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Leipzig 1813: The Battle of the Nations Paperback – Sep 30 1993
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About the Author
Peter Hofschroer is a recognised expert on the German campaigns of the Napoleonic wars and the Prussian army in particular.
Top Customer Reviews
Interesting points brought to light by Mr. Hofschroer are the conflicting agendas of the Allied Nations and the challenges that posed in formulating an effective strategy. Also detailed were the resource limitations and political pressures facing Napolean, that contributed to his defeat at Leipzig.
My only complaints are that there isn't the a biography section on the commanders that is prevalent in many of the Osprey books. This is more a limitation of the publisher's format than a fault of the author. In addition, the maps are not up to the usual standards of this series.
This author also wrote a book on the battle of Lutzen & Bautzen which occurred in the spring campaign, prior to this confilct. For greater appreciation of the Leipzig text, I would recommend reading the other before hand (although this is not necessary)
The narrative flows very well and is easy to follow, and it is packed with information, even though it had to follow the somewhat strict regimen of the Osprey guidelines. Profusely illustrated as are all Ospreys, the pictures are very well chosen, and the color plates are a mixture of artwork by Richard Knotel, Bellange, K.H. Rahl, Rabe, J.A Klein, and Krause. Only one appears to be by the staff artists at Osprey, which is a change.
There are very good descriptions of the armies of the main belligerents in the campaign, including the Swedes. The orders of battle are exhaustive and accurate, and are useful for both historians and wargamers.
Errors are few. The two most noticeable concern the Grande Armee. First, the author states that at the Battle of Kulm 'Vandamme's Corps had been wiped out.' Actually, the I Corps, Vandamme's, lost almost half at Kulm, the rest broke out of the allied trap and escaped. They were reorganized and placed under the command of General Mouton, Count of Lobau. They were later captured with St. Cyr when Dresden capitulated. Second, the author mentions that the garrisons Napoleon left in Danzig and the lower Elbe 'were largely veterans of the 1812 campaign with experienced officers.' The fact of the matter is, that most of the troops in these garrisons only became veterans as they endured the fighting during their respective sieges in this campaign.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
First, it is almost incomprehensible how Napoleon created a new army so swiftly after the catastrophic invasion of Russia. But he did it. One problem? Not enough horses to maintain the cavalry as needed. This would be a factor in the Leipzig campaign. In 1813, the French Army under Napoleon had at its disposal about 440,000 troops in the field army. The opponents of the French included Russian troops (184,000 troops in the field army), Austrians ((127,000 troops), Prussian forces (162,000 in the field army), Sweden (23,000 troops--under the command of one of Napoleon's former corps commanders--Bernadotte), Ad up these and odds and ends of other allies? About 512,000 troops (page 27). A huge number of soldiers awaiting battle. The order of battle (listing all troops involved--and their units) is almost stupefying--from pages 28 to 36.
Second, the campaign is pretty well depicted, from its origins to the conclusion at Leipzig, in which Napoleon's fate was sealed (the book argues that it was Leipzig--and not Waterloo--that doomed Napoleon). The first map on the campaign is on pages 38-39, outlining the starting point of the maneuvering. Pages 41-63 discuss the series of battles leading up to Leipzig. Overall, the French did poorer than better i n the preliminary combat.
Then, the titanic battle itself. The text describes the different aspects of the combat. Sometimes, one gets lost in the welter of which unit did what. The maps--on occasion--are not as illuminating as desired. But, overall, the text does give a sense of the struggle at Leipzig.
The volume ends with a look at the battlefield as it exists today, a chronology, a guide to further reading, and wargaming Leipzig.
This volume in Osprey's "Campaign" series is rather brief, but it provides an entree to one of the more important battles of the early 19th century--which doomed Napleon and the French to ultimate defeat.
"Leipzig 1813" is an Osprey Campaign Series book, authored by the highly experienced historian Peter Hofschroer, who has strong opinions and a gift for good history. He reduces a complicated series of battle into a coherent campaign narrative, in which the weaknesses of Napoleon's command style will catch up with him. The narrative dissects the series of battles from August to October that led Napoleon's new army into a fateful confrontation against his enemies. The text is augmented with short biographies of his many battlefield opponents during the campaign, and a crisp analysis of what went wrong. The narrative is nicely supplemented with a series of excellent historical illustrations and some equally excellent battle diagrams. Highly recommended as an insightful introduction to a complicated campaign.
Having said that, some books in the series are a lot better than others. I would say this volume on Leipzig is, unfortunately one of the weaker ones. To be sure the author does a fantastic job of explaining the condition of the armies involved, the political situation, and the strategic position and options of all involved. That is the volume's incredible strength and why I recommended it. The iconography is also absolutely stunning and is worth buying just for that alone.
When it comes to the battle however, the text reads like this: the French went over here, then the Russians went over there, then the Prussians moved over here, and in the French went there. Then the Russians moved over here, and in the Prussians moved over there. Oh and by the way, the French moved over there. Does that sound like fun reading? I should also say that the battle of Grossbeeren is not explained very well at all, and neither is the battle of the Katzbach. Marshal MacDonald obviously screwed up somehow but the text does not really make that clear.
Sometimes I think that one really does have to be a West Point graduate in order to fully understand these books. The maps with the troop movements are often confusing and unintelligible. It would really be great if the history Channel, or the BBC, or public broadcasting, could turn some of these campaign series books into actual shows. They could use computer animation to show the various troop movements and also the effect of terrain on the battle, because it is really hard to understand all this from the printed page. It would really help the layperson understand military strategy and exactly what all those squares and X marks mean on a map.
I would also like to say that it is inexplicable as to why Osprey has not come out with the volume on Napoleon's Polish campaign of 1807. That is really weird.
The book then goes on to discuss the many aspects of the armies involved including their leadership (both at the highest level and the quality of lower ranking officers), political and command structure strengths and problems (for Napoleon, for example, the lack of subordinate quality field marshals, considering the size of the battle, probably led to the loss of this battle), troops, and logistical problems and strenghts and weaknesses in various arms (i.e., Napoleon's lack of cavalry in terms of both quality and quantity caused seriuos intelligence problems that played important role in his defeat). The book also illustrates well how troops from each national army looked and different aspects/geography of battle, along with maps.
The one weakness of the book (and hence 4 instead of 5 stars) is that it is a little difficult to follow the battle because the author makes too extensive a use of the various field marshals movements and actions without mentioning which side they were on. Not much of an oversight but one, unless the reader is very knowledgeable regarding these commanders, that is enough to cause some confusion. This problem is such a shame considering how easily it could have been rectified.
A reader gains a sense of the complexity of several interlinked battles, the fact luck can be as important as strategy, and Napoleon's remarkable ability to set reconstitute his armies after the huge destruction of the 1812 invasion of Russia.