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Sharpe's Eagle
Sharpe's Eagle - Starring Sean Bean
the story

Spain 1809

Sir 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.

The 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 dying Lennox.

Wellesley 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: an eagle.

Maj. 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 Essex]
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.
Richard 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, their 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?

Sir 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.
[kills Berry]

[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 King's Colours.
Sir Henry Simmerson: [nervous] The fault was not mine, sir. Major Lennox must answer.
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.
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