The Best Books on the Napoleonic Wars

The French Empire in Europe in 1812, near its peak extent
The Napoleonic Wars were wars which were fought during the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte over France. They started after the French Revolution ended and Napoleon Bonaparte became powerful in France in November 1799. War began between the United Kingdom and France in 1803. This happened when the Treaty of Amiens ended in 1802.

These wars changed European military systems. Cannons became lighter and moved faster. Armies were much larger, yet had better food and supplies. They were very big and destructive, mainly because of compulsory conscription. The French became powerful very fast, and conquered most of Europe. The French then lost quickly. The French invasion of Russia failed. The Napoleonic Wars ended with the Second Treaty of Paris on 20 November 1815. This was just after the Battle of Waterloo, a big battle that Napoleon lost. Napoleon’s empire lost the wars. The Bourbon Dynastyruled France again.

Some people call the time between April 20 1792 and November 20 1815 “the Great French War”. On one side was the First Empire of France, Kingdom of Italy, and others. On the other side was Great Britain, Prussia, Austria, Russia, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Sicily, and others.

Napoleon by Paul Johnson

A short and vivid biography, which deconstructs the Napoleonic myth and reveals the reality of his rule.Written with great wit and panache, this biography also has a serious purpose: to make us face up to the moral bankruptcy of Napoleon?s dictatorship. Johnson tells the whole story: his astonishing gift for figures and calculation, his mastery of cannon; his audacious, hyperactive and aggressive generalship and his simple battle tactics; his complete control of propaganda and the success of the cultural presentation of the Empire; the Code Napoleon; his failure as an international statesman, as Europe grew to hate him; his marshals and ministers; his wives, mistresses, personal style and working methods; the British blockade and the Continental System; the mistakes in Spain and Russia. The escape from Elba, the events leading up to Waterloo and the battle itself, which gets a full treatment, is particularly riveting.

Napoleon’s Military Maxims by David Chandler

Packed with insights into the art of war, every military commander or armchair general should have this on their bedside table. This fascinating book guides you through how to wage a war in 78 military maxims from one of history’s greatest military commanders. Napoleon’s success on the battlefield was built upon practical experience combined with his own study of classical warfare and his natural grasp of the key principles of war. David Chandler, one of Britain’s greatest military historians, explains his thinking and offers fresh insights into the Napoleonic wars.

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
 — Napoléon Bonaparte

Courage isn’t having the strength to go on — it is going on when you don’t have strength.
 — Napoléon Bonaparte

Napoleon : A life by Andrew Roberts

Portrait of Napoleon in his forties, in high-ranking white and dark blue military dress uniform. In the original image He stands amid rich 18th-century furniture laden with papers, and gazes at the viewer. His hair is Brutus style, cropped close but with a short fringe in front, and his right hand is tucked in his waistcoat.

The definitive biography of the great soldier-statesman by the acclaimed author of The Storm of War — winner of the LA Times Book prize, finalist for the Plutarch prize, winner of the Fondation Napoleon prize and a New York Times bestseller “A thrilling tale of military and political genius… Roberts is an uncommonly gifted writer.” — The Washington PostAusterlitz, Borodino, Waterloo: his battles are among the greatest in history, but Napoleon Bonaparte was far more than a military genius and astute leader of men. Like George Washington and his own hero Julius Caesar, he was one of the greatest soldier-statesmen of all times. Andrew Roberts’s Napoleon is the first one-volume biography to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon’s thirty-three thousand letters, which radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation. At last we see him as he was: protean multitasker, decisive, surprisingly willing to forgive his enemies and his errant wife Josephine. Like Churchill, he understood the strategic importance of telling his own story, and his memoirs, dictated from exile on St. Helena, became the single bestselling book of the nineteenth century. An award-winning historian, Roberts traveled to fifty-three of Napoleon’s sixty battle sites, discovered crucial new documents in archives, and even made the long trip by boat to St. Helena. He is as acute in his understanding of politics as he is of military history. Here at last is a biography worthy of its subject: magisterial, insightful, beautifully written, by one of our foremost historians

Battle Tactics of Napoleon and His Enemies by Brent Nosworthy

The French Revolutionary wars of the eighteenth century resulted in the overturning of the tradition of ‘linear’ warfare on the European battlefield by a new system of ‘impulse’ warfare primarily employed by the French Army and later adopted by their adversaries. Historians have placed great emphasis on Napoleon’s leadership in defining the outcome of decisive battles of the period, but Brent Nosworthy argues this fails to appreciate the wealth of opportunities the new impulse system afforded to his subordinate commanders at the expense of their opponents. This book argues that successful minor tactics were the building blocks which enabled Napoleon to implement his grand tactical designs, best illustrated by the triumph of Austerlitz.

Waterloo by Professor Jeremy Black

A masterly and concise reinterpretation of one of the seminal events in modern history, by one of the world’s foremost military historians. The battle on Sunday 18th June 1815, near Waterloo, Belgium was to be Napoleon’s greatest triumph — but it ended in one of the greatest military upsets of all time. Waterloo became a legend overnight and remains one of the most argued-over battles in history. Lord Wellington immortally dubbed it ‘the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life,’ but the British victory became iconic, a triumph of endurance that ensured a 19th century world in which Britain played the key role; it was also a defining moment for the French, bringing Napoleon I’s reign to an end and closing the second Hundred Years’ War. Alongside the great drama and powerful characters, Jeremy Black gives readers a fascinating look at where this battle belongs in the larger story of the tectonic power shifts in Europe, and the story of military modernisation. The result is a revelatory view of Waterloo’s place in the broader historical arc.

1812 by Adam Zamoyski

Charles Joseph Minard’s famous graph showing the decreasing size of the Grande Armée as it marches to Moscow (brown line, from left to right) and back (black line, from right to left) with the size of the army equal to the width of the line. Temperature is plotted on the lower graph for the return journey (multiply Réaumur temperatures by 1¼ to get Celsius, e.g. −30 °R = −37.5 °C).v

Adam Zamoyski’s bestselling account of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and his catastrophic retreat from Moscow, events that had a profound effect on European history.In 1812 the most powerful man in the world assembled the largest army in history and marched on Moscow with the intention of consolidating his dominion. But within months, Napoleon’s invasion of Russia — history’s first example of total war — had turned into an epic military disaster. Over 400,000 French and Allied troops perished and Napoleon was forced to retreat.Adam Zamoyski’s masterful work draws on the harrowing first-hand accounts of soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict. The result takes the reader beyond the invasion of Russia to present both a poignant tale of the individual foot soldier and a sweeping history of a turbulent time.

Britain Against Napoleon by Roger Knight

From Roger Knight, established by the multi-award winning The Pursuit of Victory as ‘an authority … none of his rivals can match’ (N.A.M. Rodger), Britain Against Napoleon is the first book to explain how the British state successfully organised itself to overcome Napoleon — and how very close it came to defeatFor more than twenty years after 1793, the French army was supreme in continental Europe. How was it that despite multiple changes of government and the assassination of a Prime Minister, Britain survived and eventually won a generation-long war against a regime which at its peak in 1807 commanded many times the resources and manpower?This book looks beyond the familiar exploits (and bravery) of the army and navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It shows the degree to which, because of the magnitude and intensity of hostilities, the capacities of the whole British population were involved: industrialists, farmers, shipbuilders, gunsmiths and gunpowder manufacturers. The intelligence war was also central; but no participants were more important, Knight argues, than the bankers and international traders of the City of London, without whom the armies of Britain’s allies could not have taken the field…

Waterloo by Tim Clayton

The bloodbath at Waterloo ended a war that had engulfed the world for over twenty years. It also finished the career of the charismatic Napoleon Bonaparte. It ensured the final liberation of Germany and the restoration of the old European monarchies, and it represented one of very few defeats for the glorious French army, most of whose soldiers remained devoted to their Emperor until the very end. Extraordinary though it may seem much about the Battle of Waterloo has remained uncertain, with many major features of the campaign hotly debated. Most histories have depended heavily on the evidence of British officers that were gathered about twenty years after the battle. But the recent publication of an abundance of fresh first-hand accounts from soldiers of all the participating armies has illuminated important episodes and enabled radical reappraisal of the course of the campaign. What emerges is a darker, muddier story, no longer biased by notions of regimental honour, but a tapestry of irony, accident, courage, horror and human frailty.

Waterloo: The French Perspective by Andrew Field

The story of the Battle of Waterloo — of the ultimate defeat of Napoleon and the French, the triumph of Wellington, Blucher and their allied armies — is most often told from the viewpoint of the victors, not the vanquished. Even after 200 years of intensive research and the publication of hundreds of books and articles on the battle, the French perspective and many of the primary French sources are under-represented in the written record. So it is high time this weakness in the literature — and in our understanding of the battle — was addressed, and that is the purpose of Andrew Field’s thought-provoking new study. He has tracked down over ninety first-hand French accounts, most of which have never been previously published in English, and he has combined them with accounts from the other participants in order to create a graphic new narrative of one of the world’s decisive battles. Virtually all of the hitherto unpublished testimony provides fascinating new detail on the battle and many of the accounts are vivid, revealing and exciting.

Waterloo: The Campaign of 1815: From Elba to Ligny and Quatre Bras Volume I by John Hussey

The first of two ground-breaking volumes on the Waterloo campaign, this book is based upon a detailed analysis of sources old and new in four languages. It highlights the political stresses between the Allies, the problems of feeding and paying for the Allied forces assembling in Belgium during the undeclared war , and how a strategy was thrashed out. It studies the neglected topic of how the Allies beyond the Rhine hampered the plans of Bl cher and Wellington, thus allowing Napoleon to snatch the initiative from them. Napoleon s operational plan is likewise analysed and the way in which Soult misinterpreted it, and accounts from both sides help provide a vivid impression of the fighting on the first day, 15 June. This volume ends with the joint battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras the next day.

Waterloo: The 1815 Campaign: From Waterloo to the Restoration of Peace in Europe Volume II by John Hussey

The concluding volume of this work provides a fresh description of the climatic battle of Waterloo placed in the context of the whole campaign. It discusses several vexed questions: Bl cher s intentions for the battle, Wellington s choice of site, his reasons for placing substantial forces at Hal, the placement of Napoleon s artillery, who authorised the French cavalry attacks, Grouchy s role on 18 and 19 June, Napoleon s own statements on the Garde s formation in the final attack, and the climactic moment when the Prussians reached Wellington s troops near la Belle Alliance. Close attention is paid to the negotiations that led to the capitulation of Paris, and subsequent French claims. The allegations of Las Cases and later historians that Napoleon s surrender to Captain Maitland of the Bellerophon amounted to entrapment are also examined. After a survey of the peace settlement of 1815, the book concludes with a masterly chapter reviewing the whole story of the 1815 campaign.

The Battle of Waterloo Experience by Peter Snow

In association with the National Army Museum, well known military historians, journalists and broadcasters Peter and Dan Snow tell the story of one of the world’s most famous and important battles. The Battle of Waterloo Experience provides what no other book on the battle contains — removable facsimiles of historic archival documents. Readers can relive this extraordinary moment in history by holding and examining rare or previously unpublished sketch maps, letters, orders, official papers and proclamations held by the National Army Museum and other archives and museums around Europe. Peter and Dan Snow examine the strengths and weaknesses of the leaders, the armies and their weapons. Like all the greatest battles, Waterloo is steeped in controversy — the battle ended in decisive victory, but it might so easily have turned out differently. The Snows explore all the questions the battle raised. Who made mistakes? Whose victory really was it? Would Wellington have won without Blucher and his Prussians? What was the main cause of the French defeat? The Battle of Waterloo Experience contains 20 rare or previously unpublished removable documents of historic importance, 80 period paintings, etchings and illustrations, 20 colour photographs of Waterloo militaria from the National Army Museum’s unparalleled collections and a removable booklet featuring 6 specially commissioned full-colour battle and campaign maps. It puts history in your hands

Waterloo: Rout and Retreat by Andrew W. Field

This, the fourth volume in Andrew Field’s highly praised study of the Waterloo campaign from the French perspective, depicts in vivid detail the often neglected final phase the rout and retreat of Napoleon’s army. The text is based exclusively on French eyewitness accounts which give an inside view of the immediate aftermath of the battle and carry the story through to the army’s disbandment in late 1815\. Many French officers and soldiers wrote more about the retreat than they did about the catastrophe of Waterloo itself. Their recollections give a fascinating insight to the psyche of the French soldier. They also provide a first-hand record of their experiences and the range of their reactions, from those who deserted the colours and made their way home, to those who continued to serve faithfully when all was lost. Napoleon s own flight from Waterloo is an essential part of the narrative, but the main emphasis is on the fate of the beaten French army as it was experienced by eyewitnesses who lived through the last days of the campaign.

Waterloo by Nick Lipscombe

Published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, this lavishly illustrated volume looks at all the different aspects of the 100-day campaign which has become synonymous with the Napoleonic Wars and saw the eventual defeat of Napoleon’s French forces. Ten articles by internationally renowned historians examine the battle from different angles, from the microcosm of the bitter fighting for the fortified farmhouse of Hougoumont through to a wider perspective of the 100-day campaign in its entirety. The official publication of the Waterloo 200 organization, slipcased and highly collectible, Waterloo — The Decisive Victory offers a unique and authoritative history of one of the most important battles in world history.

To War with Wellington by Peter Snow

The seven-year campaign that saved Europe from Napoleon told by those who were there.What made Arthur Duke of Wellington the military genius who was never defeated in battle? In the vivid narrative style that is his trademark, Peter Snow recalls how Wellington evolved from a backward, sensitive schoolboy into the aloof but brilliant commander. He tracks the development of Wellington’s leadership and his relationship with the extraordinary band of men he led from Portugal in 1808 to their final destruction of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo seven years. Having described his soldiers as the ‘scum of the earth’ Wellington transformed them into the finest fighting force of their time. Digging deep into the rich treasure house of diaries and journals that make this war the first in history to be so well recorded, Snow examines how Wellington won the devotion of generals such as the irascible Thomas Picton and the starry but reckless ‘Black Bob’ Crauford and soldiers like Rifleman Benjamin Harris and Irishman Ned Costello. Through many first-hand accounts, Snow brings to life the horrors and all of the humanity of life in and out of battle, as well as shows the way that Wellington mastered the battlefield to outsmart the French and change the future of Europe. To War with Wellington is the gripping account of a very human story about a remarkable leader and his men.

The Peninsular War by Charles J. Esdaile

For centuries Spain had been the most feared and predatory power in Europe — it had the largest empire and one of the world’s great navies to defend it. Nothing could have prepared the Spanish for the devastating implosion of 1805–14. Trafalgar destroyed its navy and the country degenerated into a brutalized shambles with French and British armies marching across it at will. The result was a war which killed over a million Spaniards and ended its empire.This book is the first in a generation to come to terms with this spectacular and terrible conflict, immortalised by Goya and the arena in which Wellington and his redcoats carved out one of the greatest episodes in British military history.

Napoleon’s Wars: An International History, 1803–1815 by Charles Esdaile

No other soldier has provoked as much anger or as much fervour as Napoleon Bonaparte. Was he a monster, driven on by an endless, ruinous quest for military adventure — or was he a social and political visionary, brought down by petty reactionaries clinging to their privileges?Charles Esdaile’s major new work reframes our understanding of Napoleon. Napoleon’s Wars looks beyond the insatiable greed for glory to create a new, genuinely international context for Napoleon’s career. The battles themselves Esdaile sees as almost side-effects, the consequences of rulers being willing to take the immense risks of fighting or supporting Napoleon — risks that could result in the extinction of entire countries and regimes.

Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814 by Dominic Lieven

‘A compulsive page-turner … a triumph of brilliant storytelling … an instant classic that is an awesome, remarkable and exuberant achievement’ Simon Sebag Montefiore Winner of the Wolfson History Prize and shortlisted for the Duff Cooper PrizeIn the summer of 1812 Napoleon, the master of Europe, marched into Russia with the largest army ever assembled, confident that he would sweep everything before him. Yet less than two years later his empire lay in ruins, and Russia had triumphed. This is the first history to explore in depth Russia’s crucial role in the Napoleonic Wars, re-creating the epic battle between two empires as never before. Dominic Lieven writes with great panache and insight to describe from the Russians’ viewpoint how they went from retreat, defeat and the burning of Moscow to becoming the new liberators of Europe; the consequences of which could not have been more important.Ultimately this book shows, memorably and brilliantly, Russia embarking on its strange, central role in Europe’s existence, as both threat and protector — a role that continues, in all its complexity, into our own lifetimes.

Napoleon and the Struggle for Germany by Michael V. Leggiere

This is the first comprehensive history of the campaign that determined control of Germany following Napoleon’s catastrophic defeat in Russia. Michael V. Leggiere reveals how, in the spring of 1813, Prussia, the weakest of the great powers, led the struggle against Napoleon as a war of national liberation. Using German, French, British, Russian, Austrian and Swedish sources, he provides a panoramic history that covers the full sweep of the battle for Germany from the mobilization of the belligerents, strategy, and operations to coalition warfare, diplomacy, and civil-military relations. He shows how Russian war weariness conflicted with Prussian impetuosity, resulting in the crisis that almost ended the Sixth Coalition in early June. In a single campaign, Napoleon drove the Russo-Prussian army from the banks of the Saale to the banks of the Oder. The Russo-Prussian alliance was perilously close to imploding, only to be saved at the eleventh-hour by an armistice.

Prussian Napoleonic Tactics 1792–1815 by Peter Hofschroer

Written by an expert on the Prussian army of the Napoleonic era, this is a fascinating insight into the 18th-century evolution of the Prussian forces into the war-winning troops of the final battles against Napoleon. Using contemporary materials including drill regulations, instructions, staff and regimental histories and after-action reports, this book provides a compelling history of Prussian tactics from 1792 until 1815. It includes studies of the professional Prussian army during the Revolutionary Wars and the mass mobilization of a conscript army that fought during the Wars of Liberation and Waterloo. Following on from the success of Osprey’s other Elite Tactics volumes, this is a must-have for serious students of Napoleonic warfare, armchair generals, and wargamers alike.

Lutzen and Bautzen by George Nafziger

One army lost in the Russian winter, Napoleon raised another to keep his grip on Europe. A tired Russian Army and a raw Prussian force marched to meet him. ‘Lutzen and Bautzen’ is a detailed and masterful study of a misunderstood and little covered campaign. Yet it was a war between titans as Napoleon led his conscripts to crush a foe worthy to face him. From the great battles of Lutzen and Bautzen to the skirmishes with marauding Cossacks, George Nafziger follows the complete campaign in Germany from top to bottom, with a wealth of detail. A great researcher, George Nafziger uncovers the secrets of one of the greatest of Napoleonic campaigns. This new edition incorporates a new set of images, and newly commissioned maps.

1809 Thunder on the Danube: Fall of Vienna and the Battle of Aspern v. 2 by John H. Gill

In the second volume of this epic work, John H. Gill traces Napoleon’s progress as he sought to complete his victory over the Habsburgs. The war had erupted on April 10th with Austria’s invasion of Germany and Italy. After just two weeks, Napoleon had battered the Habsburg Archduke Charles in a series of bruising defeats. This volume begins with a Napoleon astride the Danube at Regensburg. He faced a critical strategic choice — whether to pursue the injured Austrian main army into Bohemia or march directly for Vienna, the seat of Habsburg power. After electing to target Vienna, his troops defeated the Austrians in the brutal Battle of Ebelsberg, allowing him to enter the city on May 13th. But meanwhile, on the far side of the Danube, he suffered a dramatic loss at the gruelling, two-day Battle of Aspern. While his Danube forces recovered from this setback, the Emperor cleared trouble from his strategic flanks.Gill describes in vivid detail the hopeful Habsburg invasion of Italy, led by the 27-year-old Archduke Johann, and the fierce French counter-offensive under Napoleon’s stepson, Eugene de Beauharnais (also aged 27). In a series of encounters across Italy, de Beauharnais rebounded from initial defeat to advance triumphantly into Austrian territory, shattering and scattering Johann’s army. In the wake of Aspern, while the Austrians vacillated, Napoleon gathered every man, horse and gun around Vienna, setting the stage for the gigantic spectacle of the Battle of Wagram, the final chapter in the story of the 1809 war.show less

Napoleon in Egypt by Paul Strathern

Napoleon’s attack on Egypt in 1798 was the first on a Middle Eastern country by a Western power in modern times. With 335 ships and 40,000 men, it was the largest long-distance seaborne force the world had ever seen. Napoleon’s assault was intended to be much more than a colonial adventure, however, for he took with him over one hundred and fifty scientists, mathematicians, artists and writers — a ‘Legion of Culture’ — with a view to bringing Western civilization to ‘backward’ Egypt. Ironically, what these intellectuals discovered in Egypt would transform our knowledge of Western civilization and form the basis of Egyptology. But there were also setbacks. Nelson’s destruction of the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile apparently put an end to Napoleon’s secret plans to follow in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and invade India. Napoleon was just twenty-eight when he invaded Egypt and it was an episode which contained in embryo many seminal events of his later career and set the standard for his brilliant, ambitious and ultimately disastrous career.

The Battle of Marengo by Major Olivier Lapray

On 14 June 1800, during the second Italian campaign, Napoleon narrowly won the battle of Marengo (Piedmont). This famous battle put 28,000 French soldiers against 31,000 Austrian soldiers under the command of General Melas. At first dominated, the French had to retreat nearly seven miles back. Melas believing that victory was assured left the command to a subordinate and returned to Alessandria. The adversary’s delay thus allowed Napoleon to concentrate his forces, including the corps of General Desaix, which would arrive as reinforcement. Around 5:00 in the afternoon, the violent French counterattack forced the Austrians to retreat, claiming the lives of Desaix, undoubtedly the hero of the day. This great victory leads to the French occupation of Lombardy and above all reinforces the authority of Napoleon in France.

Military Dispatches by Duke of Arthur Wellesley Wellington

The vivid and exciting accounts written from the front line, taking the story of the British war with Napoleon from its desperate beginnings in Portugal to the final triumph at WaterlooThe Duke of Wellington was not only an incomparable battle commander but a remarkably expressive, fluent and powerful writer. His dispatches have long been viewed as classics of military literature and have been pillaged by all writers on the Peninsular War and the final campaigns in France and Belgium ever since they were published. This new selection allows the reader to follow the extraordinary epic in Wellington’s own words — from the tentative beginnings in 1808, clinging to a small area of Portugal in the face of overwhelming French power across the whole of the rest of Europe, to the campaigns that over six years devastated opponent after opponent. The book ends with Wellington’s invasion of France and the coda of ‘the 100 days’ that ended with Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo.

Incomparable by Terry Crowdy

An elite battalion under Louis XVI, the 9th Light Infantry regiment were with Napoleon from almost the beginning, turning the field at Marengo and breaking the Austrians. They then spent over a decade fighting their way across the continent, following Napoleon to the bitter end. Bringing their Eagle out of hiding when Napoleon returned from exile in 1815 they almost saved the day again, at Waterloo, spearheading a charge to rejoin Napoleon. But unlike at Marengo, they failed. Napoleon dubbed them ‘Incomparable’, and their story is extraordinary even by the standards of the dramatic and turbulent years in which they lived.

Fighting for Napoleon by Bernard Wilkin

The French side of the Napoleonic Wars is often seen from a strategic point of view, or in terms of military organization and battlefield tactics, or through officers’ memoirs. It is rarely seen from the perspective of the lowest ranks of the army, and the experience of the ordinary soldiers is less well known and is often misunderstood. That is why this account, based on more than 1,600 letters written by French soldiers of the Napoleonic armies, is of such value. It adds to the existing literature by exploring every aspect of the life of a French soldier during the period 1799–1815. The book will be fascinating and informative reading for military and cultural historians, but it will also appeal to anyone who is interested in the war experience of common soldiers. It offers the English-speaking audience a French view of a conflict which is too often limited to the traditional memoirs of Captain Coignet, Colonel Marbot or Sergeant Bourgogne.’This work takes us into the daily life of the Grande Armee, with its suffering and the atrocities committed…Unlike diaries and memoirs written by officers, they captured the real experience of the common soldier…The authors have compiled a very valuable work. ‘ La Libre Belgique

The Battle of the Berezina by Alexander Mikaberidze

Crossing of the Berezina, Felician Myrbach
Crossing the Berezina River on 17 November 1812, Peter von Hess

In the winter of 1812, Napoleon’s army retreated from Moscow under appalling conditions, hunted by three separate Russian armies, its chances of survival apparently nil. By late November Napoleon had reached the banks of the River Berezina — the last natural obstacle between his army and the safety of the Polish frontier. But instead of finding the river frozen solid enough to march his men across, an unseasonable thaw had turned the Berezina into an icy torrent. Having already ordered the burning of his bridging equipment, Napoleon’s predicament was serious enough: but with the army of Admiral Chichagov holding the opposite bank, and those of Kutusov and Wittgenstein closing fast, it was critical. Only a miracle could save him …In a gripping narrative Alexander Mikaberidze describes how Napoleon rose from the pit of despair to the peak of his powers in order to achieve that miracle. Drawing on contemporary sources — letters, diaries, memoirs — he recreates one of the greatest escapes in military history — a story often half-told in general histories of the Russian campaign but never before fully explored. Dr Alexander Mikaberidze has taught European history at Mississippi State and Florida State universities and lectured on Napoleonic Wars for the US Naval War College. He has published many articles on the subject and his books include The Russian Officer Corps of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Czar’s General: Memoirs of the Napoleonic Wars by General Aleksey Ermolov, a two-volume edition of A. Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky’s Russo-Turkish War of 1806–1812, Lion of the Russian Army: Life and Career of General Peter Bagration and The Battle of Borodino: Napoleon Against Kutuzov

French Guardsman vs Russian Jaeger by Laurence Spring

The Russian Jaeger regiments and Napoleon’s Young Guard clashed repeatedly during the campaigns of 1812–14. The Russian Jaeger were light infantry who gained enormous experience and prestige during the struggle to rid Europe of Napoleon’s armies, while the Young Guard was expanded to become the main strike force of the French field armies. In appalling winter conditions in 1812, the Young Guard turned to confront their opponents, including Jaeger forces, at Krasnyi. In the face of constant bombardment, Young Guard regiments held off the Russians, covering the retreat of large parts of Napoleon’s forces. They clashed again at Leipzig in 1813 and then again in the bitter cold at Craonne in 1814, where horrendous casualties finally told on the newly formed Young Guard units pitched into an attack upon Russian Jaeger regiments. Putting the reader in the shoes of the ordinary soldiers of both sides, this absorbing book traces the evolving trial of strength between Russia’s Jaeger arm and France’s Young Guardsmen at the height of the Napoleonic Wars.

Napoleon’s Swiss Troops by David Greentree

Ever since the 15th century Switzerland had been exporting professional soldiers to serve as mercenaries for foreign monarchies. Napoleon, therefore, was not the first to make full use of the martial qualities of the Swiss and obtained Swiss agreement to expand the recruitment of regiments for service in the French Army. Napoleon would use Swiss troops on the battlefields of Italy and Spain, and in 1812 re-organize the four original regiments into a single division for the invasion of Russia, with each regiment having three full-strength battalions. In November of 1812, meeting up with Napoleon’s main force retreating from Moscow at the Berezina River, the Swiss on the west bank guarded the approaches to the pontoon bridges from the Russian attack to the south. Just 1,200 Swiss out of the approximately 8,000 that entered Russia were left to face, along with 8,000 other remnants of other units, the 30,000-strong Russian army. The Swiss held their ground and when their ammunition ran out they charged the Russians with bayonets. This book reveals the proud combat history of the Swiss troops of Napoleon’s army as well as the colourful uniforms they wore.

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