Tuesday 21 May 2024

A Very Peculiar Battle, Fere-Champenoise, 25 March 1814

Another book review of my latest bit of holiday reading. The Battle of Fere-Champanoise, 25 March 1814 was indeed peculiar, and in more ways than one. As such this is a riveting account of the two battles, how they came about, and how they effectively merged into one single engagement certainly scores highly in the ‘peculiarity stakes’. 

The combatants could not have been different; on the Allied side the forces involved were wholly cavalry and horse artillery while the French were numerically superior but qualitatively inferior mix of infantry, cavalry and artillery. The Allies defeated one French force and separately destroyed a large and vital supply train, and in doing so opened up the road to Paris.

The author David Wright does a great job setting the scene from a political and military perspective, provides some interesting pen-pictures of the major players on both sides and describes the somewhat sorry state of the armies involved in the 1814 invasion of France, worn out by the campaigns of 1812 and 1813. My knowledge of the 1814 campaign is not as deep as other parts of the Napoleonic Wars (or perhaps my ignorance is greater?) and I found the entire build up to the battles fascinating and informative. The narrative detailing the battles is also well written and gives a clear picture of how both engagements evolved. There are a large number of highly detailed strategical together with tactical maps of the battlefields which are likely to be tremendously useful to the readership, especially those from the wargaming fraternity, and these, together with the comprehensive orders of battle found in the appendices add further to my overall view that this is an excellent book.

Included are a large number of illustrations. There are few black and white images of some of the key players, but pride of place must go to the wonderful centre section of 12 pages of colour images. These include a large number of colour uniform plates, photographs of the battlefields as they can be seen today.

Napoleonic buffs are guaranteed to find the book both entertaining and packed full of detail. My interest in the 1814 campaign has been jump started as a result and the author and Helion are to be commended on this book. There quite a few wargaming possibilities to consider, especially for those including me who like asymmetrical games.

ISBN 978-1-804514-37-5. Soft cover, 209 pages.

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