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“Napoleon’s Triumph: The Friedland Campaign”

Summer's end, 2011

I'm pleased to report that we met our schedule and Napoleon's Triumph: La Grande armée versus the Tsar's Army, The Friedland Campaign 1807 is at the printer. It has  440 pages with detailed orders of battle, images, and 39 maps. Also, we received so many appeals for a reprint of Crisis in the Snows: Russia Confronts Napoleon, The Eylau Campaign 1806-1807 that we found a way to reprint it at the same time. It has 488 pages with detailed orders of battle, images, and 37 maps. To meet our schedule, everyone here on the farm pulled in harness for an extended time, even the six burros who gave us our farm name, Burro Station.

We don't accept pre-orders because we want to have the finished product in our hands before offering it for sale. Barring natural disasters (I hesitate to name them, having recently endured an earthquake and a hurricane within a seven-day span) and pirates in the South China Sea, we expect to have the books by late November. At that time we will update this site and send out personal e-mails to everyone on our mailing list. If you are uncertain whether you are on our list, go ahead and shoot us an e-mail asking to be notified.

Here is the "bumpf" (a highly technical publishing term loosely translated as sales propaganda) that appears on the flap copy of Napoleon's Triumph. In this case I know it to be accurate and true...because I wrote it myself.

All best and looking forward to receiving your orders in not so very long.


Napoleon Books


Napoleon's Triumph: La Grande armée versus the Tsar's Army

The Friedland Campaign 1807

February 1807 found one of history's foremost military geniuses, Napoleon Bonaparte, retreating with his battered army from the bloody, inconclusive Battle of Eylau. It was the first significant setback experienced by the Emperor Napoleon. The battle dimmed the aura of invincibility surrounding the emperor and his Grande armée. For the first time in his career Napoleon had met a foe capable of resisting his sweeping strategic thrusts and tactical flourishes. For the Grande armée, an uncertain future spent in Poland's winter wastelands loomed.

Eylau emboldened Napoleon's foes, most importantly Tsar Alexander and the commander of his field army, General Leontii Bennigsen. The tsar's army issued from the fortress of Konigsberg to drive the French west. His offensive gained territory until it encountered firm resistance that showed Napoleon's veterans had not lost their fighting prowess. The exhausted armies entered winter quarters while the Russian tsar and French emperor summoned tens of thousands of fresh troops to the front. Simultaneously, Russia and Prussia dispatched envoys to their coalition partners in an effort to coordinate a series of strokes designed to topple the apparently faltering French emperor.

A mere four months after his retreat from Eylau, Napoleon gained a decisive triumph at the Battle of Friedland. Thereafter, in a stunning display of power, he dictated terms to the humbled king of Prussia and rearranged the map of Europe with his new ally, Tsar Alexander.

Using primary sources gleaned from libraries and archives in Europe and the United States, Napoleon's Triumph describes Napoleon's amazing reversal of fortune. It relates the winter battles that blunted the Russian offensive and then turns to the complex, dramatic Siege of Danzig. Renewed campaigning in the spring witnessed yet another surprise Russian offensive. But for the leadership of Marshal Michel Ney, Bennigsen would have removed a major French piece from the strategic chessboard. Instead came Napoleon's counteroffensive leading to the Battle of Heilsberg, Napoleon's least-understood major battle. The decisive triumph at Friedland occurred four days later, an encounter heretofore shrouded by biased interpretations, one  designed to burnish Napoleon's image, the other to explain away a bad Russian defeat.

Lavishly illustrated with portraits, drawings, paintings, and maps, and supplemented with detailed appendices on the strengths and composition of the rival forces, Napoleon's Triumph  provides an original interpretation of the 1807 campaign.


And, in partial recompense to our long-suffering readers, here is an extract from Napoleon's Triumph, part of  the Combat at Lomitten, June 5, 1807:

In Soult's mind, the bridgehead's purpose was to provide warning of an enemy buildup. He was content to concede the position if it came under heavy attack. But his strategy fell afoul of the Iron Brigade's tremendous fighting ability. After the allies had safely confined Napoleon to his St. Helena jail, French veterans wrote  memoirs of the glory days. Common to all such literature, there were exaggerations and omissions, so heroic praise must be taken with a grain of salt. That praise sometimes rose to the level of accolade; a nickname given to a unit by Napoleon such as the Terrible 57th, or a fighting title bestowed upon a brigade. Among the latter, the "Infernal Column" and "Men of Iron" may seem trite to the modern reader. But during the Napoleonic era,  units earned a nickname with their own spilt blood. Thus, the brigade comprising the 46th and 57th Ligne claimed an army-wide reputation as the "Iron Brigade." At Lomitten they again  vindicated their name.

When picket fire announced the Russian presence, two battalions of the 46th Ligne crossed the bridge to assist the 57th Ligne. After a few hours, Soult sent an aide, Alfred Saint-Chamans, to order the brigade to retire and destroy the bridge. Saint-Chamans discovered the Iron Brigade more than holding its own. Indicative of the Iron Brigade's spirit was a vivandière of the 57th Ligne. She encouraged  hard-fighting voltigeurs by carrying drink up to the skirmish line and distributing it for free. The voltigeurs pled with her to stay in the rear. She ignored them, repeated her journey several times, and fell dead when struck by Russian ordnance. In the crucial pine wood, a grenadier company of the 57th Ligne tenaciously clung to its position. The commanding captain fell dead, a wound disabled the senior lieutenant. A frenzied second lieutenant rallied the company by picking up the drum of a dead musician to beat the pas de charge with the hilt of his saber, while shouting "Vive l'Empereur!"

Saint-Chamans could not persuade such men to withdraw. Consequently, the fighting intensified. A ravine ran through the pine woods. The French  occupied the side farthest from the attackers. They had felled large trees as abatis so that the tops and branches obstructed the ravine. They concealed themselves amidst the roots and shot at the Russians as they descended the opposite face of the ravine. Bathurst wrote: "The Russians had no troops accustomed to woods and they lost a great many men in vain attempts to drive the enemy."

As the sounds of combat intensified, Soult rode to the river's west bank. There he encountered a fusilier of the 57th staggering steadfastly back toward the firing line. He asked him what he was about and the fusilier replied that he had just escorted a wounded comrade to the surgeon and was returning to his regiment. Soult interjected, "But what about you? You can barely drag yourself." The brave fusilier replied, "Oh, this is nothing,  a shell  knocked me down," and continued his trek to rejoin his unit. 




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