Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Wellington - Commander (Book #36)

Yes, yes, it's another Wellington book. Am I obsessed? Maybe a little. But Wellington plays a key role in my alternative history WIP, so I have to learn everything I can about the man.

Wellington - Commander: The Iron Duke's Generalship (Paddy Griffith, ed., 1986) is a series of essays that got its start at a symposium in the Waterloo Room at Apsley House (the Duke's London home). I'm jealous--I wanna go to Apsley House and schmooze with military historians! (I'm such a geek. SUCH a geek.)

Anyway, I didn't get startling new revelations from this book, but the variety of perspectives on what made Wellington tick made for intriguing reading. I'm going to look for Correlli Barnett's bio of Napoleon. His essay claimed that Napoleon's behavior in the Waterloo campaign wasn't that out-of-character--that he made similar mistakes in earlier campaigns and was bailed out by a combination of luck, failure of nerve and breakdown of alliances among his enemies, and the fact none of the generals he faced before were of Wellington's caliber. That's definitely a revisionist view, but this armchair military historian has never been able to figure out why Napoleon is supposed to be the best EVAH, so I'd love to read a historian who agrees with me!

2 comments:

Elena Greene said...

I'm another who doesn't get the Napoleon mania though I come from it from a different angle. I don't feel knowledgeable enough to debate military matters. But when I read sources on Waterloo that emphasize what a personal tragedy it was for Napoleon, all I can think of is the tens of thousands killed on both sides and their families.

As for being obsessed, don't worry. I think I've read just about every published secondary source on the 95th Rifles and now I'm working my way through the journals and diaries--and this is just for hero backstory! Shall we just call this diligent research? :)

Susan Wilbanks said...

I'm definitely with you on that aspect of Napoleon, especially since from all I've read of him, he was fairly callous about the amount of death his choices caused. I'd have to look up the exact quote, but in the aftermath of one of his big battles, someone commented on the death toll, and he said, "The women of Paris can replace those men in a single night." Ugh.

I'd far rather serve under Wellington, who had his obnoxiously elitist side but wasn't quite so profligate with his soldiers' lives!