Monday 23 December 2019

The End of Empire

No, this is not a Star Wars reference - rather it refers to the campaign of 1814 in France as the allied armies closed in on Paris whilst Wellington moved in to Southern France and another British force went sightseeing in the low countries.

George Nafziger is well known for his extensive collection of orders of battle as well as his massive tome on Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. He has also written three books on the war in Germany in 1813 being, in order, Lutzen and Bautzen, Dresden and Napoleon at Leipzig. I have these three but not the 1812 tome as yet but completeness it is on my to get list.

The campaign in 1814 has been described as one of Napoleon's finest in which, bereft of his German allies and massively outnumbered, he continually thwarted the Prussians, Russians and Austrians in a dazzling display of the art of managing the central position, scoring a number of impressive victories. Numbers eventually told as he was continually pushed back and when his Marshals refused to fight any longer he was forced to abdicate. That was essentially the opening scene from the film Waterloo.

This is a great doorstop of a tome at over 750 pages of which roughly a third is given over to extensive orders of battle - a Nafziger speciality in may ways. I was rather pleased to see mention of the British operations in the Low Countries including the affair at Bergen Op Zoom.

With my planning for the Napoleonic period focusing on the period 1812 to 1815 this is a most welcome addition to the library. I am aware that F. Lorraine Petre also wrote about this campaign and also 1813 so in due course it may be worthwhile looking these up.

One thing that I will need to give serious thought to is the small matter of Russian and Austrian armies but this will be for next year. In the meantime though, my collection of Command and Colours: Napoleonics will step up to the plate.


Andy Hussey said...


I can also highly recommend "Napoleon 1814" by Andrew Uffindel. I read this prior to a visit of the well-preserved 1814 battlefields on the 200th anniversaries of many of the battles in 2014. It is still astonishing the distances that the French armies covered on their internal lines of communication to give battle day after day during this campaign. Although ultimately futile from the French perspective, it is one of the most interesting, yet undervalued, of Napoleon's career.


P.S. I picked up a copy of Nafziger's 1812 tome at a remainder bookshop in Brighton many years ago for the princely sum of £6.99. It is well worth tracking down if you can find a copy.

David Crook said...

Hi Andy,

I will certainly look out for this so many thanks for the heads up. My preliminary reading on the campaign certainly shows the Emperor at his best (and worst!) and there is plenty of gaming potential.

When I finally get around to Nafziger's 1812 book I will want the hardback edition so I am now on the lookout - I doubt if I will strike as lucky as you though!

All the best,