Season 1 Episode 1 "Sharpe's Rifles"
Episode aired May 5, 1993
In the Peninsular War, a British sergeant is field promoted to a lieutenant in charge of a disrespectful rifle company.
Bernard Cornwell, author of the Richard Sharpe novels on which the TV series was based, was so happy with Sean Bean's portrayal of his hero that he changed the physical description of Sharpe in his later books to more closely resemble the actor.
The jacket which Sean Bean wears on the cover picture was actually tailored for the smaller Paul McGann, whom Bean replaced in the role of Sharpe, which is why the jacket hangs open at the front.
Sharpe's 95th Regiment and its green jackets are fact based. The 95th was a direct ancestor of the modern Royal Green Jackets (in 2005 merged with other regiments to form The Rifles).
In one scene, Vivar is seen to light a cigar with what appears to be a pistol with no barrel. This is, in fact, a flintlock fire-starter - pretty much exactly a pistol grip and lock with no barrel, designed to ignite tinder by means of the shower of sparks created when the flint in the lock strikes the steel frizzen.
The "proper sword" given Sharpe by Capt. Murray is a British Pattern 1796 Sword for Heavy Cavalry. It is a single-edged sword with a "hatchet" point similar to that of the Japanese katana. Also like the katana, the 1796 is meant to be a cutting sword, though this blade-heavy weapon is meant for much less elegant work than the well-balanced katana. As such, the 1796 is particularly unsuitable for delicate swordplay; nonetheless it found strong favor among British foot as well as horse troops, especially during the Napoleonic Wars, due its ability to simply break the blades of lighter infantry and cavalry swords - allowing users to smash their way through opponents.
The "Chosen Men", although fact based, were not a unit but the equivalent of Lance Corporals. The producers brought them together so that Sharpe's character would have a regular team around him, with a sense of camaraderie.
The rifle used by Sharpe's unit (and indeed by all British rifle companies of the Napoleonic Wars) is the Pattern 1800 Infantry Rifle, known also as the "Baker" rifle after its designer, London gunsmith Ezekiel Baker. Formally adopted in 1800 for limited issue to special rifle companies, this .635-caliber flintlock weapon was one of the first rifles to be mass-produced, and the first type of rifle to be accepted as an issue weapon by a major military. Previous rifles used in combat were fielded by militia units, whose members were required to supply their own gun; the Baker was a departure both in being purpose-built for the British Army and in taking its design cues not from the long, smooth-bore muskets used by Regulars as previous rifles had been - as in the case of the classic American long rifles used during the American Revolution - but after the shorter, more compact German and Prussian "Jaeger" rifles, which were meant originally to be hunting weapons. The Baker was well-regarded for its accuracy and durability, and was so successful that it was produced until 1838 and issued as late as 1841. Bakers were also used in various colonial conflicts, against the Americans during the War of 1812, and, in the hands of Mexican troops (alongside Brown Bess muskets), during the Texan Revolution.
Sean Bean replaced Paul McGann in the role of Richard Sharpe after McGann was injured.
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