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Sharpe Speaks

Whether you're an avid reader and watcher of the Sharpe series, or just an occasional consumer, it is all too easy to forget Bernard Cornwell has given his character a full life, rather than just an episodic one. While it is noticed that the daily life of an up-from-the-ranks officer was never simple or pleasant, in the case of Richard Sharpe, his life was made all the harder for him simply because he was not born a gentleman. No matter what he did, neither his peers nor his superiors ever let him forget that. His own personal behaviour was something that few of them could understand given his propensity towards scruffiness and a preference for life the way it was when he had been an enlisted soldier. Learning to read and write as an adult while imprisoned by the Tippoo Sultan gave him a foundation from which to grow and learn, however, putting thoughts to paper was not part of his education and he was not of a nature likely to do so. Many of his non-fictional contemporaries did write a number of memoirs following the Napoleonic wars based on their recollections. In the case of Sharpe, we can only imagine what he would have written and offer this version of events in "his own words".

Content Warning: Some sections may contain strong, crude language and/or language of a sexual nature.

To read chronologically, from the beginning, start at the bottom of page 1 and read the entries from bottom to top.

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February 19, 1809

Bloodeh 'ell! Today, 'ogan brought us right smack up to the Spanish border! Nuthin' but a flimsy footbridge 'tween us an the French pickets. 'arris were able te talk some wit one o' them. The feller seems te think Soult's gonna start an offensive 'afore the end o' the month, sayin' as how Soult wants te be "King of Portugal". Says Soult's soldiers are a bit upset over that idear. He were a German feller what weren't too 'appy abaht bein' conscripted into Boney's army. Says he's a Jager what should be fightin' fer King George instead. 'arris says he's gonna come over te our side later tonight when its good an dark so's he can go with us and not get carved up by the partisans. Them Jagers are some right fine riflemen accordin' te their reputation. I suppose he'll come in 'andy if we run into any trouble on our way back to Oporto.

'ogan got te meet wit a Spanish partisan leader who's been hidin' out in these mountains, runnin' back and forth over the border, raidin' Frog supply lines. Got a nice setup fer his headquarters in some old ruins called "Conimbriga". We been here two nights whilst 'ogan collects his news and intelligences. Had a nice bit o' roasted...roasted...ah, some sort o' big animal what's a lot like venison. 'arris says they calls them "mouflan". Nasty lookin' brutes what with them great horns on their heads.

I sure am 'appy now. Seems this partisan leader, Don Julian, heard that Ole Nosey is coomin' back with the rest o' the British Army. Good news that. With Sir Arthur Wellesley leading us, we'll beat the Crappauds good and solid. 'ogan don't know him as good as I do, but after I told him all abaht what Sir Arthur did fer me back in India he seemed right satisfied.

February 17, 1809

I'm right 'appy abaht being away from the army. No one I got te say "Yes, sir, no, sir" to. 'ogan ain't one fer bein' poncy abaht proper manners. A few o' the lads are gettin' a bit surly, sayin' as how we shouldn't be here and we need to go home. Williamson's abaht the worst o' the lot. The lot o' em were stragglers from the first batallion whaty got stuck on to our tails back during the Vigo retreat. They ain't from second batallion at all but they're the ones what are givin' off the grumbles. Williamson's the ringleader. If I could joost get rid o' that bugger the rest would settle. They're good soldiers but fer that.

Spring's coomin' over these mountains. Still a bit o' snow high up, but the days are gettin' warmer. Leastways me ink's not froze solid no more. Right strange lot o' animals here abahts and near round every turn is some sort o' shrine. Wonder how they ever got them carvin's way up here? Turns out 'arris don't joost read and speak Frog, he's a right smart artist, too. Got him a set o' them watercolours and he's been keepin' a journal summat like me, only with pitchurs. Got a nice lot o' them from this here bit o' wanderin' we been doin'.

February 14, 1809

Not such a bad duty this here mappin' buziness. 'ogan's a good man. Right odd at times what with his snuff an sneezin' an' all. But he's true to his word. Got a barn or summat to bed down in every night and a good kettle o' stew or a goat on a spit fer our supper. He's right friendly wit' the locals too. Keeps the lads 'appy with a spot o' wine or port or summat every day or so. I joost wish he'd stop wit' 'is preachin' ever time I let loose with a blood-eh 'ell or a bollocks.

Met a right odd officer last night. Leftenant Colonel Christopher was 'is name. Came into camp wit' a Portagese servant actin' all high an' mighty. Couldn't figure out zactly what he does, out here in the back o' beyond all on his own. Uniform says he's wit the Dirty 'alf 'undred, but 'ogan says he "maps people's minds" and he's some sort o' politician, whatever the 'ell that means. Personally, I don't trust the bugger. Wouldn't break my 'eart if he fell off into that ravine we saw last week. Right fearful place that. Locals calls it "El Saltador". 'arris says it means "The Leaper". Doesn't look like anythink I'd want te leap.

January 29, 1809

That port wharehouse were at least half empty. Lads were only drunk fer abaht 4 days. All got heads big as powder kegs now. Harper managed to keep 'em all locked up in the wharehouse whilst they was drunk. He's got 'em all sweatin' it out with drills an such now. Seems quiet here round Oporto. My guess is that frog army what's joost over the pass will wait till this winter weather breaks afore makin' a move in our direction. I joost hope our army gets back afore then.

'ogan's got some mapping job te do and he needs us to go along te help keep him alive. Sounds like a good job te keep the lads busy till somethin' comes along fer us te fight. He promises at least a barn te sleep in every night. Well, at least we'll be doing somethin' more like soldierin'. Learnin' the lay o' the land ain't a bad thing either. Might come in 'andy later on.

January 22, 1809

I'm goin' te sleep fer a week. Right here next te the hearth. I don't care that the bakers 'ave got te step round me long as they keep this fire goin'. Would 'ave been nice te get back in wit them washerwimmen, but seems a bunch o' poncy Portuguese Cavalry took over the place. Right unfriendly bunch. Got me a bit o' a shiner in the bust up. All I suggested was that they could bloody well share. Well, at least here at this bakery shop I'll stay fed and warm. Got the wounded what made it back here wit me and 'arper's wit the rest o' the lads over at an empty port warehouse. At least I hopes its empty. If not, then the lads will sure stay drunk till the port runs out.

'ogan sure were 'appy te see us. He'd been hearin all sorts of 'orror stories abaht the retreat, but nothing official like till we showed up. He did get a dispatch abaht the battle at Corunna. Seems Gennul Moore made a stand whilst the bloody late-as-usual Navy took our lads off the beach. Got himself kilt at the last minute, but at least he knew the Frogs got beat back. Me an' the lads are all wots left o' the British Army north o' Lisbon. Wonder what's gonna 'appen te us now?

January 20, 1809

That poor sod lieutenant. Passed on last night along with the rest o' the worst o' the wounded. Thought he'd pull through after he made it past that first night. Lost count, but 'arper's keeping track o' names an' such in his book.

Bin lucky so far, findin' shelter every night. Bellies are right empty though. Hagman found a sack o' chesnuts hidden in that last barn and plans on makin' a pot o' chestnut soup. Weather's lettin' up too. Not half so cold and the sleet has finally dried up. Now that's pure luck. Even luckier now's we found a road marker pointin' the way te' Oporto. Joost another 15 miles an' we'll be back in the hands o' Major 'ogan.

January 15, 1809

It weren't no retreat...it were a bloody rout! Twas a sad sight to see froze bodies on the road, in the ditches, out in the fields. No food, boots comin' apart, clothes in tatters, shaggy beards, matted with ice, frostbitten fingers and noses. Cold rain, sleet that never let up. All along the route were the castoffs of an army in full flight. I'm thinkin' might be best if I just got on with soldierin' best I can. Tears at me soul to think abaht all them what didn't get proper graves. Frogs wouldn't let up on our tails long enough to try to put them in the frozen ground.

We was s'posed to get on to Vigo with Craufurd and the rest of the Light Brigade, but somehow we went and got separated fightin' a rear guard action at some bloody bridge I didn't even know the name of. Only officers made it out o' that mess of French cavalry alive are me an' a lieutenant what ain't hardly old enough te shave, and he's wounded bad so's Hagman figures he'll be dead by dawn. No chance o' catchin' up with Craufurd's bunch what with that cavalry bein' between us an' them. We found us an old barn te bed down in. Hope the rain lets up by mornin' so's I can try te figure out which way te go.

December 25, 1808

Tis' Christmas. Though a body'd 'ardly notice. Colder than a witch's tit an' gettin' colder every minute, an' bellies grumblin' all round. Nice smart skirmish we 'ad at Sahagun, well really, twas the cavalry what did all the fightin'. We got te sit on our arses at the monastary while them trussed up cock-o'-the-walks got all the glory. Then, Gennul Moore called fer a retreat. A retreat! Bloody 'ell! We just beat back the Frogs and now we got to retreat!

Hagman's sure we're in fer a real bad spot o' weather. Feels it in 'is bones, he says. I expect so cuz' Dan ain't never been wrong abaht the weather since we all fell in t'gether. Me ink's startin' te freeze up agin, so I don't expect I'll get te write in this here dia..errrr...journal fer a bit. Me an' the lads are detailed to rear guard, well the lads are anyway. Me, I'm supposed te' be Quartermaster. I was right te 'ave a bad feelin' abaht joinin' back up with the rest o' the Army. Its back to Quartermaster agin and nowt I can do abaht it. Wish Hogan would show up and find me a real job. This ain't soldiering.

December 22, 1808

Well, we finally caught up with the rest o' Sir John Moore's army. Got us a hallway to bunk down in in some monastery. Not much comfort, but at least its warm an' dry. Got me ink te thaw out at least. Smells like horseshit too. The cavalry's got their horses put right up here in the monastery. Not really happy abaht being back under the thumb of a bunch o' puffed up dandy officers, but at least they're stayin' away from us. Guess we don't look so spankin' smart compared to everyone else.

Got caught up on all what's been 'appenin' whilst we've been separated. Seems Wellesley got called back te London a few months back te answer fer that muck up with Burrard and Dalrymple. Least Horse Guards figgered out what was on abaht with them two old wimmen and finally sent Wellesley back with his own command. He's off down guardin' the approaches te Lisbon whilst we try te bloody Boney's nose up here. I can understand why 'ogan wasn't keen on gettin' back te headquarters after we raised that banner at Santiago de Compostella. Who knows what would 'ave become o' us.

Found out 'ogan really ain't got official permission te keep holdin' on te me an' the lads, but what with him shufflin' paperwork abaht and mis-postin' dispatches and mail gettin' "lost" and all, nobody seems te know our situation. Suits me jest fine. Jest hopes as we don't get stuck stayin' with this lot. Don't know how 'ogan's goin' te ever git us away and back te Oporto. Bloody Black Bob Craufurd is in command o' the light division here, so I expect we'll be right up in the middle o' things when hell comes te Sahagun, soon.

December 15, 1808

We're off temorra. Guess I won't be writin' so much whiles we're off on this campaign seein' as how me ink was a bit frozen over this mornin' an we ain't even left yet. I'll write when I can I s'pose.

'ogan sez no matter what 'appens on this campaign, he's got permission te keep me an' the lads te help him go explorin' so's he can map the countryside. If we live thru it that is. Its bloody freezin' out! We'll be based out o' Oporto, so I spect we'll be seein' more o' me seamstresses an' washerwimmen when we get back.

December 13, 1808

Well, seems like the past few days I 'ad me some good ol' rest and recreation, as the officers like te say. Dint even 'ave to go abaht lookin' fer nun either. That Paloma lass and one o' them Maria's was real accomodatin'. Joost wish I 'adn't drunk so much o' that port wine so's I cold remember it better.

Seems like the war's been turned oopside down all o' sudden like. 'ogan sez General Moore's gotten 'imself purty far into Spain now, but Boney himself has coom te take over things, so's we're in a right fix. 'ogan 'as us moving out fer some place called Sahagun temorra to meet oop with the rest o' the army. No fears fer Oporto fer the time bein' as the Frogs 'ave settled inta winter quarters what with the worst winter in ages droppin' on us all o' a sudden like. Guess General Moore wants te stir up the hornets nest. Sounds right daft if ye' ask me! Nobody's sposed te campaign in the middle o' a winter like this one. At least the lads won't be such a discipline problem once we're on t'march.

December 10, 1808

Seems like me idea fer a midnight curfew ain't working out like as I expected. The whole damned place looks like a whorehouse now. Well at least ah knows where ta find the lads if we needs to move out sudden like and they're all stayin' sober. Young Perkins surprised me though, well 'e perhaps thought it wos is mother, 'ope he never did that while breast feeding, dirty young bugger. Mind she wornt complainin'. Well ah know where the lads are now. 'arper is goin' ta stir them in the morrow an' start makin' ready to move out, so must be time for Sharpie to find some long overdue entterr....enterrtan....fun......wine, some grub and a woman, but in any order that comes along. This new uniform looks real fine ....I even feel like a proper officer now...naw scrub that I feel like a proper woman now , just ope I can find one and as soon as I can.

Damn me eyes, but who should show up terday but 'ogan! Too bad Teresa warn't with 'im. Was all complain' like abaht us being quartered in the finest brothel in Oporto. Must've been pullin' me leg. Turfed me out o' me big room wit' the feather bed and into a small one wit' a horsehair one. Ah don't think me seamstresses an' washerwimmen would 'ppreciate being called whores. Unless...naaaawwww, he's daft...

December 9, 1808

Harris sed small clothes warn't in fashion with the gentry. What would he know? The lasses wash gennulmens clothes. They'd know better. Fact, they're nice. Ah likes how they keep me balls all snug and out t'way. No need ter fuss with tucking me shirt just right. Speshully now how nicely me Frog pants fit.

Ah put on me full kit terday fer the first time since the ladies been sewing them up fer me. Don't I look smart? One o' the Marias copped a feel a' Sharpie too. It sure didn't feel accidental like.

Ah shure feels all occifer likes now, wit me gennulmen's smalls, a jacket an pants that fits good and me bright new sash with them fat tassels. Go me! If only old Tom and Maggie Joyce could see me now. They wouldn't recognize me!

December 8, 1808

Blood-eh 'ell!!! Some blood-eh Bishop coome te call on me terday. Me! Seems he heard o' Riflemen being quartered in the city and wants us ter fight the French in defense o' the place. Felt bad when I told him that we saw a whole French army movin' up with enough big guns te pound Oporto te dust. Better fer the city te not fight at all cuz it's goin' te fall no matter an' if they surrender nice like, then the Frogs won't be so murderous. If they fight and lose a lot of soldiers, then they'll sack it hard fer certain!

Twas embarrassin' being caught in me birthday suit when that bishop came te call. Them lasses are takin' ferever to finish me uniform. They had te measure me nekkid fer me new suit o' smalls. Don't see why all four lasses have to help measure. They were all chattering abaht this cloth and that cut. Wonder what "cut on the bias" means. Something abaht fittin' better I expect.

December 5, 1808

Noticed a lot o' action among the Portagese militia, terday. Course that could have been cuz o' the sound o' them French guns gettin' nearer the city. Can't be more then ten miles off now. Mebbe I best start reconoitrin' a route out o' town, jest in case the defenses don't hold. Lots o' traffic on the streets now. Hagman sez he thought he saw 'ogan ridin' into the city this afternoon.

Suppose I best get 'arper te start moti...moto...movo, fook...kickin' arses into action te git us ready te march. Best not be fergettin' a good supply of arse wipe books either. Best start a midnight curfew too.

December 4, 1808

'Small clothes'? Niver heard o' them afore. One o' them Marias sez that they're all the fashion with t'gentry now days. She's goin' ter fit me fer a set tomorra. I suppose I can't go 'urtin her feelin's an all, not seein's how nice all the lasses are bein' to all o' us.

They took me overalls again. Said they'd have ter refit them if I were wearing smalls with me pants. Seems ter be a lot o' bother ter me, but Ah think the lasses like thet we're here. Must be tough with their menfolk all gone to war too.

Guessin' the lads don't unnerstand thet me three rules apply even when we're not on the march..Went fer a walk round the town and found them all in some taverna eatin' "orphaned" chickens, drinkin' an' whorin' and the like.......I asked 'arper wot was afoot and 'e says the lads were all mindin' te stay out o' trouble and off the streets and not a one was passed out drunk....must explain me rules to 'arper a bit clearer to avoid any future fauk pass....faux passes...oh sod it... never did manage them posh French phrases...

December 3, 1808

The jacket fits a treat now. Pity abaht the missin' silver buttons. Maria sez she can finds me sum pewter ones ta replace them an' done taken it with her again. Ah've given the ladies me promissory notes o'course. Until Noseh gets here an' we gets paid.

Not sure what sort o' 'trade' they can git from me. They says if Nosey or 'ogan don't come thru with some pay thet they can always take it out o' me in 'trade'. Wonder what they mean by that?

Them pants fit better but were still a bit tight 'cross the arse. First off I thought they fit fine, but the ladies - four o' them this time - both Marias were here - made me do the things I'd normally do. Walk abaht, bend over an' such. Glad they had me do thet. Thought I'd lose circul... blood-flow in me balls when Ah bent over. Them pants are taking a long time. Maria sed somting abaht Frog seams an hows they're difficult ter work with. Harris thinks they're takin' the Mickey outta me but ah don't sees how. They're joost makin' themselves more work. Isabella said hows they were proud o' their work and wanted ter make sure Ah was well satisfied with their sewin' skills.

December 2, 1808

Damm Riflemen! Again! Guess I needs to adjust me rules a bit! Them lads are still gettin' drunk, only now its right here in the billets! Funny how they managed te find a few more washerwimmen. And thet damn Port! Me head's achin agin! Can't figure out where 'arper's gettin' it frum? Looks like I got pretty drunk last night. Had te tear out the page I wrote. Looked like a chicken scratched all over t'paper.

Ah've bin having mah uniform repaired an' them Frog overalls fixed up fer me. These wimen aren't very good seamstresses. They keep fittin' me and takin' them away fer fixing up. Three o' them came by this morning ter see the fit. The pants were too demmed tight an they took another bunch o' measurements and took them off with them again. Hope they'll fit proper tomorrow.

Strange... not only are there more of 'em, but me head washerwoman keeps changin'. Coulda sworn she had black eyes an' was called Maria. But I've seen an Isabella an' a Paloma now... not ter mention another Maria with brown eyes and nice jugs. Well, they was nice jugs til I caught Perkins droolin' all over 'em. An Hagman! Damn but he sure could murther t'English language! But when he's drunk? Can't unnerstand a word!

November 29, 1808

Damm Riflemen! Figure Ah needs me some rules aboot getin drunk without mah permisshun even when in quarters. Them lads 'ave been drunk almost every damned nigt since we got here! Ah'm tired of them gettin' tossed in t'drunk tank and an' paying fer damages. Not like ah won't take it outta their pay. Once the Army pays us o'course. But Ah'm runnin outta buttons! an' some were missing inna first place. And I ain't even been with 'em!

Thet Harper's got a rock fer a hed too. Demmed sargn't tried ter drink me under. Oh me achin' hed. Seems I lost the past two days accordin' to this here officer's log book I been writin'. Demmed if I let on te 'arper tho. Ha! Made him take the lads out fer sum rifle practice t'day. Lessee if they get drunk again ternight!

November 26, 1808

Well, never 'urts te 'ave a nice little skirmish to keep the lads on their toes. Twas right fortoo..fortone...fortunius..bugger them poncey posh words! It were right smart coomin up on the French frontlines all quiet like that. Dead o' night too. Slit throats all round and off we went on into the city proper. Nice bit o' loot off them Frogs, too. Got me sum garlic sausage and a nice sash out of it. Course not so nice fer the Frog captain I 'ad te kill te git it. Bright red, long cords and fat tassels. I'll look right smart oop in t'officers' mess. Guess now I'll 'ave te learn how to tie the damn thing correct-leh. Good think 'arris can speak Portageese, else them pickets on the wall would 'ave 'ad us fer target practice.

Sun's nearly up and I'm fer some kip. Used a coupla o' me silver buttons to get us into a nice little cottage belongin' to some washerwoman fer the gentry. She'll coom in 'andy. Not that kind o' 'andy seein's how she's surely over forty. We're all a bit ripe as are our uniforms. Figure the French will be makin' a push on the city in a few days, considerin' what we seen on the way here, so best get the lads rested and relieved. Seems there's a good number of whorehouses down on t'waterfront. Lots of this here poncy port fer drinkin' too. Right tasty if I do say so meself. No signs o' our Army anywhere hereabouts. Guess Wellesley's takin' his goddamn time moseying on down this way. Ah well, I'll figure out the whys and wheres soon as I get some proper sleep and a proper bath.

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