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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 15 December 2012
Having read something like 300 plus accounts of the famous battle in the 45 years I have been 'hooked' on the subject, I welcomed this account enthusiastically and was not disappointed! This has to be the best account in years and approaches the subject mainly from the French perspective (as the title implies) with an absolute wealth of previously untouched material. The author has done a fantastic job of balancing the different accounts by French eye witnesses against what we know (or think we know) happened at the different stages of the battle. I came away after reading this book with a feeling that despite all the accounts I have previously read, I know had a fuller understanding and appreciation of how this famous day went. I cannot recommend this book enough and if you are a Waterloo enthusiast you just have to buy this. I am now re-reading it and enjoying as much second time around! Let's hope for more of the same from this very accomplished author!
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on 16 June 2012
I already possess many books about Waterloo and indeed The Duke Of Wellington generally but this is a very interesting view of this battle from the French perspective which goes into considerable detail regarding the many reasons for the French decisions that day.

If one overlooks some naturally prejudicial views of some of the French participents and one or two questionable views of the author (e.g. penetration of the South gate at Hougoumont and reference to the garden to the West (East?) p.263), this book is a serious, detailed analysis of how the French contrived to lose, the stoicism of the allied defence and the vital influence of the Prussian intervention. Certainly, to have the opportunity to read an account of this battle 'from the other side' is a very welcome addition to the multitudes of books already printed on the subject and one which I found totally absorbing. My knowledge of the battle has been advanced considerably and I would recommend this book to all those interested in the fine detail.
I would have awarded 5 stars but unfortunately there were no maps (except a campaign map) despite a promised list.
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on 17 February 2013
This book presents a wide variety of French sources about the Battle of Waterloo, many of them unfamiliar to English speakers before this time. Most of the sources are relatively senior officers but they do include some junior officers and some voices from the ranks.

The focus of the book is very much on the Battle of Waterloo, rather than on the Hundred Days Campaign overall, so although the book does use some pre-Waterloo material, this is mainly to show the overall condition and character of Napoleon's Army. The book really gets into its stride from the point of the eve of Waterloo onwards, moving into greater depth and covering many of the more controversial issues regarding the battle. More-or-less extensive coverage is given to:
The condition of the ground and the initial deployment.
The 'pinning' attack at Hougomont and what went wrong from the French point of view.
Extensive coverage of D'Erlon's attack and the subsequent cavalry charges.
The Prussian arrival and then the attack on Plancenoit
The attack of the Imperial Guard
The French rout

Although there are a couple of key gaps, where French primary sources simply do not seem to exist, there is enough new information to keep anyone interested in the battle going. Frankly, unless one is prepared to do the work in French oneself, this is a 'must buy' item. Helpfully the writing is good too, the author having an engaged, interested tone, always anxious to show where the sources differ from accounts in other languages or from each other, and where on balance he thinks the truth may lie - but only 'on balance'. So if you are interested in how much the condition of the ground affected Napoleon's plans, exactly how far D'Erlon's Corps got before it was defeated, whether any British or Allied squares were broken and all of the other details of the battle, there is plenty to mull over inside.

One really good point is that he makes the point that many of Napoleon's utterances on the day were those of a commander - one trying to get his generals and soldiers to win - not a journalist 'honestly' reporting on his own battle. He was perfectly at liberty to say things he didn't mean when he needed to inspire his men. Similarly, distinction is made between the reliability of many of the other sources and a fair judgement given as to how believeable the author finds them.

I think this book would be best read after tackling a good overview work, such as 'The Battle' The Battle: A New History of the Battle of Waterloo, or Andrew Roberts' 'Waterloo' Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Gamble (Making History)or even Siborne's 'History...' History of the War in France and Belgium in 1815. It works very well in conjunction with Peter Hofschroer's book 1815: The Waterloo Campaign. Volume 2: The German Victoryto aid in presenting a very rounded view of the Waterloo as a whole.

Highly, highly recommended.
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on 8 April 2013
this is a great read, lots of new date and just a great read. I found this book hard to put down and laid out the plans of the french army in great detail. I found the parts of the book dealing with the attack of the old guard very interesting and vever before knew how close the french got to winning.
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VINE VOICEon 28 October 2014
Andrew Field has done all of those who are interested in Waterloo a great service by bringing together French contemporary accounts of this battle, many of them accounts that have for too long previously been missing from English language versions of this climatic battle.
If you want to know why Napoleon lost at Waterloo, then you really can't do it from any better place than here. The author sets out to examine the conduct of battle through Napoleon's orders and the actions of his subordinate corps and divisional commanders, highlighted and illuminated by soldiers who wrote accounts of the battle in the days and years afterwards.
If you've every puzzled as to why Ney launched those mass cavalry attacks when he did, why d'Erlon's infantry divisions adopted their very broad columnar formations to assault the allied line, and the impact of the Prussians on French deployments as the day wore on, what went wrong for the French at Hougoumont - then you should read this book.
The plentiful chapters are clear and often short - the sequence of events of this complex battle are broken down into comprehensible chunks.
At the end of the book, there is the added bonus of a tactical review - which runs through some of the tactical issues not easily covered in the narrative of the battle itself. Some of those are the questions I've mentioned above, and the last two take in French generalship and whether Napoleon could actually have won.
Clear, concise, easily readable. Highly recommended.
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on 19 November 2015
One of the best books I have read on Waterloo for a very long time. The author has undertaken some excellent analysis of French sources (but not exclusively French) to come up with a very plausible and coherent narrative of the battle supported wherever possible by quoting primary accounts, many of which I have not seen before. His account steps well away from the long established, "anglocentric" narrative and puts the focus on how and why the French fought the battle the way they did. Inevitably there are gaps in the accounts that the author has had to fill by supposition, but he does this by intelligent analysis and always makes it clear where this has been done. The narrative also points up significant shortcomings in the French command structure and shows that in 1815 this was far from the well oiled machine it once had been. The French officers may have had a lot of wartime experience, but frequently not at the level at which they were now performing.
Because the author goes into some quite detailed analysis of the key actions and events, I would not recommend this to anyone wanting to gain a first understanding of Waterloo (try the very good account by Alessandro Barbero), However, if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the battle from the French perspective then this account is a must read. The author has an easy writing style which flows naturally and the insertion of first hand accounts provides just the right level of immediacy to the narrative. A full five stars, and I will be looking out for more works by this author.
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on 27 October 2012
This is a fantastic read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The author takes the reader through the battle in such a way that you are left with a very real impression as to it's enormity. I felt like I was being lead through the day's events as though on a guided tour of the battlefield.

I am fortunate enough to have visited Waterloo on a couple of occasions, but this book allows the reader to clearly visualize the battle's progress from the French perspective in a way that is both riveting and informative.

The book contains large numbers of accounts from those who were there and I found these really interesting as they breathed life into the events being described in the narrative.

The book is clear in its sequence of events and their relevance to each other. It is an easy and flowing narrative uncluttered by extensive footnotes. The author sticks to the central theme of the book and so don't expect extensive accounts of the battles at Quatre Bras and Ligny. This is about Waterloo and all the better for it.

The colour maps are very good and easily linked to the text.

I have read many books on Waterloo and am a big fan of the Napoleonic Wars as an historical subject. this is one of the most interesting accounts I have read.

Given that the account is from the French perspective there are no lengthy descriptions of the fighting at Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte as often is the case with English accounts, but they are covered well and their relevance to the battle are clearly dealt with.

I hope the author decides to tackle other battles of the period, but as he makes clear, French accounts are somewhat limited compared to those in English, but he has done a great job with this book.
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I have been reading books about the Battle of Waterloo for more than 50 years - yes I remember the 150th anniversary of the battle! - and this is without the slightest doubt in my mind by far the most readable and understandable account of the battle. It was the French who had the initiative for most of the day so an understanding of what was happening from their side is not only useful but makes the battle much more comprehensible. It makes one realise why the battle was described by Wellington as a "damn close run thing".
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on 6 March 2014
I HAVE BEEN STUDYING THE NAPOLEONIC PERIOD FOR NEARLY 50 YEARS AND HAVE A LARGE LIBRARY OF BOOKS ON THE SUBJECT. INCLUDED IN THIS COLLECTION ARE SOME 30 VARIOUS VOLUMES ON WATERLOO. BUT THIS WONDERFUL ADDITION TO MY BOOK SHELVES IS AT THE VERY TOP OF THE LIST.
USING THE WORDS OF FRENCH(AND ALLIED) SOLDIERS AND OFFICERS WHO PARTICIPATED IN WHAT IS ACKNOWLEDGED AS A BATTLE THAT CHANGED EUROPEAN HISTORY FOR EVER, IS FRANKLY INSPIRED.
ADDED TO THESE OFTEN HAUNTING, OFTEN THRILLING, ALWAYS AWE INSPIRING COMMENTS, IS AN EXCELLENT AND HIGHLY INFORMATIVE NARRATIVE.
ANDREW FIELD SHOWS HIMSELF TO BE AN HISTORIAN FROM THE TOP FLIGHT. NEVER OVER BEARING, ALWAYS DISSECTING, AND ALWAYS CAREFULLY CALCULATING ONE VIEW AGAINST ANOTHER UNTIL HE PRESENTS ARGUMENTS THAT ARE PRECISE AND FASCINATING.
THROUGH THIS BOOK THE READER STRUGGLES WITH THE ATTACKERS AGAINST HOUGOUMONT, AND WONDERS WHY THE ARTILLERY IS NOT BLOWING THE PLACE APART?. HE RIDES WITH THE MASSED FRENCH CAVALRY AND IS ASTONISHED AT THE LACK OF INFANTRY AND ARTILLERY SUPPORT THAT WOULD SURELY HAVE WON THE DAY? HE MARCHES WITH THE OLD GUARD IN THEIR LAST ATTACK, STANDS WITH THEM IN SQUARE AGAINST THE FLOOD OF FLEEING FRENCH TROOPS AND WATCHES AS THE EMPEROR LEAVES THE BATTLEFIELD, BEWILDERED AND BEATEN!
BUY THIS BOOK, ITS A MAGNIFICENT READ
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on 8 October 2013
A very good perspective. The only fault I would say is some of the technical details of regiments and numbers goes into too much detail. Saying that it was very good account and I appreciated going over the battles of Quatre Bras and Ligny again and potential "what if's". Also the accounts of La Haye Sainte and Hougomont were excellent in regards to how close if taken these key points of Wellingtons line could have changed the battle and the war with more cannon and infantry support.
Recommended for Waterloo enthusiasts.
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