Book Review: Admiral Saumarez Versus Napoleon: The Baltic, 1807-1812


by Tim Voelcker

Wolfbridge, Suffolk, UK/ Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2008. Pp. xii, 280. Illus., maps, tables, append., notes, biblio., index. $90.00. ISBN:1843834316

Following a superstar on the stage is not generally considered a good career move in the performing arts, nor, apparently, in military service either, as can be seen in the life and career of Admiral James Saumarez, probably the most successful British naval officer after Nelson during the Napoleonic Wars. 

Saumarez had a very distinguished career in the Royal Navy, and during the middle periodof the Napoleonic Wars, commanded the critical Baltic Squadron for five years, maintaining British dominance in that vital sea, while performing important diplomatic and political services as well.  Admiral Saumarez Versus Napoleon is not a biography, though it does include much biographical material.  Rather it is an account of the Royal Navy's operations in the Baltic from the apogee of the Napoleonic Empire to the eve of its fall, peopled with an excellent cast, including former French marshal and future Swedish King Bernadotte.
The author, who has a doctorate in maritime history from the University of Exeter, has dipped deeply into Scandinvaian archives, and also had access to Saumarez' hitherto untapped papers.  He has a knack for presenting clear treatments of often very complex technical maritime issues, such as victualing the fleet, which adds to the value of the work

A valuable read for those interested in the Napoleonic Wars, the Age of Sail, or naval history in general.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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