The 1805 Campaign - Austerlitz
The 1806 Campaign - Jena & Auerstädt
Jena 1806 - Napoleon destroys Prussia by David Chandler
(Osprey Campaign 20)
The 1807 Campaign -
Eylau - Friedland
Napoleon's Polish Gamble: Eylau and Friedland 1807
(Campaign Chronicles) by Christopher Summerville.
A History of the
Peninsular War - Volume VII, August 1813 to April 14 1814 by Sir
Army, 1809 - 1814 by
Sir Charles Oman
Memoirs & Biographies
Napoleon - The Path to Power
Napoleon & Wellington by
The Life Guards by R.J.T. Hills
Osprey New Vanguard
Guns 1792 - 1815 (2) - Heavy and Siege Artillery by René
Napoleon's Guard Infantry (1) by Philip Haythornthwaite
389 - Napoleon's Red Lancers by
A Peer Among Princes
The Life of Thomas Graham, Victor of Barrosa, Hero of the Peninsular War
Considering that, until
well into his forties, he had never intended to follow a military
career, Thomas Graham's rise to second-in-command of the British army in
the Peninsula War might seem a remarkable achievement. However, once he
had decided to follow this path, Graham used all of his considerable
means and connections to ensure that he had a place in the thick of the action wherever and whenever possible.
This wasn't to make a name for himself, or for
personal gain, but simply that this was how he believed he could
best serve his country, or more specifically, serve the cause of defeating the
This book follows the usual biographical format, starting
with the subject's early life and the period prior to his military career,
the majority of the book being dedicated to his military career, and the
later chapters relating his retirement and old age.
In this case,
though, the section
describing Graham's earlier life is also quite detailed. These years of a
person's life are generally
referred to as formative years, and in the case of Thomas Graham, the
results of that
formation are very much evident in his later life. As a landowner, his passion for
organising his land to increase its yield was useful when faced with the
organisational task of raising a regiment of infantry for the British
Army. His interest in hunting developed an appreciation of the ground as
well as the ability to read a situation, a quality which, in French
commanders of the time, is usually referred to as "coup d'oeil", and
which was especially evident at Barrosa. Experience of travelling across Europe and
an interest in foreign languages aided in posts such as his assignment
as British Commissioner with the Austrian Army, and the independence of
action to which he was accustomed due to his circumstance as landowner instilled in him
the determination and self-sufficiency to escape from the besieged city
of Mantua in
Even after his retirement from military service,
Graham didn't rest on his laurels, but remained active in a number of
areas, for instance he was instrumental in the founding of the United
In writing this biography, the author was aided by
the availability of two very important documents. The first is Thomas
Graham's daily journal, a diary of sorts, which he kept in the earlier
years of his adulthood. The second document is the memoir that Graham
dictated to his secretary in 1830 and 1831.
The book includes a chronology of Thomas Graham's life
and times, 16 pages of colour
plates as well as several black-and white illustrations, a section
of Notes on the text and an
Index. Graham's dispatch following the Battle of Barrosa is included as
The book is well researched and well written, and, a
rarity these days, almost free of typos, though there are a couple of
minor muddles over dates in the section on Graham's earlier life.
Both for the engrossing subject matter and the quality of the writing,
this book is well worth acquiring.
French Warship Crews 1789-1805
Osprey Warrior 97
The subtitle of this book
is "From the French Revolution to Trafalgar". Although not specifically
stated, it's unlikely that a second volume, covering the period from
Trafalgar until the end of the Napoleonic Wars, was ever planned.
Rather, the culmination of the Trafalgar campaign is generally
considered as marking the effective end of French (and Spanish)
opposition to British naval superiority. In large part, the details
provided in this book would however also be applicable for the later
While the focus of the book is the crewmen themselves, it is
of course necessary to discuss the ships and equipment that the crewmen
served, and these are described in some of the eight colour plates as
well as the numerous contemporary illustrations in black-and-white.
The composition of the crews, as well as the competencies and
responsibilities of the various positions on board, are explained in
some detail. Also included is the ship's garrison, i.e. the marine
infantrymen that were carried on most ships.
In addition to iving
conditions onboard, the medical services available during normal working
of the ship as well as in combat are discussed, as are discipline and
punishment, maritime incription and life in captivity.
the text and illustrations in themselves would be enough to make this
book worth having, it is also packed with useful information, like a
chronology of naval actions during the period, a table listing the
nominal crew composition of various types of ships, a table of the
armament carried by the various types of ship, and another table listing
the penetrative power of the various guntypes at certain ranges.
bibliography and an index complete the book.
The Hunt for Moore's Gold - Investigating the
Loss of the British Army's Military Chest during the Retreat to Corunna
For over 200 years, the
fate of the military chest abandoned during the British Army's retreat
to Corunna has been a matter of conjecture. The term "chest" in this
case refers not to an item of furniture but generically to monies under
the charge of the paymaster general, intended to be used for the army's
pay and subsistence. In fact, the abandoned "military chest" consisted
of several barrels filled with coins, which were rolled down the steep
mountain slopes to avoid them falling into the hands of the pursuing
French forces. In 2018, the author set out
for Spain, in an attempt to finally solve the mystery, basing his search on a
comprehensive study of contemporary
sources, combined with on the ground help from local experts.
than restrict the scope of this work to recounting his search for the
military chest, the author decided to include as background information
a history of the campaign, making good use of his extensive research. The resulting book is therefore
divided into two parts.
The first part briefly describes the background to the
Napoleonic Wars and the conflict in the Peninsula, before relating in
comprehensive detail the advance of Moore's army to Sahagun, followed by its retreat to Corunna.
As mentioned, the account of the campaign, and especially the retreat,
is very well researched and written, with many quotes from contemporary
In addition, the author
discusses Moore's belief that the British army's advance
had not been meaningless, and that it had distracted the attention of the French forces away from the Spanish
armies, gaining them time to regroup and prepare for further resistance.
Unfortunately, the author's efforts and attention to historical
detail are marred by the amount of typos in the book, but even so, this first part on
its own is on a par with the best histories of the Peninsular
War, and as such would be reason enough to acquire the book.
Two of the four maps, as well as most of the sixteen pages of colour
photographs in the book (the ones showing current views of the route of the retreat)
relate to the text in this first part of the book.
The second part of the book is dedicated to the author's
search for the military chest. Considering the amount of detail devoted
to the account of the campaign, it's disappointing that the description
of the search only takes up 26 pages, especially considering the title
of the book. It's not clear whether this is due to modesty on the
author's part or some other reason. There is certainly a sense that the
second part of the book comes to an abrupt, maybe even premature, end.
Possibly the search would have been better served by a
documentary film than by a book.
For those interested in numbers and
statistics, two appendices provide supplementary information: "Reasons for the loss of
equipment during the Corunna Campaign" and "British losses in the Corunna
Campaign". Again, this painstaking level of detail is in stark contrast
to the sparse depiction of the author's search.
The book is completed by an Index, Source Information and Notes
on the Text.
British Light Infantry & Rifle Tactics of the
Osprey Elite 215
During the Napoleonic Wars, the British army employed light
infantry for a variety of operational tasks and in a wide range of
Depending on the situation and the
number of units available, a
specific tactical approach was decided upon by the relevant commander,
either in advance or as events unfolded.
This book presents the light
infantry tactics used at each organisational level: from light infantry
companies of individual battalions to dedicated light infantry battalions and regiments, composite
battalions, right up to complete light infantry brigades.
the previous volumes on Napoleonic tactics within the Osprey Elite
series, Haythornthwaite uses a combination of full-page colour plates
and extracts from contemporary manuals and regulations to illustrate the
discussed in the accompanying text.
In addition to their tactics, the author discusses
light infantry equipment and uniforms, with the aid of photos of
original examples from various regiments. In the case of those units
armed with the rifle, the main difference compared to line infantry is
obvious, but there were also minor differences, often for practical
reasons, e.g. short-tailed coats for easier movement, or the adoption of a small bugle badge on the shako rather than a
large plate which was more likely to reflect the sunlight.
as numerous - mostly contemporary - illustrations of light
infantry in action, the book includes portraits of the pioneers of light infantry tactics
within the British army, accompanied by a discussion on the origins and development of
As stated in the title, the focus of this work is British Light Infantry
and Rifle units. Allied units, such as the light battalions of the Kings German
Legion, the Brunswick Oels Jägers and Portuguese Caçadores
get a passing mention in the text, but only to indicate that their
tactics were essentially the same as those of the British army.
An index, Source Notes and a Bibliography complete
this book, which is a worthy addition to the series.
Walking Waterloo - A Guide
Charles J. Esdaile
Even though the
Battle of Waterloo is undoubtedly the most written-about and studied battle in
history, and barely a month goes by without at least one title being
added to that already extensive bibliography, every once in a while a new book
succeeds in standing out from the crowd.
case of "Walking Waterloo", there are two reasons for this. The first is
that the book allows the reader to choose from not one, but eight
different tours of the battlefield. The first, or "Grand" tour is the
classic overview of the battle, while the other seven tours concentrate
on specific segments of the battlefield or
phases of the
The second reason that this book stands out is that the
author doesn't attempt to disprove the Prussian version of events and
prove the British version, or vice versa, but
rather argues that the two narratives can be combined into a
single credible explanation.
As mentioned, the
book includes eight separate tours. Inevitably, some of the locations on
the battlefield are included in more than
one tour, which leads to a certain amount of repetition. In these cases,
the relevant text is duplicated rather than being rehashed with slightly
different wording. This repetition could
have been avoided by using the approach employed in
the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books which were popular in the eighties
and early nineties. In those books, the method used - essentially an
analog forerunner of the hyperlink - instructed the reader e.g. "If you
choose to take the door on the
left, go to page 96; if you choose to take the door on the right, go to page 35".
The author could have used something like "If you're on Tour 3, go to page 96;
if you're on Tour 5, go to page 35".
This would have reduced the
number of pages in the book by perhaps ten percent, but on the other
hand, if you're standing in the middle of a
field, you don't necessarily want to have to flick backwards and forwards
through a book to find out where you need to go next. In any case, at
300 pages, the book is by no means in urgent need of being slimmed down.
Speaking of standing in the middle of a field, the decision to use a
somewhat thicker, glossy paper than normal for paperbacks probably makes
the book more durable and weather-resistant.
The book includes numerous photographs of the battlefield
which were taken by the author, as
well as reproductions of paintings representing scenes from the battle.
In many cases, these paintings were
more fanciful than factual, as the author points out in the accompanying
captions. Having said that, the illustration on page 272,
representing Grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard, is misidentified
in the book as Chasseurs of the Guard.
To the credit of the author,
even in those sections where the text is repeated, different photographs
or illustrations are included.
Although most readers will already be
familiar with the general layout of the battlefield, the author points
out a number of important features, like the intermediate ridge a short
distance in front of the main French line, as well as the watershed
which effectively divides the battlefield into two halves, East and
West. The author uses the existence of these features to dispel some of
the myths about the battle.
He also examines the line of sight from
various points, again to the detriment of several previous narratives.
Rather than attempt to force the reader to accept his argument by
repeating it ad nauseum, as has been done by some other writers on the
subject, the author simply states his case, and leaves the readers,
standing on the same spot, to decide whether or not they agree.
Each section describing a tour is accompanied by a map of the
part of the battlefield covered by the tour.
In addition, at the start of the
book, there are 10 maps illustrating the course of the battle.
is completed by a short section of source notes, as well as a
bibliography. Unusually, no index is included.
Even though the book
contains quite a few typos, there aren't enough of these to distract the
For the reader at home, the author's
examination of the battle provides important insights which could only
be gained by personal study on the ground.
For those that choose to
take this excellent book with them to the battlefield and to follow one
or more of the tours, walking the field while sharing in the author's
insights will make the experience even more rewarding.
Musket - Brown Bess and Charleville
Osprey Weapon 44
The period covered by this book saw the emergence of the
flintlock musket as the principal weapon carried by the ordinary infantryman.
Some of the most famous - and
bloody - conflicts in modern history also took place during this period: the
Seven Years War, the American War of Independence, the French
Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War.
The book concentrates
on the two most widespread and successful musket models of the period,
the Brown Bess and the Charleville, hence the restriction of the date range to
between 1715 and 1865. This is not to say that the flintlock was only
widely used between these dates. In fact, the start
date of the period covered is the year after the War of the
Spanish Succession ended, and indeed in
introduction the author mentions Marlborough as one of
the military leaders that owed his success to the flintlock musket,
albeit an earlier model.
The author also acknowledges the use of rifled weapons,
like the Baker rifle, during the period.
increase in destructive firepower which accompanied the evolution of the
flintlock musket, as well as the defensive strength achieved by the
seemingly simple innovation of attaching a bayonet to the end of the
musket led to the development of new infantry tactics, and also to
variations in firing procedure, like firing by ranks, by platoon, etc. Superseding the cumbersome pike
by the more maneageable musket allowed the infantryman greater mobility
on the battlefield.
Appropriately, the author grants discussion of these aspects roughly
the same amount of space in the book as the detailed descriptions of the
individual components of the flintlock mechanism, and their evolution
from the previous firelock and matchlock.
As mentioned, the author has chosen the Black Bess and the Charleville
to represent the flintlock musket, but even among these two models
numerous variants developed over time.
of the principal variants of British, French and American flintlocks, as
well as the year of their introduction, is included to illustrate this
The book includes
numerous photograps of authentic period Brown Bess and Charleville muskets, as
well as illustrations accompanying the discussion on the tactics of the
of a re-enactor performing the British infantry drill illustrate the
steps required to load and fire the musket.
important as the musket itself, and also covered in
this work, are the various accessories, like powder flask, ramrod,
pricker for cleaning the touchhole, the carrying sling, etc. including,
as mentioned, the bayonet.
Even the ingredients and method of manufacturing
the gunpowder used with the flintlock musket merit a page in this
The book is completed by a useful glossary,
a bibliography and an
flintlock itself was superseded by firearms with more lethal firepower,
greater accuracy and more efficient loading and firing mechanisms,
however the concept of the "universal" infantryman achieved by the
introduction of the flintlock musket has essentially remained the same
Although the time span covered by this
work is much broader than just the
Napoleonic Wars, the two musket models featured were the mainstay of the infantry
during those wars, and as such the book provides very useful informaton
for anyone interested in the warfare of the era. As with probably the
majority of Osprey books, the amount of information the book provides is
impressive for the size of the book (80 pages). At the same time, the
author's very capable treatment
of the subject will likely inspire many readers to delve deeper into the
topic, either by further reading on Brown Bess and Charleville muskets,
or on the many other lesser-known models of the time.
James Saumarez' career in the
Royal Navy began
before the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, and
only came to an end more than a decade after the Napoleonic Wars
had ended. From an early stage in that long career, he
established a reputation for reliability, excellent seamanship,
– a rare trait amongst seamen
In this biography,
Anthony Sullivan not only describes the many twists and
turns in Saumarez' naval career, but also provides an
insight into his family life and relationship with the
people of Guernsey, his birthplace.
actions in which Saumarez was involved will for the most
part already be well known to many readers, for instance
Battle of the Saintes during the American Revolutionary War
or the Battles of Cape St. Vincent, the Nile and Algeciras
during the French Revolutionary Wars.
Even the action
which was arguably represents his finest hour, the capture
of the frigate Reunion, is well documented by other authors.
It is more unusual to read details of the daily routine
during the blockades of Cadiz and Brest. It might be
expected that these periods would simply consist of long
weeks of boredom, however, as the author shows, there was
actually constant activity, with the ships of the blockading
fleet coming and going for refitting or provisioning, and
the need to find shelter from or run before the many storms
which threatened to destroy even the most robust ships.
As well as conveying this level of detail, the author lends
character to the narrative by using the appropriate nautical
terms when describing the handling of the ships. Some readers
might have found a glossary useful, though.
The book contains only one illustration, a
full-length portrait of Saumarez, actually the same
illustration used on the dust jacket, though there are also several
maps and diagrams which accompany the descriptions of the naval actions.
Illustrations of the ships
Saumarez commanded, or the actions in
which he participated, would also have been welcome. On the
other hand, paintings of naval actions tend to have such
large proportions that after reduction to the size of a book
page, it is sometimes almost impossible to make out any
Unfortunately, this book is
let down by the unusually large number of typos. These are
mostly not misspellings, but duplicated or missing words,
and having to reread these sentences to work out the meaning
becomes irritating after a while.
Saumarez' diplomacy when dealing with Sweden
and Russia during the Baltic campaign, which eventually led
to his receiving a Swedish knighthood, is also well described
by the author, and is a good example of the amount of
research which has gone into this book.
This biography will take its deserved place alongside
biographies of Nelson, Collingwood, St. Vincent and Sidney
The Forgotten War Against Napoleon - Conflict
in the Mediterranean 1793-1815
The term "Napoleonic Warfare" generally conjures up images
of colossal armies executing grand manoeuvres over vast swathes of countryside. Although the perception of Naval
Warfare in the same era is likewise of large-scale battles, in this case
dozens of line-of-battle ships pounding each other to
matchwood. It's fairly rare to encounter illustrations of
combined land and sea operations during the Napoleonic era, and it seems that the majority of
enthusiasts prefer to focus on
one area or the other.
The reality, of course, was that army and naval forces often
operated hand-in-hand, though most often only a few thousand
troops and a handful of smaller warships or troopships
would have been
combined-forces operations occurred especially often in the
Mediterranean theatre, where troops could only be moved from one location to another by
ship, and also because the complement of marines on the
ships often wasn't sufficient to capture and occupy islands or coastal towns
without the support of land forces. As the author of this
out, the necessity for the land forces to interact closely with
the navy led to a degree of independence which army
commanders rarely, if ever, experienced under Wellington in
with the French Revolutionary Wars, the
author recounts in chronological order the various actions
which took place in the Mediterranean until the end of the Napoleonic era, and
also includes the campaign against the Barbary pirates in
For the most part, each incident is covered in
a concise manner, without embellishment by superfluous detail.
This approach results in bite-sized chunks (the book has 56 chapters
in just over 250 pages), where the action flits
from location to location, accurately conveying the
impression of the forces involved, which were normally overstretched, moving
backwards and forwards across
the theatre, often in vain, with plans being
cancelled due to new developments like changes in the
The majority of the chapters
include accompanying maps of the area under discussion, and
there are also eight pages of colour plates.
This book provides a well-researched
overview of the numerous actions in the Mediterranean during the period,
ranging across Eastern Spain, the South of France, Italy,
the Adriatic coastline, North Africa, Egypt,
the border regions of the Russian and Ottoman empires.
The reader will be inspired
more extensively those conflicts
which have been covered in wider detail by other authors, for
instance the Siege of Toulon, the French Expedition to Egypt
and Syria, the French invasion of Eastern Spain, the
Russo-Turkish War and the Battle of Maida.
More ambitious readers may even be
inspired to research and produce works on the conflicts which
have been less well known or documented, like those
involving Dalmatia and
the Adriatic coast or the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Osprey General Military
Every once in a while, a book on Waterloo comes along, which stands out from
the multitude already available. Of course, the details of the
battle and the campaign itself are so well known that very
little new information is likely to appear.
this book unusual is that
actually new; in fact it's a facsimile reproduction of
a book that was first published only a few months after the
battle. As such, it would have been one of the first
publications to provide detailed information to an eager public,
and one can imagine while reading it the suspense with which
those readers would have turned each page.
At the time, this
book was so popular that, over the course of the following months, further editions
appeared, each of which included new information which had come
to light in the meantime; this facsimile version is actually of
the seventh edition, and the additional text passages are
evident in the mixture of font types and sizes throughout
the book, which also adds to the authentic feel.
The first part of this book is fairly conventional,
short description of the campaign, as well as numerous
eyewitness accounts. In fact, the highlight of this part is not
the text, but a fold-out 360 degree panorama of the battlefield
(although not showing the actual battle). Fold-out plans of the
battle and of the campaign are also included in this part.
third part of the book is also relatively typical, listing the
British officers killed and wounded, the number of British and
Hanoverian (i.e. KGL) losses by regiment, as well as a brief
biography of the Duke of Wellington, but also containing a list
of promotions and decorations awarded after the campaign,
biographical notes on the senior officers and other notable
personages killed during the campaign, as well as the text of a
couple of commemorative inscriptions from the church in
The second part of the book starts with several
official reports on the battle by the various nationalities
involved, including Dutch, Prussian and Hanoverian, as well as
from those that had observers in the allied camp, like Spain,
Russia and Austria. These reports are interesting enough,
however it's the rest of this second part of the book which
really makes the book worthwhile.
The way in which this book
evolved, by adding any information which came to hand, has
resulted in a treasure trove of miscellany, such as a letter
from Earl Bathurst to the Lords of the Admiralty containing
instructions on how "General Bonaparte" should be treated while
in their care, a letter from Davout, then Minister for War, to
Wellington and Blücher, informing them of Napoleon's abdication,
a letter from Wellington to Bathurst, announcing the surrender
of Paris and enclosing the text of the Convention of St. Cloud,
Ney's campaign report to Fouché, and many other gems.
these alone, the book is worth having, and the unexpected nature
of these random additions is an added bonus.
To produce a biography of one of history’s peripheral figures requires detective work as much as writing talent. In the case of John Pitt, the biographer has to deal with an extra dimension of complexity. The challenge is to provide an objective portrait of someone, who, as the son of William Pitt the Elder and older brother of William Pitt the Younger, found his life constantly overshadowed by, and unfavourably compared to, his more renowned relatives.
Jacqueline Reiter has succeeded in combining the detective work, the objectivity and the writing talent, in the process creating a book which is as remarkable for its attention to detail as for its impartiality.
While agreeing that Chatham’s career was constrained by the success of his relatives, the author also recognises his shortcomings – or at the very least, lack of inspiration – especially in the political positions he held, such as First Lord of the Admiralty and Master-General of the Ordnance.
An early example of the detrimental effect of his father’s standing on John Pitt’s career occurred when he was serving as a young ADC in Quebec at the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. Rather than serve against the Colonies, he was forced by family pressure to return to England, in order not to compromise his father’s political career, as Pitt the Elder had outspokenly supported American independence.
His brother William’s political prominence also negatively influenced Chatham’s career. Although Chatham acquitted himself well as a brigade commander in the Anglo-Russian expedition to the Helder in 1799, he was wounded in the process. Afterwards, he was kept from active service, because in case of his death, his brother William would have succeeded to the earldom, and been required to take up the family seat in the House of Lords.
It was only after William’s death that Chatham was considered again to serve overseas. As commander of the disastrous Walcheren expedition, though, he was apportioned the majority of the blame, effectively putting an end to both his military and his political career. In fact, the finger of blame was only pointed in Chatham’s direction after he attempted to highlight the navy’s failure to complete their role of the mission, which has contributed as much to the failure of the expedition as bad planning on the part of the War Office. While pointing out the injustice of the inquiry’s conclusions, the author doesn’t try to conceal the fact that a more experienced or even more enterprising commander might have made more of the situation, rather than floundering once the original plan started to go awry. Of course, if it hadn’t been for his family, Chatham might have had the military experience to deal with the changed circumstances.
Chatham’s personal life is also described in some detail. A recurring theme over several decades was his wife’s struggle with mental illness. His personal and professional relationship with his brother William, as well as his money woes are also recounted.
In addition to being well written, this book is meticulously researched. One example is that the author consulted the logbooks of the ships which took Chatham to and from Gibraltar, where he served as Governor, and quote details like the time Chatham arrived on board, and the duration of the journey. While not essential to the biography, this type of detail adds atmosphere to the narrative.
One point of note is that in the first chapter, the author refers to John Pitt as “Pitt” (due to his courtesy title at the time being Viscount Pitt), and refers to his father, as was the custom at the time, as “Chatham” (being the First Earl of Chatham). After his father died, John Pitt became Second Earl of Chatham, so for the rest of the book, the author refers to him as “Chatham”, and refers to William Pitt (the Younger) as “Pitt”.
The book includes 3 maps – of the Helder, Walcheren and Gibraltar regions –, 16 pages of black-and-white illustrations, an index, an extensive bibliography, and copious source notes.
Although Chatham’s army service is discussed, the expeditions in which he participated are not examined at the level of detail of a purely military history. The political events are related in much more depth, and the book provides a very interesting portrayal of the politics and politicians, as well as the British nobility, during the latter part of the Georgian era.
A note from the author, included in the Index of Names of Persons at the back of this book, states that he hasn’t attempted to index the names Napoleon and Daumesnil because the book is essentially about the two of them. Certainly, the relationship between these two men is the main theme of the book, but to say that it’s restricted to that single topic would be to do both the author and the book an injustice.
Pierre Daumesnil served close to Napoleon in all of his campaigns from Italy in 1797 up until Wagram, however Daumesnil’s military career spanned a much wider period, from the Revolutionary Wars via the Consulate, the Empire, the First Restoration, the Hundred Days and the Second Restoration to the July Monarchy.
In fact, the chapters of the book describing the period when Daumesnil served in closest proximity to Napoleon are probably the least enlightening, simply because Napoleon’s movements and actions have already been studied and documented in minute detail by so many other authors. In order to recount Daumesnil’s biography, it was of course necessary to recap the background to these campaigns, even though most readers will already be familiar with them to some extent. The author has at least only described those battles where the Chasseurs à Cheval de la Garde were present.
The chapter which describes Daumesnil’s service in the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees between 1793 and 1795 covers a period less well known to many military history devotees.
Similarly, the blockades of Vincennes in 1814 and 1815 after the occupation of Paris by the Allies, and the events that really brought Daumesnil to the attention of the general public, occurred during periods which have been relatively neglected by historians.
The paranoia among the Bourbon followers about possible conspiracies by Napoleonic supporters, which lasted for many years after the second restoration, is an interesting topic touched on in the book, as is the July Revolution.
Writing a biography of someone that neither wrote their memoirs nor kept a diary would be very difficult, but luckily Daumesnil’s wife kept a journal, and many anecdotes about Daumesnil’s exploits during this epoch have also appeared in other memoirs.
In addition, the author acknowledges the collaboration of Henri de Clairval, a direct descendant of Daumesnil, who himself wrote a French-language biography of his famous ancestor.
The book includes several annexes:
A. Daumesnil’s Service Record
B. Bonaparte’s Proclamation to the Army of Italy
(the proclamation of May 1796 following the conclusion with Sardinia of the Armistice of Cherasco)
C: Convention of Paris
(usually known as the Convention of St. Cloud, the military convention under which the French Army evacuated its forces from Paris in July 1815)
D: Blücher vs. Wellington re Napoleon’s Fate
(several letters sent between 27 and 29 June 1815, from Gneisenau, Blücher’s Chief of Staff, to Müffling, principal liaison officer at Wellington’s headquarters, instructing von Müffling to use his influence with the British to have Napoleon handed over to the Prussians)
E: The “Address” of 23 March 1815
(a text written by Daumesnil, then commander of the fortified town of Condé sur l’Escaut, addressed to the Emperor on behalf of the officers and men of the 42nd Line Infantry Regiment, who were garrisoning Condé at the time).
In addition to the Index of Names of Persons already mentioned, the book includes a Bibliography, 8 colour plates, 16 pages of black and white illustrations and, unusually, two pages of Notes on the Illustrations, where the author provides additional comments on the illustrations.
The book is generally well researched, although there are some minor factual errors (e.g. the author dates the Battle of the Nile as 31st July 1798, whereas it took place on 1st August; there are several references to the Battle of “Heilsburg” in 1807, whereas the correct spelling is “Heilsberg”).
As mentioned, despite its title and despite Daumesnil’s devotion to Napoleon, the best reason to buy this book is for the many interesting details in the passages which take place when the two men aren’t in close proximity to each other. The author is to be commended for avoiding the temptation to simply rehash previously available material under a different viewpoint, instead providing the reader with fresh or at least less well known information on the period and some of the people that helped to shape it.
Osprey Elite 196
Following on from the volume on Heavy Cavalry Tactics, this book presents the tactics used by hussars, chasseurs, light dragoons and lancers, as well as, more briefly, Mamelukes and Cossacks.
Before discussing their tactics, the author traces the development of light cavalry in the century prior to the Napoleonic era, explaining why the need for a light horseman arose, and how various nations responded to this need.
Since the organisation of heavy and light cavalry squadrons was very similar during the Napoleonic era, the author refers the reader to the book on heavy cavalry rather than repeating the information here.
As usual for this series, there are several plates and illustrations explaining how light cavalry deployed, how it redeployed between various formations, and describing the tactics used in different combat situations.
In contrast to heavy cavalry, light cavalry was employed in many tasks beyond those of the battlefield, for instance reconnaissance, outposts, vedettes and skirmishing, and the author discusses these tasks in some detail.
In addition to the full-page plates already mentioned, the book includes numerous colour and black-and-white illustrations which have been suitably chosen to show the many uses of light cavalry.
A Select Bibliography, Source Notes and an Index complete this well-researched and concisely-written addition to the “Tactics” volumes of Osprey’s Elite series.
Paul Britten Austin
Considering the enormous amount of attention the Waterloo
campaign has received in print, it's surprising that the events
preceding the campaign have been practically ignored by
Military historians may be deterred by the
fact that Napoleon's return to power was a practically bloodless
affair, however it certainly wasn't without drama, as shown by
Paul Britten Austin in this well-written work, reissued under
the Frontline Books imprint.
From the first day of the "adventure", where the situation at
Antibes threatened to degenerate into farce, to the arduous trek
through the mountains to Grenoble, to the march on Paris in the
face of the royalist army's attempt to concentrate in defence of
the capital, the outcome was far from a foregone conclusion.
The first chapter describes the
landing at Antibes, however this isn't where the story begins,
and so the second chapter describes Napoleon's time on Elba in a
type of flashback style. The reasons for the return to France,
the decision to do so and the subsequent preparations are
described in some detail.
narrative is written in the present tense, which is unusual,
however this adds an extra dynamic to the account. What takes
more getting used to, though, is that the author places himself,
as narrator, in the timeframe of the story, so that events which
had taken place recently to the narrative are referred to as
having occurred e.g. "yesterday", "last week", etc.
The author uses only eyewitness accounts
of the events. Many of these eyewitnesses were also sources for
the author's 1812 trilogy, so anyone that has already read those
books will recognise many of the names. There are also many
accounts by ordinary citizens along the route, not just the
soldiers and politicians involved.
Of course, Ney's defection is the best
known, but practically every soldier and politician in France
was faced with the same dilemma. The decisions and actions at
the court of Louis XVIII, as well as of the main
military and political
leaders are discussed by the author, especially in the case of
Oudinot, Fouché, Macdonald and Marmont. However there are also
numerous accounts from lesser-known individuals such as
Lieutenant Rilliet of the Cuirassiers of Louis XVIII's Guard and
Count Lavalette, the retired Postmaster General.
Ney's intention to carry out the King's
orders, and his anguish over the decision to follow his troops'
wish to desert to the "usurper" are recounted, making good use
of Ney's testimony from his trial after the second restoration.
The book is very well
researched, as witnessed by the extensive notes, and also well
written. This version is a high quality hardback with dust cover
and includes five maps and twenty-seven black-and-white
In this volume of the Campaign series,
Hofschröer puts forward the argument that even though the Russian campaign had ended
disastrously, at the beginning of 1813 French control of
central Europe was unbroken. It was only by continuing the
struggle, forming a new coalition with Prussia, that the
momentum of 1812 was sustained. Had Napoleon managed to check
the Allies' advance, driven the Russians back to their border
and defeated the Prussians, then it is unlikely that Austria
would have taken up arms against France in the Autumn of 1813.
There are many events which have been labelled as the
turning point in the struggle against Napoleon - Dupont's
surrender at Bailén, the Battle of Aspern-Essling, the retreat
from Moscow and the Battle of Leipzig, to name just a few. The
claim for Lützen and Bautzen is
based on the fact that the Prussian and Russian forces were able to force an
armistice rather than ending the campaign in defeat. After the
armistice had ended, the coalition forces were joined by the
Austrians, tipping the balance in the favour of the Allies and
effectively ending Napoleon's chances of holding the German
The manouvres up to the battles, as well as the
battles themselves, are described in detail, accompanied by maps
of the manoeuvres leading up to and in the aftermath of the
battles, as well as by 3-D maps of the battlefields.
This book faithfully follows the formula for Campaign
volumes: an introduction discussing the background to the
campaign, a chronology of the campaign, a section on the
opposing armies and commanders, a section on the battles
themselves, a discussion of the aftermath, and
a (brief) section on the battlefields today.
The text is
accompanied by numerous black-and white and colour
illustrations, including portraits of the opposing commanders,
as well as an index, a - very
short - bibliography, orders of battle for
both battles, and some black-and-white photographs illustrating
key areas of the battlefield today.
The Prussian Army of the Lower Rhine
Osprey Men At
I have to admit I'm amazed that the title
of this book isn't "Blücher's
Army at Waterloo" or something similar, as such keywords
seem to be almost compulsory these days for books on the Napoleonic
period. Instead, it
has been given a more sober and businesslike title,
for which the author and/or series editor
deserve praise. This no-nonsense approach is generally also followed
in the book itself.
As usual for a Men at Arms title, the organisation, uniforms,
tactics and combat history of the troops are described, however
as the author has already written a number of other
books on the Prussian Army of this period, he refers the reader to
those titles for the basic information rather than simply
rehashing it here.
Instead of describing the regulation
uniform, he therefore concentrates on the
variations from that regulation. These variations were
principally due to financial and logistic problems rather than
intentional disobedience of the regulations. Even so, the sheer
amount of information requires the font used in this section of
the book to be smaller than normal.
Army of the Lower Rhine is probably the most famous Prussian
Army of the Napoleonic Wars - the Prussian Army of Ligny, Wavre,
Waterloo and the advance on Paris - even though the Army's
offical title is not as well known as its feats. As well as the Army of
the Lower Rhine, this book covers the North German Federal Army Corps, as that Corps
also came under Blücher's
command when its commander, Kleist von Nollendorf, fell ill in
June. On the subject of Blücher, Hofschröer
leaves the reader in no doubt that he considers him to have
merely been a
figurehead for the army, and that command was effectively in the
hands of his chief of staff, Neidhardt von
The book includes an order
of battle for the Army of the Lower Rhine at Waterloo and Wavre
as well as for the North German Federal Army Corps.
In addition, there are eight colour uniform plates and numerous black
and white illustrations, mostly of uniforms, but also several
illustrations of the Prussian commanders. Some maps of the
campaign and the battles are included; one of these is actually
a plan showing the original troop dispositions on Siborne's Large
Prussian tactics at brigade level are
described first in
theory and then in practice, taking as examples the actual
dispositions of two brigades at Ligny.
The army's combat history is described in
considerable detail. In fact the description of the army's troop
movements leading up to and at Ligny, Waterloo and Wavre is practically a
mini "Campaign" title in itself.
Hofschröer has always been very vocal in
promoting the Prussian Army's contribution to
the Waterloo campaign, which in his opinion to this day remains
In fact, in the last couple of decades this situation has largely been redressed
- at least among historians; it's doubtful whether the
english-speaking general public will ever be persuaded that Waterloo
wasn't just a showdown between Wellington and Napoleon.
any case, the use of phrases such as "played the major role in
the defeat of Napoleon", "decided the outcome of Waterloo", "the
decisive action of the battle - the capture of Plancenoit",
and especially "Anglophone mythology" are more likely to be
detrimental than beneficial to the author's
On the other
hand, it is this passion for
the subject, this intimate knowledge of the Prussian Army's
organisation, strategy, tactics, uniforms and leadership which
makes this book not just very readable, but also enormously
invades France -
The French Army of Spain which Marshal Soult inherited from Jourdan
and Joseph following the debacle at Vitoria was a force in
disarray. Outnumbered, demoralised and on the verge of
disintegration, it nevertheless rallied under its new commander,
regaining sufficient cohesion
to effect a fighting retreat, with Soult even switching to the
offensive whenever the opportunity arose.
Eventually, though, Wellington's forces drove the French back
across the Pyrenees into southern France, and started a slow,
steady advance northwards. This advance was brought to a
premature halt by the armistice which followed news of
Napoleon’s abdication. The news took some days to reach Soult's
forces, so a number of actions actually took place after the
This book covers the last phase of the Peninsular
War, from the aftermath of Vitoria up until the armistice,
describing not just the combats which took place, but also the
movements of both sides as Soult and Wellington attempted to
outmanoeuvre each other, the former attempting to stem the
allied advance, the latter to outflank his opponent and force
him to continue his withdrawal.
In the author's note at the front of the book, Lipscombe remarks
that he found it difficult to condense the description of the
campaign into the short amount of space available. However, he
has managed to do this effectively enough to convey to the
reader in a clear, well-written manner the overall picture of
The overall result is a very good book, which when it takes its
place among the other Peninsular War titles in the Osprey
Campaign series provides a fitting conclusion to those volumes.
Lipscombe is an expert on the Peninsular War, so the historical
information, though condensed, has retained its accuracy. For
those who would like more detail on the campaign than mentioned
in the book, a list of recommended titles for further reading is
As usually with the Osprey Campaign series, the
text is accompanied by an enormous amount of visual material: 2D
and 3D maps, colour illustrations, specially-commissioned colour
plates, black and white illustrations, as well as colour photos
of the battlefields today. The many photos of the present day (I
counted forty-one) will be especially useful for anyone who
wishes to personally follow the course of the campaign.
in keeping with the Campaign series, this book includes a
chronology, an index and orders of battle for the Allied and
French armies for July/August 1813 and for the Battle of
Generally, the picture captions provide additional information
rather than just rehashing the text which the pictures
accompany, however a paragraph from Napier which is quoted in
the text, taking up about a third of a page, is repeated in full
in the caption to one of the colour plates. In addition, the
third page of the chronology is blank except for five lines of
text. In total, therefore, one further full page of text could
have easily been accommodated.
A study such as this, which describes convoluted movements of
bodies of troops, must be very difficult to proof read, however
I didn't notice any really glaring mistakes. There are a few
typos and minor grammatical errors, and in one case, East and
West are mixed up. There are also a couple of instances of
inconsistent spelling of place names, however only the most
pedantic reader will find these minor points irritating.
One very positive point is that in the section on the opposing
commanders, rather than just trotting out the usual stock
portraits of the participants, lesser known portraits are used.
I was, however, surprised to see the author acclaim Wellington’s
expertise in interweaving all branches of the army, even though
Lipscombe himself has recently authored a book describing the
fraught relationship between Wellington and the artillery
One of my pet gripes with Osprey's Campaign
series is that the titles are named after the climactic battle,
even though they actually cover the complete campaign. The
battle which lends its name to the book's title thus often
receives relatively few pages of attention. In the case of this
book, the investment of Bayonne and the Battle of Toulouse took
place in February and April 1814 respectively, though the book’s
title mentions them together with the years 1813 and 1814. They
were also not climactic events in the normal sense, as they of
themselves didn't end the campaign, though of course the
presence of the allied troops in southern France obviously
contributed to the general demoralised state of the French
nation. I would certainly rate the Battles of Nivelle and the
Nive as at least equally important as Bayonne and Toulouse, and
thus equally worthy of mention in the book’s title.
Devotees of Napoleonic history tend to gravitate towards one of
two main camps, the “Napoleon camp” or the “Wellington camp”.
This is not to suggest that there is a bias in the recounting of
history, but there are definitely authors and readers whose main
area of interest is the campaigns and battles in which Napoleon
was involved, and others whose main area of interest is the
campaigns and battles in which Wellington participated. Of
course, it's not quite a case of "never the twain shall meet" -
Waterloo saw to that - however there is a definite schism among
devotees of Napoleonic military history.
This volume will not interest the “Napoleon camp” much - there
isn’t a single picture of Napoleon in the book! Also, they would
probably take issue with the author’s reference to Vandamme's
surrender at Kulm (in fact, at Kulm Vandamme managed to extract
the majority of his troops from a desperate situation, though he
was captured in the process).
In contrast, the “Wellington camp” is well served here,
especially since within that camp, the Peninsular War is by far
the greatest area of interest. Although this volume will please
those aficionados, it may also cause some regret, as the
Peninsular War is brought to a close.
As mentioned, this volume is a worthy addition to the previous
Peninsular War titles in the Campaign series. The books in that
series are worth buying just for the wealth of pictures, maps,
etc. which accompany the text. I would go so far as to say that
the visual presentation in this volume is above average for the
series, and together with the well-written description of
events, results in an investment worth every penny.
One of my criticisms of Urban's
earlier offering The Man Who Broke Napoleon's
Codes was that much of that book was padded out with a rehash
of the history of the Peninsular War, including various battles
and sieges in which the subject, George Scovell, didn't even
In contrast,"Rifles" covers only those events
in which the 1/95th actually took part. In fact,
the other two
battalions of the regiment only merit a mention if they took
part in the same action as the first battalion.
process of recounting the first battalion's story, the author
also relates the experiences of a handful of men from this
battalion: officers, NCOs and privates, some of whom were
wounded or killed during the war. Many quotes from previously
published first-hand accounts are used, some of which, like
Harris, Costello and Kincaid, are already quite well known.
Though the majority of the book deals with the Peninsular war,
Urban devotes one chapter to the Waterloo campaign. However the
description of 1/95th's participation in the battle ends
abruptly on the 95th's withdrawal from the Sandpit.
The book includes 16
pages of colour plates. Some of the plates are reproductions of
antique maps of the
actions described in the text. However, the maps are so
small that it's virtually impossible to make out the relevant
This book is very well written; the descriptions of
the loading and firing process are very useful, as are the
explanations of the Rifles' battle tactics and the plate showing
the various firing positions. All in all, a book well worth the
No ISBN number
As this is an original edition
from 1902, there is no ISBN number. I have however seen facsimile
editions available online, but have no idea whether these are good
reproductions. It's worth mentioning that the original is in "Fraktur"
script (old-style German script), so the facsimile editions may
well also be in Fraktur.
The author, Karl Bleibtreu ,was the son of
Georg Bleibtreu, an accomplished painter of historical battle
scenes during the second half of the nineteenth century.
Karl's historical works bear similarities to his father's paintings,
in that they attempt to capture not just the facts but also the
atmosphere of the battles, employing a literary style which
mimics the grand sweep of an artist's
This book is something between a
straightforward history and a novel. It relates the story of the
battle in a dramatic fashion: - while the events themselves are
accurately recorded, they are interspersed with fictitious
conversations between various characters at the scene. As each character enters the
story, their appearance is described, including minute details
of the uniform worn.
On occasion the author
interrupts the "story" to provide background information on the
characters or events mentioned in the narrative. The text in
these sections is slightly smaller than that of the narrative;
the resulting effect is similar to the use of sidebars today.
The text is accompanied by a
number of black-and-white illustrations by Eduard Thoeny. These
illustrations have no captions, but are obviously meant to
represent events described in the text.
Although purists will avoid this
book because it mixes fact and fiction, the author's approach
helps to give a better understanding of the battle, by placing
the reader in the midst of the action at the villages of Aspern
and Essling as well as at Napoleon's field headquarters near the
For the non-purists, who are
prepared to take the trouble to work through the Fraktal script,
the book is a rewarding contrast to the purely factual accounts
of the battle which abound in various languages. Unfortunately
Bleibtreu's technique has not been widely adopted; although
there is no shortage of historical novels based on the
Napoleonic era, the focus of these novels is always fictional
characters. Bleibtreu's achievement lies in isolating in the
reader's mind the factual events from the fictional dialogue.
This book discusses the
influence of various British military leaders (the "generals" of
the title; in fact in many cases they were higher-ranked) on the
evolution of military strategy or organisation over the last few
centuries. Each general's story is
allotted roughly thirty pages, which as can be imagined is only
sufficient to outline their careers and the military background
of the period.
Each chapter starts with an
anecdote from the earlier life of the general under discussion,
either a lesson learned or an early indication of the
individual's talent. It then describes in more detail the
main achievement for which the individual is included in the
book, and finally a brief summing up of that contribution.
In the case of the first of the
two generals from the Napoleonic era - Prince Frederick, the
Duke of York - the reader first encounters him choreographing
the servants of Kew House in recreations of battles from the Seven Years
War. His main achievement is the reform and reorganisation of
the British army after the failure of the Flanders Campaign.
Of course the other
Napoleonic-era general is Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of
Wellington, whose story begins with an account the battle of Assaye.
Wellington's contribution follows on from that of the Duke of
York, in that his masterful use of the newly reformed and
reorganised British Army earned it a reputation for
professionalism which still exists two centuries later.
relevant illustrations are Hoppner's portrait of the Duke of
York in the uniform of Colonel of the Coldstream Guards and
Lawrence's well-known portrait of the Duke of Wellington in
1814, as well as a painting showing Horse Guards - the
headquarter of the British Army at the time - and a painting of the Battle of
Waterloo. The relevant maps are of the Duke of York's
Battleground 1793 to 1799 (i.e. the area of the French
fortresses in Northern France and the allied fortresses in the
Austrian Netherlands), as well as of the Battles of Assaye,
Bussaco, Salamanca and Waterloo.
Readers who have already studied
a particular era will not find much or any new information in
this book. However, those interested in general (no pun
intended) military history will find this book worth reading; it
may eveninspire some readers to study in more detail one or
other of the periods discussed.
Sir Charles Oman
For general comments about this
series, see the review of Volume VII.
This volume is
Cadiz, Bussaco, Torres Vedras", which will indicate to those
some previous knowledge of the Peninsular War that it includes Masséna's
advance into Portugal and Wellington's
withdrawal to the lines of Torres Vedras. The greater part of the
period covered was actually taken up by the preliminaries to the
French campaign. Even though, when the campaign eventually began in
earnest, the British withdrawal was rapid, the subsequent French
retreat from Torres Vedras marked the turning point in the conflict.
As Oman states in the preface, "the retreat that began at Sobral on
the night of Nov. 14, 1810, was to end at Toulouse on April 11,
As usual, Oman
also discusses the other areas of conflict within the Peninsula, not
just those under Wellington's direct control. Soult's conquest of
Andalusia, the entrenchment of the remnants of the Spanish armies
within Cadiz as well as Suchet's and Augereau's operations in
Aragon, Valencia and Catalonia are all described in detail.
The book includes
15 appendices, most of which give the order of battle and casualty
figures for the larger actions. Most interesting. though, is
Appendix XI, which reproduces Masséna's orders for Bussaco
(in French). There are 15 maps and plans of the region or
battle under discussion in the text, as well as five
black and white
illustrations - portraits of Wellington and Masséna, plates showing
Spanish Infantry in 1808 and 1810, as well as photographs of coins used in
the Peninsula between 1808 and 1814.
In some online shops, this book is subtitled "The Long
Duel" , though I find no reference to a
subtitle in this edition. It actually makes
a good summary of the author's main theme,
namely that the
lives of the two protagonists were intertwined, and that the
"relationship" which developed was more than just military
rivalry; it was a personal duel between two titans who were too
similar for their own comfort.
In the introduction, Roberts
explains that where other
biographers have emphasised the differences between the two men,
his research has shown that they had more in common than
usually supposed. However, some of his arguments in support of
this theory. like the fact that they were both born in 1769 , or
that "Wellington's brother married Napoleon's brother's
ex-wife's sister-in-law", are a bit flimsy.
The book explores the formative
years as well as the military careers of both men, drawing
parallels along the way, comparing their statements about each other, and
showing how the relationship evolved over the years, and
continued after the war had ended.
Although the book is written in
a fluent style, it is marred by an unusual amount of factual errors.
these may just be typos - e.g. "General Humbert's 1799 invasion
attempt of Ireland",
which actually took
place in 1798 - but there are many others which are
For instance, Napoleon's Mameluke servant is named as "Roustam
Ali", whereas Roustam Raza and Ali were in fact two
distinct servants. The French Minister of War is referred to as
"Marshal Clarke", although he wasn't made a Marshal until 1816.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs is named as "Marshal Maret",
though the minister
in question, Hugues-Bernard Maret, never became a Marshal. (France
did once have a
Marshal named Maret - in fact des Marets - but he died in 1762,
before Napoleon was even born).
There is a statement that Bavarian Field Marshal Wrede served under Napoleon from 1805
until 1813, fighting at Eylau, Friedland, Marengo and in the
Russian campaign. Not only did the Battle of Marengo took place in 1800 (so
not within the time frame mentioned), but Wrede fought against the French at Hohenlinden later that
year. I also find no record in other works of Wrede being present at either
Eylau or Friedland.
chronological confusion are also present. It is stated that the opera
singer, Guiseppina Grassini, with whom it is widely accepted
that Napoleon had an affair, herself at the time had a relationship with the violinist Pierre Rode,
and that Rode
was "nervous of the Corsican emperor" finding out.
next sentence mentions that this happened in 1801, at which time
Napoleon was still only First Consul. Writing of the Spanish campaign,
the author states that Napoleon campaigned in Spain from 5th
November 1808 to 24th January 1809, but later in the same page,
he states that Napoleon arrived back in Paris at 8 am on 23rd
There are quite a few
other errors, but to be honest, I didn't feel like rereading the book
just so that I could list them all. Also, these are only the
glaring examples, I did not check every fact in the book for
unfortunately apparently neither did the author .
As mentioned, the style of
writing is generally good, although not only does Roberts manage
to sneak in the
word "oleaginous" - see my comments on this uncommon
adjective in the review of
The Man who
broke Napoleon's Codes - but he goes one further, employing the
word "tergiversations", the use of which I can only interpret as
disdain for the ordinary reader.
In the conclusion, Roberts notes
that it is possible for anyone to take a selection of quotes from
or about Napoleon and Wellington and use them to support their own theory
about these individuals.
Though he is actually referring to historians that emphasise the
differences between the two men, rather than their similarities,
this argument is a double-edged sword, and it could as easily be applied to
the author's own theory.
In the end, this book is an
interesting collection of quotes by Napoleon and Wellington
about each other,
but fails to convincingly prove that a fateful attractive force
existed between the protagonists.
The book includes 16 plates of
illustrations and portraits, many in colour It also includes a
"comparative chronology" of the lives of the two leading
characters, as well as three maps: for the
Peninsular War, the Waterloo campaign and of the Battle of
The subject of this book is George Scovell, a captain on Wellington's
As Wellington's headquarters did not have a dedicated
cryptology section, various staff officers tried their
hand at decrypting captured French messages. They initially
experienced some success, because the French army's method of
encryption was quite primitive. However, the complexity
of French ciphers increased significantly as the war dragged on, so
that eventually only one officer - Scovell - was prepared to spend
time trying to piece together the puzzle, with the aid of several
captured messages. Though the inexperience of the French officers using the
"Grande Chiffre" - the most complicated cipher used in the Peninsula
- helped Scovell in solving a large part of the puzzle, his
stubbornness in continuing the seemingly hopeless task was the main
reason for his eventual success.
Although the author hints that Scovell played a large part in the defeat of the
French, he also implies that Scovell received no thanks or
recognition for this service. However, Scovell did rise
through the ranks, from captain in 1809 to lieutenant-colonel in
1815, so he can hardly be considered to have been ignored or overlooked.
Scovell was not a
shadowy figure flitting around in the dark, but a full-time army officer,
serving as Assistant Deputy Quartermaster General. As such, he had
many regular duties, and in addition received the task of organising a
troop of local scouts to perform reconnaissance and provide
local information, as well as to intercept enemy dispatches.
Despite the title of the book, it
ciphers and not codes which were used to encrypt and decrypt the
messages. Urban explains in the
foreword that using the word "codes" rather than "ciphers" in the title was a concession to the
publisher, in order to attract a broader readership. The difference
between a code and a cipher is not actually explained, but this is
not actually relevant to the story.
Urban also explains
in the foreword that he decided to write the book in the style
of a story,
rather than as a straightforward history book. Unfortunately for
the reader, it
seems that Scovell's journals did not provide enough
information to enable the author to bring the story to life.
The book doesn't cover the Peninsular War
in its entirety - the author omitted the year 1810, stating that
it was of no great importance to his
story - although he left in other years where Scovell barely
gets a mention in the narrative apart from a remark that
one of his friends was in the thick of the fighting, or
that he himself would likely have been part of the staff at
the particular action.
The Waterloo campaign is covered
briefly in the book, though at this stage Scovell was no
longer involved in decryption
activity. Nevertheless, some of the
most interesting passages of the book are to be found here. For
instance, the account of the fatal
wounding of William De Lancey: Scovell was apparently the first officer
to reach the stricken Deputy Quartermaster General, and later
organised for Lady De Lancey to visit her husband before his
demise. (This last detail is confirmed by Lady De Lancey in her
book "A Week at Waterloo in 1815", which was published in 1906,
though most accounts of De Lancey's wounding claim
Wellington was by his side at the time). The book also
has Scovell propping up Fitzroy Somerset while the
Military Secretary's right arm was amputated after the
could find no other source to either support or contradict
Although he had decided to make the book accessible to
a non-academic readership, Urban occasionally uses
words like "oleaginous", which are really best
reserved for dictionaries or scrabble games. Many basic concepts
of Napoleonic warfare are explained, in the text though this
will be superfluous for those who already have some knowledge of
The book contains a number of
colour and black-and-white plates, mostly portraits of the
commanders involved and various battle scenes. It also includes
a rarity in books on Napoleonic history - a photograph of the
person under discussion - though of course this was taken later in Scovell's life.
Even so, it is nice to have an impression of the man whose deeds
are being portrayed. There is one colour photo of a section of
the Grande Chiffre, but no photos of Scovell's journals, which
would also have been worthy of inclusion. Several maps of the
peninsula and of battles described in the text are also
Urban mentions that the
inspiration to write the book came from an appendix to Volume 5
of Oman's History of the Peninsula War. In that appendix,
Oman explained how the French cipher was used and how it was possible
for Scovell to decrypt the messages. In his explanation, Oman
showed how the enciphered text related to the original "plain
text" message. As Oman reproduced the message in the
original French, the enciphering and decryption process is simple to follow. In Urban's
book however, the decrypted messages are presented in English, which
results in some inconsistencies between the enciphered
and plain text messages, simply
due to the differences in French and English sentence structure.
It would have been preferable if Urban had followed
Oman's lead and presented the original message in
French; an English translation could then have been
added for clarity. (As an aside, it's interesting to
note that Oman included many sentences in French in
his works, without any translation; he seems to have
assumed that an educated reader would also
In conclusion, though this book had plenty of promise
and is written in a style which flows well, it fails to deliver on a
number of levels. As a biography of Scovell, there is simply a shortage of
facts in the book. As a concise history of the Peninsular War, it is
incomplete, covering only certain parts of the conflict.
Finally, as an explanation of the breaking of the cipher, it
fails to explain the process in a simple way, barely providing
more information than Oman's brief appendix.
Osprey Men-At-Arms 456
Whereas the Chasseurs à Cheval
were specifically raised to be part of Napoleon's Guard, the
Mounted Grenadiers originally belonged to the guard of the
Directory. Since the pre-consulate history is also covered by this
book, the title deviates from the usual
The Grenadiers were of course incorporated into the Consular Guard,
and later the Imperial Guard, and saw service in all major
campaigns of the empire. However,
the author has thankfully avoided a simple retelling of the
campaigns, concentrating instead on the unit's
history and organisation during the period.
positive point is that in addition to the uniform plates, the
other illustrations focus more on uniforms than is often the
case in the MAA series.
As with the
volume on the Chasseurs à Cheval, this volume includes the Grenadiers
à Cheval officers' roll for 1813, listing all officers by name
as well as the degree of the Legion of Honour which they had
attained. The list of decorations compares favourably with that of
usual Osprey formula, the book includes 8 colour plates,
many black-and-white illustrations and an index. The colour
plates, by Patrice Courcelle are to his usual excellent standard.
Overall, this is a very useful book, well researched, written and
no period of Napoleon's life has been completely neglected by
historians, the years prior to his assumption of power are sparsely
covered in comparison with the time of the empire. By deciding to
split his biography into two volumes, Philip Dwyer has ensured that
this first volume will come to be regarded as a classic on the
subject. In fact, it's doubtful if the second volume will be as
illuminating, precisely because the later period has already been so
author’s main theme is that Napoleon consciously crafted his own
legend as he progressed through life, through a masterful
exploitation – or manipulation – of the media of the time. Many
events in the Napoleonic legend are seen in a very different light
on closer inspection or from the viewpoint of other eyewitnesses.
Dwyer has drawn on many contemporary accounts, though as some of
these were written in hindsight, a certain amount of scepticism
should also be practised when consulting them – the memoirs of the
duchess D’Abrantès for instance are not renowned for their
The book is divided into five
sections. It's notable that the first section covers the longest
period of time (the first 23 years of Napoleon's life), and that
each successive section covers a decreasing duration (the fifth
section covers only one year - 1799). This obviously reflects both
the respective amount of reference material available for these
periods, as well as the pace of events within each period.
This first volume
ends not at the start of the empire, as one might expect, but at the
establishment of the Consulate. In fact, this is not as arbitrary a
date as it might first seem, as the coup of 18 Brumaire marked Napoleon's
transition from a "mere" soldier to a statesman, the culmination of
the path to power of the book's title.
Dywer is not a military historian,
and although the earlier campaigns are covered in a lot of detail,
military enthusiasts will find that the book is too heavily
orientated toward Napoleon's political and personal life. Certainly the earlier campaigns deserve to be studied
from a military viewpoint and some have already been, though there
is still quite a gap in the market.
The book includes four maps and
quite a few illustrations. The illustrations are unfortunately
printed in black-and-white on the same paper as the text, rather
than being included as separate colour plates, and they suffer
because of this. Although the portraits are reasonably well
reproduced, some of the illustrations are reproductions of large paintings
and the details are difficult to distinguish due to the reduction in
size as well as the darkness of the resulting illustrations.
Hopefully this will be rectified with future editions of this first
volume as well as with the second volume.
As mentioned above, it's difficult
to see the second volume making such a good impression, simply
because of the glut of material already published, but if it is written in the same style as the first
volume, it will still stand a good chance of becoming one of the
standard works on the period.
Sir Charles Oman
Oman's "A History of the Peninsular
War" is regarded as the definitive English-language work on the
in the meantime it has been proven incorrect on some points, its
seven volumes capture the spirit of the conflict perfectly.
"Wellington's Army" is
a companion volume to that series, but it can also be read in
its own right, without reference to the larger work.
After decades studying the
Peninsular War, it was inevitable that Oman would gain a deep
insight into the workings of the British army of the time, and all of
the requisite information is included in this book - organisation, tactics,
strategy, leaders, uniforms and equipment, as well as sieges - however
has been published by both previous and subsequent authors. What
marks Oman's effort out as exceptional is the topics which other
authors either overlooked or didn't consider worthy of
inclusion, but which were actually an essential part of army life.
In addition to
chapters on the commissariat, baggage trains and "ladies at the
front", the book includes a chapter on discipline and courts
martial, as well as one on the spiritual life of the army. One of the
opening chapters discusses the relative merits of the various sources of information on the period, and is indicative of
towards the subject. Although he quotes many sources in his works, Oman often
accompanies these quotes with statements regarding the quoted authors'
trustworthiness or lack thereof.
The book includes relatively few
illustrations, all black-and-white; four plates portray high-ranking
officers - Wellington, Hill, Graham and Picton, while the remaining
four plates depict the uniforms of infantry, cavalry and artillery.
Though the uniforms are attributed to specific units, the
illustrations are intended to illustrate the generic type rather
than provide material for study.
An index and three appendices
complete the volume. The
first appendix presents the establishment of the complete British army in 1809,
the second provides a short history of each of the divisions and
brigades of the Peninsular Army, while the third appendix is a
bibliography of eyewitness accounts, sorted by the author's area of
service, e.g. staff, regimental, train, medical personnel,
book is a well-rounded description of the British army which
participated in the Peninsular War. Many readers will discover
topics not encountered previously, and will hopefully be inspired to delve deeper into
these less well-known, but nonetheless equally interesting, facets
of the conflict.
In contrast to
many other histories, this book expressly sets out to describe a
complete campaign and not just the culminating battle; the reader
should therefore not be disappointed that the major battles, Eylau
and Friedland, are covered in only about eighteen pages each.
is split into three sections - the Background, the Campaign and the
Much of the
"Background" section will already be known to scholars of the era -
a brief overview of the 1805 and 1806 campaigns, an explanation of
the tactics of the era and a comparison of the troops, equipment and
organisation of the armies involved. While this is a good
introduction for the novice, it's questionable how many readers will
have chosen this as one of their first books on the Napoleonic era.
The most useful information in this section is a list of the Corps
comprising the Grand Armée at the start of the campaign, including
the strength of each corps and the name of the corps commander.
Chronicle" section relates the events chronologically. To do this,
it uses the present tense, a practice which I personally find
irritating in a history book, but which might not bother other
readers so much. The section is further subdivided into the various
stages of strategic manoeuvring, which is a good approach as it
accurately conveys the chess-like nature of grand strategy. The
actions are described only to divisional level; the individual
regiments involved are not named.
section, which deals with the political consequences, is only three
pages long. However the last few pages of the "Campaign" section
deal in detail with the signing of the treaties of Tilsit.
In addition to
the three main sections there is a lot of other content, including a
section giving short biographies of many of the commanders, an
appendix providing the current place names in Polish, Lithuanian or
Russian (because the place names in the narrative are the German
ones in use during the period) and an index.
As with other
books in the "Campaign Chronicles" series, there are a number of
sidebar articles on various subjects ranging from a history of
Pomerania and Silesia to the direction of the wind at Eylau.
An order of
battle is not included. As the author explains, the various sources
are either contradictory or too vague on this point to have allowed
him to produce a reliable OOB.
includes numerous very good quality black-and-white illustrations,
mostly portraits of the various protagonists, but also contemporary
paintings of the battles or the troops of the era. In contrast to
the illustrations, the maps are disappointing. They are mostly
reproductions of antique maps; though they provide authenticity,
they are difficult for the modern reader to decipher.
This book is
best seen as an introduction to the campaign rather than an
exhaustive study. Among the books listed in the Bibliography, the
reader will find a number which provide much more detailed
Osprey Men-At-Arms 444
The Chasseurs à Cheval formed
the core of Napoleon's Guard from the very beginning;
established as his "Guides" during the 1796 Italian
campaign, they were later incorporated into the Consular Guard,
finally becoming part of the
history during the period is thus very long, so long in fact that it
takes up most of the book; the
description of the uniform plates is the only section
dedicated to uniforms even though, due to their proximity to the
Emperor, most modellers will surely want as many uniform details as
possible. Organisation comes even further down the
list, although for each incarnation of the unit there is a paragraph
relating the number of members of each individual rank within every
Chasseurs à Cheval accompanied Napoleon on every campaign, the unit history
is basically a recap of the campaigns of the time, information which,
though well written, will
already be known to most readers.
and unusual addition to the book is the officers' roll for 1813,
which lists all officers by name together with the degree of the
Legion of Honour which they had attained. This reveals the extent to
which the unit was showered with decorations by Napoleon.
The book includes 8 colour plates,
many black-and-white illustrations and an index. As ever, the colour
plates are excellent; for these alone the book is worth having on
Osprey Men-At-Arms 389
Best known for their
part in the courageous but futile cavalry charges against the Allied
squares at Waterloo, the Red Lancers were a relatively new addition
to the French Imperial Guard; the former Hussars of the Royal Dutch
Guard were incorporated into the French Guard after the
annexation of Holland in 1810.
Within a few months, they were re-designated as
Chevau-Léger Lancers, receiving training in the use of their new
weapons from their senior colleagues, the Polish Lancers of the Guard.
The new Polish-style
uniform was not officially worn by the Red Lancers until August 1811,
and they could only briefly enjoy the glory of their new status
before being ordered east to take part in the Russian campaign.
Although the majority of their losses in 1812 were
due to attrition, the 1813 and 1814 campaigns saw them committed to
action more regularly, and were thus extremely costly both in terms of men and horses,
though the unit performed well on most occasions during this period.
This book follows the
usual 48-page Osprey MAA format, with 8 colour plates, numerous
black and white illustrations, a description of the unit's history
and of the evolution of the uniform and equipment during the period.
Ronald Pawly has also
written a more detailed history entitled "The Red Lancers", which
was not restricted by the Osprey format and therefore could devote
more space to anecdotes and journal extracts, capturing the
atmosphere of the period.
because of the unit's short history, the Osprey book also does
justice to the subject, covering the material in enough depth not to
leave the reader feeling short-changed.
Sir Charles Oman
This is the last volume
of Oman's history, so covers the concluding events of the Peninsular
war, from the capture of the frontier fortress of San Sebastian and the
invasion of France up to the end of hostilities.
Oman's history is
generally accepted as being less biased than Sir William Napier's,
which appeared within a couple of decades of the end of the war.
Napier had taken part in many of the campaigns in the Peninsula and
his opinions of some of his fellow officers led to numerous disputes
after publication of his work. Oman, writing almost a century
later, had access to many more eye-witness accounts from French and Spanish
sources than Napier, which resulted in a more balanced, though not
completely unbiased body of work.
This last volume is also
interesting because many of the combatants mentioned later took part
in the Waterloo campaign.
As well as relating the
events of the last year of the war, there is a short concluding
chapter which discusses the place of the Peninsular War in history.
The book includes
12 appendices, giving the order of battle and casualty figures for
the larger actions, as well as 16 maps and plans of the region or
the battle under discussion in the accompanying chapter. The maps
and plans, as well as the only
illustration - a portrait of Ferdinand VII of Spain -, are in black and white.
The many sources
quoted in the text are referenced in footnotes at the end of the
relevant page, and the book includes an
index, which is very useful considering the enormous amount of
information contained in this volume.
deservedly counts as essential reading for anyone undertaking an
in-depth study of the Peninsular War.
The French Revolution is
one of the most studied eras in history. The basic facts are even
general knowledge, often included in school curricula. And
Robespierre is probably one of the most well known of the main
characters of the period.
But while many people
know his name, but not his story, those with a slightly better
knowledge of the era can point to his role in the Terror and on the
Committee of Public Safety, for which he is almost invariably
portrayed as the ultimate villain.
The author does not
attempt to deny these facts, but rather explores the background to
them: Robespierre's early life and career, his rise to popularity
and power and the reasons for his actions.
This is a very detailed
biography, as would be expected, but it doesn't confine itself to
Robespierre's circle of influence, relating in parallel the history
of the Revolution, from its origins up until Robespierre's
execution. Of course, the French Revolution did not stop there, so
the book can't be seen as a complete history of the era, but can be
recommended to anyone who wants to start studying the period in more
In fact, the book ends
quite abruptly. The events following Robespierre's fall, the
end of the Terror and the dismantling of many of the processes he
put in place are not covered. Instead, it ends with a short chapter
about Wordsworth rejoicing on hearing the news in England, and how
this was just the start of Robespierre being misunderstood.
The book includes one
section of black and white illustrations and one of colour
illustrations, a map of Paris in the Revolutionary era and a
chronology of events.
It is well written and -
unusual for a biography - is a balanced narrative, neither
demonising nor attempting to vindicate its subject.
Although students of the
French Revolution will already know most of the facts presented
here, it is still well worth a read as a biography of a key
character of the era. For military historians, however, there is
nothing here which will keep their interest.
A. G. Macdonell
On the face of it,
relating the biographies of Napoleon's marshals by retelling the
history of the period, from the Army of Italy in 1796 to the Second
Restoration in 1815, would not seem like the best approach. an
author could take The history of
the period is so well known at this stage that a book which provides
a superficial overview would normally not hold a reader's interest. However, Macdonell's
book achieves that goal admirably.
One of the reasons is
that Macdonnell tells a story rather than just reporting history. The
facts are secondary to the story. Not all of the descriptions of
completely correct, but the spirit of the era is captured perfectly. It
has to be said that the book was first published in 1934, and in
some places it reads more like Enid Blyton than military history.
Which present day historian would dare to write "... Berthier was an
exceptionally ugly little man ..." or describe Moncey as "...very
reliable and very stupid ..."?
The author doesn't
restrict himself to the
marshals' careers, but also covers quite a few of the
other generals who could, or should, have become marshals. Most
readers will probably find at least a couple of their favourite
generals who don't get a mention though.
The only illustration is
a diagram explaining the bataillon carré, whereas it would have been
more useful to have portraits of the marshals, but at the time it
was written books tended not to include very many pictures.
If not taken too
seriously, this book is an enjoyable read, and whets the appetite
for deeper study of the colourful characters whose tale it tells.
James R. Arnold
Napoleon's early campaigns have generated
far less interest than those after he had become Emperor. Although he
had already risen to the position of First Consul before his second
Italian campaign, Napoleon's grip on power was far from secure at the
time. Among other things, he had to contend with having his political
rival, Moreau, in command of the French army on the Rhine. Although
nominally outranked by the First Consul, Moreau had to be cajoled into
co-operating in the interests of France.
Arnold's book starts by explaining the
background to the conflict as well as the political situation in France.
It then describes the Italian campaign, before switching to the German
The book includes quite a few black and
white illustrations of the protagonists and uniforms of the era, twenty
maps showing overviews of the campaigns and the main battles, as well as
three appendices: the first contains orders of battle for Marengo and
Hohenlinden, the second lists the losses on both sides during these
battles, and the third contains short biographies of the most prominent
There is very little to find fault with in
this book, though one slight quibble I have is that there a number of
photographs of the battlefields today, with captions like "Richepance's
cavalry charged towards the camera". Of course, since photography wasn't
yet introduced in 1800, it's obvious that the author means the point from
which the photograph was taken, but it just sounds strange.
This book is well researched, well written
and well produced. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more
about the military history of the pre-Empire period.
Osprey Campaign 15
Imagine being asked to write a book about
the most studied campaign in military history. Only one restriction -
keep it to 96 pages, including space for numerous black and white
illustrations, half a dozen colour uniform plates, three double-page 3-D
maps of the battlefield of Waterloo as well as several maps of the
campaign and the other battles. Not forgetting an order of battle of the
opposing armies, the list of contents, index, a chronology and a guide
to further reading.
What's left over might be enough space for
a long essay, but certainly not for any sort of detailed description of
the campaign. Given these restrictions, the author has done well to
include the main points of the campaign and of the Battle of Waterloo
itself. This book was never going to make an impression on any readers
who have already spent some time studying the history of the era.
On the other hand, the presentation of the
subject, with all the additional material mentioned above, is more
likely to encourage newcomers to the era to delve further into its
history than a volume which covers every fact in minute detail, but is
not as attractively presented.
Presentation is the key to Osprey's
success and this book is a good example of the professionalism which
distinguishes their publications. While by no means an essential volume
on every Napoleonic student's bookshelf, it nevertheless deserves its
place on any which it does occupy.
Osprey Men-At-Arms 160
This second volume covers the units of the
Middle and Young Guard as well as the Seamen of the Guard; the first
Napoleon's Guard Infantry (1),
covered the Grenadiers and Chasseurs, usually known as the Old Guard.
The list of units is long:
Fusiliers-Grenadiers, Fusiliers-Chasseurs, Tirailleurs-Grenadiers,
Conscrits-Grenadiers (both of these later becoming the Tirailleurs),
Tirailleurs-Chasseurs, Conscrits-Chasseurs, National Guards of the Guard
(these last three later becoming the Voltigeurs), Flanqueurs- Grenadiers
and Flanqueurs-Chasseurs, as well as the associated vélites and pupilles.
The history of
these units is obviously shorter than that of the Grenadiers and
Chasseurs, but it is reasonably well described, as are the
uniforms of the units covered.
This volume not only completes the
description of the Guard Infantry, it is also useful in its own right,
covering units which are less famous, but which played no small part in
the later part of the Napoleonic Wars .
Osprey Men-At-Arms 153
As explained in the introduction, the
infantry of the Imperial Guard was not simply split into units of Old,
Middle and Young Guard. The differentiation between these categories is
presented in the book, clarifying why this first volume covers only the
grenadiers and chasseurs as well as their vélites and veterans, with all
other types covered by the second volume.
In the usual MAA manner, the history of
these units is first discussed, then their uniforms and equipment. Of
course, the uniforms of the Grenadiers and Chasseurs will be well known
to Napoleonic enthusiasts, but less familiar types are also covered:
the precursor Consular Guard, the musicians and sapeurs, as well as the
later addition, the Dutch Grenadiers.
As with most MAA books, this is a useful
addition to the library of anyone with an interest in the units and
uniforms of the era.
This German-language book was published to
accompany the four-part television series of the same name. It explores
the relationship between Napoleon and the people of the German nation
during the years of upheaval following the French Revolution and the
dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. Describing this relationship in
simple terms is about as easy as finding a simple definition of the
German nation of the time.
At the end of the 18th Century, the major
power in Central Europe was the Holy Roman Empire. The Habsburg Monarchy
and the Kingdom of Prussia were the leading states, but there were also
dozens of tiny entities, all of which were more or less free to act
After Jena, Napoleon restructured many of
the smaller former states of the Holy Roman Empire, dissolving some and
organising a large part of the remainder into the Coalition of the
Rhine. The optimism which these states felt at the start of this era
soon turned to distrust as France forced its new allies to contribute
troops and material for the campaigns which followed.
The emergence of a national German
identity, similar to that of the French nation following the revolution,
culminated with the Battle of the Nations, after which Napoleon's last
German allies defected to the cause of German freedom.
This book contains many interesting
eye-witness accounts of the first arrival of the French army, the long
years of occupation and the final expulsion of the French forces.
A couple of the eyewitness accounts
describe the French soldiers' habit of carrying a spoon in the band of
their hat, so as to have it near at hand when the next opportunity for a
meal arose, something which I have never seen modelled in any scale.
The book contains many black and white
illustrations, though the only map is that inside the front and back
cover, which shows Europe at the height of French power. This book is
more of a social than a military history, but nevertheless makes for
very interesting reading.
Dr Hubert O'Connor
Compared to his early life and military career, there have been very few
books written about Napoleon's final years. Once he had been exiled to
St. Helena, Napoleon's direct influence on European affairs ended, so
these later years are not of as much interest to historians. Although
Napoleon's legend grew during these years, the individual faded into
obscurity, his movements and contact restricted.
This book describes those years of exile,
drawing largely on the diaries of his personal physician for most of
that time, Dr. Barry O'Meara, who had seen service as a British naval
doctor during the Napoleonic Wars.
Starting with a short biography of O'Meara
up until his first meeting with Napoleon, the book continues by relating
the events leading to Napoleon placing himself in the custody of England
and the politicians' decision to send him into exile rather than allow
him to settle in England as he had expected.
The description of the voyage to St.
Helena is based on the journals of two of the senior naval officers of
the flotilla, while the first six months on the island are told from the
point of view of the complete entourage.
The narrative is then taken up by
O'Meara's diary. The original diary ran to thousands of pages, which
O'Connor has distilled to just over a hundred. However, the sense of
tedium and routine on the island is still evident.
Although O'Connor alludes in his
introduction to the personal battle between Napoleon and the
Governor-General of the island, Sir Hudson Lowe, this sense of struggle
does not come through in the passages chosen.
The diary excerpts end when O'Meara is
removed from the island, at which point the narrative returns to a
general description of the deterioration of Napoleon's health, his death
and autopsy. To wrap up, the book relates the rest of O'Meara's life and
the return of Napoleon's remains to France.
There are many interesting passages in
this book, though the bulk of the text, the excerpts from O'Meara's
diary, are at times tedious and repetitive. O'Connor adds quite a few
explanatory notes to the diary entries, although most of these comments
will only be required by readers with little or no previous knowledge
about Napoleon's life and military background.
This book will be worthwhile for anyone
who has not already read much about this part of Napoleon's life. For
those who have already read or book or two on the subject, I suspect
that it will not add greatly to their knowledge.
The book contains many black and white
illustrations, both contemporary paintings as well as photos of the
island as it is today. A ground plan of the house at Longwood is also
included, which, though not to scale shows which of the rooms were used
by each of the occupants.
In conclusion, this book is not a
must-have, but will not be out of place on the serious Napoleonic
history enthusiast's bookshelf.
This book has already been reviewed on the PSR and Amazon websites,
however neither of these reviews looked at this book from the point of
view of a Napoleonic enthusiast.
The first remark to make is that it was
originally published in French under the title "Les Petits Soldats
Airfix - à l'échelle H0/00 de 1959 à 2009 -". The English language
version was very eagerly awaited and it was probably due to time
pressure that the translation is not very good.
Since publication, Histoires & Collections has made the English-language version of page
51, which was mistakenly left in French, available as a PDF to download
from its website. The relevant web page is linked
The H&C website includes four preview pages of the French
version, from which can be seen that the layout of the illustrations is
exactly the same as in the English version. Interestingly, the original
version correctly names PSR, while the English version calls the site
"Plastic Soldiers Review", which PSR were a bit miffed about. Also, in
the English version, some of the quotes attributed to PSR seem to be
translations back to English of the French translation of the original
text, while other quotes seem to be lifted directly from the PSR
website, which would seem the easier option for a translator.
In fact, I
found it strange that the PSR reviews were used at all, as they were all
written in retrospect, which doesn't really capture the spirit of the
era in which the sets were released.
So much for the presentation of the
book, now to the contents: Anyone who buys this book expecting hundreds
of photos of Airfix figures will be disappointed. By far the majority of
the illustrations are of the box art, however this is not any less
interesting, and the figures can already be seen on other websites.
only photos of Napoleonic figures are two of individual figures from the
Waterloo Wargame set (which were anyway copies of figures from the
normal Airfix sets). All of the Napoleonic sets are included in the box
art illustrations, and there is even a picture from an Airfix catalogue,
showing a preview of the box art for the Waterloo French Cavalry set,
where a Red Lancer (though called "Polish chevau-léger" in the book)
appears among the Cuirassiers. In fact, while looking at the French
Cavalry box art, I noticed for the first time, that there is a
cuirassier armed with a lance! (This is not mentioned in the book).
Waterloo Farmhouse and the Waterloo Assault Set box art is shown, and
there is even a photo of the Assault Set with the lid open, showing the
contents neatly packed inside, but which is of no real benefit, except
maybe to recreate the feeling of first opening the set.
through each set in the text, the last dozen pages list them again in a
sort of encyclopaedic format, which is really not necessary. Mixed in
with the descriptions of the sets, there are snippets of interviews with
the Airfix figure designers and box artists, which are a nice addition.
There is a note at the end of the list of contents, which states that
the illustrations speak for themselves, so that captions are usually not
included. However, I would have preferred if there had been captions
listing the generation of the box art shown. This can only really be
deciphered by referring to the table on page 100, which shows how the
edges and sides of the boxes evolved over the years.
Most of these
points may seem very negative, but considering the lack of books on the
subject, its natural that each one which does appear will be dissected
by its readers. The point to remember is that this is a book - a whole
book! - dedicated to a subject close to our hearts, and despite its
faults, it is more than welcome.
The book is marked as no. 6 in the
series "Figures and Toys"; the other books seem to be dedicated to
collecting 12-inch action figures, so are not at all in the same vein. Carbonel has written one other book for H&C, "Heller: la maquette à la
Française", so there is a good possibility that other manufacturers'
ranges will be profiled in the future, especially as this book about
Airfix figures is bound to sell well.
This book is definitely one to
buy, though because of the poor translation, I would recommend anyone
with reasonable French to buy the original version.
Between 1905 and 1910, a series of 11
volumes of German-language works was published in the Series "Das Kriegsjahr 1809 in Einzeldarstellungen",
covering practically every facet of the 1809 campaign. The volumes
were written by a group of officers from the Austro-Hungarian army.
In 2009, to commemorate the bicentennial of the campaign, four of
these volumes were republished in one book, which takes its title
from the name of the original series. The four republished volumes
Captain Alois Veltzé
At the start of the war, the Austrians
under Archduke Johann had advanced into Italy, but due to the defeat
of Archduke Karl around Regensburg, the forces in Italy were forced
to withdraw again to prevent being outflanked. As well as pursuing
the retreating Austrians, Prince Eugène de Beauharnais intended to
link up with the main French army for the decisive battle. However,
the French advance through the mountain passes was held up by a
number of desperate stands, which are described in this volume.
the most part it is well written, but does tend towards painting the
Austrian defenders as heroic to a man, with the French as the
anonymous, ultimately overwhelming enemy.
A number of black and
white illustrations as well as a couple of maps are included.
Der Volkskrieg in Tirol (The
Insurrection in Tyrol)
First Lieutenant Rudolf Bartsch
Where the first volume of this book is
just biased towards the Austrian perspective, this volume takes it
to extremes. The insurrection in Tyrol is a part of the Napoleonic
Wars which is largely overlooked and deserves more attention.
However, the melodramatic tone of this volume will probably deter
most readers. The military aspect of the insurrection is broadly
covered, however the various battles and manoeuvres are not given
enough detail to interest the student of military history.
is accompanied by a number of black and white illustrations, mostly
of the leaders of the insurrection, and a map.
Major Maximilian Ritter von Hoen
This and the last volume of this book
are in complete contrast to the previous two volumes. In terms of
detail, clarity and objectiveness, von Hoen could hold his own with
any historian of the present day. He not only provides an enormous
amount of information on the movements of both sides, this is done
in a factual, non-hysterical manner.
The merits and shortcomings on
both sides are discussed as the battle progresses. Scenes which many
other authors have made the central point of the battle, such as
Archduke Karl grabbing the flag of the Regiment Zach No. 15 to rally
it, or Lannes' mortal wounding, are dealt with in one line, without
A number of maps as well as relevant black and white
illustrations accompany the text.
Lieutenant-Colonel Maximilian Ritter von
Again von Hoen has delivered a masterwork
of objectivity. The phases of the battle are dealt with in great detail;
the see-saw nature of the action is captured perfectly. Again,
significant events like Lasalle's death are noted, but not overstated.
The black and white illustrations are relevant and one of the maps shows
the locations of the various bridges which the French built to cross the
Danube, as well as the Austrian fortifications. All that is missing to
make these last two volumes perfect is maps showing the location of each
unit as the battle progressed, à la Osprey Campaign series or as in
Robert Goetz' excellent book 1805: Austerlitz.
- The Battle of the Nations -
Osprey Campaign 25
The books in Osprey's "Campaign"
series are named after the key battle of the featured campaign. In a
way this is misleading, because the actual battle often receives
only a few pages of attention. I would much prefer that the books
were named after the campaign, e.g. "The Leipzig Campaign" or "The
1813 Campaign in Germany", which better describes the content.
volume covers the armies involved, their commanders and strategies,
the various battles during the campaign and the aftermath of the
Battle of Leipzig. There are also seven full pages listing the order
of battle of the armies in October 1813, as well as maps, 3-D
battlefield views, numerous illustrations, a section on the
battlefield today, a list of recommended reading, even a section on wargaming the battle.
In short, this book tries to do too much. Especially within the
confines of the format of this series, it's just not possible to do
the campaign or the Battle of Leipzig justice. I've no doubt that Hofschröer could
have filled double the amount of pages with text alone, if he'd only
had the opportunity. For instance, his statement that the premature
destruction of the bridge over the Elster was not as significant as
widely thought bears further examination.
As an introduction to the
campaign, this book is useful, but no-one will come away as an
expert after reading it. As usual, the illustrations included are
excellent, and alone worth buying the book for.
If only they did not take up so much
space, at least some of which would have been better employed
expanding on the descriptions of the battles.
the title, this book deals very little with war and warfare during the
period, either internally or externally to France. Instead, it is a
painstakingly drafted history of the political intrigues and
machinations during the early years of the revolution. Although at first
this might seem a terrible tedious subject, Andress deals with it so
well that it reads more like a thriller, compelling the reader turn the
page to find out the fate of the characters introduced along the way.
The various factions within the French political landscape of the time
are dealt with, as are their political philosophies. The royalist
uprisings within France, as well as the wars against other European
powers, are covered, but certainly not in any great detail. However, for
those who ever wondered why Napoleon was in Toulon, this book explains
the background to the siege. Also covered is the defection of General
Dumouriez to the Austrians, an act which led to almost all French
generals of the period coming under suspicion of treason at some stage
during their career. According to Ségur in his Memoirs
of an Aide de Camp, it was also largely because the name of one of
the Duc d'Enghiens' companions in exile, General Thumery, was
misunderstood as Dumouriez that a force was sent by Napoleon to
Ettenheim to arrest them. In fact, the general turmoil of the
revolutionary period gives an insight into the insecurity which Napoleon
must have felt in his position as First Consul and later as Emperor, and
provides one of the reasons why he sought to make his campaigns short
and decisive, so as not to be absent from Paris for long periods, as
well as the need to provide a stream of military victories to maintain
his popularity. The book also explains the revolutionary calendar,
something else which many people have probably wondered about. It is
interesting, that very little mention is made of Napoleon. His name does
appear a few times in the text, but each time accompanied by very little
detail compared to the word sketches of the other characters. It may be
that the author just thought that there were already enough books which
dealt primarily with Napoleon, and that the material did not need to be
rehashed, but the impression given is that he deliberately downplays
Napoleon's growing role in French politics. The book includes sixteen
pages of black and white illustrations of people and events mentioned,
as well as a few maps of France. The book is rounded off with a timeline
of the French Revolution to 1795, a glossary of the political terms of
the period and a summary of the biographies of the "cast of characters".
For the purely military history enthusiast, this book is one to avoid.
However, for those who take an interest in the background to a conflict
and the connections between events of the revolution and those of the
empire, there are a number of rewarding passages in this book, which put
simply, is a good read.
This short guide was expanded by Quarrie
a few years later to
become Napoleon's Campaigns in Miniature.
Both books are classics of early wargaming literature, though the Airfix
Magazine Guide has really only nostalgic value at this stage.
Background information on the wargaming hobby and of the armies of the
period is easily accessible with a few mouse clicks these days, whereas
in 1974 the combination was extremely rare. The rules contained in the
appendix would likewise most probably seem extremely crude by today's
standards, but at the time they launched many a wargamer's "career". The
book only consists of 64 pages, but the text is small, so there is
plenty of reading apart from the playing rules. There are also numerous
black and white photos of wargames in progress to whet the appetite.
Most of the information is still relevant, though there are a couple of
places where the book shows its age. For instance where, comparing the
price of plastic and metal figures, Quarrie writes that metal figures
are expensive and can cost "up to 10p for a foot figure". Before
wallowing too deep in nostalgia, though, one has to remember that at the
time there were only a handful of companies which were producing metal
figures for the period, and indeed Airfix was still the only producer of
plastic Napoleonic figures for a decade after this book appeared.
Although the first volume, which covers Field
Artillery, will probably be of more interest to most people, the heavy
artillery was also an integral part of the army's equipment. These guns
were too cumbersome to be used in open battle, but were to be found on the
defending or besieging side in sieges of fortresses and walled cities,
as well as in coastal forts. The subject is well described, with many
details and illustrations for anyone inspired to model one of the guns
or even create a diorama, though the uniforms of the gunners are not described in
great detail. This book is well written and informative, but simply
because of the subject will probably not be an essential part of most
Having already read and enjoyed the volume on
British infantry tactics, I was looking forward to the French
equivalent. However, I came away disappointed, though I'm not sure why.
Maybe because the fundamental infantry tactics of the period didn't
differ enough from nation to nation to merit individual volumes. A book
each on infantry, cavalry and artillery tactics in the Napoleonic era
would have been an interesting alternative. That said, this book
contains a lot of information, as well as numerous illustrations,
however the fact that the volumes on French and British tactics have
different authors has led to a certain amount of overlapping of
information, which in a sixty-four page book should really be avoided.
Rather than concentrating on the tactics of
the battles, the author discusses the strategy of the 1806 campaign,
which he portrays as a masterwork of military evolution. Instead of
simply listing the number and types of troops on each side on various
days, he explores the fundamental differences in the philosophy of the
French and Prussian leadership, ranging from the Prussian difficulty in
understanding and correctly employing skirmishers to the French use of
the "batallion carré" - army corps moving in a chequerboard fashion, in
order to rapidly change front or concentrate forces when required. As a
book describing a campaign rather than a single battle, this volume
achieves its goal, The reader will not find much information on the
individual battalions involved or events on a local scale, but instead
gains a deeper insight into and appreciation of Napoleonic strategy and
the reasons why the combined Prussian and Saxon forces were
outmanoeuvred in just a few weeks.
When writing about a particular battle or
campaign, an author has to choose whether to assume the reader already
knows the context or whether the military and political background needs
to be explained before getting to the actual subject of the book.
Usually, to be on the safe side, an author picks the latter option, as
is the case with this book. Having experienced the opposite approach,
when I recently read "1776: America and Britain at War", in which the
author refers to previous political and military events without
explaining them, I have to say that I can only support any book having
an extra chapter or two to set the context. In the case of Duffy's book,
the information on the military background is more than just the usual
quick run through of the nations involved and their forces. Among other
things, there is a very good description of the process for loading and
firing a musket, which shows that the author has a profound
understanding of his subject. The political context is not so deeply
explained, certainly not to the level of Adam Zamoyski's "1812".
The description of the battle is excellent; the action is split into
seven distinct phases, which makes it easier to follow as a whole. There
are also plans of the sector of the battlefield currently under
discussion. Colour photographs of the present day battle site are
included, as well as black and white prints of contemporary paintings of
the battle and the major participants. A detailed order of battle rounds
off this book, which I can highly recommend, though it is not easy to
come by because of its age.
Osprey Men-at Arms 122
Otto von Pivka
The title of this book, which is part of a
series within a series, is a bit misleading, since the states which made
up the Confederation of the Rhine were mostly only allied to France from
1806 to 1813. However, the uniforms and organisation of the
Hesse-Darmstadt and Hesse-Kassel forces during the complete French
Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars are covered in this volume. As with
the rest of Osprey's MAA series, there are a number of coloured plates
included, which together with the very detailed text, provide plenty of
information for modellers of individual figures or dioramas, but also
for any wargamer who may want to raise an army containing these troops.
This is the
companion volume to Waterloo 1815: Quatre Bras & Ligny
by the same author, and the comments are pretty much the same.
Particularly interesting is the chapter on the aftermath of Waterloo:
Grouchy's rearguard action as the allies advanced on Paris, as well as
the sieges of the northern French fortresses. As with the first volume,
there are some glaring typos, and I was also surprised to see that the
first chapter mentioned "Marshals" Gérard,
Mouton (Count of Lobau), and
Reille, as each of these only
received their marshal's baton many years after the Napoleonic era had
ended, in 1830, 1831 and 1847 respectively. Once again,
has written a book which
explores an important and for the most part neglected area of Napoleonic
reprinting a volume which was originally published in 1911, it can be
expected that the publisher keeps the original text. Though the prose
style is dated, it lends the work atmosphere and authenticity. In this
case, however, Melchior Verlag have taken things a step further, in that
the reprint, like the original, uses the "Fraktur" script (the
old-style German script). Which means that this book will be enjoyed by
any German speaker over about 70 years old, but otherwise is a bit of a
slog to decipher. The book is written mainly from the viewpoint of the
forces of the Sixth Coalition, referring often to the French and their
allies as the "enemy forces". However, in the main, the actual reporting
of events is unbiased. The author often refers to people by their
titles, e.g. "the Duke of Ragusa" for Marmont or "the Crown Prince" for
Bernadotte. The various phases of the battle are explored in great
detail, even devoting a chapter to the King of Saxony's dithering before
and during the battle, and another to the destruction of the bridge over
the river Elster. The book does not have an index, which is a little
annoying when searching for certain passages. It also does not contain
any illustrations. However, there are eight maps of the battlefield
included in a sleeve inside the back cover. These maps are even suitable
for framing, though with some of them, a magnifying glass is required to
be able to make out all of the details. All in all, this was actually a
very rewarding book to read, and it's a pity it will probably not
receive a very widespread readership.
Having read the volume on the Napoleonic Wars by the same author, I knew that the aim of Osprey's Essential Histories series is to provide an overview of the period in question, not just from the military point of view, but also discussing the political, social and economic issues of the day. With only ninety-six pages in which to fit all this information, it was obvious that neither the individual military actions of the era, nor the individual commanders would receive much coverage. However, I'm sure I'm not the only reader who found that, faced with such a shortage of space, devoting four of these pages to a biography of Lady Hamilton was excessive. As with all Osprey books, there are numerous illustrations and maps. Considered as an introduction to the era, which serves as a jumping off point for exploring in more depth the areas which the reader finds interesting, this book serves its purpose. But anyone who already has a rudimentary knowledge of the era will not find much new material here. Of course, this book is, strictly speaking, not relevant to the Napoleonic Wars, but since the Revolutionary Wars were the breeding ground for many of the commanders of the Napoleonic wars, the era is worthy of study.
General Count Philippe de Ségur
For a student of Napoleonic history, this book is like a fly on the wall account of some of the most famous and important episodes of that era. In his position as ADC to Napoleon, Ségur
negotiated with Mack the details of the capitulation of Ulm, was present at the meeting between Napoleon and Dolguruky two days before Austerlitz, as well as on the evening of the Battle of Jena, when Napoleon received news of Davout's victory at Auerstädt. The book recounts Ségur's rise through the ranks from his début as a private of hussars, as ADC to Macdonald and the 1805 and 1806 campaigns in great detail. Due to being captured in December 1806 during the Polish campaign, the memoirs do not cover the 1807 campaign. Also, as Ségur was seriously wounded at Somosierra in November 1808, he did not take apart in the rest of the Spanish campaign or the 1809 campaign, so that the rest of the book deals with the internal rivalries of the French government. Ségur's period as ADC to Napoleon ended before the 1812 campaign, which is therefore not covered by this book, though he did write a memoir of that campaign, which has been published in two volumes. The negative points of this book are all related to its presentation. Apart from the picture of the capitulation of Ulm on the front cover, and a black and white portrait of Napoleon on the first page, there are no illustrations or maps in the book. There are also a large number of punctuation errors, with full stops appearing sometimes in the middle of a sentence, sometimes missing at the end of a sentence. The translation is not up to today's standards, but considering that the first edition appeared in 1896, the language used in fact adds to the authenticity as an eye-witness document. I have seen many authors refer to Ségur's memoirs in their works, and with good reason. This is an enjoyable book, and a welcome change for anyone tired of reading books which simply tediously relate the period's history.
While most books deal with the strategies used during a campaign or overall tactics of a battle, this volume concentrates on the infantry drill within a single battalion. The text is accompanied by numerous illustrations, including a number of colour plates, which are a great aid in explaining the various manoeuvres described. The book also gives examples of battles in which the theory was used in practice, and of the differences between the "parade ground" manoeuvres and those used with effect on the battlefield. This is a very useful book, because it describes in detail the tactics which are mentioned only superficially in most accounts of battles or smaller engagements. The illustrations also offer a vast amount of possibilities for modellers of this era.
A very good book recounting the twin battles which took place two days before Waterloo, and which had a great influence on the course of that battle. There are lots of photos of the present-day region as well as contemporary paintings. Many of the higher-ranking officers are profiled and there is a brigade-level order of battle for both battles. There are two areas which could have been done better - more maps of the battles showing the various stages would have been useful, and there are quite a few typos, which is not a big problem, but detracts a little from the pleasure of reading the book. All in all, though, a welcome change to the numerous volumes on Waterloo.
- Napoleon destroys Prussia -
Osprey Campaign 20
In fact, this book covers both Jena and Auerstädt as well as the campaign leading up to and following those battles. Inevitably, this means that the description of the battle of Jena is really only a short overview, more an introduction to the battle. The "3-D" map of Jena shows only the individual divisions, while for Auerstädt, the individual French regiments are shown. The very comprehensive orders of battle for Jena and Auerstädt as well as the numerous illustrations are the best features of this book. One other point: the small print at the start of the book (though not the list of contents) mentions a section on wargaming the battles, which is not in the book. Possibly it was included in an earlier edition.
This book is part of the "Famous Regiments" series edited by Lt. General Sir Brian Horrocks. It is a history of the regiment, which includes one relatively short chapter each on the regiment's role in the Peninsular War and in the Waterloo campaign. It is of interest mostly for the organisational details and the first hand accounts.
An enormous amount of research has gone into this book, and it is a very good description of the expedition, its context and aftermath. However, there a couple of niggly points, which the book falls down on, e.g. the author refers quite often to the use of rifles and bullets, where it should be Muskets and musket balls. Although the various battles are described in a fair amount of detail, there is little or no mention of the names or numbers of the actual units involved. It seems that the author is not primarily a military historian. Also, this book would have been a good opportunity to give more attention to the early careers of the generals who accompanied Napoleon to Egypt - Lannes, Berthier, Bessières, Murat, etc. - which the author has not done. Nevertheless, this is a very good book and well worth the read.
- The Fate of Empires -
Osprey Campaign 101
A very good book, especially the "3-D" maps of the battlefield. The battle and the campaign as a whole are well described, but suffer a little from the shortage of pages used in this series. Includes an order of battle for Austerlitz, so is a good reference.
Osprey Men-at-Arms 141
As with all of this series, a very good reference book, though not really the type of literature most people will want to take on holiday with them.
- A wargamer's guide to the Napoleonic Wars 1796 - 1815 -
If I was to be castaway on a desert island and could only take one book with me, this would be it. The amount of information crammed into this book is incredible. Although primarily intended for wargamers, it includes an overview with maps of the most important battles, a description of the troop types and leaders for many of the countries involved, even details of the recruiting methods, pay and food of troops on campaign. Not to mention a set of wargaming rules.
- Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow -
An excellent account of the 1812 campaign. A lot of time is spent setting the scene, with the context and build-up to the
campaign described in great detail. There are numerous eye-witness accounts included, which really help to convey the atmosphere of the period.
- The Duke, the Model Maker and the Secret of Waterloo -
technically not about the Napoleonic Wars, the subject is one which is close to a lot of people's heart, a British officer creating an extremely detailed model of the Battle of Waterloo, and his dispute with the Duke of Wellington over the role of the Prussians in that battle. A very good read, though from the photographs in the book, it is difficult to make out a lot of detail of the individual units. Also, I would have liked to have seen more information on the method by which the figures were produced and by whom.
- The Rise and Fall of an Empire -
Gregory Fremont-Barnes & Todd Fisher
This is actually a collection of four previous volumes on the topic, which appeared in the "Essential Histories" series. Due to the amount of material to be covered, the information is relatively compactly conveyed, which unfortunately has an adverse effect on the
readability. This would be a good book as a primer for the period, but anyone who has done much reading on the subject will not learn a great deal.
- Napoleon and the destruction of the Third Coalition -
A very detailed account of the battle and the campaign leading up to it. This book is written from the military point of view, so has a lot of specific information like unit names involved in various phases of the battle, an order of battle and maps of the various phases of action. One slight complaint I have is that the artillery didn't get as much of a mention as the infantry or cavalry, whether it was just that there is not as much information available, or a preference of the author, I don't know. This book is well worth reading and having as a reference.