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Literature / Death to the French

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Death to the French (also published as Rifleman Dodd) was written by C. S. Forester in 1932. The novel is set during The Napoleonic Wars, specifically in the "Peninsular War" in Spain, with allied forces fighting against the armies of Napoléon Bonaparte. The chief focus of the novel is on a member of 95th Foot Rifles Matthew Dodd, aka Rifleman Dodd.

British Rifleman Matthew Dodd gets left behind during an allied retreat during a battle while his unit retreats behind the lines of Torres Vedras. Dodd is cut off from rejoining his unit by advancing French skirmishers and the French Armies of Napoleon following close behind. Forced to flee into the hills away from his unit, Dodd is cut off and trapped behind enemy lines. The story focuses on Dodd's survival for several months separated from the army and his efforts to fight the French in a running guerrilla war with the aid of local guerrilla forces.


Its picture of the hero's resolution and devotion to duty in dangerous circumstances caused it to be put on the official reading list endorsed by the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps and other military bodies and groups.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Instant Death Bullet: Usually seen when Dodd uses his Baker rifle. Justified, since infantry rifles in the Napoleonic era fired huge rounds, and the Baker is no exception. note 
  • La Résistance: Dodd joins up with Portuguese Guerrillas to assault the French while trapped behind enemy lines.
  • No One Left Behind: Subverted leading to Dodd's separation from his unit and subsequent adventures that result from him trying to rejoin them.
  • Shout-Out: In Sharpe's Escape (2004), one of Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe novels, Matthew Dodd appears right before being separated from Sharpe's company in a skirmish. Per Word of God, this intended to be Forester's Dodd, in a nod to one of Sharpe's biggest influences.
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  • Silver Bullet: The French soldiers whom Dodd is facing mould silver bullets when they start to believe that Dodd is a supernatural being. In the book the bullets have better performance then the traditional lead ball ammo.
  • Tactical Withdrawal: The British are withdrawing to the lines of Torres Vedras. This results in Dodd being accidentally left behind to fend for himself.
  • Weapon of Choice: The Baker Rifle. The Rifle along with the green uniform is a highly visible weapon and symbol that separates a Rifleman from the common soldier armed with muskets.


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