Reviews: Military Books


Osprey Napoleonic Artillery

Henry, Chris. British Napoleonic Artillery 1793-1815 (1), Field Artillery. New Vanguard, 60. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2002. 48 pages. ISBN # 1841764760. Softcover. $14.95.

Henry, Chris. British Napoleonic Artillery, 1793-1815 (2), Siege and Coastal Artillery. New Vanguard, 65. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2003. 48 pages. ISBN# 1841764779. Softcover. $14.95.

Henry, Chris. Napoleonic Naval Armaments 1792-1815. New Vanguard, 90. Osprey, 2004. 48 pages. ISBN# 1841766356. Softcover. $14.95.

Chartrand, Rene. Napoleon's Guns 1792-1815 (1), Field Artillery. New Vanguard, 66. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2003. 48 pages. ISBN# 1841764582. Softcover. $14.95.

Chartrand, Rene. Napoleon's Guns, 1792-1815 (2), Heavy and Siege Artillery. New Vanguard, 76. Oxford, UK: Osprey, 2003. 48 pages. ISBN# 1841764604. Softcover. $14.95.

In the last couple of years Osprey has published an excellent series of volumes on artillery of the Napoleonic period. There are five volumes that are worthy of note and that are handy references for a myriad or artillery questions that may come up from time to time.

Three are by Chris Henry and cover British field, siege, and coastal artillery as well as naval armaments --British Napoleonic Artillery 1793-1815: (1) Field Artillery, British Napoleonic Artillery 1793-1815 and (2) Siege and Coastal Artillery, and Napoleonic Naval Armaments 1792-1815-- and two are by the noted historian Rene Chartrand, cover French field and siege artillery --Napoleon's Guns, 1792-1815: (1) Field Artillery and Napoleon's Guns 1792-1815 and (2) Heavy and Siege Artillery. Henry is currently the Head of Collections at the Museum of the Royal Artillery and Rene Chartrand is a noted military historian who, in my opinion, is the best historian Osprey currently employs. His work is well-researched and scholarly and can be relied on as references for the period.

The authors have approached their subjects in a similar manner. Both volumes on field artillery cover organization, tactics, ammunition, and equipment and artillery sidearms, and both illustrate their respective volumes with excellent period drawings and prints in black and white. Both have a glossary (the British volumes having a glossary in both while those for the French have one only in the second volume) of useful artillery terms, written in common 'artillery speak' so that commonality of terms can be transferred from volume to volume, as well as to other volumes on artillery such as B. P. Hughes' excellent publications.

Differences in material covered are few. Chartrand's two volumes use data tables while Henry's do not, which I consider a shortcoming as it would have been helpful to have the range and weight tables for the British ordnance. Chartrand also covers the introduction and use of the Systeme AN XI artillery (including a photograph of the French 6-pounder gun and 5 -inch howitzer, which were the two gun tubes of the system which were actually produced in numbers) which, designed to replace the venerable Gribeauval System, was instead, because of a myriad of factors, merely used as a supplement and was later abandoned after 1815 in favor of the Gribeauval gun tubes until the introduction of the Valee System in 1827-1829. Henry also covers the Bengal artillery, which is helpful in many ways, but was not involved in the 'great wars' in Europe, so it is really an ancillary subject.

The two volumes on siege artillery are the most interesting as it is a subject seldom covered during the period. Gun tubes, carriages, ammunition, emplacements (including a Martello tower in the British volume) are covered thoroughly and illustrated profusely and expertly. Chartrand again helpfully uses data tables to help illustrate the artillery employed, and Henry does use two tables, but more would have been more helpful and illustrative.

The color illustrations (the original illustrations for Chris Henry's books are by Brian Delf and for Chartrand's books, Ray Hutchins) done for the four volumes are excellent, with one exception. Taken as a group, they are a comprehensive look at the artillery employed by both belligerents and are very useful additions to anyone's library. The one exception is the last color plate in Chartrand's volume one. While undoubtedly technically correct (except it is a crowded and especially busy picture), it is a horrible piece of work clearly below technical standards for illustrations in any book that is produced for this or any other period. It is difficult to understand why it was used.

Errors are few and far between, and nearly imperceptible. The only two I found were on plate D1 of Henry's field artillery volume which incorrectly identify the trunnions and axletree of the British 9-pounder. It is undoubtedly an oversight.

Rockets are not covered in the British field artillery volume either, though they are in Volume 2. This would have been helpful and quite illustrative of a new weapon that was employed on battlefields both in Europe and North America.

Finally, the volume on naval armaments is a most helpful overview of ordnance employed aboard ship ranging from the large ship killing cannon to small caliber swivel guns and long arms and handguns. Both the Royal Navy and Imperial Navy are covered, as well as a short nod to the Spanish Navy. The addition of the US Navy would have been helpful. Ammunition is given its proper place, as are the aforementioned rockets, and in this volume the author has employed the use of data tables that are most useful. He has covered his wide-ranging subject very well, delivering a very useful volume on a difficult subject.

All of these excellent volumes are highly recommended and will form a very important and useful part of anyone's Napoleonic library. All are indexed and have bibliographies, though these are presented at the end of the second volumes of the land artillery volumes, which does make sense. These are some of the best volumes that Osprey has produced and hopefully more in this area will be provided at a later date.

Reviewed by Kevin Kiley.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: April 2005

 

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