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Osprey's study of the campaign at Marengo in 1800 during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). Having returned from Egypt and seized power as First Consul, Napoleon led the Army of the Reserve against the Austrian Army besieging Genoa. After a period of skirmishing and manoeuvring, Melas, the Austrian commander, launched a surprise attack on the morning of 14 June. The attack initially drove the French back to Marengo village and, despite committing the Consular Guard, by 3pm the French were retreating. Believing he ...
Osprey's study of the campaign at Marengo in 1800 during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). Having returned from Egypt and seized power as First Consul, Napoleon led the Army of the Reserve against the Austrian Army besieging Genoa. After a period of skirmishing and manoeuvring, Melas, the Austrian commander, launched a surprise attack on the morning of 14 June. The attack initially drove the French back to Marengo village and, despite committing the Consular Guard, by 3pm the French were retreating. Believing he had won, the wounded Melas left the field to his Chief-of-Staff, Zach. The timely arrival of Desaix's Division led by Kellerman's cavalry and the 9e Légère threw the Austrians into confusion, turned the battle in Napoleon's favour, thus securing his position as First Consul. It could have been very different.
Posted June 1, 2000
Amateur historian David Hollins has made a gallant attempt at telling of the Campaign and Battle of Marengo in 1800 in northern Italy, but generally has missed the mark. Interestingly told from the Austrian point of view, which is generally a novelty in English, the author desplays a breadth of knowledge of the Austrian army of the period. Conversely, he is not at home with either the French army of the period, not French military terms. The volume is profusely illustrated with superb photos of the battlefield, including many of farms and villages, excellent period drawings, many pictures of the major leaders of both sides, and better than average paintings by Christa Hook, one in particular picturing the Austrian commander, Melas, and his chief of staff being particularly striking. There are quite a few minor errors on the French. General officers are confused (Molitor for Monnier, the two Rivauds); the relationship between Napoleon and his long-time chief of staff, Alexander Berthier, as well as Berthier's actual role in Napoleon's method of warfare is thoroughly confused; the organization and makeup of the French Army of the Reserve doesn't seem to be completely understood by the author; French casualties for the battle are not fully stated and there are plenty of credible references that could be used for them. The most glaring error, however, is the author's version of the fight of Napoleon's Consular Guard around 1400 on the day of the battle, 14 June. French eyewitness accounts are ignored, and the author states that the Guard was nearly annihilated, with 400 of its number becoming prisoners, having been taken in the rear by Austrian cavalry under Frimont. Actually, the Guard fought toughly on the French right flank for about 30 minutes, lost 260 out of 800 present, and withdrew with the rest of the French army, later joining in the successful counterattack after reinforcements arrived later that afternoon. Errors of this kind tend to render the rest of the account unreliable, which it is definitely not. However, if the author did uncover new evidence, to which he alludes, then this should be thoroughly documented in the book which it is not. That, in my opinion, is a definite shame as this book does have much to offer. If the author is trying to put forward an alternate scenario based on evidence he has perhaps found, then he should also present all available evidence and let the reader judge for himself. Overall, this book can be used as a reference, but it must be used with care, and I would recommend using it in conjunction with other, more reliable volumes so that facts can be cross-referenced.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.