This is the second volume in a trilogy on the Waterloo campaign, looking at the clash between the Prussians and the French at Ligny. Just as in the first volume (on Quatre Bras), we start with Napoleon on Elba and the failure of the restored Bourbon monarchy to win support, Napoleon's return from exile and Napoleon's rapid advance north to try and defeat the Allied army of the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian army before they could unite against him. As a result this book can be read as a stand-alone volume, without having to read the Quatre Bras volume first.
Of the three battles that make up the Waterloo campaign, Ligny is the least familiar to English-language readers, normally discussed as a sideline to the battle of Quatre Bras, where Wellington's army fought. However Ligny was the larger of the two battles, involving most of the Prussian army, and covering a much larger geographical area than Quatre Bras. It was also Napoleon's last battlefield victory, but the French were unable to take full advantage of their success, and the Prussians were able to retreat north towards Wavre with a large part of their army still intact.
It is interesting to note that the Prussians were some way further forward than Wellington's men, and thus made first contact with the French. The campaign starts with a fighting retreat as the Prussians were pushed back to the Ligny position (with the first outpost fighting coming as early as 3.30am!). Although the book follows the standard Campaign format, the author has made the correct decision to dedicate two thirds of the text to the battle itself. As with the first volume, there is a great deal of info packed into the text, which benefits from a re-read to get the most out of it.
The Campaign Opens
Author: John Franklin