Spring 2024: Reflections on 1815

A reader recently contacted me to ask about Napoleon’s legacy. This sent me down memory lane. At age fifteen I went to Paris to see a fabulous collection honoring the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s birth. Later that semester, I listened keenly to my British history professor who was particularly interested in the great Austrian diplomat, and Napoleon’s nemesis, Klemens von Metternich. Metternich supervised the 1814–1815 Congress of Vienna. Attendees included political and military leaders from every major, and most minor, European power. Among them was Sir Arthur Wellington.

I asked my history teacher, and some years later asked David Chandler, if Napoleon’s decision to return to France while the Congress was in progress was a mistake. Both exonerated the Emperor on the basis that France was restive under the king’s rule, so why not intervene. Then and thereafter, I think this was a bad strategic mistake.

Because all the important opponents were together when they learned that Napoleon had escaped from Elba and landed in France, they quickly coordinated plans to fight. They thus denied Napoleon time, perhaps even several months, to prepare for allied resistance. Mistake 1.

Napoleon’s audacious “invasion” of France returned him to power. He assembled an army and made crucial decisions about who would be his chief lieutenants. He left Marshal Davout in Paris as Minister of War. At the time he told Davout that he could trust no one else to serve in this position. Mistake 2. As readers know from my “Napoleon’s Invasion of Germany,” I believe that Napoleon never rebounded from his jealousy of Davout’s amazing success at Auerstadt in 1806 against the main Prussian army while the Emperor defeated a strong, but secondary, force at Jena.  Consider how the 1815 campaign might have played out had Davout commanded either the force confronting Wellington at Quatre Bras or the force pursuing the Prussians after the Battle of Ligny. In other words, Davout instead of Ney or Grouchy.

Last autumn I returned to Waterloo for a third visit. As mentioned in my last update, I found much had changed. I toured Le Caillou where Napoleon slept on June 17, the day before the Battle of Waterloo. There he discussed plans with his subordinates. Marshal Soult, installed as Chief of Staff after the suicide or murder of his trusted Marshal Berthier, described Wellington’s tactics and advised caution. The Emperor replied that defeating “the Sepoy general” would be as easy as eating one’s breakfast. Mistake 3. In the garden where a battalion of Chasseurs of the Guard spent the rainy night on a security detail is a small structure filled with the bones of fallen French soldiers. After Waterloo, farmers cleared their fields and dumped these bones in “the ossuary.”

On June 18, Napoleon decided to wait for the ground to dry before beginning his assault. Mistake 4, but with a caveat.  He presumed, incorrectly, that Marshal Grouchy was preventing the Prussians from intervening. So, he thought he was in no hurry.

My friend, Ralph Reinertsen, visited Waterloo after a day of rain. His observations remind us all of the insights one can gain by visiting a battlefield. Ralph noted how the water channeled into the low spots between the Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte. The drier ground was exactly where the ridiculous and futile charges of the French cavalry occurred. These charges were led by Marshal Ney. Ney, who had pledged to King Louis, that he would “capture Napoleon and bring him to Paris in iron chains,” had a change of heart when he witnessed how the Emperor still had the affection of most Frenchmen, in particular the soldiers. Ney rejoined Napoleon before the June 16 Battle of Ligny. The Emperor promptly installed him as wing commander. Mistake 5. Again, as readers know from my 1813 book, I believe that Ney suffered from what we now understand as post-traumatic stress syndrome (shell shock in WWI, battle fatigue in WWII).  For all his zeal, he was unable to make cogent decisions while under fire in 1815.

All armies throughout history need to develop trusted relationships from squads to corps. Ney’s arrival at French headquarters was so hurried that he literally had to purchase horses in order have enough mounts for the impending campaign. There was no time for him, or any other French officer, to acquaint himself with his fellow officers and develop the trust and understanding that characterized Napoleon’s Grande Armeé during its glory days. These facts tie in with the Emperor’s first mistake to hurry to return to France. His decision left no time for the disparate groups—surviving veterans, returned prisoners of war, new recruits—to bond.

On my recent visit, after touring Napoleon’s HQ, Ralph and I examined the French artillery line.  Napoleon Bonaparte, always a gunner first and foremost, counted on his grand battery to punch a hole in the Sepoy general’s line.  Standing on this ground, we saw that the intervening heights blocked a view of the British main line. Thus, the artillery targeted the unfortunate Bijlandt’s Dutch-Belgians, but could not conduct observed fire against anyone else.  The ‘overs’ still hit British and allied soldiers on the reverse slope, but their effect was by chance, with many balls absorbed by the wet ground, so there was little ‘bounce-through’. Mark Adkin, in his Waterloo Companion, provides an excellent analysis of the bombardment on pages 197–301.

We proceeded to Plancenoit because I had recently conducted a tabletop game based on the fighting between the Prussians and French along the French right flank. I had forgotten how close the village is to the rest of the battlefield. Standing on a knoll overlooking Plancenoit (a tiny bit of rising ground where a French field battery assisted the defenders of the village and subsequently a Prussian horse battery fired into the flank of the retreating French soldiers, including an Imperial Guard square) one sees how close is the hideous Lion’s Mound. It approximately marks the center of Wellington’s position.

We drove into the Bois de Paris to trace the line of march of General Bülow’s IV Corps. Prussian commanders considered the IV Corps the poorest in the army. It contained mostly Reserve and Landwehr troops.  Count von Schwerin’s 1st Cavalry Brigade led the way. A ball fired from a French horse artillery battery killed Schwerin. He was probably the first Prussian to die on June 18. Hastily buried, his body was relocated two years later to a site marked by a monument outside of Plancenoit. We found the monument, overgrown by weeds, with the poignant inscription in German: “Count von Schwerin, knight and superior officer of the King, fallen in a foreign country for the Fatherland, during the victory of 18 June 1815.”

The Prussian infantry marched along a narrow, muddy track and did not reach the outskirts of Plancenoit until around 4:30 p.m. By that time, General Lobau’s VI Corps troops had enjoyed two hours to prepare their defense. They occupied a fine position protected by woods on either flank. Undulating terrain (something one does not notice in a vehicle but which becomes quite obvious when on foot) offered additional good defensive positions.

The ensuing Prussian assaults had to overcome numerous obstacles. Standing in the church yard, we could readily understand the difficulties. Also, the modern plaques that marked the role of the French artillery in repulsing numerous attacks (while most of the Prussian artillery remained stuck crossing the Lasne valley), and the remnants of the original church wall where French infantrymen tenaciously held until reinforced by the Young Guard, reminded us of the very difficult challenge the Prussians confronted. Still, to their great credit, the Prussian intervention attracted French reserves at a time when Napoleon needed every soldier to break the British line.

The words “met his Waterloo” still faintly resonate in our modern English. It connotes defeat and disaster.  Indeed, Napoleon’s fate after Waterloo was one of sorrow, disease, and reflections about what might have been. Yet, he was one of only three Great Captains, along with Alexander and Genghis Khan, who exhibited the consummate tactical and strategic skill that ranks them ahead of all others.

British writers understandably compare Napoleon and Hitler. Both posed mortal threats to the British Empire. But the comparison is unfair. Hitler left a legacy of ruin. Napoleon’s legacy continues to this day with his Code de Napoleon (still the rule of law in France and many former French colonies), the central French bank, the French school system based (sadly only nominally based today) on aptitude over birth, and many other achievements.  

The last time I spoke with David Chandler, he summed up Napoleon’s career with these words: “A Great, Bad Man.”

James R. Arnold

May 2024

2023 Pass in Review: Waterloo and the Western Front

While contemplating life as a writer, I once read that the best way to promote one’s backlist (books that have already been published) is to depart this mortal coil! Instead, being unready to choose that path, Roberta (Packing and Shipping) and I have cautiously decided to restock our dwindling inventory with quality paperback editions. So far, we have combined Crisis on the Danube and Napoleon Conquers Austria into one, rather hefty, paperback and are preparing to release a paperback version of October Triumph: Napoleon’s Invasion of Germany, 1806; Jena and Auerstädt.

This effort has required some review of the original text. Like many authors, I do not like to spend time re-reading my own publications. Rather, I relish the free time explore new topics. Still, as I sorted through my voluminous research files and promotional material, I experienced something of a “blast from the past.” Here was a photo showing me meeting the great David Chandler. David peered at my name tag, and said, with a frown, “Ah, you are that James Arnold.” Like many writers, he had not taken kindly to criticism that appeared in my article (I was a nobody at that time) in the British Army’s Society for Army Historical Research that explored the column versus line thesis put forth by Fortescue, Jac Weller, and yes, David Chandler. The article launched my Napoleonic career and David became a great friend with whom I exchanged many memorable visits.

Continuing through my soon to be discarded files, I encountered a letter complaining that my Napoleon Conquers Austria had conflated a battle against the Turks on the Marchfeld (the historic drill ground of the Austrian Army, outside of Vienna) with another battle some 80 miles away at a different date.  Ouch! The writer was correct and that correction is embodied in the new paperback edition.

Overall, I am very grateful for the support of all of you who have purchased my books. We continue to sell through our website but, not surprisingly, most sales now come through Amazon. Although Amazon takes a stiff tariff, we are delighted that Napoleon and his campaigns continue to attract new readers.

This past Autumn I returned to Waterloo for my third visit. There have been many changes. Armed with David Buttery’s Waterloo Battlefield Guide and Mark Adkin’s outstanding The Waterloo Companion, accompanied by my good friend and sometimes co-author, Ralph Reinertsen, we had an informative tour. A building in Waterloo village features Wellington’s headquarters. Here one sees where he composed his post-battle dispatch to London and the adjacent room where his ADC and rare friend, Alexander Gordon, lay mortally wounded.

Beneath the Lion’s Mound is an excellent modern museum. The entrance features a very large terrain table populated by thousands of meticulously painted toy soldiers all in their historic locations. Next is a hall with life sized mannequins depicting soldiers in realistic poses. The climax is a 3D film entitled Au Coeur de la Bataille (At the Heart of the Battle). It appealed to everyone in our group, including non-Napoleonic buffs, as the 3D glasses indeed put us at the heart of the battle.

From Waterloo we drove to see sites associated with World War One. If you should travel that way, I strongly recommend a guide book written by Rose Coombs. From 1946 until 1982, Coombs worked at the Imperial War Museum. As a Special Collections Officer she became the museum’s expert on the Great War. She made hundreds of visits to the Western Front, often acting as a guide to ex-servicemen’s groups. In 1976, Coombs combined her research and travel to produce Before Endeavours Fade (henceforth BEF). She chose the title to match the BEF, the acronym for the British Expeditionary Force that landed in France in 1914. The most recent edition directs one to battlefields, cemeteries, and museums.

During the 1917 Battle of Cambrai, German field guns knocked out a number of British Mark IV tanks including D51 Deborah near the village of Flesquières. Eighty years later, Philippe Goreczynski excavated, cleaned, and displayed Deborah in a barn. This was one of our objectives. It was of particular interest to our British traveling companion whose grandfather had served in a MIV (contrary to published official claims that members of the tank corps were all volunteers, this gentleman told the family that his sergeant summoned him and his mates and told them that they had ‘volunteered’ for this newfangled thing called a tank!). Goreczynski himself gave us a fabulous tour of the battle-damaged monster in which four crewmen were killed.

Time and again BEF directed us to memorable sites such as the Newfoundland Memorial Park. On July 1, 1916, 780 men of the 1st Bn Royal Newfoundland Regiment went over the top to try to advance across 900 meters of open ground. A total of 684 became casualties, one third of them fatal, the second highest loss of any battalion during the first day of the Somme. Today, young Canadian students, chosen after a taxing set of examinations, guide visitors through the well-preserved communication trench to the assault trench onto the ground where the advance collapsed. One continues to the German trenches for a reciprocal view.

At the sobering Tyne Cot Cemetery where over 11,500 soldiers are buried, young people belonging to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission were busy dressing up the numerous graves of the men who had fallen on the specific day we visited. On the back of their uniforms were the words “We are here to answer questions.” So I asked. They oriented me to the rebuilt church spire in Passchendaele, showed me on-site, shell-pocked German reinforced concrete bunkers which were part of the Flanders I Line, and pointed out nearby concealed bunkers whose machine guns enfiladed the advancing Commonwealth troops.

At the Chemin de Dames one can go to the so-called California position and stand where Napoleon stood to observe the terrain of the battlefield of Craonne, March 7, 1814, Napoleon’s last battle before the Waterloo Campaign. One hundred and four years later, Kaiser Wilhelm stood here to observe a German offensive. The shelled and blasted ground includes the site of the destroyed Hurtebise Farm, against which Ney launched an impetuous assault (presaging his conduct at Waterloo.)

Again, thank you for your support.  Roberta and I wish you all safe passages wherever your travels take you.

James R. Arnold

January 2024

Fall 2021

We are pleased to announce the publication of an omnibus edition that combines my two 1809 books into one. This edition features revised text, better maps, and numerous new images, while preserving the essential narrative thrust that characterizes Napoleon Books. I was also able to utilize many more Austrian sources as well as additional French accounts. The objective is both to satisfy my existing readers and to attract a new generation to the historical drama of the Napoleonic era.

Few writers re-read their own work after it is published and I am among them. I did happily observe that Crisis on the Danube (1990) and Napoleon Conquers Austria (1995) provoked a minor cascade of writings devoted to the 1809 campaign. I was content to leave it at that until my more recent publications on Napoleon’s 1806 and 1807 campaigns stimulated a modest interest in my earlier work. The notion that new readers had no choice but to pay ridiculous sums for used copies, or purchase a second-rate print-on-demand from the original publisher, inspired the decision to republish my 1809 work.

The publication of a second edition of Crisis on the Danube in 2009 coincided with the two-hundredth anniversary of the events described in the book. Reviewing its text was a mostly pleasant experience. Yes, there were a few cringe-inducing turns of phrase, an absence of first names for many generals (pre-internet days for those who recall them) and some mixed-up spellings caused by French sources altering German names, but, by and large, the original 1990 edition appeared to me to be sound in style and content. Indeed, the passage of years has generally been kind to Crisis on the Danube. I am proud that its major themes have stood the test of time and that it seems to have inspired a succession of books on both the campaign as a whole and on particular battles.

This omnibus edition expands on the originals while consolidating redundant text. Compared to the time when I originally studied the 1809 campaign, the development of the internet has hugely eased the task of research. In addition, over the years as I have consulted sources for various Napoleonic topics, I have stumbled onto new details. For example, the wife of the engineer who commanded the successful bridging efforts across the Danube in July 1809, the Countess Bertrand—“Fanny” to her husband—was always proud of her husband’s accomplishments. Henri and Fanny accompanied Napoleon into exile, and on the first day of 1817, the Emperor wanted to give her a gift. He searched among the handful of precious plates that he had managed to bring to Saint-Hélène and chose a commemorative plate recalling “the passage of the Danube.” What a charming, poignant gesture!

While the past eighteen months have severely restricted travel, Roberta and I did manage one dive trip to the Caribbean. Here we dove the wreck of the San Jacinto, the Federal steam frigate that, in 1861, intercepted the Trent, a British mail packet, in order to capture two Confederate envoys on their way to Europe to purchase war goods. The “Trent Affair” came close to bringing the United States and Great Britain to war. It was fabulous to come in close contact with such important history. While in the islands, we learned the sailor’s farewell, “Safe Passages,” meaning safety from the vagaries of wind, wave and all other threats.

As autumn here on the farm mellows, we wish you all safe passages.

James R. Arnold
Burro Station
Lexington, Virginia

Fall 2019

A splendid autumn has arrived in the Shenandoah Valley where I just returned to the farm after leading a Civil War tour. Jackson’s Valley Campaign is often described as Napoleon-like. Accordingly, I emphasized the exploits of the Valley’s two “marshals,” Stonewall Jackson and Phil Sheridan. Always in the back of my mind: my ongoing progress with 1806.

The first days of October 1806 found Napoleon preparing for a war that he still hoped would not occur. He had arrived in Mainz on September 28 and spent the afternoon talking with the Swiss military theorist and author, Henri Jomini, about Frederick the Great’s campaigns. Although Frederick the Great had been dead for twenty years, Prussia’s reputation continued to rest on the prestige conferred upon it by Frederick’s fame. The Emperor wanted to learn everything he could about the Prussian way of war. Meanwhile, the Grande Armeé was demonstrating its superb marching capacity as it rapidly concentrated along Saxony’s southern border. If war began, Napoleon would be in close control of a veteran host commanded by the era’s most able corps commanders.

Whereas the French benefitted from unity of command, Prussia did not. Seventy-year-old Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand, known to English speakers as the Duke of Brunswick, had impeccable blue blood, being the nephew of Frederick the Great and the husband of British King George III’s sister. At the age of twenty-one, he had entered military service as part of a coalition to defend Hanover from the French. He subsequently distinguished himself during the Seven Years’ War, displaying both personal courage and command quality. His dismal performance at Valmy should have rung some alarms. Instead, he remained popular within the Prussian court. Significantly, he was inactive after 1794 and thus missed out on all of the significant French military innovations that had taken place over the past twelve years.

Normally, a chief of staff might have been able to inform the old man. However, Brunswick despised the senior candidate for this position, Major General Karl von Phull. So it fell to the talented Gerhard Scharnhorst to serve. The appointment annoyed the army establishment who observed that Scharnhorst was a mere major and a Hanoverian to boot. Worse, the Duke did not trust him either. Nor did Brunswick get along with his two main subordinates.

In the future, the position of Prussian Chief of Staff would be associated with forming high level strategy and guiding operational decision making. But that time was not yet. In 1806, the three chiefs of staff did not even try to cooperate. Indeed, two of them detested one another and were not on speaking terms. How such a collection was going to make the rapid decisions necessary when confronting a foe like Napoleon remained an open question. It was not promising that Prussian orders for mobilization had been issued on August 9, but Brunswick did not submit his first strategic plan to the king until September 25.

And yet, the Jena Campaign was far from a cakewalk for Napoleon and his army. The metaphorical fog of war confused both sides, leading to miscalculation and blunder. The real fog that shrouded the battlefields on October 14 created huge, tactical challenges.

I have completed the draft text for the majority of the book. During this process, I have been surprised to learn things that go against received wisdom. For example, most Saxon forces performed exceedingly well during the campaign. Prussian mistreatment of them caused a mutiny among senior Saxon leaders on the eve of Jena. Afterward, each nation bitterly blamed the other for the defeat, although this part is unsurprising!

Readers continue to ask when the book will be done. My target is to have it available for Christmas 2020. Rest assured, when it is available, we will let you know.

Until then, wishing you and yours all good things,

James R. Arnold
Lexington, VA
Autumn 2019

February 2019

I sit surrounded by 1806 research material. The European-like weather (grey, cold, icy rain) that enfolds our farm on this late winter evening draws my mind to Paris to consider what was the Emperor doing 213 years ago around this time? Over the past week he has hunted in the Forest of Boulogne, attended the debut of the Nicomède at the Théâtre-Française, presided over the conseil d’État, met with his Minister of Finance, and more salient to our shared interests, compelled the Prussian envoy to sign a new treaty far less advantageous to Prussia than the one originally agreed upon. While the browbeaten Christian Graf von Haugwitz travels back to Berlin to report, Napoleon instructs the Bavarian king to occupy Anspach, one of the terms of the new treaty. A week later, Napoleon interrupts another theatrical presentation between acts to announce the French occupation of Naples. With this, the Emperor has consolidated his great victories of 1805 and dealt with all his Continental enemies who participated in the Third Coalition. During that February of 1806, Napoleon had no idea that in another seven months he would be leading the Grande Armée into Germany.

Contemplating Napoleon’s work schedule makes one feel very lazy indeed. Still, over the past two years I have managed to complete a three-volume reference work for ABC-Clio, Americans at War: Eyewitness Accounts from the American Revolution to the 21st Century. It was a time-consuming labor, requiring locating, reading, and evaluating hundreds and hundreds of first-hand combat narratives. I was not interested in the stories of the senior commanders but instead concentrated on the soldiers in the front lines. I am proud of the product and very, very glad to be done. I also completed the sequel to my Civil War novel, namely, 1898: Let Freedom Ring. The wonderful thing about writing a novel is letting the story tell itself. The process takes the writer to surprising places, destinations he never expected to visit. The novelist opens a vein and sometimes releases vexation and tail chasing. Other days produce an exhilarating elixir. Like its predecessor, 1898 is meticulously researched with the climactic scenes taking place in the Philippines where The United States fought a brutal counterinsurgency. My peerless editor, wife Roberta (best known to you all as “Packing and Shipping”) is currently working to upload the novel to Amazon.

So on to 1806 and Jena-Auerstädt. When I visited the fields in 1991, they were behind the newly-opened Iron Curtain. We stood on the Landgrafberg and saw the terrain as Napoleon saw it (ignoring the nearby Soviet radar station). Walking through the narrow alleys of Vierzeheiligen, we looked across the fields where the Prussian musketeers stood so gallantly as the tactics of Frederick the Great collided with the tactics of the Grande Armée. Then and thereafter, I knew that someday I would tell their story.

We will probably produce only one hardcover printing, which will keep the same physical qualities as our previous books. We will contact readers to assess demand, print enough to satisfy that demand, and thereafter sell electronic copies only. Unlike readers of my generation, today’s young scholars don’t like to clutter their lives with physical books. Also, Packing and Shipping has forbidden further additions to the guest bedroom/unsold book storage room.

Readers may ask when the book will be done. I would love to say by Christmas this year, but that is probably wildly ambitious. Rest assured, when it is available, we will let you know. Until then, wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2019.

James R. Arnold
Lexington, VA
February 2019

Fall Update 2016: Postage Relief Offer

The first hard frost of the season came to our farm last night and it recalls me to my duty to provide an update for the season. My wife Roberta, known to you as the Packing and Shipping Department, asks: when will unsold book boxes evacuate the guest bedroom? Mulling this over, I returned to the staggering increase in postage rates, particularly for our overseas readers. Thus, our Postage Relief Offer to coincide with the holidays. For American customers, we offer Free Shipping on all orders. For overseas customers we offer a substantial Postage Discount of 50 percent off the actual cost of postage: pay only $15 (€14 or £12) postage for one book, instead of the usual $30; and $30 (€28 or £24) for an order of two or more books, instead of the usual $60. Canadian customers will pay $10 instead of $20 for one book, and $20 instead of $40 for an order of two books or more. This postage offer will be in effect from now through December 31st and will be applied at checkout.

Pawing through the unsold pile revealed a number of my non-Napoleonic books, including several devoted to the American Civil War (e.g. The Armies of U.S. Grant and Grant Wins the War: Decision at Vicksburg). In addition, I discovered a handful of duplicate Napoleonic books by other authors, all in pristine condition. All hardbacks, including my own, are available for twenty dollars each, paperbacks (my old Osprey Campaign Series and Bantam Vietnam War series, also in pristine condition) for ten dollars. If interested, contact us via napoleonbooks@gmail.com and we will send you the complete list.

So what next? Currently I am contractually committed to ABC-CLIO for an encyclopedia collection of first-hand accounts of Americans in combat from the Revolution to Afghanistan. It’s been challenging and time-consuming as well as informative. I’m proud to report that this year Roberta and I won the Army Historical Foundation’s Distinguished Writing Award in the Reference category. I think that I have broadened my understanding of the history of warfare, which, in turn, has helped me to research and write better about Napoleonic warfare. For example, learning about what used to be called shell shock, and is now labeled post-traumatic stress disorder, informed my Napoleon 1813. I became convinced that numerous French and French-allied officers and men suffered from this syndrome following their exodus from Russia, almost certainly including Napoleon himself.

I am also working on a sequel to my historical novel, the Cost of Freedom. In that novel I pretty much said everything I wanted to say about the Civil War. Instead of writing a linear sequel, I have moved forward to the turn of the century. A child from the first novel serves under Civil War veterans in the fight against the Filipino insurgents, the nation’s first major counter-insurgency conflict. His sister plays a key role with the Anti-Imperialist League, an organization that actively opposed the war. Hopefully the book will be a page-turning adventure story that also informs about the national security choices we make today.

After these projects are finished, I intend to write one more Napoleonic book. I decided to complete the trilogy (1809, 1807, and now 1806) by writing about Napoleon in the war against Prussia. I have walked the fields of Jena and Auerstädt and collected quite a lot of research material. I look forward to getting under way.

As we prepare the farm for the coming winter, we again thank you for your support and wish you and yours health and happiness.

James R. Arnold
Napoleon Books and Burro Station
Fall 2016

Fall Update 2015 and Sale

With the approach of the holiday season, Packing and Shipping has convinced me to launch the first-ever Napoleon Books holiday sale. On offer are reduced prices for two of our best sellers, Napoleon’s Triumph and Napoleon 1813: Decision at Bautzen. Both books are reduced by $10.00. To be clear, if you purchase both, you will save twenty dollars (discounts to be applied at checkout). Also, we have eight copies of Masson’s Napoleon’s Cavalry left and they too are on offer for ten dollars off. Napoleon’s Cavalry is not on the website, so if interested, contact us at napoleonbooks@gmail.com and we will send you an invoice. Our holiday sale will extend until January 1, 2016 (or until we run out of stock.)

On a personal note, I recently achieved a lifetime goal of visiting the Peninsular battlefields so vividly described by Jac Weller in his “Wellington in the Peninsula.” As a very young man I would leaf through Weller’s book, complete with battlefield photos, and dream of visiting. Last month, Roberta (known to you all as “Packing and Shipping”) and I flew to Lisbon where we met my old friend and 1807 co-author, Ralph Reinertsen. Together we toured the fields associated with the 1808-1812 campaigns.

We followed the approach of first locating the rival commanders’ vantage points, and then considering what they could see. We had a ball and learned a great deal. A few observations: almost every map we had previously seen is either erroneous or misleading. Consequently, almost every account from Oman/Fortescue forward is flawed. I realize that is a big statement and probably sounds arrogant. But standing on the actual ground with multiple maps in hand, hiking to Junot’s headquarters on the ridge above Vimeiro, or eating a picnic lunch atop the Greater Arapiles in company with Marmont’s memoirs, provokes many questions.

Some of you have already asked if I am intending to write a book about any of this. I went there with the belief that previous books had already covered this fascinating topic. Now I am no longer so sure. I have little doubt that virtually all British sources have been discovered by the plethora of writers who celebrate the feats of the British Army. It seems that the French archives have been far less utilized. I know from my own research there that the French archivists can present vexing challenges. I do not know how much relevant, untapped information exists. So the answer is, I don’t know. I think I have another Napoleonic book in me, but whether it’s Bonaparte in Italy (a cherished interest ever since Roberta and I spent our honeymoon touring the fields), Napoleon versus Prussia 1806, or the Peninsula is not yet known. Feel free to send us your recommendations. In the meantime, a photo montage of the Peninsula fields is now on the site.

Also new on the site is a new essay, “Napoleon: A Great Captain.” This resulted from a publisher’s request to participate in a forthcoming book that will use a “for and against” approach to examine military controversies. Given the offer, perhaps the more interesting ‘side’ would be against Napoleon. But in good conscience, I could not go there. Originally I was told to make my case in some 2,000 words (ridiculous!). Then 1,200 words (more ridiculous!). You will find my ‘long version’ and hopefully it will stimulate some thought.

As we prepare the farm for the coming winter, we again thank you for your support and wish you and yours health and happiness.

James R. Arnold
Napoleon Books

Fall Update 2013

We hope this finds you and yours well. One season folds into another with alarming speed! Here on the farm, the signs of autumn abound while our list of chores seems eternal.

I have two new products to announce, and progress to report about my Spring 1813 campaign study. Regarding 1813, after re-reading my “Spring Update,” I decided I could do no better than repeat: the “voyage of discovery” continues, with each week adding a new piece to the puzzle. A fourth visit to the U.S. Army Military History Institute library at Carlisle, Pennsylvania filled in a few gaps. However, research has advanced to the point where new discoveries are increasingly rare. Instead, new sources mostly confirm my tentative conclusions. I have arrived at a fairly clear understanding of the sequence of events, written some 60,000 words of first draft, and am focusing on the “why” now that I understand the “what.”

Sometimes a new source provides a valuable tidbit, like reading a French lieutenant’s account of his experience at Bautzen. He was wounded early on the second day and spent the next many weeks in a difficult convalescence. At one point he finds himself lying next to a colonel of the 1st Naval Artillery regiment. Although he misspells that officer’s name, a search through Martinien’s “Officers Tués et Blessés” produced the man and a re-read of the regimental history provided confirmation that Colonel Falba was wounded at Bautzen. Then, Tony Broughton (who has published much valuable data on the French army on the Napoleon Series site) kindly answered a query and gave me Falba’s Christian name. Thus, I was able to add an informative, colorful account of French casualty clearing operations to my narrative.

The challenges of reading old German script remain. I have electronic copies of various primary Prussian sources but since I read only minimal German, translation is terribly slow. Making the problem harder was the decision of one of my helpful volunteer translators to go and get married! Somehow, his time and interest in Napoleonic history has temporarily receded. Go figure. Anyway, if any of you, dear readers, want to help out with small bits of German translation (mostly action-packed battle material) please contact me.

Also, since all our sales, and hopes to publish future titles, depend upon word of mouth, if you feel inspired to write a short review (it only takes about five minutes) of any of our books on Amazon, or anywhere else, I, and “Packing and Shipping,” (my wife, Roberta) will be most appreciative.

By the way, my article, “America’s Napoleonic War,” appeared in Issue 19, December 2012 of the War of 1812 Magazine. It can be downloaded for free at: www.napoleon-series.org

As promised, now available on the Napoleon Books website is a first wargame scenario, “The Battle of Alexandria, March 21, 1801.” This represents an experiment. Our Battles for Empire, which is still available, offers a set of printed scenarios that provide everything a gamer requires to stage a game. The color illustrations add visual stimulation. As you probably know, printing in color is costly. Also, there appears to be a fine abundance of published color photographs of tabletop games, many more expertly taken than my own, that fill this niche.

So, I decided to focus on what I think I do well; namely, provide my own interpretation of how to re-fight select, historical battles. Once you purchase the scenario, you will be redirected to the download page where a PDF of the scenario awaits. The risk to me is that there is nothing to prevent the buyer from reproducing or retransmitting the files. I will rely upon the honorable conduct of the buyer to recognize that I have an implicit copyright. It’s a risk I happily accept because I have experienced nothing but gentlemanly behavior from my readers.

If this experiment works, I have pre-tested a second scenario, The 1814 Battle of Orthez, and it will become available in short order. If there is demand, Napoleon Books intends to branch out and offer scenarios for other periods as well. Already, I have two American Civil War scenarios completed and play-tested (Sabine’s Crossroads-Pleasant Hill, 1864). Over the years I have collected a lot of information that makes for some compelling and fun table top fights, but again, this is an experiment, so we will see how it goes.

Since my Spring Update, we have published a paperback version of my first work of historical fiction, The Cost of Freedom, a novel of the Civil War. It sold enough copies as an e-book that we decided to plow our profits back into a print version and offer it both here and on Amazon. I have been promoting it a bit by giving presentations to Civil War Roundtables about the historical background to the book’s characters and events. People are amused and informed by incidents like a Virginia Quaker, Isaiah Virts, who joined a Union-loyal ranger outfit, and, rationalized his presence in the fighting line by saying, as he squeezed trigger, “Friend, it is unfortunate, but thou stands exactly where I am going to shoot.” I weave these historical incidents to form what I hope is a page-turning adventure story as well as an examination of character challenged by stark choice. The target readership is male and female alike.

Wishing you all a peaceful, healthy, and prosperous season,


Napoleon Books