Arthur Wellesley takes the army into Spain. In camp,
Sharpe and Harper watch the arrival of a new regiment - the
South Essex. At its head is Col. Sir Henry Simmerson,
accompanied by Simmerson's nephew Lt. Gibbons, Lt. Berry,
Maj. Lennox (a veteran of the Indian Campaign), Capt. Leroy
(a loyalist American) and Countess Josefina who is under
the 'protection' of Lt. Gibbons. The South Essex is
a battalion run by incompetents and filled with soldiers
that have never been in battle.
Wellesley is unimpressed by Simmerson and his regiment, but,
as Simmerson is a political animal, he arranges a 'small
victory' for him - blowing the bridge at Valdelacasa. Wellesley
orders Sgt Richard Sharpe to see that the mission is a success
in exchange for a promotion to captain. Simmerson is infuriated
to learn that Sharpe is not a gentleman and was raised from
the ranks by Wellesley. In revenge, he orders Sharpe to train
his men to fire three rounds a minute by nightfall, or they
will be flogged as punishment for failure. Sharpe and Harper
succeed infuriating Simmerson even more.
following day, Simmerson orders Capt. Lennox to lead the
South Essex across the bridge in an attempt to chase away
a small French patrol. But the French cavalry appears as
the new soldiers cross the bridge. They panic and
are cut to pieces by the cavalry. Sharpe and the
Chosen Men run to help the stricken unit. In his
panic, Simmerson orders the bridge to be blown, leaving
Sharpe and his men stranded. The
French make off with the Colours, watched by Sharpe and the
breaks up what is left of the South Essex and gives command
of the Light Company to the newly promoted Captain Sharpe. Simmerson
is outraged and threatens to use his influence in London
to have Sharpe stripped of his rank. The only thing
Sharpe can do to retain his rank is perform an act of
outstanding valour. Sharpe vows to save the honour of
the regiment by capturing a French Imperial standard:
Hogan: You've lost the colours, sir. The king's own colours,
touched by his own hand. Take my advice, and a pistol, and
go behind that tent, and blow out what's left of your brains.
[Gibbons has challenged
Sharpe to a duel]
Maj. Hogan: Oh, give me your hand, sir! You're a brave fellow, Gibbons!
Sharpe's a killer! Killed three French cavalrymen and saved
Wellesley's life - three seconds, slash, cut thrust! And
that was when he was still a sergeant. Shall we say six o'clock
tomorrow morning, in the field behind the camp? Or should
we say it was damn dark, and you made a damn bad mistake?
Gibbons: Silly mistake. Say no more about it, eh?
Maj. Hogan: Good thinking, Gibbons. Sharpe would have shot out your left
eye at a minute past six, and you'd have spent all day tomorrow
looking up at nothing with the other.
[of the South
Richard Sharpe: They're flogged soldiers, sir. And flogging teaches a soldier
only one lesson.
Maj. Hogan: What's that, Richard?
Richard Sharpe: How to turn his back.
Sharpe: Those men who've fought in a big battle before,
one pace forward.
[no one moves]
Richard Sharpe: This place
is called Talavera. There's going to be a battle here tomorrow. You'll fight
in it... maybe even die in it. But you won't see it.
Richard Sharpe: There's a lot
of smoke in a battle. Our cannon, their cannon. Our shot, their shell. Our volleys,
Richard Sharpe: You don't see
a battle. You hear it. Black powder blasting by the ton on all sides. Black smoke
blinding you and choking you and making you vomit. Then the French come out of
the smoke - not in a line, but in a column. And they march towards our thin line,
kettledrums hammering like hell and a golden eagle blazing overhead. They march
slowly, and it takes them a long time to reach you, and you can't see them in
smoke. But you can hear the drums. They march out of the smoke, and you fire
a volley. And the front rank of the column falls, and the next rank steps over
them, with drums hammering, and the column smashes your line like a hammer breaking
glass... and Napoleon has won another battle. But if you don't run - if you stand
until you can smell the garlic, and fire volley after volley, three rounds a
minute - then they slow down. They stop. And then they run away. All you've got
to do is stand, and fire three rounds a minute. Now, you and I know you can fire
three rounds a minute. But can you stand?
Henry Simmerson: I have a cousin at Horse Guards. I
have friends at court.
Wellesley: A man who loses the king's colours loses the king's friendship.
Berry: [attacking Sharpe] This is going to hurt quite a
bit, old boy.
Patrick Harper: So will this, old boy.
[about the first
defeat of the South Essex]
Wellesley: This is a report from Major Hogan, which differs somewhat
from your account, Sir Henry.
Sir Henry Simmerson: Major Hogan is merely an engineer, sir.
Wellesley: Major Hogan's coat buttons up tight over a number of other
duties, Sir Henry. Major Hogan reports a number of losses,
Sir Henry. He says you first lost your head, and instead
of destroying the bridge marched over it. He says you then
lost your nerve, and ran from a small French patrol. He says
you lost ten men, a Major and two sergeants. He says you
finally lost your sense of honour and destroyed the bridge,
cutting off a rescue party led by Lieutenant Sharpe. Major
Hogan leaves the worst to the last. He says you lost the
Sir Henry Simmerson: [nervous] The fault was not mine, sir. Major Lennox
Wellesley: [shouting] Major Lennox answered with his life!
As you should have done if you had any sense of honour!
Leroy: We have to stop him.
Patrick Harper: You can't stop Captain Sharpe, sir. You can walk away from
him or you can stand behind him, but don't ever try and get
in his way.