Thursday, March 3, 2016

Book Reviews: 19th Century Warfare II

Book Reviews: The 19th Century II

I decided to once more do brief reviews of books I have read over the period since my last Book Review (which can be found at Book Reviews: 19th Century Warfare I)

Some of the books I read I read in print, and I believe that for those I will do a video review, since many of them are illustrated. Kindle books and non-illustrated books I will review here.

French Army 1870-1871 Franco Prussian War volumes 1 &2, Stephen Shann & Louis Delpenier, Osprey
The First Schleswig-Holstein War, Nick Svendsen, Helion Press
Armies of the War of the Triple Alliance 1864-1870, Gabriele Esposito, Osprey
The Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871 Volume 2, Quintin Barry, Helion
Three Weeks in November, Ralph Weaver, Helion

The Osprey Men at Arms Series two volume set on the French Army 1870-1871 is probably one of their nicest productions. It is a breezy read with a good amount of information on the organization and armament of the French Imperial and Republican Armies of the Franco-Prussian War, including interesting short biographies of the Republican commanders. It still remains the most accessible text for a new-comer to this war, though the shallow coverage of the actual war and tactics will lead one to quickly seek more information.  Jeffrey Burn’s great illustrations nicely complement the text, though I have read that they might have to be taken with a grain of salt for some topics.

Nick Svendsen’s The First Schleswig-Holstein War is another archetypical Helion title. It covers a conflict that is not well covered in contemporary English langauge press and will remain for years the main operational history of the war available. Svendsen focuses on the action providing detailed information for actions both big and small of this war. The book is organized chronologically and despite the attention to detail it does not bog down as a Quintin Barry title. A rich appendix provides the reader with interesting statistical tables, detailed orders of battle, a section of color uniform plates for the two armies, and information on armament and the expenses of the war. As I said this will be the main accessible title in English for readers interested in this interesting conflict for many decades to come.  A great point is the better quality maps used in this book in comparison with the usual Helion situation I have encountered.  That said you would like to pair it with a good diplomatic history for a fuller picture of the war.

Another Osprey Men at Arms series book, Armies of the War of the Triple Alliance 1864-1870 is a good cheap primer on this bloodiest of South American Wars. It is the cheap alternative to Leuchars magisterial study of the war, and Hooker’s magisterial illustrated study of the uniforms of the war. A good brief intro is given on the causes of the war, followed by a nice overview of the land and naval operations, and then a look at each of the participant armies. Giuseppe Rava’s nice color illustrations bring to life the line drawings of the Hooker book. The book is graced also with some nice maps. Again it is not as good a source of the war as the combination of the Leuchars and Hooker books, but it is an all in one affordable package deal.

The Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871 Volume 2 is Quintin Barry’s second volume in his magisterial operational history of the Franco-Prussian War. This one focuses on the Republican period of the war. Like the first titled what you get is a very detailed operational history of the war. With full orders of battles, and meticulous reconstructing of Von Moltke’s  strategic thinking. It has a bit more politics in it, which is a plus, as Barry’s detailed approach in operational history can bog down after a while. Like in the first volume, a series of maps are provided but I was not happy with them. The illustrations though were more than welcome. Make no mistake this two volume series is the books to read for a full operational history of the war down to the last gaiter button.

Three Weeks in November is a nice brief breezy book on a conflict that could had been deadlier, but thanks to competent military and political leadership did not, and thus is obscure.  It is rare to see a book looking at the military operations of a conflict that actually came close to been an example of Sun Tzu’s dictum of victory without battle. Ralph Weaver does a great job giving a nice brief and concise account of the military aspects of the conservative revolt in Switzerland in 1847, and of how the federal authorities were able to put it down with a minimum of bloodshed. Right now this is the only affordable and accessible narrative of this unknown case of successful conflict resolution in the English language. The book is graced with a series of maps, period illustrations, and an excellent color uniform plate section, as well as the detailed Orders of Battle once excepts from good Helion titles. My only gripes is that considering the size of the book it might had been worthwhile to explore the political framework of this conflict more as it seems crucial in understanding why the Sonderbund failed to put up more of fight, and the lack of good maps. That said this is a good affordable, brief book on an unknown topic, well worth your money and time.


Thomas said...

Good concise reviews. Some comments.

Stephen Shann: French Army 1870-71. There is a list of errata fro the uniform plates that I think appears in volume 2. I was lucky enough to but second hand copies where a previous owner had annotated the individual plates with the errata so that it was plain what was perhaps not as "correct as it could be"

Thanks for the heads up on Svendsen's First Schleswig war book, that is one I shall have to add to the list of acquisitions.

As you say Esposito's book is a good primer on the uniforms and at least does have colour plates unlike the Hooker opus magnus. I fear that anyone who is unable to read Spanish or Portuguese will have to rely on Leuchars for details of the conflict. Hooker's book provides a skeleton but for meat we have to tun to Leuchars.

Barry's two vlume history of the Franco-Prussian war is magisterial but not for the faint hearted. I treasure Barry's attention to detail and depth of research but alas his style does not make for easy reading. Nonetheless for the information contained within the pages it is definitely worth the effort.

Ralph Weaver's book on the Three Weeks War is essentially one for those who delight in uniforms which is I suspect its main audience. In that it hits its mark, I suspect that many who would buy this book are not primarily concerned with the political dimension but will appreciate (and be content with) the author's outline of the organisation of the contending forces, their appearance and the brief conflict that ensued.

Konstantinos Travlos said...

Thanks for the great and useful added comments!