Napoleon's bulletins are of immense historical significance, reporting as they do on all the key battles of Napoleon's campaigns. They contain not only important military information, but fascinating political, social and personal commentaries that are critical to understanding Napoleon the man as well as Napoleon the soldier. Presented complete for the first time in English, and supported by Markham's historical and biographical notes, the bulletins cover the key period between the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 and the collapse of Napoleon's Empire in 1814. The bulletins describe military operations, pick out distinguished officers and units, and present Napoleon's own interpretation of battles lost and won. Also included are various key reports from marshals and others, including the bulletins of the Army of Italy commanded by Massena in 1805. Most of this additional material has never been published in English until now. Imperial Glory is an invaluable contribution to literature on the Napoleonic Wars and a key book for anyone who would like to learn more about one of history's most remarkable and colorful leaders.
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Imperial Glory: The Bulletins of Napoleon¿s Grande Armée J. David Markham Greenhill, 2003, 442 Pages, 6 Maps Napoleon¿s Bulletins are often quoted, sometimes criticized and frequently misunderstood. They were meant to bolster morale, encourage competition among his officers and men, send a message to his enemies and reassure folks at home from Austerlitz to the final days in 1814. What the Bulletins do for us today is to throw new light on Napoleon¿s own interpretation of various battles won and campaigns which eventually turned into a rout but always retained an aura of victory and imperial glory. J. David Markham has made a very important contribution to Napoleonic scholarship by presenting in print for the first time a complete English translation of the Bulletins of Napoleon¿s Grand Armée. It is amazing that this has not been done before, and Markham deserves great credit for filling in a major gap in our knowledge of Napoleonic history. Imperial Glory shows us how Napoleon conveyed history to his fellow Frenchmen and distilled the official propaganda into a rousing patriotic fanfare, with bugles and drums rolling down to posterity. Whether he addressed his soldiers in person or through the printed bulletins, he knew how to electrify his audience and hold everyone spellbound. Markham¿s book is beautifully translated and brings the Bulletins to life. But Imperial Glory does far more than just present a translation of the Bulletins. It also presents numerous additional documents of great importance. Of special interest are the reports of Napoleon¿s marshals and generals, many translated here for the first time. Markham includes 21 of these field reports from the 1812 campaign in Russia, also in one volume for the first time, and they give new insight into that campaign. History is being rewritten constantly and rarely so much as in the famous twenty-ninth bulletin of the Grande Armée (13 December 1812). The reputation of the bulletins has never been very brilliant but there it took a bad fall along with the French troops. It strained credibility and was full of contradictions in its account of the retreat from Russia. It goes on and on about the weather and its effect on French and German horses. One morning the French army woke up and found all its horses frozen at the bivouac. ¿More than 30,000 horses perished in a few days and a cavalry found itself entirely on foot.¿ At that point the French officers lost their heads and the soldiers lost their courage. But not Napoleon, who still believed in his star. The twenty-ninth bulletin insisted it was cold alone that was responsible for the losses sustained by the cavalry and argues that without horses the men had weakened and perished, the guns abandoned, the plans upset, everything thrown into confusion. According to its version of what happened it was the cold that chased the French back behind the Vistula and Napoleon to Paris! The thermometer is given an enormous role and the number of degrees below zero is researched no less carefully than the number of earlier victories. By now the French cavalry has been reduced to 600 horses! But the truth is that the French defeat at Beresina was caused by warm weather. If it had been freezing, they would have simply crossed the river on foot without any problems. Several bulletins end with the refrain ¿The Emperor¿s health has never been better.¿ That may seem a little callous to some, considering the horrendous losses sustained by the French during the retreat. And yet there was a very important political motive in stressing the state of Napoleon¿s health, especially after the famous Malet conspiracy which almost succeeded in toppling the Imperial Regime in France. General Malet made his attempt to seize power and restore a Republican form of government on 22 October 1812. N
Imperial Glory, a new book of English translations of Napoleon's campaign bulletins from 1805-1814, by J. David Markham, published by Greenhill Press, is a real gem. As a student of history with an interest in Napoleon, it is thrilling to read Napoleon's accounts of his many campaigns in his own words. For those of us who do not read French fluently, Markham has done a real service in bringing the Emperor's accounts of both his victories and defeats to our attention. This is the first-ever English translation of all the bulletins, and the book also includes Marshal Massena's 1805 Bulletins of the Army of Italy as well as reports by various marshals in several campaigns. The book also includes biographical sketches of important people mentioned in the Bulletins, as well as a very useful glossary. Markham has to deal with the dilemma of using modern English or a more literal translation of the language of Napoleon's time, and the result is occasionally uneven. Even so, Imperial Glory is a wonderful opportunity for many of us to see into the mind of one of the world's great and very complex men.