Napoleon's Last Grande Armée: Eyewitness Portraits from
the 1813 Campaign
Research and Text by Alfred Umhey
List Price: $265.00 Hardback: 347 Pages
Publish Date: 2005
Military History Press.
Review by Brian Williams
During the summer armistice of the 1813 campaign, two German artists drew
illustrations of the French troops stationed around Dresden and Freiberg in
Saxony. The men depicted belonged to Emperor Napoleon's last Grande Armée,
a colorful multinational force that included, among others, French, Dutch,
Italian and Polish soldiers.
These rare, exceptional paintings provide invaluable eyewitness evidence of the
uniforms of the period, quite set apart from the sometimes fanciful,
second-hand works of modern artists. Unlike many uniform plates, the
illustrations in these two artists' portfolios show what Napoleon's men
actually wore on campaign
Napoleon's Last Grande Armée is an exquisitely-printed,
bound, limited-edition, book containing eyewitness illustrations of
Napoleon's Grande Armée. This book is probably one the highest quality
books printed that I have ever seen. It is heavy, fairly large
(9.5" X 13.5" -- not too large), made of museum-quality paper, fine-custom
binding and has all the qualities of a collectors-edition book. Each book
comes as a numbered copy of 1000 limited edition printing and an adhesive card
signed by the author.
book contains a Table of Contents, an introduction to what the book is and who
the author is, followed by the extraordinary story of "The Lost Freiberg
Manuscript" (its disappearance and how it was found), and the
"Structure of the Original Freiburg Manuscript". This is followed by
a history of "The Dresden Manuscript", the Situation of the Grand
Armée during August 1815 (with a great map), "How the Plates are
Presented", and then the actual plates themselves.
The watercolors of the uniforms that are shown are from the two artists Brun
and Winkler and organized by The Freiburg Manuscript and the Dresden
Manuscript. Generally, each plate is presented on its own page (each
watercolor is approx. 6" X 8.5") with a corresponding copy by the other
artist. In many cases, the plate is shown along with its corresponding
annotated tracing which was used to prepare the final illustration. In
all cases, each plate's uniform is thoroughly explained and the history of
the uniform and unit is given. Within each manuscript listing, the plates are
organized into General Officers, Aide-de-Camp, Staff Personnel,
Infantry, Cavalry, Foreign Troops, and Technical Troops. The book also contains
an invaluable glossary (which I might suggest every reader to read
first to familiar themselves with terminology). In addition, at the end,
there is a section on "The World of Picture Manuscripts", Sources &
Bibliography, and index of the plates and Military Units.
This book is amazing in its detail of the uniforms, its colorful presentation
and has huge historical value. Any admirer of Napoleonic warfare
or military-history enthusiast will find this book to be
invaluable. The book also really brings to life the Grand
Armée that we have so much read about. Nothing else can accomplish this
as effectivelly as an eye-witness illustration of the army itself.
For that alone, this book is an invaluable resource.
I found it incredible that an army could consist of so many different uniform
types and so wildly varied in color and style (aside from the foreign
troops in the Grande Armée). The richness and pageantry of the uniforms
are portrayed in magnificent detail and one wonders how such uniforms were
possible or practical nearly 200 years ago.
Although the book is costly, you get what you pay for in terms of physical
quality and historical value. Military History Press has given us an
incredible book that shouldn't be missed. It is without a doubt, one of
those books that you almost want to handle with a white glove in order to give
it the respect it deserves. It doesn't get any better than this.
Also, don't miss Military History Press Fall 2005 release of "Napoleon's
Finest: Marshal Louis Davout and his 3rd Corps, Combat Journal of Operations,
Review by Brian Williams (email@example.com)
from Military History Press.