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The Napoleon Series > Book Reviews > Books on military subjects

Castiglione 1796, Napoleon Repulses Wurmer's First Attack

By Bernhard Voykowitsch
Helmet Feldzug Series 1

Castiglione 1796 cover

From the back cover

With the battle of Castiglione in midsummer of 1796 Napoleon repulsed the first of four Austrian attempts to raise the French siege of Mantua. How thoroughly he defeated the Austrian Army under Wurmser is hitherto unknown. Although the 1796 campaign in Italy ranks among Napoleon's finest military achievements there exists no detailed account of it in English nor in German either. Especially the Austrian side is poorly documented. The breakdown of the Habsburg Empire in 1918 put an end to official Austrian writing about this period: the Generalstabswerke remained unfinished. Thus this account had to be and was based to a large degree on primary Austrian sources. It is the most detailed coverage of the Castiglione campaign yet published. At the moment there is no more detailed account even in German.

Review of Castiglione 1796

I can not claim to be an expert on Napoleon's early campaigns so it was with great pleasure that I reviewed this book in the hope that I would learn something from it. Believe me, I did.

The author has done extensive research in the Vienna War Archives and in the Vincennes Archives and it shows. The book has a wealth of details that will be hard to find elsewhere. These includes dozens of orders of battle, prints and photographs, maps and even an overview of the battlefields today with directions on how to get there.

He has used the Osprey's Campaign Series format as his example but used the A4 format instead of Osprey's smaller format. This allowed him to put in bigger and better photographs, prints and maps and that's an definite improvement of the Osprey Series!

He starts of with a detailed account of the Siege of Mantua (June-July 1796) followed by the biographies of ALL the opposing commanders. He then has a detailed look at the Austrian Lombardische Armée and the French Armée d'Italie. In the next chapters he explains the plans and preparations of both armies and the operations (from July 29 to August 4) that led up to the battle of Castiglione on August 5, 1796.

The history of the battle itself and its aftermath: the Austrian retreat and the rearguard actions of Peschiera, Monte Baldo and Storo are not so detailed as I would have liked them to be, but this is not a big deal because with what he does give you will know more than enough about it. And I have to admit that I am a sucker for details, I can never get enough of them so I am probably biased.

The author then continues with an accounting followed by reports and letters written by Colonel Zach of the Austrian General Staff and Colonel Thomas Graham, a British Military Commissioner to the Austrian Army.

Mr. Voykowitsch concludes his book with an overview of the battlefields today, a chronology, sources and a guide to further reading. He did not forget the wargamers among us because for them there's the "Wargaming Castiglione" chapter.

There only one thing about this book that bothers me a little. The author lists on the back cover of his book an entire series of other titles (26 to be precise) in the "Feldzug Series" while in reality Castiglione 1796 is the only one that really exists yet. I know that he did this because he plans to publish these titles too, but a reader that does not has that knowledge will think that he just bought a book from a series of books. This is not a big deal either but it is incorrect and therefore should be corrected. I would advice the author to add some statement that tells the reader that these titles can be expected in the future.

Like I said, this little slip-up is not a big deal and the book is definitely worth buying because it is first class. If this first title is an example of what we can expect from Mr. Voykowitsch in the future I say: "Let's support the man to make sure that he will be able to write those other titles!" He publishes his book himself and with his own funds so the only way that he will be able to afford publishing those other titles is if Castiglione 1796 is commercially successful. The Napoleon Series does not have the funds to support young authors, but we can give Mr. Voykowitsch a BIG THUMBS UP in the hope that our readers will support his work.

You can purchase Castiglione 1796 from the author at:

Helmet Military Publications
Bernhardt Voykowitsch
Wienerbruckstrabe 87/5
A-2344 Maria Enzersdorf
Tel/fax: 0043(01143) - 2236 - 49965 -

Reviewed by Alfons Libert, FINS