Thursday, October 8, 2015

Napoleon 1814 - The Defence of France

Napoleon 1814 - The Defence of France by Andrew Uffindell, came to me via the NWS as a review copy provided by Pen & Sword.  

This book brings to life this fascinating campaign in the twilight of the Napoleonic Wars, dealing with a wide range of factors, not just the military manoeuvres.  I found the chapters on the effect of the campaign on the civilian populations, particularly the spread of disease, very interesting and poignant.  While it is well known that disease was a major killer in this period, often well exceeding battle casualties, it is an aspect of the Napoleonic Wars, and wars in general, that is not often covered.  Likewise the predations suffered by the population, but also opportunities in areas touched by military campaigns.  Something I also found of modern relevance was the section on the administrative arrangements put in place by the Allies for the occupied areas.

The propaganda war waged by both sides is also covered reminding us that war is an extension of politics or the art of influencing people and that truth is the first casualty of war.  The diplomacy of the campaign is look at, not only as it affected operations against Napoleon, but also as it affected relationships between the allies.

The effect of the terrain and the weather on the operations is also explored as it had a direct bearing on the campaign: the poor quality of transverse roads, the importance of river crossings and bridging equipment all affected the ability to come to grips with the enemy as manoeuvring forces became bogged in mud.  All these things had to be overcome and often were by Napoleon as he conducted his campaign.

Perhaps the most telling aspect is the ultimate failure of Napoleon's final manœuvre sur les derrières.  To quote "He simply did not have the resources to sustain what was becoming no more than an attritional struggle."

Andrew Uffindell's book is an excellent background to the campaign and its place in the Napoleonic panoply, particularly its effect on the 1815 campaign.  It is an easy and most enjoyable read.  The glossary, references and bibliography are extensive and give weight to this obviously well researched and considered book.

While I was reading this I was constantly fascinated about how one could bring this campaign to life as a wargame.  Inspiring stuff!  Highly recommended.  

It can currently be obtained via the Book Depository.

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