This is the first in a trilogy of Campaign titles looking at the Waterloo campaign. This volume looks at the first clash between the Duke of Wellington's Allied army and the advancing French, at the crossroads of Quatre Bras. Volume two will look at the simultaneous clash between the French and the Prussians at Ligny and volume three at the battles of Waterloo and Wavre.
This is a well balanced text, with two thirds of the total take up with the actual fighting. The same is true of the chronology, which focuses in some detail on the day of the battle.
This book works as a stand-alone volume. We begin with a brief look at Napoleon's exile and the opposing armies and plans, and there is also enough information on the battle at Ligny to make sense of some of the French actions. From the Allied side these appear as two battles, but from Napoleon's point of view they were part of a single large struggle involving both wings of his army. This helps to explain why one entire French corps spent the day moving between the two battles without actually becoming engaged. This text gives a good indication of how intertwined the two battles were, not something that always comes across.
We also get a good idea of the fog of war - this includes the orders that sent the French I Corps marching between the two battles all day, Napoleon's uncertainty about what was happening at Quatre Bras, and Wellington's unawareness at the end of the day that the Prussians had been forced to retreat.
The author packs a great deal of information into the available space. The text is still readable, but does benefit from a re-read to get a firm grip on the battle. A good start to this trilogy.
The Campaign Opens
The Battlefield Today
Author: John Franklin