: Campaigns of napoleon (9780025236608) : David G. Chandler : Books
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Campaigns Of Napoleon

by David G. Chandler
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publishing date: 01/03/1973
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780025236608
  • ISBN: 0025236601


Napoleonic war was nothing if not complex -- an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of moves and intentions, which by themselves went a long way towards baffling and dazing his conventionally-minded opponents into that state of disconcerting moral disequilibrium which so often resulted in their catastrophic defeat."

The Campaigns of Napoleon is an exhaustive analysis and critique of Napoleon's art of war as he himself developed and perfected it in the major military campaigns of his career. Napoleon disavowed any suggestion that he worked from formula ("Je n'ai jamais eu un plan d'opérations"), but military historian David Chandler demonstrates this was at best only a half-truth. To be sure, every operation Napoleon conducted contained unique improvisatory features. But there were from the first to the last certain basic principles of strategic maneuver and battlefield planning that he almost invariably put into practice. To clarify these underlying methods, as well as the style of Napoleon's fabulous intellect, Mr. Chandler examines in detail each campaign mounted and personally conducted by Napoleon, analyzing the strategies employed, revealing wherever possible the probable sources of his subject's military ideas.

The book opens with a brief account of Bonaparte's early years, his military education and formative experiences, and his meteoric rise to the rank of general in the army of the Directory. Introducing the elements of Napoleonic "grand tactics" as they developed in his Italian, Egyptian, and Syrian campaigns, Mr. Chandler shows how these principles were clearly conceived as early as the Battle of Castiglione, when Napoleon was only twenty -six. Several campaigns later, he was Emperor of France, busily constructing the Grande Armée. This great war machine is described in considerable detail: the composition of the armies and the élite Guard; the staff system and the methods of command; the kind of artillery and firearms used; and the daily life of the Grande Armée and the all-seeing and all-commanding virtuoso who presided over every aspect of its operation in the field.

As the great machine sweeps into action in the campaigns along the Rhine and the Danube, in East Prussia and Poland, and in Portugal and Spain, David Chandler follows closely every move that vindicates -- or challenges -- the legend of Napoleon's military genius. As the major battles take their gory courses -- Austerlitz, Jena, Fried-land -- we see Napoleon's star reaching its zenith. Then, in the Wagram Campaign of 1809 against the Austrians -- his last real success -- the great man commits more errors of judgment than in all his previous wars and battles put together. As the campaigns rage on, his declining powers seem to justify his own statement: "One has but a short time for war." Then the horrors of the Russian campaign forever shatter the image of Napoleonic invincibility. It is thereafter a short, though heroic and sanguinary, road to Waterloo and St. Helena.

Napoleon appears most strikingly in these pages as the brilliant applier of the ideas of others rather than as an original military thinker, his genius proving itself more practical than theoretical. Paradoxically, this was both his chief strength and his main weakness as a general. After bringing the French army a decade of victory, his methods became increasingly stereotyped and, even worse, were widely copied by his foes, who operated against him with increasing effectiveness toward the end of his career. Yet even though his enemies attempted to imitate his techniques, as have others in the last century and a half, no one ever equaled his success. As these meticulous campaign analyses testify, his multifaceted genius was unique. Even as the end approached, as David Chandler points out, his eclipse was "the failure of a giant surrounded by pygmies."

"The flight of the eagle was over; the 'ogre' was safely caged at last, and an exhausted Europe settled down once more to attempt a return to former ways of life and government. But the shade of Napoleon lingered on irresistibly for many years after his death in 1821. It lingers yet."

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  • Napoleon's Campaign
    From Amazon

    David Chandler did an outstanding job with his detailed and "not dry" analysis on le petite corporal. This is a book that I have purchased several copies of over the years. The biggest reason being people I have let read it haven't wanted to let it go, so I gifted it to them. This is THE read for anyone interested in Napoleonic history, or in the man himself. You'll come away with an entirely new view of the Emperor.

  • How Military History should be Written
    From Amazon

    Chandler does a thorough job covering Napoleon's campaigns, from his early days as a French soldier all the way to his defeat at Waterloo and exile to St. Helena. This is a military history, with tactical diagrams accompanying descriptions of battles and detailed accounts of things like marches and army composition. Chandler does a good job balancing the small tactical details with the big strategic picture. Political or social history is only mentioned insofar as it pertains to Napoleon's military career. It definitely helps to have a general knowledge of the period before delving into this book. Throughout the book, Chandler attempts to get inside the mind of Napoleon, to analyze his patterns of thinking and see the reasons behind his actions. Much of it is good and reasonable, and serves to enlighten the reader as to Napoleon's possible motivations and patterns of action. For example, Chandler spends a chapter analyzing Napoleon's method of waging war and fighting battles. Some may argue that it's a bit simplified, but it's a valuable reference point. The psychoanalysis tends to stray a bit further off the mark. However, it's not without its merits and can be quite instructional if one can control for possible author bias. Chandler is an Englishman, which sometimes shows through. The book may or may not have a slight pro-England bias, but it's not so heavy-handed as to detract from its value. It's an unfortunate fact that history books always have a bit of bias, whether the author allows his to show through or tries so hard to avoid it that he goes too far in the opposite direction. Keeping this in mind, the level of bias here is no detriment. This is probably the best-written and most thorough single-volume military history of Napoleon, and is actually quite accessible to beginners.

  • A thorough summary of Napoleon and his wars
    From Amazon

    I knew very little beyond pop culture and some vague memories from high school about Napoleon when I purchased this book. I chose this volume because of the ratings it received. I found the book comprehensive and detailed. I learned about the nuts and bolts of Napoleonic warfare: the formations, the weapons, all of that. The book goes into great detail about each battle and the tactics used. There is some history of Napoleon's life outside of warfare - his childhood, his relationship with Josephine - but details in these areas are scant as the book mostly focuses on his wars. The book is quite long and some stretches were not so easy to get through. Overall, the writing is easy to read but, again, there are parts that are quite dense but no so many that I couldn't make it through. In the end I found it a remarkable book for the way it let me inside Napoleon's mind. I got to experience his genius, his confidence, his ruthlessness. I came away with a clear understanding of who he was on the battlefield and how he handled negotiations with other nations. From relative obscurity, he rose to control Europe from Spain to Russia, and then lost it all. There are few stories like this in the history of the world. This book is a terrific overview of the man and his political and military achievements.

  • West Point Can't Be All Wrong
    From Amazon

    I asked my partner, a West Point honors graduate who loved Armor, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes and being in NATO intelligence during the Cold War for the "Best Book" on Napoleon and this is what he recommended to a mere Naval Academy ingenue. I had avoided for years jumping into the broiling waters of Napoleon fanatics and the welter of books taking sides on the man and his works. I wanted something that put Napoleon as a general into prespective without the hype and this book delivered. It was so easy to read. I couldn't leave it behind. I love it as much as Shelby Foote's trilogy on "The Civil War", William Manchester's "The Last Lion," Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August" and John Keegan's "The Face of Battle." The scholarship, writing style and information conveyed is as good as history can be. For those who love fiction, I read it in part to better appreciate reading "War and Peace" next. Chandler was very even-handed in his presentation so as to not distract the reader or detract from the purpose - a keen analysis of the campaigns in the context of the man and his times. It is well worth the money. This is something to buy for your best friends or for other history lovers to whom you owe some great debt of gratitude.

  • Exceeded All Expectations
    From Amazon

    I purchased this for my was number one on his wish list. It came before Christmas in excellent condition. When my husband took his initial look through, he was amazed at how much detail there was. This book had been recommended to him by many people who share his interest in Napoleonic era history. He said the author writes exceedingly well and has a fantastic vocabulary. There are lots of visuals in the book as well. Every day he picks up this book and is in awe.

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