When you buy any product produced by the legendary George F. Nafziger, you expect quality. With his book 'The Defense of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Northern Italy, 1813-1814', perhaps it's the teaming with Marco Gioannini that catapaulted this work to a category of must have; whatever the reason, this is a good read for any student of the period, but for Napoleonic wargamers, it is a source you cannot seriously live without.
I'm a wargamer, and sources listing both orders of battle and the employment of those orders of battle are very important to me. This book is on the top shelf of recommended orders of battle books to own. I bought the Gioannini/Nafziger book because I was hoping to gain insight into the French Army of Italy's structure in the 1813-1814 campaign. What I was never anticipating was that not only would I gain a narrative, and therefore explanation of the why's and when's of the major events that underpinned the campaign; what also came with the book were over sixty detailed orders of battle of not just the French Army of Italy, but their Austrian opponents, and the structures also of the post 1812 Russian campaign forces of Naples and the Balkan minor states to boot.
Has the book any shortcomings? Of course. The most notable is lack of a decent strategic map giving you insight into the whole area of operations in northern Italy from France to the eastern Balkans. The whole work is also in black & white; no colour photo's or maps anywhere. The lack of the strategic map is especially frustrating when trying to follow the opening moves of the campaign in the text. I resorted to using an atlas as I read. But if you can live with what are truly minor short-comings, what you get in compensation is a wealth of information. Not only are the composition of corps, divisions, brigades and regiments listed, but so too are their deployments and the reasons behind what they were doing. Countless hours of trawling through internet sites will not unearth the detail placed at your fingertips by these two researchers.
To my door on the other side of the world from America the delivery price on this baby set me back $150. I winced at the purchase price. But one surprise that I hadn't anticipated was that at that price it came in hardback, so the book as a source will last for ages. And it is as a source this book excels. There are 41 appendices at the end of the book listing forces in a broader battalion/squadron/battery format from Aug 1813 to May 1814. Throughout the additional 235 pages of text are force details no wargamer or student of the campign can do without. It is in those pages that the strength of units and formations is discussed, often in significant detail. Especially useful to any wargamer are details regarding force structures affecting Italian assignments to Germany, Spain and the raising of new forces in Italy following the end of the disasterous 1812 Russian campaign. Nafziger and Gioannini then go one step further and add in the details regarding Austrian dispositions, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as detailing the gradual desertion by unit of Italian allied Balkan forces. Invaluable material if you are planning to develop scenarios within the campaign.
The short and the long of it; if you can afford it, buy this book. If you are a wargamer and interested in the Napoleonic period, 'The Defense of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Northern Italy, 1813-1814' is one purchase you will never regret.