Rifleman Dodd was the “Commandant's Choice” for 1996 and it supported the year's theme of “commitment.” It followed the struggles of Dodd, a rifleman in the British Ninety-Fifth, as he tried to return to his regiment when he was cut off by the French. The setting was the peninsular campaign during the Napoleonic War. The combatants were the French who “would hang or shoot—if they did not torture—any one they caught who was not a Frenchman,” the British who only make appearances at the beginning and end of the book, and the Portuguese forces and the peasant guerrillas Dodd organized.
Dodd made a supernatural reputation for himself among the French. He was known as the green shirted one—green instead of red for riflemen. His use of the rifle gave him an edge over his French pursuers who used inaccurate muskets. The French would become so fearful of Dodd that they would melt silver down into bullets in order to kill the “devil.”
This was a story of initiative. Dodd was cut off from his regiment but he kept taking the fight to the enemy in the absence of any orders. He organized bands of Portuguese peasants and harassed the French, “killing Frenchmen, or aiding them to starve to death, or tormenting them with disease.” “Dodd never stopped to think that perhaps he was doing better work for England out here organizing the irregulars than if he were inside the Line's lost in the ranks of the Ninety-fifth; that would have been a form of presumption quite foreign to his nature. He knew his place and his duty.” He was no Rambo fighting the war as he best saw it; he always kept to what he thought his commander's intent would be in each situation. His ultimate goal was always to return to his unit.
There were two instances of great initiative. First he knew his commander would have removed the peasants and their food from villages in order to deny the French food and supplies. Dodd did this. He also knew that his commander would have asked him to risk his life to...
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