Reviews: Military Books

1815: From Mobilization to War, Volume 1

Muilwijk,  Erwin. 1815: From Mobilization to War, Volume 1. Bleiswijk (The Netherlands): Sovereign House Books, 2012. 280 p. ISBN# 9789081931816. Paperback. $32.60

The history of the Waterloo campaign has for far too long been short of a detailed account of the Waterloo campaign as seen from the Dutch/Belgian perspective in the English language and this has definitely led to a downgrading of the participation of these troops within the campaign. Having been aware for years of Erwin Muilwijk’s excellent work on the Dutch/Belgian Army during the Waterloo campaign, I have looked forward to the publication of this first volume of his ambitious four volume series – and I was not disappointed.

This volume deals with the military development of the fledgling army of the Netherlands, a new joint kingdom combining Belgium and Holland, up to the first moves of the Waterloo campaign on 15th June. Twenty-six chapters deal with every conceivable issue from initial defence plans, the changes enforced upon them by the arrival of the Duke of Wellington, preparations for combat and their initial reactions on the first day of the invasion of Belgium on 15th June 1815.

Erwin consistently uses a great number of primary sources from all armies to explain his version of events, which he clearly takes great pains to ensure is accurate, but if one is to make one personal carp, all of the pertinent  British sources uncovered in my works appears to have been ignored entirely. His arguments are sound and convincing, with a great deal of further evidence to be found within the copious notes which accompany each chapter, from which for example I discovered a new source to me (von Hugel - the Wurttemberg liaison officer) of the witnessing of Ziethen’s message arriving at Brussels.

Indeed Erwin’s consistently probing research gives great credence to his overall argument and only one chapter in my mind failed to completely live up to this extremely high standard and even here he is not guilty of failing to argue his view, but strangely omits to address the couple of elephants in the room over the course of events on the 15th June. He clearly believes that Ziethen’s message arrived at Brussels around 6 p.m., which conclusion I wholeheartedly agree with, but there is no attempt to tackle the claim that the message arrived at 9 a.m.; without a reasoned refutation, this claim is simply left ignored. Also within his notes, comments by Ziethen at 8 a.m. that he has already received assurance regarding Wellington’s concentration at Nivelles from Muffling and Berkeley’s strange statement when sending on the letters left at Braine le Comte at 2 p.m. that the prince had not yet returned from his early morning ride when he had returned some three hours previously remain without comment. But these are not serious criticisms, purely my personal wish to hear Erwin’s views on these subjects.

The book version I chose, although far from cheap, was the colour version and I was rewarded by numerous superb colour reproductions of portraits of Dutch/Belgian officers from a number of museums,  which I have never seen before and a mass of hand drawn maps which helped explain the situation as it continually developed. Some purists may not appreciate these hand coloured maps, where colour bleed does occasionally show, but I found them charming, but I do wonder whether they would appear intelligible in black and white. I would therefore encourage any purchaser to find the extra to pay for a colour version.

I can only thoroughly recommend to anyone with a serious wish to understand the Waterloo campaign properly to save up your pennies and to get a copy of this excellent book. I look forward with great anticipation to the publication of volume 2.

The black & white and colour editions of 1815: From Mobilization to War is available from Lulu.  http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/erwin-muilwijk/1815-from-mobilisation-to-war/paperback/product-20219682.html

 

Reviewed by Gareth Glover

Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2013

 

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