The Fort: A Novel of the Revolutionary War
In the historical novel, The Fort, Bernard Cornwall brings the reader another tale of the American Revolution. Like his first historical novel, Rebel, it is set in the New England colonies, this time in eastern Massachusetts. The British needed a site to which Loyalists could seek sanctuary and where their navy could have a safe harbor. They chose Majabigtwaduce, a small settlement in the eastern part of Massachusetts.
Outraged, the leaders in Massachusetts determined to drive the British out. Toward that end they pulled together a fleet of over 40 vessels under the command of Commodore Dudley Saltonstall. With him, they also sent almost 1,000 militia under the command of Major General Solomon Lovell. Upon the arrival of this expedition in Majabigtwaduce, they found a much smaller British force.
Brigadier-General John McLean commanded the British defenders. He had fewer than 500 infantry under his command. Three sloops under the command of Captain Mowat assisted McLean’s defense of the base. Mowat used his three ships to block the entrance of the harbor, and McLean began the construction of Fort George on the heights above.
To create this picture of the action, however, Cornwall forces the reader to shift from one scene to another without much transitioning. Once the players and settings are all memorized, the shifts feel less jarring.
The British commander, McLean, thought his position at the rudimentary structure of Fort George would be easily overrun by the rebels. The commander of his naval force, Mowat, knew the superior guns of the rebel ships could easily sink his three sloops guarding the harbor. Neither happened.
In fact, the British would hold Majabigtwaduce until 1784. It would be the last British post to be turned over to the new United States. The Massachusetts government incurred a loss of almost 2 million English pounds and the largest single naval defeat until Pearl Harbor. Commodore Saltonstall would be dismissed from the service; General Lovell escaped any blame. Even the famous Paul Revere who was in charge of the artillery on this expedition, would be court marshaled.
Cornwall skillfully draws the action to show how the personalities of the various characters shaped their decisions and the ultimate result of the confrontation. He blends well-researched facts with carefully devised fiction to entertain and educate the reader. One can hope that he continues his interest in stories of the American Revolutionary War.