The Napoleonic Studies Booklets
By George Nafziger
Ask almost any wargamer to name a book on a specific country's army during the Napoleonic Wars and invariably he will name one of the Osprey's Men-at-Arms books. These books examine the different units of a country's army (or the whole army depending on its size) and provide information on its organization, uniforms, and occasionally its history. Often they were the first books on the topic written in English and readily available to the public at a reasonable price. The focus of these books was on uniforms and they filled a valuable gap for the wargamer - providing information that was not readily available elsewhere.
Since the publication of these groundbreaking books, another set of books has been published that also focuses on the military of the minor states who participated in the Napoleonic Wars. These are the books found in noted author George Nafziger's Napoleonic Studies first published in the early 1990s. In the words of the author, his intent is to examine "...the army of each nation, providing a complete history of its organization, the raising, disbanding, and the modification of the organization of every unit in that army. Details are provided on uniforms and their changes... In addition, to a varying degree, the battle history of the army and its units is discussed." The Studies consist of nine separate volumes:
The Armies of Brunswick, Hanover, Hesse-Cassel, and the Hanseatic Cities
The Crescent Among the Eagles Ottoman Empire and the Napoleonic Wars
The Wurttemberg Army 1792-1815
The Armies of the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Grand Duchy of Wurzburg 1792-1815
The Armies of Westphalia and Cleves-Berg, 1806-1815
Armies of the Germany and the Confederation of the Rhine 1806-1815
Vol I. (Anhalt, axe-Gotha, Saxe-Hildburghausen, Saxe-Meinigen, Coburg, Frankfurt Primate, Hesse-Darmstadt, Nassau, Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz)
Vol II. (Baden, Lippe, Reuss, Schwarzburg, and Waldeck)
The Armies of Spain and Portugal, 1808-1814
The books are about 100 pages long and are softbound with a clear plastic cover. Each contains numerous charts, many black and white illustrations by Mike Gilbert (the staff artist for the old "Empires, Eagles and Lions" magazine) in all but the Wurttemburg volume, an index, plus an extensive bibliography. All books are $15.95, except for the one on the Wurttemburg Army which is $21.95 because it has color illustrations.
The strength in the Studies lie in the meticulous attention to the smallest detail about the organization of each army and the units within it. For example Volume 1 of The Armies of Germany and the Confederation of the Rhine consists of chapters on the different armies of the Duchies of Anhalt, Frankfurt, Nassau, Hesse-Darmstadt, Mecklenburg, and the Saxon Ducal Houses. The organization of each battalion and/or regiment is given, along with the number of officers, men, and musicians. Additionally, information that is rarely found in any other book is also provided, such as the composition of the regimental baggage trains! The following is a typical example of the kind of information you can find: In 1808, the Nassau 1st Infantry Regiment was authorized the following personnel in its regimental headquarters:
1 Regimental Commander
1 Lieutenant Colonel
1 Regimental Surgeon
4 Assistant Surgeons
2 Flag Bearers
1 Drum Major
1 Staff Bugler
1 Master Gunsmith
1 Master Cobbler
1 Wagon Master
11 Horse Tenders
For some of the smaller contingents, regimental, battalion and even company commanders and officers are also given! But Mr. Nafziger does not stop there. No military unit of the Napoleonic era was ever static. Because of combat casualties, attrition, and modernization the organization was constantly changing. He tracks these changes and shows them as they occurred. Rather than listing them in chronological order and thus making it difficult to read. He integrates them into the narration on the history of the unit. For example, the section on the Hesse-Darmstadt discusses the evolution of the Army from 1790 to 1815. It shows the organizations of 1790, 1799, 1806, 1808, 1809, and 1813 and the performance of the different units in various battles. The year 1812 was a disastrous year for the Hessians, with the regiment in Spain being captured at the surrender of Badajoz and the two other regiments being decimated in Russia. He tracks their performance in Russia and the changes their heavy casualties caused, both during the campaign and in 1813. His combination of minute detail and narration brings these units back to life!
In the case of major armies such as the Spanish or Portuguese armies, he does much of the same. However because these armies were so large, he does not address individual units, but what the authorized organization was at a particular time. One of the many things that is confusing about the Spanish Army was the fact that units were organized and disbanded to what appears to the reader at the drop of a hat. Some units changed names, were incorporated into others, or simply ceased to exist. He does a fantastic job tracking these units and it is quite easy for the reader to find out what happened to a unit over the years -- what the unit was in 1808 and what it ended up as by 1814.
The books also contain information on the uniforms of each the army. For the minor states the uniforms of each regiment are described in detail. For the major armies, (i.e., the Spanish and the Portuguese) a general description of the regulation uniform is given and there is a chart listing the regimental distinctions (such as facing colors) that differentiate one regiment from the other. Additionally each book has several pages of black and white drawings of what the different uniforms referred to in the text.
For the serious scholar, Mr. Nafziger closes each book with an extensive bibliography, broken down by each country! Something that few other books on the same topic do.
There are very few flaws in these fine books. I could only find two things I would add: a table of contents and a glossary explaining all of the non-English military ranks and terms. (The author is fluent in French and German and tends to leave the ranks and positions in the original language.)
Mr. Nafziger, writes in his catalog that "These booklets were designed to provide the wargamer with everything that might be needed to build any of these armies, but they are also the finest, and in most cases, the only history of these armies in the English language." The question is do the books do what he says? Do they provide the wargamer with everything that might be need to build any of these armies? Without a doubt!! I have been collecting books on the Napoleonic Era for over 25 years. I have over 100 books on the organization and uniforms of the various armies of the period. The books in the Napoleonic Studies series are the best, most complete books I have seen on the topic. No other author provides as much depth on the organization and history of these units as does Mr. Nafziger. No serious Napoleonic scholar or wargamer should be without these books! They are well researched, easy to read, and best of all they are at a very affordable price!
They can ordered directly from Mr. Nafziger at:
Department EPO Box 1522 West Chester, OH 45069-1522
Or from his internet site at: The Nafziger Collection
Reviewed by Bob Burnham, FINS
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