Saxon Artillery: 1733-1827

Summerfield, Stephen. Saxon Artillery: 1733-1827. Nottingham, UK: Partizan Press, 2009. 216 pages. ISBN# 9781858185989. Hardcover.  $50.

I will be the first to admit that I do not know much about the Saxon artillery during the Napoleonic Wars.  However, when I buy a book on any similar topic of the era, I am always looking for four things, as a minimum.

  1. How the artillery was organized.
  2. Technical data on the guns and equipment.
  3. Information on the uniforms the various elements of the unit wore.
  4. Where and when was the unit deployed, and how did they perform.

I am very pleased to report that Saxon Artillery answers all these questions in great depth. Each chapter covers a different period and discusses how the artillery was developed and evolved during that time.  For example, Chapter 4 covers the major changes that the artillery underwent between 1766 and 1806.  It also examines how it was employed during the 1806 Franco-Prussian War.  Sprinkled throughout the book are 22 tables that provide a wealth of technical data on artillery pieces, wagons, caissons, etc.  For example, Table 5 looks at the caliber of the different artillery shells used by the Saxons and then puts them in contemporary French measurements, Imperial inches, and metric.  Table 13 provides the number of horses used to pull the different Saxon guns, caissons, and other wagons.

Saxon Artillery doesn’t skimp on orders-of-battle (OOBs).  The author provides 34 different OOBs ranging from 1792 to 1813. These OOBs are usually for all elements of the Saxon Army participating in the campaign, not just the artillery.  However for the artillery, Dr. Summerfield shows the artillery down to battery level, and includes the battery commander’s rank and name, and the type of guns in each battery.

This is a magnificent volume that is lavishly illustrated with over 160 color plates and photographs. Many of the uniform plates are from sources that have been long out of print, such as those Wilhelm von Dietrich and Alexander Sauerweid. Dr. Summerfield uses many photographs to show the various surviving artillery pieces, but supplements them with numerous scaled, color drawings based on the contemporary work by F.G. Rouvroy, who first published them in 1809 and 1811. These color drawings will be invaluable to the modeler and wargamer, because Dr Summerfield and Norman Swales have put them in 1:24 (77mm), 1:30 (54mm), and 1:60 (28mm) scale. They are exquisitely drawn and are worth the cost of the book in themselves.

Saxon Artillery: 1733-182 sets the standard for studies on technical topics of the Napoleonic Wars. It is impeccably researched, well written, and easy to read. Most importantly it does a superb job in answering the questions I had at the beginning of this review.  Although the book is narrowly focused on one of the smaller states in the Napoleonic Wars, I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the era. It not only covers the Seven Years War and the War of Bavarian Succession, it provides detailed information on the Saxon participation in the 1806 War with Prussia, the 1809 War with Austria, the 1812 invasion of Russia, the 1813 War of Liberation, and the final years of the Napoleonic Wars.

A few examples of the illustrations are seen below.

Saxon M1766 4 Pounder by Norman Swales
Saxon M1780 Casisson by Stephen Summerfield


The book is available from Caliver Books

Reviewed by Robert Burnham

Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2012


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