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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.
This a a difficult book to review, because it is so very complete and thorough, and the author's style is very engaging and entertaining. The problem is that there is SO much information, the reader can't help to get bogged down on boring sections, and at times, choke on Elting's purple prose. I highly recommend this for those who already have firm background on the period, particularly the battles and campaigns. If you are keenly interested in what the grand armee ate for breakfast the morning of Austerlitz, you won't be disappointed. It is also an excellent topical reference. The downturn for me was about page 300. Elting only occassionally translates French phrases (very disconcerting for a Germanophile) and it was hard for me to get excited about the uniform piping of every single transportation, supply, service, and administrative battalion. But read on! It does get better. If you want to know about Napoleonic warfare in general, I would steer you to Rothenberg and Chandler. If you want to eat, sleep, march, breathe, and fight with one of the greatest armies in western history, it is worth the time.
The problem with thick books that try to capture large subjects is that they must generalize and leave out a lot of data, and here there is no difference. If you are looking of a general overview of the Grande Armee during more then two decades of the French First Republic and Empire, this book will inform. However it is not meant to provide or be a definitive statement on any of the topics discussed in the chapters. Its a guide, rather then a scholarly work. This is particularly true where armies other then French are discussed, or where equal space has been given to its largest corps, the Infantry or Cavalry.
Other works dealing with specific areas should be consulted after readin this work.
This one I did not particularly enjoy but again, I assumed it would be something is was not nor did it clam to be. I was looking for more of a traditional biography and as the author states clearly, his intent was a history of the Napoleonic weapons of war, the troops who carried them and the things that they did with their weaponry. On that level, it was most excellent, highly detailed and unbelievably well researched. Students of military history interested in the leaders and men who fought with Napoleon will be fascinated. L. S. Miller is the author of four novels published to date, all of which have been Kirkus reviewed and are available from Amazon Books.