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This is the most in depth, descriptive and informative books on Napoleon's Grand Army. Everything you can think of is covered in this book. The book is divided by chapter into different types of positions in the army, usually from the highest level (Napoleon, Marshal Berthier and the immediate staff) down to cooks and even washerwomen. The book does not cover any of the campaigns fought by the Imperial army, but instead incorporates them into the writings. Different examples of how the army operated on different fronts is considered and described. In addition to Napoleon's men, his contingents, vassel states, allies, and even enemies are considered although on a smaller scale.
A large section of the book is also devoted to matters such as logistics, tactics, strategy and looting. How Napoleon was able to move armies the size that he possessed across those great distances with the primitive technology that was available at the time is attempted to be answered by Elting. Overall the Grand Army is portrayed as a rough, tough, hard hitting army.
This is an excellent book, both informative and interesting. Even while discussing rather dry topics, the author manages to work in humourous anecdotes or observations.
It is important to understand that this book is not a narrative history of Napoleon's campaigns--rather, it is broken down into chapters which describe various aspects of Napoleon's army--the guard, foreign units, allied units, supply organization, cavalry, artillery, and many many others; for each chapter/topic, the author describes the pre-Napoleonic context, as well as developments under Napoleon.
One of those books you can't put down, which, with its 769 pages, can become a problem. The narrative is extremely readable, often you feel like your are chatting with a veteran of Napoleon's wars. My only problem with the book was that almost every sentence implied deep author's knowledge of background events. When I finished the first thing I did was search for what I expected to be Elting's long list of books on Napoleonic topics. Ended up more than slightly disappointed.
Still, one great book is better than none, and it gave me one of those experiences a reader treasures and remembers.
While I love almost all of the books on Napoleon, and his wars, reading a list of regiments, and where they faught rather than the story of the battles they fought against, rather than the battles they won or lost, is like reading the list of musicians in a orchestra without hearing something of the battle.There were too many 'Swords' around the troops and not the battles they fought. It This is the only negative comments I have for the book. If you read anything about Wellington's Army, you will get a very different book, one that glues you to your favorit armchair, with a glass of wine nearbye, or maybe a bottle to keep your comfort level up, while enjoying a good book. I do!!!!