Ramage and the Drumbeat
Ramage and the Drumbeat, also published as Drumbeat is an historical novel
Historical novel
According to Encyclopædia Britannica, a historical novel is-Development:An early example of historical prose fiction is Luó Guànzhōng's 14th century Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which covers one of the most important periods of Chinese history and left a lasting impact on Chinese culture.The...

 by Dudley Pope
Dudley Pope
Dudley Bernard Egerton Pope was a British writer of both nautical fiction and history, most notable for his Lord Ramage series of historical novels. Greatly inspired by C.S. Forester, Pope was one of the most successful authors to explore the genre of nautical fiction, often compared to Patrick...

, set during 1796 and 1797 amongst the naval warfare of the French Revolutionary Wars
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

. It is the second of the Ramage novels
Lord Ramage
Nicholas, Lord Ramage was the fictional character at the centre of a series of sea novels written by Dudley Pope. Ramage was an officer in the British Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars.-Early life:...

, following on from Ramage
Ramage (novel)
Ramage is the first novel in the Lord Ramage novels by Dudley Pope. It isset during the French Revolutionary Wars and later in the series during the Napoleonic wars.-Plot summary:...

. During the book, Ramage becomes an integral part of ensuring British readiness for the Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797)
Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797)
In the Battle of Cape St Vincent a British fleet under Admiral Sir John Jervis defeated a larger Spanish fleet under Admiral Don José de Córdoba near Cape St. Vincent, Portugal.-Origins:...



The book follows Nicholas Lord Ramage, by now a lieutenant, and his experiences commanding the cutter HMS Kathleen. Dispatched by Commodore
Commodore (Royal Navy)
Commodore is a rank of the Royal Navy above Captain and below Rear Admiral. It has a NATO ranking code of OF-6. The rank is equivalent to Brigadier in the British Army and Royal Marines and to Air Commodore in the Royal Air Force.-Insignia:...

 Horatio Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB was a flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was noted for his inspirational leadership and superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which resulted in a number of...

 to carry messages to Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 while transporting the Italians refugees rescued in Ramage. During the voyage, the Marchessa and Ramage exchange rings through a faked shooting competition. Soon the Kathleen encounters the crippled Spanish frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

, La Sabina. Deciding that it would be foolish and unpolitic to leave the hulk
Hulk (ship)
A hulk is a ship that is afloat, but incapable of going to sea. Although sometimes used to describe a ship that has been launched but not completed, the term most often refers to an old ship that has had its rigging or internal equipment removed, retaining only its flotational qualities...

 drifting at sea, he forces the ship to surrender to his far inferior armed ship by a faked attempt at blowing the stern off the ship. He takes La Sabina in tow.

Soon after, two British frigates encounter the Kathleen and remove the prisoners from the hulk in tow. The Captain of one of the ships also took charge of the Marchessa, to the great reluctance of Ramage and herself. Soon after, Ramage and the hulk drift into a Spanish fleet returning to the port of Cartagena
Cartagena, Spain
Cartagena is a Spanish city and a major naval station located in the Region of Murcia, by the Mediterranean coast, south-eastern Spain. As of January 2011, it has a population of 218,210 inhabitants being the Region’s second largest municipality and the country’s 6th non-Province capital...

. Though the Kathleen is captured, Ramage passes himself off as an American sailor pressed by the British with the help of Jackson and receives liberty from the Spanish. While in Cartegena, (with other foreign and non-foreign refugees from the kathleen who had fake protections) Ramage spies on the Spanish admiral José de Córdoba stealing several official documents from his house. From these Ramage learns that the Spanish fleet will soon sail for the Atlantic. Realizing the danger of the situation, he steals a xebec
A xebec , also spelled zebec, was a Mediterranean sailing ship that was used mostly for trading. It would have a long overhanging bowsprit and protruding mizzen mast...

 and returns to Gibraltar where he finds the recaptured Kathleen. The Commissioner of the port, then sends Ramage to find Sir John Jervis
John Jervis
John Jervis may refer to:* John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent , Royal Navy admiral* Sir John Jervis , British politician, Solicitor General, Attorney General and Privy Counsellor...

 and warn him of the battle. After a squall, he encounters the fleet which quickly proceeds to Cape St. Vincent
Cape St. Vincent
Cape St. Vincent , next to the Sagres Point, on the so-called Costa Vicentina , is a headland in the municipality of Sagres, in the Algarve, southern Portugal.- Description :This cape is the southwesternmost point in Portugal...

 where they fight the Spanish fleet on 14 February 1797, the Kathleen acting as a support ship for Lord Nelson. Entangled in the battle, Ramage and the Kathleen become integral in the fouling of the San Nicholas aboard the San Jose allowing Nelson in the to come into battle. The British fleet is victorious capturing 4 ships and Ramage nearly dies from a wound which knocks him into the sea. However, he is rescued by several of his sailors, but gains no credit for his role in the battle.


  • Nicholas Ramage - lieutenant and commander of the cutter HMS Kathleen
  • Gianna the Marchessa di Volterri - an Italian noblewoman who fled from the French conquest of the Italian kingdoms in Ramage and lover of Lieutenant Ramage.
  • Count Antonio Pitti - a cousin of the Marchessa di Volterri
  • Thomas Jackson - Ramage's American coxswain


  • Sir John Jervis
    John Jervis
    John Jervis may refer to:* John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent , Royal Navy admiral* Sir John Jervis , British politician, Solicitor General, Attorney General and Privy Counsellor...

     - commander of the British fleet out of Gibralter
  • Horatio Nelson - sympathizer with Ramage and commodore of a British squadron


Below are the fictional ships, see the respective fleet lists from the Battle of Cape St. Vincent for real ships.
  • HMS Kathleen - cutter armed with 10 x 6 lb carronades

  • La Sabina - Spanish frigate demasted by a blow and captured by the Kathleen

Critical reception

Booklist is a publication of the American Library Association that provides critical reviews of books and audiovisual materials for all ages. It is geared toward libraries and booksellers and is available in print or online...

called it 'Another rousing tale of the sea...', while the New York Times declared 'Not even C.S. Forester knows more about the routine and battle procedures of the British Navy in the days of Nelson.' Kirkus Reviews
Kirkus Reviews
Kirkus Reviews is an American book review magazine founded in 1933 by Virginia Kirkus . Kirkus serves the book and literary trade sector, including libraries, publishers, literary and film agents, film and TV producers and booksellers. Kirkus Reviews is published on the first and 15th of each month...

reported that 'Mr. Pope is as good at detail as Ramage is at tactics and it's for those who like their cutlasses sharp and their romance romantic.'
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