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Waterloo Voices 1815: The Battle at First Hand, by Martyn Beardsley

Stroud, Eng.: Amberly / Chicago: Trafalgar Square, 2017. Pp. 304. Illus., append., notes, biblio. $34.95. ISBN: 1445619822.

Eyewitnesses to Waterloo

Beardsley is the author of an impressive number of works ranging from children’s books to a life of Arctic explorer John Franklin.

To prepare this work, Beardsley combed through hundreds of letters, reports, newspaper articles, diary entries, memoirs and more, to select scores of eyewitness accounts by participants in the Campaign of Waterloo. These were written by a remarkable range of people, from common soldiers to generals, ordinary citizens, travelers, officer’s wives, and more.

After an introduction explaining his purpose, Beardsley gives us a look at the campaign as seen by many of its participants, mostly British, but some French and even others. He organizes these individual perspective organized into a series of parts which cover the events of the campaign and battle chronologically, each opening with a short commentary by Beardsley.

The first part of the book deals with observances on events from Napoleon’s escape from Elba to his invasion of Belgium on June 15, 1815. This is followed by accounts of the Battle of Quatre Bras and the events of June 16th and 17th. The battle itself is covered in five sections, each dealing with one of five principal phases of the battle before Waterloo on June 18th – termed “acts” by some authors.

The aftermath of the battle is also covered in five parts, ranging from the treatment of the wounded and disposal of the dead, Napoleon’s flight and subsequent capture and exile, and the longer term reminiscences of these events.

Beardsley’s approach often allows particular events to be seen from several different perspectives, making Waterloo Voices a useful and interesting book, despite its Anglocentrism.


Note: Waterloo Voices is also available in paperback, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-4456-6016-5, and in several e-editions



Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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