The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon, by Gunther E. Rothenberg
1978, Indiana University Press
There are several hundred thousand books written about the Napoleonic Wars, so anyone looking for even a brief introduction to the subject may be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed. This is especially true for wargamers of any persuasion. The wargamer is interested in the armies and campaigns at a detail level most general readers are not. And with so many nations, armies, campaigns, and personalities to keep track of, it may be hard to know where to start. Fortunately Rothenberg’s brief overview provides a fairly comprehensive and solid overview of the art of warfare during this glorious era.
The book has seven main chapters and a brief epilogue. He begins by describing the pre-revolutionary state of affairs, both in regards to armies as well as strategy. The second chapter provides a précis of the major campaigns from Valmy to Waterloo. The remainder of the book is devoted to the changes brought on by the Revolutionary period.
Rothenberg focuses his book very well, focusing on the French and then drawing comparisons between the French and their four major adversaries: Russia, Austria, Prussia and Great Britain. He addresses the make-up and organization of each army, its internal history over the period, and the changes they underwent. The book was originally published ion 1978 and holds up very well today. I’m certain some of the details have changed but in the broad strokes (and that’s all one should expect from a book just 245 pages long) it provides a valuable overview.
I would heartily recommend this book to anyone who is considering investing their time and money in the Napoleonic era. It will provide you a good feel for what the armies and tactics of the period were like, and will probably provide you a sense of whether you will enjoy gaming in this time period.
Review published 1.5.04