Napoleon's Last Victory and the Emergence of Modern War / Edition 1

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Presenting a significant new interpretation of Napoleonic warfare, Robert M. Epstein argues persuasively that the true origins of modern war can be found in the Franco-Austrian War of 1809.

Epstein contends that the 1809 war—with its massive and evenly matched armies, multiple theaters of operation, new command-and-control schemes, increased firepower, frequent stalemates, and large-scale slaughter—had more in common with the American Civil War and subsequent conflicts than with the decisive Napoleonic campaigns that preceded it.

Epstein examines 1809 in terms of the evolving new systems of recruitment, organization, and command used by both sides. As he shows, this was the first time that two states confronted each other on the battlefield with armies created by large-scale conscription, organized in corps, and coordinated along two major theaters of operation (Danubian and Italian). As a result, the opponents were forced into "distributed maneuvers" that produced broad operational fronts in which battles became both sequential and simultaneous, but ultimately indecisive.

Ironically, as Epstein points out, neither Napoleon nor the opposing commander Archduke Charles ever fully understood that a paradigm shift had occurred in the conduct of war. Regardless, after 1809, warfare would never be the same.

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Editorial Reviews

Magazine Editors Infantry
A refreshingly new interpretation. A fine and thought-provoking book that provides valuable insights into the changing nature of warfare during the Napoleonic era.
A clear and convincing argument that modern war began with the Franco-Austrian War. This book is a delight to read and puts forth an interesting perspective of warfare.
An impressive contribution to Napoleonic scholarship, and to the study of modern military history as well. Highly recommended.
Library Journal
This work is primarily an explicitly detailed yet readable account of the Franco-Austrian War of 1809, which is considered Napoleon's last successful major campaign. Against this background, a Napoleonic scholar Epstein advances the theme that this campaign was most notable in that it marked a major turning point in the evolution of warfare. For the first time, massive armies, bulked by large-scale conscription and formed into army corps, were able to operate independently under a broad strategic plan across multiple theaters of operation. With the armies thus facing off, ``modern warfare'' began to take form. Highly recommended for large public and academic libraries and military science collections everywhere. [History Book Club selection.]-David H. Hall, Sunnyvale P.L., Cal.
Epstein history, US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth presents a new interpretation of Napoleonic warfare, arguing that the true origins of modern war can be found in the Franco-Austrian war of 1809. He contends that the 1809 war, with its massive and evenly matched armies, increased firepower, and large- scale slaughter, had more in common with the American Civil War and subsequent conflicts than with the Napoleonic campaigns that preceded it. Epstein examines 1809 in terms of the evolving new systems of recruitment, organization, and command used by both sides. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700607518
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 6/28/1994
  • Series: Modern War Studies Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,509,614
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.53 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Maps

Key to Symbols



1. Introduction

2. The Transformation of Warfare

3. Armies for Germany

4. Armies for Italy

5. War along the Danube

6. Crisis in Italy

7. Victory in Italy

8. The March on Vienna and the Battle of Aspern-Essling

9. Junction

10. The Wagram Campaign: The First Phase

11. The Wagram Campaign: The Second Phase

12. The Emergence of Modern War

Appendix A: Terms Used in the Text

Appendix B: French Order of Battle

Appendix C: Austrian Order of Battle

Appendix D: Note on Ranks of General Officers




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