The book itself follows the British forces as they attempt to build a fort overlooking Majabigwaduce and Penobscot bay. It also follows the American army's attempts to push the British out of Massachusetts with General Solomon Lovell leading the assault and one Paul Revere taking control of the cannons.
The story, and by extension the real conflict, shows how strong personalities can change the course of war and conflict.
The book contains examples of the following tropes:
- Badass Army: The British Army certainly fits the mould. On the American side, there are the Continental Marines.
- The Captain
- Church Militant: A Reverend is amongst the American's officer corps, and is quick to (repeatedly) point out that God is on their side and that their victory over the British is guaranteed.
- Conflicting Loyalty
- Continuity Nod: Among the British officers is the future general John Moore, founder of the Napoleonic-era Rifle Regiments that one day Richard Sharpe will join. It is speculated that the green jackets of the British Riflemen were inspired by the green coats of the American Marines who Moore sees in action.
- Dramatization: Some of the characters have been made up for the sake of the story, but Cornwell points out every character who wasn't real. Also, some events were added for narrative, but generally the story is what is believed to have happened.
- Cultured Warrior
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Right at the end when the British reinforcements arrive.
- Grey and Gray Morality
- Glory Seeker
- A Father to His Men: General McLean initially believes that the Americans outnumber his forces by a factor of up to 3-to-1, and with the fort only barely established, intends on offering only token resistance before surrendering, so as to save the lives of his soldiers.
- Fighting for a Homeland
- Last Stand: Funnily enough, the British were just pretending to do this at the start, allowing a few volleys to be fired to save face before giving up, but the Americans strangely decided not to attack, allowing the British more time to finish the fort.
- My Country, Right or Wrong
- Privateers: They were more interested in loot and riches than the battle itself.
- Officer and a Gentleman
- Race Against the Clock: The Americans have to take down the fort before British reinforcements arrive from New York and attack them in the rear. Meanwhile, the British race to construct the fort and bolster its defenses before the Americans can launch a full-scale attack.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The colonial army consisted mostly of press-ganged men. In a subversion of the usual trope, they prove to be considerably ineffective, and many of them wind up deserting and heading home even before the Americans officially call off the siege.
- Semper Fi: The Continental Marines are by far the most professional and competent of the American forces present.
- Violent Glaswegian: The British regiments are largely Scottish, and at one point, one of their officers uses a mention of an old Scottish blood feud to encourage his troops to recapture an artillery battery from the Americans.
- Wooden Ships and Iron Men
- We ARE Struggling Together: The Americans efforts are hampered considerably as a result of the disputes between General Solomon Lovell in charge of the land forces, Commodore Dudley Saltonstall representing the Continental Navy, and Colonel Paul Revere in charge of the artillery.