I wish to charge Colonel Bampfylde with cowardice in the face of the enemy,
abandoning his position, abandoning the wounded, conspiring to desert
his position and throwing the blame on major Sharpe.
1813 - Wellington waits on the Spanish border, gathering his forces to invade France. But which way wll he go - East or West?
At this point the ar seems to be turning in favour of the British forces, and Lord Wellington is poised to invade southern France after triumphing in Spain. The Compte de Maquerre (Christian Brendel), a French nobleman, offers to raise a rebellion in Bordeaux against Napoleon. Major General Ross is unconvinced, as his spies have reported no discontent in the region, but agrees that a brigade can be sent as a probe if the compte can provide a secure base; he offers a family castle, though he admits that it is garrisoned.
Wellington is forced to put a young, inexperienced Colonel Horace Bampfylde (the son of a general Wellington needs to placate) in charge of the expedition, instead of Major Sharpe. Sharpe is reluctant to go, as he has just married Jane Gibbons (Abigail Cruttenden) and she has come down with a deadly fever. Without guinine, her prognosis is bleak, but he is a soldier and he has his orders.
Bampyflde messes up the initial assault on the fortress and is driven back with heavy casualties. Disgusted, Sharpe and his men gain entry to the castle at night by a ruse, pretending to be a French patrol, and capture the place. The compte is reunited with his sister and gravely ill mother. For his trouble, Bamfylde sends Sharpe out on a useless reconnaissance in order to grab the credit for himself. While he is away, the compte convinces Bamfylde to demolish the front gates, blow up the captured ammunition, abandon the wounded, and return to Wellington with the wonderful news that he has accomplished his mission and that the region is ready to rise up. The compte fetches the "Mayor of Bordeaux", who turns out to be none other than Sharpe's old enemy, Major Ducos (Feodor Atkine), to help convince the naive Bamfylde.
Sharpe's patrol meanwhile ambushes and annihilates a French column of reinforcements, and captures a resupply cart and a doctor bringing quinine for the compte's mother. Resisting the temptation to save it for his wife, Sharpe allows it to be given to the ailing woman. Rifleman Robinson (Danny Cunningham) meanwhile is found with a local French girl during Sharpe's raid. Sharpe is required to hang him by Wellington's standing orders, but when the girl says she had been willing, Sharpe reduces the sentence to a beating from Sargent Harper.
Hearing the explosion from the castle's magazine, Sharpe and his men hurry back to the castle. When he gets a description of the mayor, he realizes he has been lured into a trap by the compte and Major Ducos. Not only will Wellington be misled into advancing into a trap, but Ducos will have his revenge on Sharpe.
Meanwhile French General Calvet (Olivier Pierre) arrives with a sizable, but inexperienced force. Under a flag of truce, Ducos offers to let the British (thats Sharpe's men and the wounded left at the fort) go free provided they leave Sharpe behind; Robinson replies for them all, "Fight them to the death, sir." The compte comes along and reveals himself to be Napoleon's agent (even his sister did not know this). Sharpe turns them down and has the compte shot dead by Hagman after he rides away. Sharpe and his men only have 18 rounds a man. Out of gratitude, the compte's sister tells them to burn a cellar full of oyster shells to produce lime.
The French attack, but are met by accurate volley shooting. With the British ammunition running low, Sharpe's men dump powdered lime from the walls, blinding their foes as they enter the castle. The French retreat just as the British ammunition runs out. Then, a messenger arrives from Marshal Soult, Calvet's superior, wondering why he wasn't around to guard his flank when Wellington attacked... fifty miles away. The wily British commander had seen through the scheme and turned it to his advantage. General Calvet hurries away, leaving Sharpe victorious.
When Sharpe gets back, Bamfylde is placed under arrest for cowardice and other charges. Sharpe is astounded to find his wife well; she tells him that Wellington had gone to some lengths to obtain quinine for her.
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