The bloodbath at Waterloo ended a war that had engulfed the world for over 20 years. It also finished the career of the charismatic Napoleon Bonaparte. It ensured the final liberation of Germany and the restoration of the old European monarchies, and it represented one of very few defeats for the glorious French army, most of whose soldiers remained devoted to their Emperor until the very end.
Extraordinary though it may seem, much about the Battle of Waterloo has remained uncertain, with many major features of the campaign hotly debated. Most histories have depended heavily on the evidence of British officers that were gathered about 20 years after the battle. But the recent publication of an abundance of fresh firsthand accounts from soldiers of all the participating armies has illuminated important episodes and enabled radical reappraisal of the course of the campaign. What emerges is a darker, muddier story, no longer biased by notions of regimental honour, but a tapestry of irony, accident, courage, horror, and human frailty.
An epic pause resister, rich in dramatic human detail and grounded in first-class scholarly research, Waterloo is the real inside story of the greatest land battle in British history, the defining showdown of the age of muskets, bayonets, cavalry, and cannon.
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Maps & diagrams needed to get the real effect
This book is a detailed and well researched history of the battle of Waterloo. It gives good pen pictures of the various combatants covering the average soldiers as well as the generals, the Duke and the Emperor. However I found it very difficult to follow the sweeps across the battlefield and the way the different parts of the battle linked together without some maps or diagrams.
The descriptions of the fighting and the reasoning behind the various actions was well thought out even if at times it seemed to be about what Napoleon should have done to win.
The narrative around individual parts of the battle was compelling and managed to make me feel involved in the action without resorting to colourful or histrionic language. This is a sure sign of something well written.
This seems particularly moving when describing the way the infantry formed squares against cavalry to find themselves easy targets for artillery. Some of the descriptions were quite harrowing for their matter of factness as much as anything.
Overall I enjoyed the book and feel I know a lot more about the events two hundred years ago. I just wish I could have placed the distances between Hougomont and main front line or the distance covered by Bülow.
The book draw the writing and memoirs of ordinary soldiers as well as the official histories. This adds a lot of social context to the story and puts the struggle into a world context.
Not listened to any others as far as I know
Initially, I could not think of anything else to be said about the battle and I think other competing versions rather than a follow up would be interesting to hear.
However, the final part of the book talks about the society that the victors came back to and the way they were treated. In this there were echoes of the end of the first and second world wars and the disillusionment of the returning army. It would be interesting to find out if Tim Clayton could do as good a job expanding on that area.
I would have thought it was possible for Amazon to produce an extension for the Audible reader that allowed it to download and display some sort of diagrams. For this sort of book even a small movable map would be invaluable.
- Alexander Patterson
The best account of the Waterloo campaign.....ever