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The Napoleon Series > Book Reviews > Books on military subjects

A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars

Elting, John Robert and Vincent J. Esposito. A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars. Revised edition. London: Greenhill, 1999. 400 pages. ISBN# 1853673463. $80.00. Hardcover.

Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars cover

Way back in 1986, when I was a young sergeant in the Belgian Army, I got transferred from a combat engineer unit stationed in Germany to the Royal Military Academy of Belgium in Brussels. Because I arrived there in the middle of the S1's (personnel officer) vacation, they did not know where I was supposed to work so told me to keep "busy" for a week or so until he came back. That was easy because the Academy has a nice, big library!

In that library there was a big, impressive looking book, placed on a reading pedestal. You could not take it to a table to read it or to make copies or notes, the librarian was very strict about that. All you could do was consult it on the pedestal. It was of course the first edition of A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars by Brigadier-General Vincent J. Esposito and Colonel John Elting. I remember being very impressed by this imposing, authoritative book and I spent many hours hovering over it, making notes and studying maps. It was then and there, thanks to this book that I got first interested in the Napoleonic Wars. I have promised myself many times later that I would buy the first second hand copy of this book that I would find, but living in Belgium it never happened. Second hand English books were hard to find here before the Internet made it all so easy.

Now I finally have my own, brand new copy of this great book thanks to M. Lionel Leventhal of Greenhill Books who had the brilliant idea to republish it. I am sure that this wonderful book will do for many people what it did for me 13 years ago and that is get them interested in the Napoleonic Wars. For people already well into this fascinating period of history this book will be a major addition to their library. But enough talk, I am sure that by know you all have understood that I really love this book :-) Let's describe it now.

A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars was primarily written back in 1963 by Brigadier-General Vincent J. Esposito and Colonel John Elting to serve as a textbook for West Point students. It contains 169 maps to illustrate each campaign and battle were Napoleon was in personal command. The combination of these maps and the incisive, authoritative narratives makes it a superb reference work. The book covers Napoleon's Italian, Egyptian, Marengo, Ulm-Austerlitz, Jena, Eylau-Friedland, Spanish, 1809, Russian, Leipzig, France 1814 and Waterloo Campaigns. It has an introduction full of information about Napoleon and modern warfare, Napoleon's early military career, organization, weapons and tactics of the Era besides a guide to further study of he Napoleonic Wars and a chronology of its events.

It is a big heavy book that you can not take to bed with you when you want to read in it, but it is a perfect reference work when you need to look up something or when you want to know about a campaign or battle. It does make sense to me now why the librarian at the Academy had put it on a reading pedestal!

I could talk for hours about this brilliant book, but I guess the message has come across already; I HIGHLY recommend A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars and I think that every serious student of the Napoleonic Wars should have it in his library. The price could be a problem because it is pretty expensive, but you get good value for your money and I feel that it is worth every penny or cent.

I salute the late Brigadier-General Vincent J. Esposito and Colonel John Elting for writing this exceptional work and Lionel Leventhal for making it available to us again.

Reviewed by Fons Libert, FINS