Napoleon et les Troupes Polonaises 1797-1815
By Alain Pigeard
Napoleon et les Troupes Polonaises 1797-1815 Tradition Magazine Special #8
A4 format, 74 pages - price: 89 FF (approx. $15).
At last one would think, a short affordable work on Polish units with ample color illustrations, uniforms etc! After all, not even the Osprey series has a current title on this topic which, seems like an obvious one to consider given the involvement of the Poles in the Napoleonic events.
I approached this latest Bourgeois de Hambourg and the hastily pulled together historical overviews that are cheap but still valuable for the quality of the illustrations inside.
Unfortunately this booklet falls in neither category, but rather on the wrong side of the second. Don't get me totally wrong, there is still much value in getting it - but it simply is not what the title claims it to be.
The text. It looks and feels very much like a shortened French rendition of George Nafziger's excellent study on the same topic. There is little new to anyone who has some knowledge of the topic. It does retain value in that it's a good summary - but 13 pages on the 1st Polish Lancers of the Guard is not really exciting, as there is nothing in there that has not been covered elsewhere and often in more detail.
As for the other topics covered they are often given only scant attention, mentioning only organization details at best. Although the aim could have been an extensive coverage, one has the distinct impression this was pulled together very, very quickly and has only the skeleton of what could have been an in-depth study.
The illustrations. The Tradition team has been having problems with their production equipment and it shows in that the pictures are sometimes blurry and too often pixelized (as in the special on the 1813 German campaign). They've been working on this since, but it is unfortunate that such problems have marred this volume which is filled with color material.
Many of the pictures are taken from B.Gembarzewski's Wojsko Polskie 1807-1814 and from Zolnierz Polski 1798-1814. In a way this is good as both volumes are hard to come by, however with little to no text to go along they are of limited value. There are some truly original images though: Freyberg Manuscript color reproductions (probably by Boisselier) and many of the Marckholsheim Manuscript on the Lithuanian Tartars.
Bottom line is that at 89 FF ($15), it remains a good deal even with some of the technical issues. However for someone who wants a good understanding of the topic, he should turn to the classic works on the subject: George Nafziger's book or the reprint by Demi-Solde press of Chelminski/Malibran's massive volume on the army of the Duchy of Warsaw.
Reviewed by Yves Martin