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.