RHYS BOWEN: I'm really torn about Suzanne Adair's blog. I mean, as a native Brit I should be cheering for the Redcoats, right? But as a naturalized American I should see them as bloody foreign invaders trying to rob me of my freedom. And the truth is that they were ordinary men, pressed into a role they didn't want. That's really true for all wars, isn't it? The foot soldier is a puppet, dancing to his master's grand designs, be they good or evil. Only now and then are the soldiers part of the general's vision--as those who fought with Washington in the revolutionary war, or most men who joined up in WWII, fighting with a clear cause.
Anway, read Suzanne's interesting take on the Redcoats and maybe you'll feel differently about them.... take it away, Suzanne.
Smear Campaigns in History
After Richard’s death, his supporters were silenced, slain, or banished. His portraits were altered to show a surly sourpuss in his fifties. Richard was blamed for the disappearance and presumed execution of his nephews. Shakespeare, sucking up to the Tudors, hacked Richard’s character for his eponymous play, turning him into a Quasimodo-esque, black-hearted troll on horseback. For the next 500 years, most people believed King Richard III was a monstrosity, body and soul. It was smear campaign crap.
Whenever I conduct research for my mystery series set during the American Revolution, I open whole barrels of smear campaign crap, and I’m reminded of the saying that the victors write history. What American citizen who has sat through history class hasn’t been baptized with the stereotype of redcoats? Men of rank and file who were stupid brutes, who’d been forced into service as boys, who had to be flogged into obedience—redcoats, right? Hollywood sure gets a lot of mileage out of that stereotype.
So here’s the truth. Redcoats in Revolutionary America weren’t shanghaied; they volunteered as adults. About 20% brought wives and children with them. Fewer than 3% of enlisted men were ever flogged for a crime. Reading, writing, and arithmetic were deemed so valuable that soldiers with an education could hire themselves out as tutors to their fellows. Some regiments even set up schools to teach men the basics.
I’ve created a redcoat detective, Michael Stoddard, to bridge the gap in common sense. He and the fellows he works with in his regiment are ordinary guys, soldiers stationed in a strategically-located town. You know, doing their duty to their country, trying to keep the peace, all-too-aware that they’re on foreign soil and among people who resent their presence.
The eerie familiarity of that scenario isn’t accidental. You see, not only is history written by the victors. History repeats itself. In the news every day.
Which smear campaign in history gets your back up?
**And Suzanne is offering a signed copy of her new book to one lucky commenter!**
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A boy kidnapped for ransom. And a madman who didn't bargain on Michael Stoddard's tenacity.
Spring 1781. The American Revolution enters its seventh grueling year. In Wilmington, North Carolina, redcoat investigator Lieutenant Michael Stoddard expects to round up two miscreants before Lord Cornwallis's army arrives for supplies. But his quarries' trail crosses with that of a criminal who has abducted a high-profile English heir. Michael's efforts to track down the boy plunge him into a twilight of terror from radical insurrectionists, whiskey smugglers, and snarled secrets out of his own past in Yorkshire.