The battles of Rolica and Vimiero, and the skirmish at Obidos that preceded them, marked the beginning of the British involvement in the Peninsular War and covered the whole of the first tenure of Sir Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, as commander of the British forces. I have done my best throughout this story to give an accurate account of the battles but my apologies for any details that are unreliable. I owe an enormous debt to Mark Adkin, writer of the book The Sharpe Companion, who gives much speculation about Sharpe's actions in these months as well as providing the context of the real world events. If he ever reads this, I hope he understands that I had to change a few elements to make my story work.
The 29th did indeed launch a precipitous attack at Rolica during which they sustained around half the British and Portugese casualties of the battle. Although accounts differ, they appear to have had around two hundred men killed, including their commanding officer Colonel Lake. Four days later, at Vimiero, they met the French attack on the ridge, where the French came closest to breaking through the British line. I attempted without success to learn who commanded them at Vimiero, hence my substitution of Colonel Forbes. In both battles, the British/Portugese army had the numerical advantage so the fact they attained victory is perhaps not surprising.
The 95th were the first regiment to engage the French at Obidos and suffered the first casualties, including Lieutenant Bunbury. Machin, however, is fictional. As is Lenoir, although General Brennier existed and was captured at Vimiero, not being returned to the French until the following year. The 95th did fight alongside the 60th at Vimiero, which allowed me to place Murray and Frederickson in charge of their skirmishers.
After Vimiero, the French offered their unconditional surrender. Despite this, they were given escort out of Portugal with full equipment. It was a move that freed Portugal from the French but which outraged people back in London. Sir Huw Dalrymple and Sir Harry Burrard were recalled from the Peninsular and never returned. Sir Arthur Wellesley was also recalled but, having argued against the treaty and refused to sign it, he was completely exonerated by the enquiry. He would return to command the army the following year, winning victories at Oporto and Talavera. And so, as Bernard Cornwell, would say, Sharpe would march again.