Sharpe's Eagle is the story of a British soldier in the Battle of Talavera during the Napoleonic Wars who captures a French Eagle battle standard. Sharpe's Eagle is the story of a British soldier in the Battle of Talavera during the Napoleonic Wars who captures a French Eagle battle standard. The main character in the book, and the series, is Richard Sharpe, a lifer British Soldier who rose from the ranks to become an officer in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. The story starts with Sharpe, currently a Lieutenant, in command of a small group of rifleman in the South Essex Regiment. The regiment is poorly led, with no experience, and Sharpe's first task is taking care of his men, and protecting them from the incompetent and cruel Sir Henry Simmerson, a harsh disciplinarian. The men are less of a problem, and Sharpe wins them over by teaching them a more effective fighting style. Again, the officers are the real issue, as Sharpe and a Lieutenant Gibbons, Simmerson's nephew, vie for the affections of Josefina Locosta, a Portuguese noblewomen. However, Sharpe does meet two good officers, Capetian Leroy, who Sharpe saw fight long ago on the plains of India, and Captain Lennox, an American Loyalist.
Wellesley, the commander of the Peninsular Army, commands the South Essex, Sharpe's Rifleman, and Sharpe's friend, Lieutenant Hogan, to destroy a vital bridge outside of the town of Valdelcasa. Because of diplomatic niceties, an equally foppish Spanish regiment must accompany them to blow up the bridge. The French are also there, and a battle ensues. In an epic display of arrogance, pride, and utter foolishness, the two Allied infantry regiments cross the river, are utterly routed, hundreds die, Lennox falls, and a King's Colour (The British battle standard) is lost). Sharpe distinguishes himself by rallying the broken South Essesx, and even capturing a French cannon. Lennox, as he dies, beseech's Sharpe to capture a French Eagle to erase the shame of losing their own standard.
Becasue of his action in battle, Sharpe is promoted to Captain. This makes him more enemies. Simmerson is no happy that his enemy, Sharpe, is the only one that looks good. He is determined to ruin his career by making Sharpe the scapegoat in his letters to Horse Guards, where Sir Henry has influence. Sharpe also begins a relationship with Josefina, making enemies of Lt. Gibbons, and his friend, Lt. Berry. All of this combined means that Sharpe is left in a bleak spot. He must capture an eagle, not just for Lennox, but because otherwise Simmerson will get him kicked out.
Lt. Berry and Lt. Gibbons break into Josefina's tent one night and violent beat her and rape her. Sharpe is furious, but Hogan and Sgt. Harper restrain him. But later, in a night-time skirmish, Sharpe sneaks up on Lt. Berry and murders him in a way that the French are blamed.
Finally, the Battle of Talavera begins, and the South Essesx goes to fight. Sir Henry Simmerson shows his true colors, and tries to retreat. He is relieved and command of the South Essex given to William Lawford, another of Sharpe's old friends from India. In the middle of the battle, Sharpe sees his opportunity, and spurring his rifles and his new company, breaks a French Regiment and takes an Eagle. As the battle is ending, Lt. Gibbons attempts to kill Sharpe and steal his prize and his glory, but Sgt. Harper comes just in time, kills Lt. Gibbons, and rescues Sharpe. Sharpe takes his now secure place as the Captain of the South Essex's Light Company, their honor restored.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked this story because Sharpe is a brilliantly written character. He is neither all good nor bad, but a constantly fluid combination of both.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is the night time skirmish where Sharpe sneaks up on Lt. Berry, toys with him briefly, then gruesomely kills him, and blames the French.
Opinion about the main character:
The thing I like most about Sharpe is that he isn't a typical hero, or an anti-hero. He seems like a normal man, in an extraordinary circumstance.