Reviews: Military Books


Historical Account of the Military Operations of the Army of Italy in 1813 and 1814

De Vignolle, Martin, comte. Historical Account of the Military Operations of the Army of Italy in 1813 and 1814 West Chester: Nafziger Collection, 2001. 88 pages, 1 map.  ISBN# 158545074X. Softcover.

Brune’s 1807 Campaign in Swedish Pomerania

Much has been written about the 1813 and 1814 campaigns by Napoleon in Central Europe and Wellington in northern Spain and southern France. Yet little has published on the campaigns and battles in the minor theaters, such as the Low Countries, eastern Spain, the Balkans, and Italy.  One again George Nafziger has brought us a first hand account of a rather obscure campaign – Prince Eugene’s campaign against the Austrians in northern Italy in 1813 and 1814!  It was written by Général de Division comte de Vignolle, the Chief-of-Staff of the Army of Italy, and first published in 1817.  This edition is the first time it has been published since then and the only English-language edition.

The memoir covers all of the noteworthy events, campaigns, and battles that occurred in the region and many of the minor battles, skirmishes, and sieges. Here you will find the views of someone who was in the position to witness many of these events and how the Army’s commander, Prince Eugene, re-acted to them: from the problems of rebuilding the Italian Army that was virtually destroyed during the 1812 Russian Campaign, to the invasion of Italy by the Austrians, to the battle of Mincio, and Marshal Murat’s defection to the Allies.  Minor events are also covered in detail, such as the operations in Dalmatia, the sieges of Venice and Genoa, the sideshow in the Tyrol, and the British landing in northern Italy.  

The Army of Italy was a mixed force of French and Italian units.  Its commanders being of both nationalities, with the French generals including those who made a name for themselves in Spain (Verdier and Mermet) and those who would go on to fight during the Waterloo Campaign (Marcognet and Jeanin).  De Vignolle documents the numerous changes in the Army’s order-of-battle and shows its organization down to battalion level.  Unfortunately, he only provides strengths for each division and not for the regiments and battalions.   De Vignolle covers in great detail the pivotal battle of Mincio, where Prince Eugene bloodied the Austrians under General Bellegarde. 

This account is unlike any French memoir I have read before.  It reads more like an official after action report, rather than someone’s personal recollections.  In one way it is very unusual, for De Vignolle goes to great length to list the names of those who distinguished themselves in the various battles, combats, and sieges.  This is not limited just to senior officers, but includes regiment-by-regiment lists of junior officers and NCOs. He even goes as far as cite artillerists and surgeons whose conduct was clearly outstanding!

Dr. Nafziger does an excellent job in translating this important, albeit mostly forgotten, memoir.    Unfortunaely, the account jumps all over the theater operations and the author assumes that the reader is familiar with such out-of-the-way places as Caldiero, Bassano, Saffnitz, Parma, and Brixen.  There is a very good map of the battle of Mincio, but other than it, there are no others.  Readers will want to keep a map handy when they read this book! Despite this, it is well worth the $19.95!

The book is available through The Nafziger Collection and other book dealers.

Reviewed by Robert Burnham, FINS
Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2001

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