Reading for the Weekend – Marshall Ney

Book coverMarshall NeyThe Bravest of the Brave by A.H. Atterbridge (ISBN 9781783409419). Gives a good account of the finest commander of Napoleons court. Ney was from humble origins and he started his army career as a Hussar in the republican army and fought with repeated success in revolutionary wars. He was already well off on the military career ladder before being acquainted with Corsican rising star. Unlike in the old reign, it was possible for a man to become Marshal of the Empire.

As did many of his time, Ney become disillusioned and abandoned republican ideals and placed his fortunes to Napoleon and his imperial aspirations. In course of failed Russian campaign and followed dreary retreat in Russian winter he acquired nickname ‘Bravest of the Brave’ by saving more than once French grand army from destruction.

However, those years of fighting for Napoleon finally took it’s toll and after the ill fated campaign in Russia Ney was not the energetic and resourceful commander he used to be. Later part of his life was riddled with failings in military campaigns and shifting allegiances. After failure of Leipzig campaign and subsequent disastrous campaign of France, Ney was the one Marshall that urged Napoleon to abdicate and refused to spill more blood for cause he no longer believed in.

Brief Royalist restoration gave Ney abundance of favors, but he was also treated as upstart by established Royalist circles. Growing discontent of public enabled Napoleon to return from the exile in Elba and march unhindered across France.

During 100 days, Ney saw the futility of impending civil war and took side of Napoleon once more. he had made enemies in both Royalists and with supporters of Bonaparte. At the end, vengeful Royalists and his fellow officers condemned him to death and he met his end in the Luxembourg park.

Book is quite well written and sheds good amount of light to the realities of the Napoleonic era battles and affairs. Book is not only biography of a great general, but it also gives some light to the actions and force compositions of the battles he took part in. Quite interesting to read for someone interested in the period, especially about the advance and rear guard actions that Ney often participated in.


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