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Swords around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armee
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Swords around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armee

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  190 ratings  ·  24 reviews
This authoritative, comprehensive, and enthralling book describes and analyzes Napoleon's most powerful weapon—the Grande Armée which at its peak numbered over a million soldiers. Elting examines every facet of this incredibly complex human machine: its organization, command system, logistics, weapons, tactics, discipline, recreation, mobile hospitals, camp followers, and ...more
Paperback, 784 pages
Published March 22nd 1997 by Da Capo Press (first published August 1st 1988)
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4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  190 ratings  ·  24 reviews

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Tommy Trionfetti
The amount of research that must have gone into this book blows my mind. Every now and then you tend to lose track with all the numbers and names of countless combat units. But the chapters on 'Les Maréchaux d'Empire', Napoleon's allies and the ennemies of the French Republic/Empire are some of the best 'napoleonic pages' I have ever read.
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Discipline and Disciplinary Units," page 433:

"As for the genuinely unsavory 'mauvais sujets'- thieves, congenital AWOLS, bullies, sadists, and perverts- that even the strongest-stomached regiment would not tolerate, it was established French custom to sentence them to service in some colonial pesthole. Justice was served, the price of a rope was saved, and- should an occasional gallows bird survive fevers, savages, spoiled rations, and the local women and drink- the colony's population was incr
Aug 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Grognards
Shelves: justfinished
This is THE book about the French army of the Napoleonic era. Very detailed, with hundreds of quotes from people who were realy there to back up the author's points, or to interject

However, the layout of this book is terrible, and it certainly could have used a few chapters about the period and history before diving right into uniformology. Also, color plates would definately enhance the sections about uniforms.
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would rate this between 4 and 5 stars for its readability, but I finally went for 5 since this was the book that introduced me to Marshal Louis-Nicholas Davout in the section dealing with Napoleon's marshals. Besides that section the book deals with practically every facet of Napoleon's Grande Armee. The research is phenomenal. Admittedly, some of the material is somewhat dry; but if you are interested in knowing more about how Napoleon gained his reputation, this book helps.
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Basically this is an encyclopaedia of Napoleon's field army - their units, their uniforms, their generals and so on. Written in a dry yet chatty way this is a lot more enjoyable than one might expect. Recommended if you're interested in the subject. Rated G. 3.5/5
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Utterly fascinating dissection of how the Grande Armée was put together. From the cavalry, infantry and artillery through the veterinary services, logistics services, MP, even down to the vivandières and other camp followers, every part is detailed and discussed.

Not strictly a traditional history - if you want to know where, how and why the battles were fought, look elsewhere - this is more of an encyclopedia. Every chapter discusses a different part of the army. In these chapters, the history w
Sean-Paul Kosina
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-shelf
A beautifully detailed book describing the Military prowess of Napoleon’s Grande Armée (Grand Army) from a logistic, economic, and tactical point of view. Giving much insight into units such as the Line Infantry, Grenadiers, Skirmishers, Calvary, Artillery, and the Navy too. Also providing details of the production routines and the start of the manufacturing facilities, which is a system Napoleon himself built in Europe; that each blacksmith throughout France and other occupied territories work ...more
Rob Markley
Jan 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, napoleonic
Hugely overrated work. This is simply the consolidation and systematic organisation of an admittedly wide reading of Napoleonic memoirs, which is enough to make it just interesting. There is no evidence of any real actual research, or analysis of all this reading and there is of course a total partiality towards Napoleon. I'm probably being harsh and reacting against the adulation usually reserved for the work when I say: fan boy history for hero worshipers, and little more.
Jeff Slipper
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tour de force.

Most enjoyable and informative.
Sean Chick
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A massive rambling book, written with more gusto than one would expect. There is a lot of information here, and I particularly liked Elting's discussions of the Restoration army. He also has his share of opinions, such as Napoleon being better for the navy than most would say, arguing that by 1816 the French navy would have been ready to take on the British again. Overall, it might be too long and too conversational, but its never dull.
Jessica Snell
Oct 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I read only about half of this book That might sound pitiful, but the book is almost 800 pages long. This was novel research for me, and the most fun research I did, I think. Elting peppers his history of Napoleon's army with anecdotes about individual officers, and didn't mind giving his opinion either, though, as a good historian, he made it clear what was opinion and what was fact. This was a fascinating book, and I'd be glad to go back and finish it sometime. I think anyone interested in the ...more
This tome on the Grande Armee is a very approachable yet detailed discourse on the composition and inner workings of Napoleon's greatest army. Packed with anecdotal stories, it gives a functional history of the army that Napoleon led rather than an operational history, explaining how each different service worked within the army and how it grew to it's height. Covering everything from the navy to logistics, this is a good book to catch for and understanding of the army.
Peter Harrison
Jun 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, napoleon
This is a superb book. A step by step outline of every aspect of the life of Napoleon's Grande Armee. It is the perfect companion piece to Elting's Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars (written with Vincent Esposito). If it has a flaw, it is that Elting is very obviously in Napoleon's camp, but if you accept that at the start and are interested in how his army was constructed and operated, then this is the perfect book to explore that.
Jack Radey
Elting can write in an amusing fashion, but it is history as a series of anecdotes. It is thorough, but shallow, hinting at enormous information the author is familiar with but is only alluding to instead of explaining. The book is very large, and covers a wide variety of subjects, all in reference to La Grande Armee. Something of an overview, but not a comprehensive or data filled sort of study, no indeed.
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great read so far. I'm not quite done with it but the author is very thorough and in-depth, revealing the genius behind much of what Napoleon did and how he managed his army. The descriptions of generals and marshals of his army really brought the past to life for me. Well worth a look if you enjoy history, and especially military history.
Dec 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
I'm not much of a Napoleonic Wars "fan," but this was a great book to me. Elting covered pretty much the entire span of the militarized French nation, down to the Imperial postal service, daily food of soldiers, and so on.
Betsy Balcombe
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
THE BEST book I've read on Napoleon's Marshals so far. I don't claim to be an expert but have read many books on the First Empire. This is a must. It's where I first read of Marshal Lefebvre's challenge to a friend jealous of Lefebvre's estate and possessions. Very well written.
Feb 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Gave up on this about mid-way. My favorite histories tend to be narrative rather than descriptive, and this one in particular is heavier on the names and references than details. Not badly written, but not what I was looking for.
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly a fascinating book about Napoleon's fighting men, geniuses and incompetents alike.
Dominick J. Lo Conte
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of those books I would want on a desert island. A joy to read.
Sherwood Smith
Goes into vivid detail about the look of Napoleon's army, and its attitudes and regulations, where it came from, how it viewed itself and was viewed.
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May 08, 2012
Robert Copeland
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Nov 24, 2015
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Anna Vincent
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Sep 13, 2014
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Randy Finley
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Aug 22, 2018
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Stephen Webster
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John Robert Elting was a soldier for thirty-five years (1933-1968), with a couple of civilian interludes as a high school instructor. His first commission had been from the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Stanford University in 1932. He combined this with summer duty in Company H (machine-guns), 163rd Infantry Regiment, Montana National Guard, and then as an officer in the Civilian Conservation ...more