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Book reviews for - Napoleonic Wars


  • The Forgotten War against Napoleon

    Gareth Glover
    Initially I was confused. I'm not sure what I expected but it wasn't this. It didn't seem like a Gareth Glover, a writer I admire immensely. It is about conflicts around the Mediterranean which I knew of and were in no way forgotten. The chapters were short and pithy, with a wealth of footnotes. However once I got into the swing of the book, and it does swing along, I found I was greatly enjoying it. In effect it became a Gareth Glover. It is written in a most readable style with loads of well researched information. The book has 56 chapters, the shortest only one page long, 16 illustrations, all contemporary with the events, and 33 maps. For me the true value of this book is that it connects events which are most usually only studied in isolation. What the author has demonstrated is the inter-connection between seeming disparate events. The connection coming about because they are on or of the Mediterranean. When I finished this book I was sorry it wasn't longer. It is a tour de force and reminded me of areas which I now want to revisit and to read more about in greater detail. It is an excellent overview. The only thing wrong with it is the title.
    Pen & Sword Military. Pen & Sword \Books \Ltd., 2017
  • Man of War

    Anthony Sullivan
    Having very recently read about the development of the supply system for the Baltic fleet [see Transformation of British Naval Strategy review on this site] I developed an interest in the career of Admiral Saumarez. Quite fortuitously I found Anthony Sullivan's new book on the life of the man himself. The book covers the whole of his life and, as one would expect from the title, gives a lot of information about his naval career. The ships he served on, the ships he commanded, the squadrons and fleets he eventually led, as well as the actions he was in are all there. Saumarez did not fight in the battle of Trafalgar and, to the authors credit, that battle gets only a paragraph in passing. The author has done his research and does not need to pad out the narrative. The book is without illustrations but has a sufficient number of maps and battle plans to support the text. Saumarez was a remarkable fighter, a true naval hero, a family man and a man of his time who was not free of some minor blemishes this I know from reading this excellent book.
    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2017
  • The Transformation of British Naval Strategy

    James Davey
    This is a book aimed more at the specialist rather than the general browser. Having said that it is written in an easy flowing style which makes the subject matter easy to understand. The subject of the book, sub-titled 'seapower and supply in Northern Europe 1808 to 1812' is the logistical problem of keeping a substantial fleet supplied with all its needs far from any base. The story is one of the evolution and development of systems which brought together the different branches of the supply chain to become a very efficient 'machine'. The end user, Admiral Saumarez's fleet, contributed greatly, in terms of the feed back, to the vast improvements made. The text is supported by very few illustrations and maps but with a wealth of tables and graphs. A book not to missed by students of Napoleonic naval warfare. I warmly recommend a fascinatingly good read.
    The Boydell Press, 2012
  • Waterloo Messenger. The life of Henry Percy Peninsula Soldier and French Prisoner

    William Mahon
    A book more for the general reader than the specialist. Having said that the are some interesting insights into staff work. Also the description of how some prisoners of the French were treated is an eye opener. The book is not a biography but uses the life of Henry Percy as the thread running through some of Moore's and Wellington's campaigns in the Peninsula. That having been said I suspect, largely on the grounds of the author's extensive researches, that there is little more evidence available on Henry Percy's life. All in all a good read which doesn't quite give all the title promises.
    Pen & Sword Military. Pen & Sword \Books \Ltd., 2017
  • In the Peninsula with a French Hussar

    A J M De Rocca. Intoduction by Philip Haythornthw
    De Rocca's account was first published in English in 1815. This book is the unabridged presentation of that work with a new introduction by Philip Haythornthwaite and additional maps. De Rocca was not involved in any of the major battles in the Peninsula and that is the most valuable part of this book. It is a rich insight into all the other tasks performed by light cavalry in support of an army of occupation. Garrison duties, scouting, escorting and dispatch carrying all feature in the day to day tasks which De Rocca carried out. The underlying theme running through all his duties was finding enough to eat for himself and his horses. For the general reader I would recommend this book as a jolly good read maintaining interest from beginning to the end. For the military buff I can recommend this unique insight into the effects of the Spanish Guerrillas on the front-line fighting ability of the French as seen through the eyes of one who was there.
    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books \ltd., 2017
  • Grouchy's Waterloo

    Andrew W. Field
    Very early on in this book the author endeared himself to me with two statements. On page 6 he expresses his intention not to name any places without including them on a map. As one who hates having to read with a map open by my side I applaud this notion in spite of the fact that he doesn't always succeed in mapping every place all though the book. On page 12 he refers readers elsewhere for the lead up to Waterloo stating that there is to a plethora of fine books on the subject. Again I was both surprised and pleased to find a 'Waterloo' book that did not start with Napoleon's escape from Elba. The book is written from a factual rather than a judgmental position with many insertions of contemporary and post event quotations from reports and diaries. However the last chapter 'Analysis and Conclusions' , where he does discuss the key controversies, is particularly worthy of note. My overall opinion is that the research has been thorough, the style of writing clear and lucid with many maps and illustrations. A book not to be put down until it is finished. Very highly recommended.
    Pen & Sword Military. Pen & Sword \Books \Ltd., 2017
  • Nelson's Navy

    Brian Lavery
    I am tempted to write a very short review. This book is a masterpiece! The author himself says that this book does not exhaust the subject but I defy any reader to ask a question this book does not answer; masses of drawings, photographs and pictures round out the text. The book is big, beautiful and is a must for any Napoleonic historian's and interested general reader's bookshelf. Don't just take my word for it Patrick O'Brian, in the introduction, is full of high praise for the author's achievement.
    Conway Maritime Press Ltd., 1989
  • Warships of the Napoleonic Era

    Robert Gardiner
    I happily confess to being a fan of Gardiner's work. His 'Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars' is a favourite of mine. This book follows the same format, a little over twelve inches square, which allows for some stunning illustrations. The content covers ships of Britain, other European powers and the U.S.A although the bulk of the text is of the Royal Navy. The writing is fluid and most readable for both the person who wants it as a reference book and a cover to cover reader like me. All through one feels the authority of the author is based on thorough research, and, for anyone who wants to go further, there is an extensive list of sources. As an aside almost all of the line drawings would allow an experienced boat modeller to create precise replicas. This is a superb book which I cannot recommend too highly.
    Seaforth Publishing, Pen & Sword Ltd., 2011
  • The Very Thing

    Jonathan Crook
    The title neatly sums up my opinion of this book it is the very thing for anyone with a keen interest in Napoleonic soldiering. Part of the long military history of the Royal Welch Fusiliers is told through the memoirs of Drummer Richard Bentinck from 1807 to 1823. The story travels from Copenhagen to North America to the Peninsular and finally to Waterloo and the occupation of France. We get a fascinating insight into the life of the ordinary British soldier not all saint and not all sinner A thoroughly good read which I cannot recommend too highly.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Ltd., 2011
  • Waterloo 1815 Captain Mercer's Journal

    Bob Carruthers
    Part of the Military History from Primary Sources Series this slim volume [126 pages] is well illustrated with numerous almost contemporary illustrations. As a child I was told you should rise from eating a meal feeling as if you would like more. This book does just that for it is but a selection from the complete journal. It is a wonderfully balanced choice; the wide variety of subject matter in the complete journal is truly reflected here. If one hasn't read the full journal then this book is an excellent introduction - even an enticer to read more. Well written, well presented and therefore recommended.
    Pen & Sword Military, 2012
  • Waterloo Battlefield Guide

    David Buttery
    From the outset this book delivered more than I was expecting. Not only was there a description of the many places relevant to the Waterloo story placed, of course, in their modern setting to make them easy to find; but there was also a narrative of the battle with the troop dispositions and timings as accurate as you will find anywhere else. The maps and illustrations are numerous and good servants to the text. I read the book before my visit to Belgium and, having now used it extensively while there, my advice to the would be visitor is read it before you go and don't go without it. Highly recommended.
    Pen & Sword Family Military, 2013
  • Waterloo Archive Volume VI: British Sources

    Gareth Glover [Ed]
    The last volume of this superb series by no means appears to 'scape the barrel' indeed it almost appears as if Gareth Glover has saved some of the best bits to the end. The illustrations are beautifully reproduced. The series as a whole is a must for anyone who aspires to understand the battle and its context, the men, their families and the times they lived and died in. It would be wrong to single out any particular volume, each is as good as another and having read one I am sure one would want to read them all. If we are really lucky perhaps Gareth Glover will find material enough for another volume. Highly recommended.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2014
  • Waterloo Archive Volume IV: British Sources

    Gareth Glover [Ed]
    Another superb collection of original material not only from front line troops but also from reserve and support services. See review of Volume VI for an overview of the series.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2012
  • Waterloo Archive Volume V: British Sources

    Gareth Glover [Ed]
    Another superb book in this series. This one has tapped a very rich seam of material hitherto inaccessible to anyone unable to read German. Though the whole book is most interesting Appendix 2 in particular appealed to me. It records some of the 'Glorious Feats' performed by men of the KGL and Hanoverian Army. There are also some excellent reproductions of original illustrations of uniforms and 'battle' scenes. See review of Volume VI for comment on the whole series.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2013
  • Waterloo Archive Volume III: British Sources

    Gareth Glover [Ed]
    Just like the first two volumes another fascinating read. There are many many books which give one the strategy, and an over view of the action in the battle, some excellent in their way. But these volumes tell us, or more correctly the men themselves tell us, about real lives of real individuals who were involved in that momentous event. If you want to know who fought Quatre-Bras and Waterloo then these volumes tell you of some of the men. We can guess that most of the others, whose voices are not recorded, had similar varied lives. Also in the three British sourced volumes there are eight superb illustrations reproduced from William Mudford's history of Waterloo published in 1817. If you want to know the men read these books.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2011
  • The Waterloo Archive. Volume II

    Gareth Glover [Ed]
    The second volume of this six volume series is a collection from German sources. Like the first vol. it is full of amazing, vivid first hand accounts which give insights into the many personal battles which made up Waterloo. These accounts are written by men of the King's German Legion, the Hanoverian and Nassau regiments and others. The translations manage to convey what I am sure were the facts and feeling of the original texts. The fog of war made real as 'We didn't see the enemy at all. We just loaded and fired at their musket smoke.' And the horror of the aftermath described 'the next day we marched passed a barn, outside was a huge pile of amputated limbs, some with uniforms still on. Inside the surgeons were still hard at work.' Gareth Glover has brought together a mass of rare and previously unpublished work and presented it in a readily accessible form. We cannot recommend it too highly.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2010
  • The Waterloo Archive. Volume I

    Gareth Glover [Ed.]
    This book is a collection of previously unpublished first-hand material on the Battle of Waterloo. The letters, journals and reports were held in both the private and public domains. I own over thirty books which are wholly or largely about the Waterloo Campaign and this book was still an eye opener. Not only does it enrich one's understanding but also moves one's emotions. It also makes clear that anyone who was in the battle didn't know what was happening outside his own sound and smoke bound view. Further the material shows how some of the long held myths and beliefs came to gain purchase on the original historical writers and shows many to be ill founded and false. This is the first of six volumes and I am looking forward to reading the remaining five well before my visit to the battlefield on the 200th Anniversary. I recommend you do the same.
    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2010
  • Salamanca 1812. Wellington's Year of Victories.

    Peter Edwards
    A high level of research is presented in a most readable way. The book has a pervading quality in its insights which can only come from an experienced 'military mind'. Throughout the author uses appropriate and varied selection of original text providing both colour and veracity. The maps are few and lacking in detail, in Further Reading the author recommends Ian Robertson's Atlas of the Peninsular War which I would have found most useful in this case. That said however this book is difficult to put down once started and thoroughly recommended.
    The Praetorian Press, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2013
  • Galloping at Everything.

    Ian Fletcher
    Sub Titled:-The British Cavalry in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo 1805-1815, A reappraisal. This book, without being a whitewash, goes a long way to correct the misrepresentation of the value and effectiveness of the cavalry arm under Wellington. The descriptions of the engagements and activities of the cavalry are excellent as is the appraisal of their true value. Balance is maintained with both successes and failures included. Well illustrated and a jolly good read.
    Spellmount Ltd., NPI Media Group, 2008
  • Into Battle with Napoleon 1812. The Journal of Jakob Walter

    Jakob Walter. Edited & Annotated by Bob Carruthers
    This is a re-presentation of the jounal which was first translated and published in America in 1938. Bob Carruthers has done a really good job in bringing this wonderful work up to date. His inspired selection and inclusion of the watercolours of Albrecht Adam, who witnessed many of the same events as Jakob Walter, makes the book even more enjoyable. That is if the brutal reporting of such a train of harrowing events can ever be enjoyed. The reader is left with an understanding of the life of a soldier in Russia in 1812 and thankfulness that Jakob kept a jounal. A must read.
    Pen & Sword Military, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2013
  • With Napoleon’s Guard in Russia - The Memoirs of Major Vionnet 1812

    Louis Joseph Vionnet. Translated & Edited Jonathan
    A book I finished reading wanting more of the same. I suspect desperate hunger, numbing cold and the struggle to keep his troops together caused Major Vionnet to make few notes from which these memoirs were constructed. Jonathan North has written an excellent introduction, especially the Peninsular War background to the regiment, and there is an appropriate selection of maps and illustrations to support the text. He has also used other personal accounts to broaden the perspective and add detail. My one minor complaint is that the many footnotes are gathered at the end of the book. If, like me, you always read footnotes, and these are most helpful, then having them on the relevant page is so much more convenient. This book is about detail having a broad overview of the Russian campaign, while not essential, is most useful. With only a little imagination the reader will gain insights into the hell which engulfed and killed so many of Napoleon’s troops in the retreat from Moscow. And crucially how some of the survivors survived.
    Pen & Sword Military. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2012
  • 1812 Napoleon in Moscow

    Paul Britten Austin
    It is difficult to evaluate this book which has a confusing conflict between style and content. As a style the author has adopted the appalling affectation of the use of the present tense to describe the past. This in parts makes gaining a clear understanding more difficult than it needs to be. The content is well researched and appropriately selected giving real insights into the French in Moscow. The real quality of the book is that we get to see the big event from many personal perspectives. In the introduction the author apologizes, and so he should, for his 'syntactic and grammatical deviations' for these in part make difficult reading of what otherwise would be a very good book.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2012
  • Napoleonic Wars Data Book

    Smith Digby
    Simply masses of data with sources stated. As pure information without opinion can't be faulted. Highly recommended.
    Greenhill Books, 1998
  • The Age of Elegance 1812 - 1822

    Bryant, Arthur
    Covers the Peninsular campaign and the Hundred Days plus lots of interesting background.
    Book Club Associates, 1975
  • Waterloo. Battle of Three Armies.

    Chalfont. Lord. Ed.
    Three distinguished historians each presents a view of the battle from their own national viewpoint. Lord Chalfont provides the introduction and conclusion. A most readable illuminating approach to this fascinating battle.
    Book Club Associates, 1979
  • Waterloo: The Hundred Days

    Chandler, David
    Breadth of vision, wealth of detail in a most readable package. It would be difficult to find a better book than this on Napoleon's 'last great gamble'.
    Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1987
  • Fighting Ships of the line 1793 - 1815

    Davies, David
    A general overview of the ships and the men and the actions they fought in.
    Constable and Company Ltd., 1996
  • Borodino and the War of 1812

    Duffy, Christopher
    A most readable account of Napoleon's abortive attempt to defeat Russia. The maps and illustrations are supportive of the text and very helpful to the reader.
    The Military Book Society, 1973
  • A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars.

    Esposito, Brigadier General Vincent. & Elting, Col
    A truly comprehensive overview of Napoleon's campaigns presented in the form of an atlas. Some of the situation maps are only a matter of hours apart, some cover the whole campaign area while the majority deal with particular battles. A great help to the understanding.
    Greenhill Books, 1999
  • Napoleon's Lost Fleet

    Foreman, Laura & Phillips, Ellen
    The story of the Battle of the Nile. The illustrations are many and superb and the whole is brought up to date with accounts of the underwater archeology of the site.
    Discovery Books, 1999
  • Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars

    Gardiner, Robert
    Masses of detail of design, construction and equiping of frigates as well as the uses to which they were put. Superbly illustrated.
    Chatham Publishing, 2000
  • The Naval War of 1812

    Gardiner, Robert Ed.
    Incredible amount of detail, a must have book.
    Chatham Publishing, 1998
  • The Campaign of Trafalgar 1803 - 1805

    Gardiner, Robert Ed.
    Learned text , superb illustrations and maps. Trafalgar placed in the context of the men and the times.
    Chatham Publishing, 1997
  • Nelson against Napoleon. From the Nile to Copenhagen. 1798 - 1801

    Gardiner, Robert Ed.
    Lavishly illustrated, fully researched text. A great book.
    Chatham Publishing, 1997
  • The Peninsular War 1807-1814, A Concise Military History

    Glover, Michael
    A most readable and informative overview of the Peninsular War both a book to be read from cover to cover or as an additional source of reference. Useful maps, appendices and index.
    Pengiun Classic Military History, 2001
  • Die Hard; Famous Napoleonic Battles

    Haythornthwaite, Philip J.
    All or part of ten Napoleonic battles linked by the determination of attackers or defenders are beautifully written about. The research was extensive, and it shows.
    Cassell Military Classics, 1999
  • A Near Run Thing

    Howarth. David,
    Written from the recollections of the men who were there this book puts any reader with a little imagination on the bloody field of Waterloo.
    The Literary Guild, 1968
  • Nelson and His Captains

    Kennedy, Ludovic
    One of the best insights into Nelson's success as a leader of men.
    William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 1975
  • Every Man Will Do His Duty; an Anthology of First-hand Accounts from the Age of Nelson.

    King, Dean & Hattendorf, John. Ed.
    More exciting and interesting than fiction. A balanced selection from 1793 to 1815.
    BCA, 1998
  • The Letters Of Private Wheeler 1809-1828

    Liddell Hart, B.H. (Ed)
    The diary of a private soldier in the 51st regiment covering both the Walcheren campaign and his involvement in the battle of Waterloo and the occupation of France.
    Michael Joseph, London, 1951
  • The Exploits of Baron de Marbot

    Marbot, Jean-Baptiste Baron de
    The flamboyant memoirs of a cavalry officer during the Napoleonic wars. First published in English in 1892 as a three volume work, this edition was edited by Christopher Summerville and abridged into a single volume to aid its readability. The inspiration for Conan Doyle's Brigadier Gerard it gives an excellent picture of what it must have been like to be one of the 'chosen ones' in Napoleons court. Can be compared with other memoirs of men in the ranks, like Sgt Bourgogne or Jakob Walter to see the difference.
    Constable, London, 2000
  • Napoleon as Military Commander

    Marshall-Cornwall. General Sir James,

    Penguin Classic 2002, 1967
  • The 100 Gun Ship Victory

    McKay, John
    Every plank and every rope illustrated in scale drawings. Supporting text to put Victory in her context. Fascinating with more information than most people will ever need to know.
    Conway Maritime Press, 2000
  • The Peninsular War 1807 - 1814

    Michael Glover
    In total 431 pages. Excellent overview of the whole campaign with sufficient references to place it in the wider Napoleonic scene. Appropriate maps and illustrations plus some useful Appenixes. Highly recommended.
    Penguin Classic Military History, 2001
  • 1815 The Armies at Waterloo

    Pericoli. Ugo,
    An excellent reference work. Superb colour plates supported by readable well researched text. Leaves one amazed that they really did go into battle dressed like that....
    Spere Books, 1973
  • Life in Nelson's Navy

    Pope, Dudley
    Written as if Pope had been alive at the time but yet had the benfit of hindsight. Most readable.
    Chatham Publishing, 1997
  • The Cassell Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars

    Pope, Stephen
    Good, detailed reference work on the period 1792 - 1815. Includes battles, campaigns, tactics, weapons etc. with cross-referencing
    Cassell, 1999
  • Borodino

    Smith, Digby

    The Windrush Press, 1998
  • March of Death, Sir John Moore's Retreat to Corunna 1808 - 09

    Summerville, Christopher
    A harrowing account of the retreat, the more so when so much of the narrative comes from the diaries, journals and memoirs of the men who were there. Brilliant.
    Greenhill Books, 2003
  • Cochrane. Britannia's Sea Wolf

    Thomas Donald
    If this story were the life of a fictional character it would strech credulity beyond a reasonable limit. But Chochrane was an amazing man whose factual story has been well researched and beautifully written. Highly recommended.
    Cassell & Co, 2004
  • Armies of 1812. Volume One

    von Pivka. Otto,
    Packed full of information a most detailed background to the campaign. The most telling presentation of the facts are the graphical representaions of the losses suffered over time by the various corps of the Grand Arm
    Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1977
  • The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier

    Walter, Jakob
    The plain diary of a simple Wurtemburger soldier conscripted into Napoleon's ranks and sent on, among other campaigns, the 1812 Russian Campaign. A grim but fascinating portrait of what it would have been like to be an ordinary soldier in the Grand
    Windrush Press, 1991
  • Trafalgar

    Warner, Oliver
    An accessible overview of the battle.
    Pan Books Ltd., 1966