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The Grande Armee was created by Napoleon Bonaparte. In the end, to satisfy his personal ambitions, he destroyed the Grande Armee, and brought about the death of thousands of its soldiers, and yet more thousands of the soldiers who opposed it. The book has an amazing amount of detail, and the only shortcoming seemed to me that it required a better index.
It's a useful, if slightly dated, overview of the Grande Armee of Napoleon. It contains chapters on each arm of the army and biographies of the Marshals and some of the generals. Where I part company with the majority of the reviewers is the style in which it is written. It's obviously been written for Americans some time ago and has numerous references to 'our Revolution' and the Continental Army and it's a bit 'folksy' in it's prose which veers towards Americanisms at every turn. I also found it tending toward anecdotes in a lot of areas as opposed to facts. This is my personal opinion and some people may like Elting's style of writing, but I found it irritating and it became more and more difficult to read which is a great pity as I was keen to get the best from this well regarded book.
The best book I have read discussing the nuts and bolts of Napoleon's armies; food, clothing, organization, tactics, weapons and the characteristics of the several branches of his forces. Elting is a gifted and witty writer. Moreover, he grasps the psychology of the men and the spirit of the times and conveys it brilliantly to the lay reader. He has a great gift for the pithy epigram when summing up the personalities of the men and officers. If you were merely a novice reader before this volume, you won't be afterwards. Elting will make you eager to get deep into the period.
If I could recommend one book as the starting point to what has been called the 'abyss of Napoleonic history', this would be it. This is my favorite book on the subject. The author covers it all. From the army at the time of the revolution, what it ate, how it was supplied, how it was cared for... as well as (of course) how it fought. Its all there. Plus it has the added benefit of reading lively and is very immersive.
Although it mainly cover the French experience during what was later called the "Napoleonic Era" the other nations get a chapter as well. All in all a very entertaining read.
This book could stand on its own as a work of literature. This is an exhaustive study of the minutiae of Napoleon's Grand Armee, and might easily have become a plodding reference work. The wit, irony, and, above all, the author's shear love of his subject matter make "Swords" good reading, fascinating even to people with no knowledge of Napoleonic-era warfare. Wish there were works this good on warfare in other periods.