Saturday 1 January 2022

‘Like a Brazen Wall’ - an absolute cracker!

There seem to have been a number of books on the battle of Minden published in the last year or two to add to those that have been around for a while. I have read many books on the battle, most of which were pretty good, some much less so, but this latest from Helion in their ‘from Reason to Revolution’ series by Major General Ewan Carmichael must rank as one of best accounts of the battle I have come across to date. ‘Like a Brazen Wall, the Battle of Minden, 1759, and its place in the Seven Years War’ is a well written and meticulously researched account of this pivotal battle, famous to English readers for the heroic actions of a handful of British battalions and infamous for the shameful inaction of one Lord Sackville.

Of course even for the most patriotic Anglophile there was much more to the battle than these episodes alone, and the author goes into great detail with a comprehensive narrative covering the strategic and operational contexts, the events leading up to the battle as well as the battle as a whole. As would be expected the reader is given a useful description of the French and Allied armies and potted biographies of the commanders of both sides before examining the Allied plans, the preliminary manoeuvring, including the importance of the battle of Gohfeld in setting up the tactical situation, and a clear account of the battle itself, a breakdown of the casualties, and the battle’s aftermath. No book on the subject would be complete without mention of the court martial of Lord Sackville for his shameful behaviour during the battle. The courageous part played by the French and Saxon cavalry is also given fair consideration to provide some balance to the narrative. I found the chapter reviewing the war and the battle especially interesting, including as it does many contemporary or near contemporary reflections on performance. The section on the effectiveness of British musketry is well reasoned and fascinating.

Numerous appendices include detailed orders of battle, uniform details and Contades’ orders for the battle are reproduced together with a contemporary account by the Comte de Lusace. The author has used a wide range of primary and other sources when preparing this book, including many covering the French perspective of the campaign which gives us an insight and opportunity to consider into the plans of the French commander. The book is well provided for in terms of maps and the chapter on exploring the battlefield contains a goodly number of useful photographs of the battlefield today. There are also a dozen full page colour plates by the well known artist Patrice Courcelle. They are beautiful.

If you were to buy only one book on this battle then this is the one to get. In the meantime I shall now attempt to finish off my English Seven Years War army as  one of my 2022 projects. At least I already have the figures!

1 comment:

  1. The book seems to have passed the Ashton test! I expect the British SYW army is nearly completed by now then.😉