Reviews: Military Books


The Eagle's Last Triumph: Napoleon's Victory at Ligny, June 1815

Uffindell, Andrew.  The Eagle's Last Triumph: Napoleon's Victory at Ligny, June 1815.  Foreword by Andrew Roberts. London: Greenhill, 2006. 272 pages. 16 pages of illustrations. 20 maps. ISBN-13# 9781853676888. ISBN# 1853676888. Hardcover. $29.95/£25.00

The Eagle's Last Triump

Greenhill Books have reissued Andrew Uffindall's The Eagle's Last Triumph first published in 1994. This 2006 edition has been extensively revised.  This is a stand alone work on the battle of Ligny and its place in the campaign of 1815. Usually, Ligny is covered together with Quatres Bras as a part of a preliminary look at the Battle of Waterloo. It generally does not get a full separate treatment. Here at last Ligny takes the centre stage.

The author's stated purpose in writing the book is "an in-depth study of Napoleon's victory over the Prussian Army... The aim is to examine in detail the neglected early stages of the 1815 campaign...." The case is made that at Ligny Napoleon won a significant but incomplete victory and that in neither totally defeating the Prussians nor pursuing them with all vigour, he gave up  any initiative he might had for the remainder of the campaign.

There is an order of battle, each chapter is end-noted and the maps clearly show the situations being described in the text allowing the reader to follow along. The battlefield guide is a nice touch. (See also, Vic Powell's 2001 virtual battlefield tour on the Napoleon Series Battlefield Tours Section under "Military Research"). 

If there is a drawback to the book, it is that only about 30 pages are actually on the description of the battle itself. For those wishing to know more about where and when a particular unit was fighting, they will be somewhat disappointed.

The book looks at the controversial aspects and all of the well known elements of the opening of the campaign, the battle and the pursuit. In light of later books published since 1994, for example Peter Hofschroër's two volumes on the Waterloo Campaign, it is interesting to see the conclusions drawn in this earlier work.  For example, on the Prussian army, "...was seriously flawed in both its organisation and quality and lacked enough time and money to correct these problems." Whether one will agree with this and other conclusions or not is up to the reader.

Uffindell has divided the book into two parts of nine and four chapters with appendices. There is also an eleven-page bibiliography.  Main contents are:

Part One:

Chapter 1- Stormclouds of War

Chapter 2- The Foes

Chapter 3- The Campaign Opens

Chapter 4- Approach of Battle

Chapter 5- Battle of Ligny

Chapter 6-  The Battle of Quatre Bras

Chapter 7- The Fatal Peregrinations of d'Erlon

Chapter 8- 17 and 18 June 1815

Chapter 9- After the 1815 Campaign

Part Two:

Chapter 10- Analysis of Napoleon's Last Military Victory

Chapter 11- Losses at Ligny

Chapter 12- The Garrison of Ligny Village: A Case Study

Chapter 13- Guide to the Battlefield of Ligny Today

It is an easily readable book. I would recommend it as either a  stand alone work or in conjunction with other books on Waterloo as part of a look at the larger picture.

Andrew Uffindell is the author of On the Fields of Glory:  The Battlefields of the 1815 Campaign, Waterloo Guide (Battleground Napoleonic), The National Army Museum Book of Wellington's Armies, Great Generals of the Napoleonic Wars and Their Battles 1805-1815, as well as a contributing author to The Napoleon Options, Battle of the Bulge and Dixie Victorious.

Reviewed by Ron McGuigan
Placed on the Napoleon Series: August 2007

 

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