Category Archives: History

Titanic Chronology April 15-16, 1912

Photograph of iceberg taken by chief steward of Prinz Adalbert on morning of 15 April 1912 near where Titanic sank. At the time he had not learned of the Titanic disaster. Smears of red paint along the base caught his attention. The photo and accompanying statement were sent to Titanic’s lawyers, which hung in their boardroom until the firm dissolved in 2002. Public Domain

1. Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm ship time on 14 April 1912. The night was moonless and the sea calm with temperatures at or below freezing. Titanic was moving quickly but did not see the iceberg until it was nearly upon them. An attempt to steer around it resulted in a collision on Titanic’s starboard side. The iceberg would puncture Titanic enough so that the first five compartments would flood. Since the compartments were not totally sealed all the way up, water would go from one compartment to the other making her sink at the bow.

2. Titanic would transmit signals by wireless telegraph, Morse lamp, and rockets. The ship nearest by most accounts was SS Californian. Her telegraph operator turned off his equipment at 11:30 pm and never heard the distress calls. Questions linger to this day whether or not they saw Titanic or her rockets being fired. The SS Carpathia received the SOS and its captain, Arthur Rostron, immediately ordered to proceed directly to the last known coordinates to locate survivors despite having to navigate a dangerous ice field on a moonless night.

RMS Carpathia (date unknown) Image: public domain
RMS Carpathia (date unknown)
Image: public domain

3. RMS Titanic would sink on 15 April 1912 at 2:20 am. Although Titanic met the British Board of Trade regulations and exceeded it for the number of lifeboats required, it did not have enough for the full complement of passengers and crew. As a result over 1,500 men, women, and children would had no means of escape from the sinking ship.

4. SS Carpathia arrives at 4:10 am to rescue survivors who were in lifeboats or able to reach them. 71o survived the initial sinking but the final tally would be 705 due death from freezing cold. SS California would arrive later but would find no survivors. At 12 noon Carpathia sounded her horns and began heading back to New York.* It was the moment that many wives knew for certain their husbands had perished.

Collapsible lifeboat D photographed by passenger on Carpathia on the morning of 15 April 1912. Public Domain(Wikipedia)
Collapsible lifeboat D photographed by passenger on Carpathia on the morning of 15 April 1912.
Public Domain(Wikipedia)

*SS Carpathia was on her way to Fiume then part of Austria-Hungary in the Adriatic Sea. Today the city is Rijeka and major city in Croatia owning to its deep port and cultural significance.

Sources:
Books
Eaton, John P.; Haas, Charles A. (1994). Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy. Wellingborough, UK: Patrick Stephens
Lord, Walter (2005) [1955]. A Night to Remember. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin
Lord, Walter (1987). The Night Lives On. London: Penguin Books
Lynch, Donald (1998). Titanic: An Illustrated History. New York: Hyperion

Websites:
Encyclopedia Titanica: Titanic Facts, History and Biography

Take a look at  Amazon Titanic Books

Did a Book Predict Titanic’s Doom?

Morgan Robertson (date unknown) Public Domain

Now that all the stale news about Titanic II has gone around the globe enough times to make it really old news, another one is getting primed to take its place. The new/old story is about how Titanic’s demise was foretold in the book Futilityby Morgan Robertson. The book was published in 1898 and renamed after the Titanic tragedy as Wreck of the Titan. Many who read the book are struck by the similarities between the fictional Titan and Titanic. Some even go so far as to say Robertson was either clairvoyant or had some other supernatural revelation of what was to happen.

While there are similarities between the fictional Titan and the historical Titanic, there are a lot of things different. Titan was not on its maiden voyage and on its sixth heading back to Britain from New York. There were fewer lifeboats so five hundred could be saved out of the 3,000 passengers aboard. It looked different as well, more like a steam yacht with sails and carried no cargo. The collision was different as well. Titanic impacted with the iceberg on its starboard side causing punctures in the hull. In Robertson’s book, the ship collides with the iceberg head on and rolls up on it. Then it rolled on the side allowing the boilers and engines to pierce through the hull then slipped back into the sea and sank. One could go on but you get the salient point here: that the fictional Titan’s demise was very different from the historical Titanic. Robertson denied he had any supernatural vision and concocted his story using the available data he had on ships of the day.

So when you see news reports that proclaim “book predicted Titanic’s demise 14 years earlier” it is nothing more than puffery by editors trying to fill space (and tv news producers do the same as well). It ought to be noted that Robertson wrote about a surprise Japanese attack on the United States but hardly anyone thinks it predicted the events of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

Sources:

  1. Titanic X-Files
  2. Gardiner, Martin ed. THE WRECK OF THE TITANIC FORETOLD? Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY 1998
  3.  Robertson, Morgan THE WRECK OF THE TITAN OR FUTILITY, Bucaneer Books, Cutchogue, New York 1994 [Originally published 1898]

The High Noon Ballad

Do Not Forsake Me is the song made famous in High Noon (1952) starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. The song is sung at the opening of the movie and is often instrumentally heard throughout the movie. The movie is not standard western movie fare where you have lots of action leading up to a main gunfight. In this movie, the gunfight occurs near the end. Most of the movie is made up with Gary Cooper’s character trying in vain to find townspeople to help stand with him against Frank Miller and his gang. In the end he must face them alone although his wife does help kill one of the gang. It won many top awards in the 1952 Academy Awards (Best Actor, Best Music, Best Film Editing, Best Music in Song). Tex Ritter, who recorded the song for the movie, played it live for the audience at the Academy Awards.

There are two general versions of the song. One is the Tex Ritter version heard in High Noon which references the name Frank Miller in the lyrics. The second and more commonly heard one omits any reference to Frank Miller and the most famous rendition is by Frankie Laine. Here are both versions for your Academy Award Sunday.

Today is President George Washington’s Birthday (President’s Day)

 George Washington (1732–99) by Gilbert Stuart Photo: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)
George Washington (1732–99) by Gilbert Stuart
Photo: Public Domain (Wikimedia Commons)

Although today is referred to as “President’s Day” it is not a federal holiday by that name. It is officially designated as Washington’s Birthday under federal law. There was a movement to combine both Washington and Lincoln’s birthday (since they occur days apart) or honor the office of president. That never came to be. Instead in 1968 the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was past and came into force in 1971. That shifted most federal holidays to a Monday if it fell during the week. Washington’s Birthday name was not changed and so under federal law it is still Washington’s Birthday. However many states issue their own proclamations celebrating not only Washington but Lincoln and others from their own state. Advertisers have caught on as well. So today many call it President’s Day but who it commemorates beyond George Washington is up to the state governors.

The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize.
President George Washington,Farewell Address, 19 September 1799.

Today is President Lincoln’s Birthday

Photo: Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress, digital id# cph.3a53289)
Photo: Public Domain (U.S. Library of Congress, digital id# cph.3a53289)

President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, National Cemetery,19 Nov 1863:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

 

Almost Forgotten Technology: The Telegraph

Samuel Morris,Paris,1840 Public Domain(Wikipedia)

For many of us it is hard to conceive a world without television, telephones, and the Internet. Sending important communications took time if significant distance was involved. And would increase exponentially if the recipient was on another continent. The speed of the horse, the foot, and how good the wind was would determine how quickly the message was delivered. Samuel Morse on 6 Jan 1838 demonstrated for the first time how electric impulse could transmit messages. He was not the only one who was working on the same concept but the first to get it beyond a concept to a working means of communication.

His prototype demonstrated the use of using dots and dashes to represent letters and numbers. In the demonstration of 1838, he showed that this method of communication was possible. Morse, who had attended Yale University interested in art and electricity, became intrigued when he learned coming home from Europe about the newly discovered electromagnet and decided to work on the telegraph. Convincing skeptics took some doing. Not many were convinced sending messages in this fashion were possible or practical. It required the use of telegraph lines that would transmit the data over long or short distances. And it meant people would have to be trained to understand this Morse code. Morse convinced U.S. Congress to fund construction of the first telegraph line between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland. The first telegram sent in May 1844 said: “What hath God wrought!”

Telegraph Connections (Telegraphen Verbindungen), 1891 Stielers Hand-Atlas, Plate No. 5, Weltkarte in Mercator projection Public Domain (Wikipedia)
Telegraph Connections (Telegraphen Verbindungen), 1891 Stielers Hand-Atlas, Plate No. 5, Weltkarte in Mercator projection
Public Domain (Wikipedia)

Soon private companies would emerge using Morse’s patent to set up telegraph lines all over the American Northeast. Western Union, formerly called the New York and Mississippi Valley Company, completed the first transcontinental telegraph line in 1861. Telegraph systems would spread in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Underwater cables would connect both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Messages of all kinds could be sent by telegraph. Since telegraph companies charged by the word, messages became succinct no matter whether it was happy or sad news. The period was replaced in most messages with the word “stop” as that was free.

One of the chief constraints of the telegraph is that it relied on the telegraph line and undersea cables. Thus messages could be delayed or lost by downed poles, military actions, weather related issues, or problems in the receiving office. Radio telegraphy was developed by Guglielmo Marconi in 1895. Sending the same messages over the air meant they were no longer restricted to telegraph lines. But it too could have its problems as what happened with Titanic. You have messages get mixed and mashed up resulting inaccurate information being reported. Radio telegraphy would lead to radio transmission allowing voices to be heard for the first time and the radio would be born. Wireless telegraphy would continue for business and governments and develop ultimately into the radioteletype networks.

The old fashioned telegraph continued on. Western Union introduced the singing telegram in 1933 and was still a means of communication until after World War II. During the war the sight of a Western Union courier became dreaded because the War Department sent telegrams to families informing of a death or sometimes a serious injury. The scene in A League of Their Own where Tom Hanks grabs the telegram from the messenger so that he could deliver it was not made up but reflected what most knew telegrams would announce.

The telephone though ultimately replaced the telegraph for most communications. When you could pick up a phone and tell someone important news, there was no need to go down to the Western Union office and pay by the word for a short succinct message when an inexpensive phone call would do it. Telegraph companies folded up, were bought up by larger companies, or completely rebranded. Today Western Union primarily transfers money (money orders, money transfers, and commercial transactions) and no longer performs any telegraph service.

The development of the telegraph allowed for more rapid dissemination of information unlike anything before. No longer were messages tied to the speed of ships, horses, trains and even feet. Major events could be learned quickly rather than weeks or months. It was a major technological step that unlocked other technologies that has changed the world dramatically.

Sources:
Samuel Morse (Encyclopedia Britanica)
Morse Code & the Telegraph (History.com)

Today is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day-“A Date Which Will Live In Infamy”

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

On this date in 1941, Japan launched a carrier based strike on U.S. military forces based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Their strategy was to use this attack to convince the country and its leaders that war with Japan would be futile. They achieved tactical surprise as no warning of an attack had yet been received. While decryption of their codes had revealed their intent, the warning did not reach Pearl Harbor until after the attack had begun. The Japanese legation in Washington did not deliver their governments official response to a recent diplomatic exchange until after the attack due to problems in transcribing the message. The attack began at 07:55 local time (12:55 p.m. eastern standard time). It was early afternoon when President Roosevelt was notified by Secretary of War Henry Stimson of the attack. There was some doubt among some staff as to the validity of the report but President Roosevelt believed it. And subsequent reports would show it was true. Radio was soon reporting on it as well and the entire nation soon learned of the shocking event that had taken place in the faraway location.

The purpose of the attack was to seriously cripple the U.S. naval and air operations (both the navy and army air corps). The surprise was effective and sank or crippled numerous American ships. However the jewel of the fleet were the aircraft carriers and they were not there. And the Japanese had no idea where they were. After conducting the first two strikes, a third strike was considered to more completely wipe out the storage, maintenance and dry dock facilities. Captain Minoru Genda,who helped in the planning,argued for invasion to maximize American losses. Admiral Nagumo decided to retire because of deteriorating weather, the unknown location of the American carriers, the long turnaround time required for a third strike that would allow American forces to gather and counterattack, and the fact the Nagumo’s strike force was at the extreme limit of logistical support. They were low on fuel and another strike would require them to travel at reduced speeds to conserve fuel. So he headed home. Much later Admiral Yamamoto, who supported the decision at the time, would in retrospect say it was a mistake since it allowed the U.S. to come back quickly.

The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941 Image: Public Domain (National Archives and Records Administration,ARC Identifier#195617)
The USS Arizona (BB-39) burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941
Image: Public Domain (National Archives and Records Administration,ARC Identifier#195617)

Most of those who died at Pearl were sailors aboard the ships that were damaged or sunk. Of the 2,008 sailors killed, 1,177 were killed when the forward magazine on the USS Arizona exploded. Eighteen ships were sunk, beached, or run aground. 188 aircraft (mostly Army Air Corps) destroyed, 159 damaged. Most of the planes were destroyed on the ground. Only eight pilots got airborne and did attack Japanese aircraft but only one was shot down. Some pilots were killed or shot down later by friendly fire. Five inbound planes from USS Enterprise were shot down. The Navy lost 24 of its PBY planes. Additional casualties came from when Japanese attacked barracks. 2,403 Americans killed and 1,178 others were wounded. Since the U.S. was not at war, they are all classified as non-c0mbatants. The Japanese lost 55 airmen, nine submariners and one captured. They lost 29 planes in battle and 74 were damaged by antiaircraft fire.

Most Americans were enjoying a pleasant Sunday. Secretary of State Cordell Hull met with the Japanese ambassador around 14:30 (2:30 p.m.) just when the first reports were coming in about the attack. Popular Sunday afternoon radio shows were interrupted with the stunning news about the attack on Pearl Harbor. From coast to coast, Americans were riveted to their radios listening to the latest updates. Lines of volunteers began forming outside military recruitment centers. The isolationist sentiment was ushered to the rear while most of the nation united against the Japanese. On 8 November before a joint session of Congress, President Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war.

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

And a hour later Congress officially declared war on Japan. Far from causing the U.S. to cower, it brought Americans together like never before. Hitler’s decision to join with Japan on 11 Dec was somewhat of a surprise-to his German High Command! They had not planned with war with the U.S. so soon and now they faced a two front war with an highly industrialized power against them. Mussolini foolishly committed Italy to the war with the U.S. as well. For Japan they had control of the Pacific until June 1942. That is when the U.S. Navy engaged the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. At the end of the battle, four Japanese aircraft carriers were sunk to our one (the Yorktown). It was a shocking loss to the Japanese (and one they kept secret for as long as possible). The Doolittle Raid had convinced them to take on the American Navy directly. They did and lost spectacularly. And it shifted the balance of power in the Pacific. Admiral Yamamoto had been correct in his assessment of how the war with America would go:“I shall run wild considerably for the first six months or a year, but I have utterly no confidence for the second and third years.”

Yamamoto would not survive the war. President Roosevelt ordered that he be taken care of for his part in planning the Pearl Harbor attack. Thanks to the work of U.S. Naval Intelligence that had broken Japanese codes (code named Magic), his travel plans to the South Pacific in April, 1943 were learned. Orders were given and select pilots were used to target a very important high officer but were not told who it was. On 18 April 1943, a squadron of Lockheed P-38’s were assigned to intercept and bring down his transport being escorted by Japanese zeroes. There were two Japanese transports. After a dogfight with the Zeroes and transports, the transport with Yamamoto’s plane crashed into the jungle north of Buin, Papua New Guinea. Japanese search parties found his body, thrown from the aircraft and under a tree. He had two .50 caliber bullet wounds, one in his left shoulder and the other that had exited through his right eye. The true manner of his death was hidden from the Japanese public and not revealed until long after the war had ended. He was cremated, given a state funeral, and given posthumous titles and awards. Today the place where his plane crashed is a tourist attraction.

For more information:
Home of Heroes
Pearl Harbor Remembered
The History Place
Pearl Harbor Attack(Naval Heritage & History Command)
Battleship USS Arizona History


Edelweiss (Sound of Music)

Georg Johannes von Trapp, Circa 1910 Public Domain
Georg Johannes von Trapp, Circa 1910
Public Domain

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music is full of great music from beginning to end.  Edelweiss is one of those memorable tunes. It is sung two times in the movie. The first is at home when Captain Trapp sings it to his family and his oldest daughter joins in. The second time is at the auditorium before his fellow Austrians. Then of course the flight from the Germans begins. The musical and the film took great liberties with the Trapp family story (changing genders of the oldest children,compacting the story and changing other general details).

In reality the family was already a well known singing group prior to the German annexation of Austria (this was due in part to the financial loss Von Trapp suffered when a local bank collapsed). Trapp, who had earned the noble title of baron for his daring exploits as a submarine commander in World War I,was indeed going to be called to active service in the German Navy. His two oldest boys were likely to be compelled to join the German military as well. They could see the effects of the German takeover and what it was doing to Austria. Friends disappearing, the German Nazi ideology being implemented everywhere. So they choose to leave but, unlike the movie, did not walk over a mountain. Thanks to his being born in an area that was ceded to Italy after World War I, he had Italian citizenship. So did his family. They put on day packs and took the train to Italy leaving everything behind.

They would eventually make their way to America. And they would start a new life as traveling singers criss-crossing the country by bus and singing folk songs from around the world living as frugally as possible. Their Christmas music was also highly regarded. They would settle in Vermont as their home base. Eventually it would become a lodge which still exists today (and owned by third and fourth generation descendants). The two oldest boys did join an army, the U.S Army, and at the end of the war returned to see their old home in Salzburg. It was still there but Heinrich Himmler had lived in it! The house would be given to the Catholic Church and still stands to this day. The lack of basic supplies for Austrians after the war was appalling. So Captain Trapp (he dropped the von from his name by this time)and Maria founded a relief effort to send needed supplies to fellow Austrians. The Trapp family name has a certain honor in Austria though not because of the musical, but because of his relief efforts and his refusal to serve the Nazi war machine.

Update(31 May 2016)
*It is sometimes thought the song Edelweiss is akin to an Austrian national anthem. However it was written specifically for the play. And for a particular actor Theodore Bikel.
*The Austrian national anthem is called Land der Berge, Land am Strome (Land of mountains, land by the river). Prior to the forced annexation of Austria by Germany, the anthem was Sei gesegnet ohne Ende (Be Blessed Without End)when it was Austria-Hungary. During the Nazi period, the German anthem Deutschlandlied (often mislabeled as Deutschland über alles)was the official anthem. After the war and to avoid any further connections with Nazi Germany or the old Austria-Hungarian Empire, the current anthem was selected.
*Edelweiss(Leontopodium alpinum)is a mountain flower generally found between 5,900–9,800 ft in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It generally blooms in the early to mid summer but is short lived plant. Many people grown it at home because of its beauty either in containers or in gardens. The plant itself is non-toxic and has been used for herbal remedies. Better still is that deer will not eat it and is drought resistant. However it does require a mild to cool climate in order to thrive.

Over The Hills and Far Away

The Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell told the story of the unlikely rise of Richard Sharpe from sergeant to officer during the Napleonic wars. As person of very low birth and little formal education, the British Army offered a way out. His heroic saving of Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Lord Wellington) in India got him an officer’s commission (this was changed for the tv show where he saves him in Spain)but it would not be easy moving up. In the British Army of the time, officers came from the middle to upper class with little formal training (they had good schooling but little formal military training). In fact, you could purchase an officers commission up to the rank of lieutenant colonel. You had to spend three years before buying up to the next rank (there were exceptions of course).

Richard Sharpe, being of modest means, could not possibly afford to purchase a commission. He got a commission through bravery but would have to wait in line for the next available slot and hope no one would buy it out. His best chance was a battlefield commission, meaning the death or severe wounding of a superior officer that required immediate placement. It meant he would have to fight hard and use all his skills to get promoted. Add to it that he was raised from the ranks made it difficult to find many friends in his fellow officers.

For the television adaptation of the books, John Tams was chosen for the musical arrangement. One of the songs heard during the series was Over The Hills And Far Away, an old Army folk song that had been around for a while. It also had different lyrics though followed mostly the same basic rendition.  In this YouTube presentation, it uses Tam’s theme and adds some stunning visual images (mostly paintings and other illustrations). Many today have a hard time getting the idea how big a deal the Napoleonic Wars were. Napoleon set out to expand the French Empire as far and wide as he could. Most of Europe found itself under threat or dominated by Napoleon in one way or another. The British had few allies to count on and could never match the amount of soldiers Napoleon had. The Sharpe novels show how this was played out in Spain as it took a lot of effort to drive Napoleon out of Portugal, then Spain, and then finally launch attacks into France to topple his regime. Though the character of Sharpe is fictional, the battles and most of their descriptions are accurate.