way to your TBR Challenge goal?

I’m not, but I’m not too far off, either. I’ve managed to get about halfway to both my overall Goodreads goal and my TBR Challenge goal. Given everything that’s been going on this year, both in the world at large and for me personally, I’m okay with my reading progress. I’m still laid off from the day job, too, so I can actually get stuff on my To Do list done and still have time left over to read (and write!).

I’ve currently got two historical romances going: A Duke In Disguise by Cat Sebastian and A Duke, The Lady, and a Baby by Vanessa Riley. They’re very different from each other, but I’m really enjoying both of them so far! I’ve got a couple of research books on deck, too: The Housekeeper’s Tale by Tessa Boase and The Sharpe Companion: The Early Years by Mark Adkin (even though I haven’t read any of Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe novels yet). Both should be helpful with my current work-in-progress, which has a housekeeper as an important secondary character and a main character who fought in the War of 1812 (not Sharpe’s war, but things will be similar enough for my purposes). Both look like they’ll be very helpful. Hopefully they’ll be interesting, too  😉

courtesy of Jbuatti via Wikimedia Commons

The 95th Regiment of Foot (Rifles): The first of all Services in the British Army

“In this distinguished Service, you will carry a Rifle no heavier than a Fowling-Piece. You will knock down your Enemy at Five Hundred Yards, instead of missing him at Fifty.

On Service, your Post is always the Post of Honour, and your Quarters the best in the Army; for you have the first of everything; and at Home you are sure of Respect—because a BRITISH RIFLEMAN always makes himself Respectable.

GOD SAVE the KING! and his Rifle Regiment!

 —Wellington’s Rifles: Six Years to Waterloo with England’s Legendary Sharpshooters by Mark Urban


Who says you can’t learn things from fiction?  I was first introduced to the 95th Rifles in Mary Jo Putney’s book The Bargain, where the hero was a wounded officer from that regiment.  (Bernard Cornwell also uses them in his Richard Sharpe series.)  I wouldn’t have thought anything else about it except that she included an author’s note and explained why she picked the 95th.  I’m one of those strange souls who think history is a whole lot of fun, so I went right from the book to the computer and starting poking around the Napoleonic Wars and the 95th Rifle Regiment.  It turns out they were quite different from the rest of their infantry brethren.

The first thing I noticed was that the men and officers of the Rifles wore green uniforms rather than the familiar red—not a huge revelation if one is familiar with the British Army, but a small surprise for me.  Their belts and trim were black instead of the white of the other regiments.  Recruitment advertisements touted these darker uniforms as more comfortable and easier to care for.  In practice, they drew the ridicule of other units (at least in the beginning—once the Rifle Brigade had proved its value, the taunting slowed considerably).

Also, while most officers of the time were still purchasing their commissions and promotions, the majority of officers of the 95th were commissioned or promoted based on merit or seniority.  “Soldiers of fortune” they called themselves, neither nobility nor gentry for the most part.  Perhaps because of this, the Rifles were known as a more egalitarian outfit than their musket-bearing counterparts.

The biggest difference between the Rifles and the rest of the infantry, of course, was their weapon.  While everyone else carried muskets, the 95th carried the Baker rifle which had grooves inside the barrel to spin the bullet as it was fired (you CSI fans and gun enthusiasts will recognize this as the “rifling”).  The spinning increased accuracy immensely—like spiraling a football—allowing these soldiers to fight differently.  Riflemen did not stand shoulder to shoulder and fire into a block of the enemy.  Instead, they could fire individually and from standing, sitting, and kneeling positions, or even laying down, and were trained accordingly.  They were, in fact, founded to emulate the sharpshooters of Continental Army and militias during the American Revolution.  (There’s irony for you!)

The 95th Rifles went on to become wildly famous for their actions during the Peninsular War, being awarded regimental battle honors for Ciudad Rodrigo, Salamanca, Vittoria, The Pyrenees, Toulouse, and Waterloo, among others.  Curiously, though, they were rarely awarded individual medals and recognition, though other soldiers in other units were regularly honored.