Book Review: Waterloo: Book One of the Great Battles Series by Alan Forrest

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Waterloo: Book One of the Great Battles Series by Alan Forrest is not your typical military history. Therefore it is a good thing that the author admits in the preface that he is not a military historian because it shows. If you expect a book called Great Battles to be about the itself then prepare to be disappointed because this book is not so much about Waterloo as its aftermath./ First the book itself. It is 180 pages of text divided into 9 roughly thematic chapters including an introduction and postscript. There is a list of figures, list of maps, notes, bibliography and an index. This is not a campaign … Read more…

Book Review: The Longest Afternoon by Brendan Simms

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author and/or publisher. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] There have been hundreds of books written about the battle of Waterloo in the last two centuries.  Most acknowledge that the defense of the two farms at La Haye Saint and Hougemont were decisive in the allied victory.  Curiously, to my knowledge there has not been a microhistory written of the actions in and around the farmhouse of La Haye Saint.  Brendan Simms has rectified that era in his new work The Longest Afternoon: The 400 Men Who Decided the … Read more…

The Battle of the Nations – 16-19 October, 1813

The Battlefield at Leipzig

The October, 1813 Battle of the Nations in Leipzig was arguably as important as the 1814 Battle of Waterloo.  In English language historiography of the Napoleonic Wars it is often downplayed or only briefly mentioned however.  This is mainly because no English speaking armies fought in the battle.  The lions share of the fighting at Leipzig was done by Austrian and Russian armies and thus the English speaking world tries to ignore this decisive battle in which almost 50,000 men died. After Napoleons’ defeat in the Russian Campaign of 1812 and the concurrent French defeat in the Peninsular Campaign the Allied nations of Europe joined together once again in the … Read more…

200th Anniversary of the Battle of the Nations re-enactment – 20 October, 2013

This is one of the btter views I got after we had finally managed to move to the eastern end of the venue.  It gives an idea of the crush but this end was not as crowded as the western side, probably because there were no food or drink vendors on this side.

The Battle of the Nations in and around Leipzig, Germany from 16-20 October, 1813, was the culminating battle of 1813 and the last major battle fought prior to the fighting in France in 1814 before Napoleon’s defeat, abdication, and exile to Elba.  It was the largest battle fought in Europe to that time with over 500,000 soldiers on both sides.  The city of Leipzig spent millions renovating the huge memorial to the battle and planned a week of commemorations coinciding with the 200th Anniversary of the battle. This past weekend I went to the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of the Nations re-enactment.  This was billed as the highlight of the … Read more…

The Transformation of War Wrought by the Armies of the French Revolution and Napoleon

In the years before the French Revolution, warfare in Europe was moribund at best.  The wars of the period were dynastic wars fought to maintain the traditional balance of power and were generally limited in scale and scope.  The armies of this era were professional armies with an aristocratic officer class and private soldiers drawn from the lowest segments of society and subject to brutal discipline.  Desertion and looting were rife in the pre-revolutionary or old regime army’s, which partly explains the discipline, the other part of the discipline equation was the need for soldiers to execute their battlefield actions in concert to maximize the effect of their weapons. [1]  Lastly, … Read more…

Battle of the Nations Monument – Leipzig, Germany

View of the monument across the reflecting poll in front of it.  The water in the reflecting poll is pretty muddy, which kind of ruins the effect.  The crane from renovation blocks portions of the view as well.

I had the opportunity to visit Leipzig this past weekend and while there stopped briefly by the monument to the 1813 Battle of the Nations from the Napoleonic Wars.  At the Battle of the Nations the Sixth Coalition consisting of Prussia, Britain, Russia, and Austria fought the French Army of Napoleon and over the course of three days defeated him and forced him to retreat back to France. I only had about 20 minutes at the monument and Leipzig is on my list of places to see again as one day was not enough to see all that I wanted to see.  The monument is currently undergoing renovation in preparation for events surrounding the 200th anniversary of the Battle next year. It is … Read more…

Book Review: The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle by Michael Stephenson

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the publisher for purposes of reviewing it. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Michael Stephenson’s work The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle follows somewhat in the tradition of classics such a Keegan’s The Face of Battle and Victor David Hanson’s The Western Way of War. Where it differs from these two works as that while Keegan and Hanson focus on specific battles or time periods this book aims to be a more general description of the experience of combat throughout recorded history.  In that, the book is amazingly … Read more…

The Battle of Jena-Auerstädt: 14 Oct 1806

Relative locations of the engagements on 14 Oct 1806

The Battle of Jena-Auerstädt was fought in Germany on 1806 between the French Imperial Army and the Prussian Royal Army. It is actually two separate battles separated by about twenty miles. Both the French and Prussian armies were split leading to two separate engagements one was fought by Napoleon and Davout commanded the French Corps at Auerstädt. The battle at Jena was the larger of the two as far as forces involved are concerned but the action at Auerstädt was operationally the more decisive. Combined, the Prussians suffered a devastating defeat that they could not recover from and led to the virtual surrender of the kingdom in the face of … Read more…

Book Review – Iron Kingom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark

This massive tome lays claim to being a complete history of Prussia, and if he doesn’t achieve it, he doesn’t miss it by much. It is fairly large at over 700 pages but Dr. Clark has a pleasant writing style that makes the book easy to read. He is not so much recounting events as using the historical events to tell the story of Prussia. The book opens with the retelling of the Allies abolishment of Prussia as a political unit in 1947 then goes right to the beginning of Prussia with the establishment of Prussia as a political unit under German sovereignty under the Great Elector in the years … Read more…