Wednesday 8 March 2023

Reading on the Great Procession #3 1805 Tsar Alexander’s First War with Napoleon.

More book reviews I’m afraid, at least until later in our tour of India. We’ve been to Mumbai and Goa and are presently in Bangalore where it’s a beautiful 31 degrees Celsius. Once the wedding celebrations are finally over we head further south to Mysore, en route staying at a jungle lodge and then on to Cunoor. We were planning on coming home on 20 March but we have a flexible ticket so may well (will) extend our stay for a few more weeks. I also have the Burrowers’ 2023 campaign to plan and get rolling ready for my return.

One of Helion’s recent publications caught my eye; ‘1805 - Tsar Alexander’s First War with Napoleon, the Russian Official History’, originally published in 1844 by Alexander Ivanovich Mikhailovsky-Danilevsky and translated for Helion by Peter Phillips.

The Austerlitz campaign has always been a big attraction for me. The author used original military and diplomatic documents plus witness testimonies (always my favourites) to create a comprehensive and by no means partisan account of the campaign. The original has been sensitively translated, providing us with an immensely readable book, beginning with the causes of the war and a description of the condition of the opposing armies, plus the various political activities of the key national players.

The campaign itself, from Kutusov’s initial advance, the disaster at Ulm, and the numerous actions fought during his subsequent retreat are covered in detail, as is the lead up to the battle of Austerlitz. The battle itself is described clearly and one might almost forget that this is a work translated from the original Russian; it make easy yet absorbing reading, best done with pen or pencil hand for note taking. The narrative of the battle is broken down into manageable and informative sections, such as the defeats of the Russian Guard and later of Langeron and Przhibyshevsky. The book also includes subsidiary theatres of war, such as in Hanover and the Mediterranean.

The book includes eight maps of the theatres of war and of the various stages of the battle of Austerlitz together with the order of battle of Kutusov’s corps. All in all this is an honest and comprehensive history of the campaign, and contrasts and complements very well the myriad of other books available on the topic.

Highly recommended and a great addition to the ‘From Reason to Revolution’ series.

ISBN 978-1-915113-85-6 151 pages, paperback.


  1. Thanks for the look at the book . Seems I have another to order. It would be a good partner with the Leven book .

  2. Damn - now I've read your review what was a no has changed to definite yes. Your review has been especially helpfull as I was concerned that an "old" text may be difficult reading. Thanks Colin.