A Soldier of the Seventy-first, From De la Plata to Waterloo 1806-1815, Joseph Sinclair

A Soldier of the Seventy-first, From De la Plata to Waterloo 1806-1815, Joseph Sinclair

This is a very rare example of a memoir published by a private soldier of the Napoleonic period, originally published in 1819, only a few years after the last events covered in the text. Our anonymous author was an educated Edinburgh man, who joined the army in a fit of pique after failing disastrously as an actor. As an educated man he was something of an outside in the 71st Regiment, and this sense of detachment greatly increases his value as a witness, allowing him to comment of features of army life that might have otherwise passed unremarked.

The text actually includes the work of at least two authors, starting with our failed actor, but about half-way through the story he fell ill, and the rest of the work was based on the memories of a second soldier. This switch has little effect on the quality of the text, and does mean that we get an eyewitness account of the 71st Regiment's role in the entire Peninsular War, as well as the failed expeditions to South American and Walcheren.

This edition was edited by Stuart Reid, who has also potentially solved the mystery surrounding the identity of the anonymous author (or rather authors) after some patient detective work comparing his regiment's muster rolls with the events narrated in the text. Joseph Sinclair emerges as the actor and author of the first part of the work, while a James Todd may be the main source for the second part.

This is one of the most valuable memoirs to have emerged from the British army during the Napoleonic Wars, providing us with a rare view of events from the point of view of the common soldier.

Four unnamed chapters

Author: Joseph Sinclair
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 158
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2010 reissue of 1819 original

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