Book Review: Blücher: Scourge of Napoleon


by Michael V. Leggiere

Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014. Pp. xxxiv, 466. Illus., maps., notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0806144092

The Life of Prussia’s "Marshal Forwards"

Biographies of Napoleon, Wellington, and many of their principal subordinates are fairly common in English, but those of the colorful, profane, and hard drinking great Prussian marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher are rare indeed.  In this volume, Prof. Leggiere (North Texas at Denton) gives us a very comprehensive account of Blücher’s life and campaigns

Leggiere opens with a look at Blücher ’s family background, surprisingly good education, and early years of service as a hussar officer in Swedish service during the early part of the Seven Years’ War, and then into the Prussian Army for the latter part of the war, an artifact of the military custom of the time.  Blucher’s career in the Prussian Army would eand nearly six decades later,  during which he saw a lot of garrison duty (despite its reputation Prussia was at peace for all but about a dozen of the years from 1763 to 1815) and a good deal of field service, while his career underwent some serious ups and downs, including a decade on the shelf, until he emerged as the principal Prussian field commander.

In contrast to most accounts, which picture Blücher as an eccentric if energetic commander, Leggiere’s is more nuanced.  He sees Blücher as an able officer, who understood his troops, had a good grasp of his profession, was particularly good in desperate moments, and, like Wellington, his partner in the crowning victory at Waterloo, was wholly unintimidated by Napoleon.  That said, Leggiere also sees the man’s flaws, most notably his impetuosity and often erratic performance. 

A volume in the University of Oklahoma Press “Campaigns and Commanders Series”, Blücher: Scourge of Napoleon is an excellent addition to the military history of the period, and particularly important for the detail in Leggiere’s treatment of the final campaigns of the era.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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