Reading for the Weekend – 1813 Empire at Bay

Empire at BayI am quite interested on the late Napoleonic Wars – incidentally, era also related to the accidental occurrence of my first Prussian army of 6th Coalition. Therefore 1813 Empire at Bay by Jonathon Riley (ISBN# 9781783468706) sounded like interesting read to add on the reading list. I am quite happy that I obtained the book, since content was quite satisfactory. Book concentrates, as the name implies on the 6th coalition, and downfall of Napoleon.

The book follows three quite separate regions, of which the strategic flanks of US frontiers and Mediterranean have rather minimal treatment. Other two, battles around Central Europe, and later Peninsular war (from late 1812 onwards) receive quite comprehensive treatment. Order is chronological, and therefore book chapters jump between Central Europe and Spain (that said, events occurring at the strategic flanks receive treatment at the end, and are not in right place chronologically). Book is relatively easy read, assuming that reader has some understanding of the European geography, and napoleonic operations. Unfortunately though, supporting maps are few and far between, and when author refers to place names, they are not always clearly marked in the maps. Available maps usually refer to individual battles but not larger scale troop movements – this however appears to be quite common and it is more of a tradition than fault as such.

(A side note: It would be very nice if authors of historical studies would include maps of the target regions in multiple scales, and when discussing about key events in the battles, would also include the specific locations on the maps – especially when it is expected for place names to change in time. It is all too often that reader is not as well acquitted with every detail as the author).

Curiously on thing that is omitted from the book is somewhat contradictory to the title. Actual invasion of France by coalition armies and the subsequent first capitulation of Napoleon. Author does however point out himself that it is not exactly in the scope of the book, but would be nice addition. 100 days is obviously left out because that was already a separate conflict and had little to do with sixth coalition.

Besides of the issues above that are common to more or less all books that attempt to treat such a varied subject as Empire at Bay, the book is quite informative, and well laid down. It does deviate sufficiently from the main topic to give introductions to the events that occurred before sixth coalition. All in all, it is good book for anyone interested in the subject, or the later part of Napoleonic wars. Book also includes useful information about the key battles for anyone that is keen to reproduce them on tabletop. Actual OOB however needs additional details, since not all are included. Depending on the readers prior knowledge, perhaps even some more obscure battles may be discovered.

All in all, I can recommend Empire at Bay.

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