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Thursday, August 15, 2013

“La Grande Armee”, by Georges Blond, Translated by Marshall May

544 pages, Arms & Armour Press, ISBN-13: 978-1854092526

In La Grande Armee, Georges Blond takes the reader with Napoleon and his men as they march from Boulogne to Waterloo with a completeness that one would expect from an autobiography. The book describes the day-to-day life and death in the army of the Empereur des Français with all the detail of a conversation with a grizzled veteran at a Parisian café. Mr. Blond provides character sketches of some of the leading historical figures of the time that illustrate motive, desire and fault. His descriptions of the Peninsular War and the retreat from Moscow vividly illustrate the suffering and horrors of war in the Napoleonic era.

The author’s in-depth treatment of the medical services is most enlightening, describing the frightful lot of the wounded in gory detail. The reader cannot avoid having an increased respect for the physicians Rene Desgenettes and Jean Larrey. Touching on the political, personal and military histories of the period, the book provides the reader with a unique vantage point from which they may view battles like Austerlitz and Waterloo in a new light. The descriptions of the campaigns and battles avoid tactical details while providing sweeping descriptions that answer many of the how’s and why’s of the conflicts events.

With the chronology, maps and statistics included in the appendixes, this book will become a valued addition to the library of any student of the Napoleonic era. Blonde has written a superb tour de force in a style which makes one think you are reading a novel and transports you to the battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars. One learns a plenty of the lot of the common soldier and meets characters such as Murat, Ney and other lesser-knowns. All-in-all a brilliant history without the boring prose of some better known history books!

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