Revere: Revolution in Silver is another American Revolution period piece, this one by Ed Lavallee and Grant Bond, published by Archaia. We do like our indie publishers here at Law and the Multiverse. The premise is that since Paul Revere was a silversmith, he must have also been a werewolf hunter! Because: why not?
This one is even more fantastical than Sons of Liberty, which we discussed last week. No surprise there. But either as a result or simply because the authors care more about awesomeness than historical accuracy, this one’s a bit less strictly realistic than Sons of Liberty, which is saying quite a bit.
I. War Crimes and Atrocities in the American Revolution
One of the most jarring observations is that British troops routinely and almost casually engage in what would today be characterized as cold-blooded war crimes. As mentioned in our post on some of Joe Sacco’s works about the Bosnian War, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, those sorts of things lead to international prosecutions for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
But in the American Revolution, they really didn’t happen all that much. The worst thing that occurred with any regularity was poor conditions of captured Revolutionary soldiers. Really. One British officer by the name of Banastre Tarleton is rumored to have fired upon surrendering Americans at the Battle of Waxhaws was for ever after known as “Bloody Ban” or “The Butcher” and was the inspiration for the villain in Mel Gibson’s similarly ahistorical The Patriot. It’s unclear what actually happened, and the most reliable accounts seem to indicate that the British soldiers went on a rampage when they saw Tarleton, their commanding officer, unhorsed. Some apparently assumed that he had been shot while attempting to negotiate, and by the time Tarleton was able to reassert command, things were basically over. No one really thinks Tarleton actually gave an order to kill prisoners. That’s about as bad as it gets.
But even Tarleton’s alleged crimes pale in comparison to what the Redcoats in this story do even before the war had really gotten started. Execution of surrendering prisoners and civilians, rape, widespread destruction of settlements, etc. None of that happened. And with good reason: the British were hoping to negotiate an end to hostilities with minimal bloodshed. These were, after all, British colonies, and the goal was for them to remain British colonies. No sense killing the colonists where it could be avoided. Indeed, local military commanders almost entirely refrained from prosecuting or hanging captured American insurgents, though British law regarded them as traitors, not prisoners of war, and thus subject to summary execution.
So no points for historical or legal accuracy here.
II. Eighteenth-Century Military Tactics
This isn’t a strictly legal objection, but the British military tactics are also remarkably anachronistic. At one point, British soldiers enter a Massachusetts village when one of them is shot, apparently by a revolutionary in hiding. The dead man’s comrades yell out “Sniper!” and head for cover, and when their commanding officer shows up, they’ve got the place surrounded.
A Lobsterback that shouted out “Sniper!” would have been met by baffled looks from all involved. The term did exist at that point, but in the eighteenth century it meant someone who shoots snipe. The term “sharpshooter” didn’t even really come into common use until the first few years of the nineteenth century.
Why? Because at the time, most personal firearms were smoothbore and thus not terribly accurate beyond fifty-odd yards. Rifling existed, but until the nineteenth century it was mostly limited to cannons and other large guns. Rifled muskets did exist, but they weren’t terribly common, mostly for technical reasons. First of all, firearms at the time were almost entirely muzzleloaders, and rifling the barrel of a muzzleloader makes it hard to load. Stuffing the powder, wad, and ball down the barrel could easily foul the rifling. Doing it properly took much longer than loading a smoothebore musket, significantly decreasing the rate of fire. Second, because everyone was using black powder, any serious exchange of fire would leave the battlefield so clogged with smoke that the extra range one could achieve with a rifled barrel was of little use anyway. Most military commanders actively preferred smoothbore muskets over rifles, and would until the technical problems were solved towards the mid-nineteenth century, some fifty to sixty years after the Revolutionary War.
Hence the common order to colonial troops to hold fire until the last minute: no sense wasting limited ammunition on shots that weren’t gonna hit anything. American forces did sport a few rifle companies, and as the war progressed, riflemen were effective in using guerrilla tactics to cause widespread chaos in British ranks. But, and here’s the rub, this was significantly because the British viewed these tactics as dishonorable, and so largely refused to adapt their own tactics in response. So there wasn’t going to be any scattering, finding cover, and surrounding the likely hiding spots. No, it was all forming ranks and marching straight at ‘em, in full view of enemy fire.
Further, this was mostly done under the close supervision of British officers. Soldiers were commoners and generally viewed as disorganized and prone to poor discipline without the constant and firm hand of officers, who were all gentlemen. Command structure simply didn’t provide for the kind of initiative shown by the Redcoats in the story. And the degree of initiative expected of NCOs and even regular enlisted men in modern armies would have astounded the early-modern British officers’ corps. The idea that mere commoners could rapidly assess a situation and take decisive action simply would not have occurred to them. So the idea that a common soldier in the British Army would have the situation well in hand before his superiors arrived was unheard of.
So, if you want a realistic take on the American Revolution with the added bonus of some supernatural components, you may want to look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you want to read a book about Paul Revere shooting werewolves in the face, this is totally the book you want to read.