The reviews of the Operations of the Armée du Nord : 1815 are starting to trickle in, and they are overwhelmingly positive!
Scott Bowden, well known author, posted a very flattering 5 star Amazon review quoted here:
The effort that Mr Beckett has put into this project (five volumes) makes it one of the most valuable contributions to the historiography of the Napoleonic epoch, and arguably the most valuable addition of the last 100 years to Napoleon’s final campaign. Without this invaluable collection of documents (volumes I through IV) and analysis (which is the fifth volume of the set), a full appreciation of the campaign and resulting battles is incomplete at best. Indeed, the five-volume set is a must for anyone wishing to understand the French plans for the 1815 campaign, the Armée du Nord, and the significant obstacles and treachery that Napoleon was facing.
After reading all of Mr Beckett’s volumes, I am of the opinion that the series can be summed up in an epigraph using a famous scripture from The Bible:
“And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” —Matthew 10:36 KJV
Don’t pass on this series.
Robert Burnham of the Napoleon Series has released an extensive review found here.
The conclusion is very flattering:
This book is one of the most valuable books on Waterloo that has come out in many years. Future scholars are now able to see how well, or poorly, French command and control functioned during the critical days leading up to the start of and during the first several days of Napoleon’s final campaign. The value of these books is incalculable! This will be the go-to source for scholars for decades to come. Highly recommended.
Albert Nofi, himself an author of a work on Waterloo, posted a review at Strategy Page found here.
The work comprises four volumes of original documents in French, with some in translation or with annotation, and a fifth volume offering an account in English of the events on a day-by-day, even hour-by-hour basis, from the documents, over a hundred cited in translation. This is a critical work for those seriously interested in the campaign of Waterloo, and useful to anyone with an interest in the armies of the period.
Diégo Mané runs the Planète Napoléon webite, and has chronicled his experiences with all 5 volumes here.
The following is a translation of his latest post:
I received Stephen Beckett’s 5th volume « Operations of the Armée du Nord: 1815 » sub-titled: « The Analysis », that is, the position of the author, the opinion of whom being imminently authorized cannot fail to interest the attentive readership of all of « Planète Napoléon »
Having regard to the size of the work (400 pages in A4 format), which follows four others of the same « weight », I have quite obviously not had the time to harvest of all of it and will limit myself for the moment to a brief enumeration of the subjects covered.
A list of related French personalities (17 pages nonetheless), with the note TRAITOR at the end of line for those who earned it.
A chapter of 15 pages entitled « Intrigue in 1815 », which puts an accent on the fact treason in all its forms played a major role in the campaign. Twenty-odd traitors are listed, at the head of those who crossed over to the enemy on June 16 the GD de Bourmont, well known « tree » that hid this « forest » that counted several colonels, of whom nonetheless the Chef d’état-Major of the Division Durutte, and a member of Grouchy’s État-Major. Ten or so divisions – of which the five from I Corps – of the 45 of the Armée du Nord counted at least one traitor among their officers.
« The speed of horse » explains in 12 pages the ways and delays of the transmission of orders, by the regular mail (yes!) or by courrier.
The preliminary plans are set out, and the day-to-day position of the troops is given by means of very clear maps. I admit that like most I had always been more interested in « active » operations than in their preparation… But I am obligated to agree that this aspect of things is very far from being trivial, especially in 1815 having regard to the « climate » of general mistrust that reigned.
My kriegspieler cap turned on my head at the mention (rendering) of « the Mons ruse » (no attack envisaged at the place of Charleroi… Unless it was actually a « ruse » destined to fool the enemy and the spies that were informing it… Having perhaps in this way deceived Wellington…
But also provoked contradictory orders on the French side, bringing about a day of delay for the beginning of the operations… which would be heavy with consequences (failure instead of success), as we know.
Nine pages of very, but truly very, interesting conclusions.
A hundred or so pages of « Master Chronology » (many things happened!)
Fourteen pages give Soult’s « mémoire justificatif » after the Second Restauration.
Thirty-three pages, of which five by his Aide-de-Camp Clouet who deserted with him, attempt to « justify », there after 1830, the conduct du GD de Bourmont in 1815… It is entertaining to find there for his defense the reminder of the crossing over to the enemy in 1792-1793 Generals Lafayette, Dumouriez, Valence and « Egalité » (the future king Louis-Philippe, in function throughout the « Call to all French » provided by Bourmont.)
The King was not sensitive to the prose of the « conquerer of Algiers ». Nor am I. I prefer to conclude this message on a positive note, that is on the very pretty maps taken from an unpublished manuscript of Stoffel that illustrates to perfection the position on June 15 (battles of Gilly and Gosselies)… the precise deployment of « the Division Perponcher alone to Quatre-Bras from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock » on June 16… « The French army on June 16 around noon »… A detailed map of la Haie-Sainte… In short, on the beautiful, on the good, … on Beckett!