by Andrew W. Field
Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2019. Pp. xxii, 154+.
llus., map, diagr, append. notes. $34.95. ISBN: 1526768461
French Voices from Waterloo
Field follows up his earlier works on the Waterloo Campaign, such as Waterloo: the French Perspective and Prelude to Waterloo: Quatre Bras, The French Perspective, with this new work. In The French at Waterloo: Eyewitness Accounts, Napoleon, Imperial Headquarters, and 1st Corps, he covers the events of the battle itself from the perspective of Napoleon, his staff, and the troops of Count d'Erlon’s army corps.
Field weaves personal accounts from Napoleon, other generals, and ordinary officers and men into a narrative of the battle as they perceived it. He draws on official reports, letters, diaries, postwar writings, and the like for insightful or impressionistic recollections by officers and men.
Of course these eye witnesses aren’t necessarily unbiased, or even accurate, as many of them – particularly Napoleon and various generals – wrote more to excuse the outcome than to elucidated events, a matter upon which Field frequently comments. But we do get to learn a lot about how the army was organized, the tactics employed, and the personal experiences of many very common soldiers.
The French at Waterloo: Eyewitness Accounts, Napoleon, Imperial Headquarters, and 1st Corps is a worthwhile read for anyone – lay or academic – with an interest in the Napoleonic wars or the soldier’s-eye view of combat, though the absence of an index is to be regretted.
Note: The French at Waterloo: Eyewitness Accounts, Napoleon, Imperial Headquarters, and 1st Corps is also available in several e-editions.
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