Armies of the Napoleonic Wars: An Illustrated History, edited by Chris McNab

Armies of the Napoleonic Wars: An Illustrated History, edited by Chris McNab, is a wonderful resource for any Napoleonic Wars buff.  The book is a compilation of several booklets on this subject published by Osprey Publishing.

Here is a brief description of the book from the publisher:

The Napoleonic Wars saw almost two decades of brutal fighting, from the frozen wastelands of Russia to the wildness of the Peninsula; from Egypt’s Lower Nile to the bloody battlefield of Waterloo. Fighting took place on an unprecedented scale across Europe, and over the entire period of the wars Napoleon led his Grand Armee and his allies against almost every European nation, and against varying coalitions. This book provides a comprehensive guide to all the major armies of the Napoleonic Wars, of France, Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia, Spain and Portugal. Covering the changes experienced by the armies over the period, the author details the organization, infantry, cavalry, and artillery of each. With stunning original artwork of the often glorious uniforms worn into battle, period illustrations or the equipment used, and photographs, this is a beautiful and in-depth study of the armies that fought in the Napoleonic campaigns.

Two of the main strengths of the book are the illustrations and the detailed descriptions of the major armies.  The illustrations are well done.  If you are a modeler, you will appreciate the detailed, full color illustrations – these include uniforms and types of artillery used by the different national armies.  In addition, the inclusion of illustrations showing the different battle formations and movements of the infantry was a good visualization.

With regards to the detailed descriptions of the major armies, the chapter’s of the book are generally divided by country.  Each chapter has a general overview of the particular country’s army and then sections on the infantry, artillery, and cavalry.  You gain a better understanding of the strategies and tactics that each country embraced in the various wars.  For example, the French preferred three ranks of infantry in a firing line whereas the British preferred two ranks.

Another strength of the book is that it does not require an immense knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars.  A novice of the wars can learn a lot about the various armies and how they operated.  The writing is easy to follow and comprehend (also easy to read in chunks because the organization of the book).

This book is an excellent addition to any military history library.

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