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Historical Data > Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815)

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J.A. Beard (jabeard) For all the blather about "Fourth Generation Warfare" and "asymmetric warfare", good ol' fashioned guerrilla fighting is hardly new. Napoleon Bonaparte had more than a few problems with it. Although he dealt with partisans all over, no where did he have more trouble than in Spain during the Peninsular War:

http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot...


Gary Inbinder | 52 comments Fine post, J.A. The Peninsular War was brutal, with atrocities on both sides. Those horrors were graphically portrayed in Goya's "The Disasters of War."


Linda Hays-Gibbs (Lindahaysgibbs) | 15 comments My book "My Angel, My Light As Darkness Falls" has to do with the last battle with "Old Bonie". I felt for the people on all sides and tried to give a picture of the grief that was caused by this man. I thought how horrible it all must have been.
Linda Hays-Gibbs


Debra Brown (DebraBrown) | 666 comments Mod
It must have taken some kind of Arrogance to treat so many people so badly. It's nice to hear of your book.


message 5: by Bryn (last edited May 13, 2012 05:04AM) (new)

Bryn Hammond (BrynHammond) | 28 comments Can anyone direct me to an intelligent history (that doesn't take sides) on the whole gamut of the Napoleonic Wars? Not just military history but the ideological, the social - post-revolutionary blues... a fair assessment of N. himself wouldn't go amiss either.
So far I get my information from Les Miserables and War and Peace - not that that's a bad thing (although these leave you with conflicting ideas; Tolstoy's portrait of Napoleon is very strange and Hugo's inhabitants have a range of opinion).


Gary Inbinder | 52 comments Bryn wrote: "Can anyone direct me to an intelligent history (that doesn't take sides) on the whole gamut of the Napoleonic Wars? Not just military history but the ideological, the social - post-revolutionary bl..."


Robert B. Asprey's books are highly regarded, and might be a good place to start.The Rise And Fall Of Napoleon Bonaparte


Debra Brown (DebraBrown) | 666 comments Mod
For a fair assessment of what Napoleon did to millions of people you could read Of Honest Fame by MM Bennetts. How he might deserve further fair treatment, I could not tell you.


Linda Hays-Gibbs (Lindahaysgibbs) | 15 comments Read the love letters Napoleon wrote to Josephine to have a little insight into him. I think he was very insecure when it came to her love and he was searching for love. He seemed very needy to me, but you could also tell he was a tyrant even in love. Narcissistic personality with visions of grandeur, Napoleon syndrome is named after him as he had to have everything bigger and better than anyone else. That is just a little tidbit about him. It would take volumes to really get to know Napoleon


Linda Hays-Gibbs (Lindahaysgibbs) | 15 comments Forgot to sign my work, my statment previously on Napoleon. This is
Linda Hays-Gibbs
My Angel, My Light As Darkness Falls


Debra Brown (DebraBrown) | 666 comments Mod
That would be interesting- the love letters.

You can use a book-cover link if you wish, Linda. Just above the posting box it says add book/author- click that. :)


message 11: by Bryn (last edited May 13, 2012 06:12PM) (new)

Bryn Hammond (BrynHammond) | 28 comments Thanks Gary for the bio suggestion; his two-set has gone on the wish list (need list).

Debra, as I say, I know of him through 19thC novels, where of course he is legion, from the use of him in Crime and Punishment as justification for knocking your landlady on the head, to French leftists following him because he was 'taking the revolution to the world' against an old-world, unfree Europe - such as Victor Hugo's father. Meanwhile Tolstoy does a caricature and makes him too absurd for a dog to follow.

It is hard to sort out this mass of conflicting fiction and I feel the need to read history, from start to finish, for context at least.


message 12: by Linda (last edited Jun 19, 2012 01:38PM) (new)

Linda Hays-Gibbs (Lindahaysgibbs) | 15 comments Bryn wrote: "Thanks Gary for the bio suggestion; his two-set has gone on the wish list (need list).

Debra, as I say, I know of him through 19thC novels, where of course he is legion, from the use of him in Cr..."


My Angel, My Light as Darkness Falls by Linda Hays-Gibbs


Linda Hays-Gibbs (Lindahaysgibbs) | 15 comments Wow when I hit that button I did it twice. I am so sorry. I read a book on Napoleon but I can not remember the author. The title was simple "Napoleon".


Debra Brown (DebraBrown) | 666 comments Mod
You can hit the edit button if you want, Linda.

I will ask a friend to pop in and recommend some books on Napoleon.


message 15: by Jonathan (last edited Jun 18, 2012 03:06PM) (new)

Jonathan Hopkins | 8 comments Gary wrote: "Bryn wrote: "Can anyone direct me to an intelligent history (that doesn't take sides) on the whole gamut of the Napoleonic Wars? Not just military history but the ideological, the social - post-rev..."

I read the second part of Asprey's biography ('The Fall') and found it fairly non-judgemental. Thebig problem you'll have is the wars were so far-reaching in every sense (they were known as The Great War in many quarters until the term was hi-jacked by WWI)you won't find any one book gives a complete overview.
As foils to Asprey, the late Ben Weider was an apologist while to most British historians Nappy was only just on the good side of Satan.
Best of luck!


Linda Hays-Gibbs (Lindahaysgibbs) | 15 comments You want an unbiased opinion of a devastating war on Europe and Great Britain. You want people to say Napoleon is a Saint look to the French, or some of the French. You want someone to say he is the Devil look to the English and half of Europe. He was a man with a powerful magnatism, that control was all he wanted. I know there are manuels on the battles and how they were conducted but to find an unbiased opinion of Napoleon, well, he did not breed that, you either loved him or hated him. He was a despot, a control freak and sydromes are named after his complex.


Gary Inbinder | 52 comments Napoleon-love him or hate him. It's tough to be objective, even at a distance.

One of my favorite films set during the Napoleonic Wars, The Duellists(1977), is based on a Joseph Conrad short story, The Duel, aka The Point of Honor. It's about a couple of French officers who fight a series of duels over a period of 20 years because one mistakenly believes the other has insulted Napoleon.

In fact, the officer who issues the challenge is fanatically devoted to Napoleon; the other fights for his country but is pragmatic enough to bend rather than break. In the end, he comes to believe that his life is his own rather than the property of an Emperor.


Linda Hays-Gibbs (Lindahaysgibbs) | 15 comments That sounds about right. Fanatics abound when it comes to Napoleon all these years later. He was a very unique individual.


Bryn Hammond (BrynHammond) | 28 comments No, no, I'll settle for a full view of him. Thanks Jonathan for your notes on biographies, and for telling me the single book about the Wars as a whole I was wishing for doesn't exist (I half-expected not).

Might have to chase up 'The Duellists' too.


Linda Hays-Gibbs (Lindahaysgibbs) | 15 comments New book coming out by John Tarttelin called "The Real Napoleon- The Untold Story" from the history publisher from members of the Nepoleonic society


Jonathan Hopkins | 8 comments Boy - it’s hot!

It seems summer is here at last in the UK. After weeks of rain and cold winds temperatures lifted to the mid 20Cs and the sun came out.

Which got me thinking about the soldiers who marched through Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular War. They wore heavy wool uniform coats with thick wool or canvas trousers. On the march they carried between 60 and 80 pounds deadweight - their pack, weapons, ammunition and rations. Like piggy-backing a child on your back for miles on end. And these men came from a far more temperate, less sun-baked climate, so their skins burned easily.

There was a reason for wool clothing. In the more northerly climate where British (and French) regiments historically fought the densely-woven material not only provided protection from the elements but lasted a long time on campaign and offered a certain amount of protection from injury. I once asked a re-enactor how regiments stationed in really hot countries - southern Africa for example - had coped, only to learn that they removed the jacket linings. As if a sixteenth of an inch thickness will make much difference!

The first major battles in Portugal took place in August 1808. Even though men marched only for an hour at a stretch, taking a five-minute ‘comfort’ break before another hour on the road and so on, it was not long before officers realised travelling during the afternoon at that time of year was a troop-killer. But even beginning a journey in the hours before dawn was no guarantee every man who started would reach his destination. Morning heat was such that the two-pint wooden canteen each soldier carried was soon emptied and clean water not always easy to find at each stopping place. And men would resort to putting a leaf in their mouths to their shield lower lips from the blistering sun - no Factor 30 in those days.

For the horses it must have been even worse. Light cavalry mounts carried 20 stone with man, equipment and forage. Not only that but it was the fashion to cut the tails of British cavalry horses short so they had little with which to whisk away biting flies, and there are plenty of those in Iberia. Short tails did make it easier to identify blue-coated British cavalry from their often similarly-clad French counterparts at a distance, but only early in the war. Later, such a mish-mash of horses was used by both sides guesswork could be dangerous, regularly leading to incidents of ‘friendly fire.’

At last October’s Horse of the Year Show I got talking to a member of the Household Cavalry who kindly helped me on with body armour and a pack similar to that in use by troops in Afghanistan. The set probably weighed a little more than the kit our Georgian infantryman carried, though his clothing and weapons were heavier.

I don’t think I’d have lasted a mile marching with that lot on my back. And in Mediterranean heat? Hey - where’s the pool?!


J.A. Beard (jabeard) That's some great information. Thanks for sharing.


Debra Brown (DebraBrown) | 666 comments Mod
What a life that must have been. Not surprising that it resulted in death for so many. Thanks for the additional details.


Lindsey Brooks | 12 comments Anyone interested in a one volume (but a volume of over 900 pages) history of the Napoleonic War might like to read The War Of Wars by Robert Harvey, published in 2006. It is a comprehensive account which tries to cover all the events of the war without any obvious bias towards one side or the other. Though it focuses mainly on France and Britain (Britain because it was the one country continuosly, except for one brief period, at war with France) it does deal with events in the other states who were variously allies or enemies of the two countries during the more than twenty years of the conflict. It has comprehensive maps of many of the battles and is filled with quotes from Napoleon and the other main protagonists of the time, and is well written and well paced. It also has a large select bibliography.


Bryn Hammond (BrynHammond) | 28 comments Lindsey wrote: "Anyone interested in a one volume (but a volume of over 900 pages) history of the Napoleonic War might like to read The War Of Wars by Robert Harvey, published in 2006..."

Thanks, Lindsey, I've gone to investigate this one.


Stan Morris (morriss003) | 28 comments Lindsey wrote: "Anyone interested in a one volume (but a volume of over 900 pages) history of the Napoleonic War might like to read The War Of Wars by Robert Harvey, published in 2006. It is a comprehensive accou..."

Thank you, I just got mine.


message 28: by Blood Bone and Muscle (last edited Jul 04, 2012 05:54PM) (new)

Blood Bone and Muscle | 30 comments I just made a discovery that popped up in my childhood in poetry class but is here now again.

A french poet during the Franco-Prussian war wrote a short, shocking and beautiful poem to describe one soldier on the field.

It is titled 'Le dormeur du Val'. It is short and sweet and gives a good impression on all wars. It was written in 1870 by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud.

English translation bellow French: http://fadubroz.com/jarir/dormeur.htm

And to listen to it in French because it really rolls off the tongue, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olCz2r... (This was one of the few versions that did not have cheesy background music and unrealted picture slide show).

This was the war that Napoleon lost.


Debra Brown (DebraBrown) | 666 comments Mod
Thank you!


Blood Bone and Muscle | 30 comments We had to memorize it in seventh grade, it stuck for a long time, kind of ingrained in my memory.


Gary Inbinder | 52 comments "This was the war that Napoleon lost."

To be precise, it was the war that Napoleon III(Napoleon I's nephew) lost. The poet Rimbaud was a sixteen-year-old soldier in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71)

Those interested in the subject might take a look at Emile Zola's La Debacle (The Downfall)

La débâcle


message 32: by Blood Bone and Muscle (last edited Jul 05, 2012 11:53PM) (new)

Blood Bone and Muscle | 30 comments I might just look at it. Je suis francaise, but I lack the knowledge of its vast history. The poem was something we had to recite by memory, it burned itself into the shelves of my brain. It is really the only thing I know on this subject. Nothing more.

Et pourtant, I knew what the date of the war was but did not put both together. It did seem a little late for Napoleon, I thought. You are right, for the Napoleon I was thinking about, yes, it really was.

Thank you for mentioning my mistake and posting an originally French book up in the list. ^-^' Reading it fully would be much nicer, much wiser on my part. It is the Napoleonic wars after all.


Gary Inbinder | 52 comments Blood Bone and Muscle wrote: "I might just look at it. Je suis francaise, but I lack the knowledge of its vast history. The poem was something we had to recite by memory, it burned itself into the shelves of my brain. It is rea..."

You're very welcome. And I think you'll find the Zola novel interesting, very well-written and informative about the history of the period.


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Historical Info for Historical Fiction Readers

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Books mentioned in this topic

The Rise and Fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, Vol 2: The Fall (other topics)
My Angel, My Light as Darkness Falls (other topics)
La Débâcle (other topics)