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Authors: Robert Harvey

The War of Wars

BOOK: The War of Wars
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THE
WAR
OF
WARS

 

 

 

OTHER BOOKS BY THE AUTHOR
Birth of a Democracy
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(ed)
Fire Down Below
The Return of the Strong
Clive
Liberators
Cochrane: The Life and Exploits of a Fighting Captain
A Few Bloody Noses
Global Disorder
Comrades
American Shogun
THE
WAR
OF
WARS
THE EPIC STRUGGLE BETWEEN
BRITAIN AND FRANCE 1789 – 1815
ROBERT HARVEY
CONSTABLE • LONDON
Constable & Robinson Ltd
55–56 Russell Square
London WC1B 4HP
www.constablerobinson.com
First published in hardback by Constable,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2006
Copyright © Robert Harvey, 2006
The cover painting,
Scotland for Ever
! 1881, Butler, Lady (Elizabeth Southerden Thompson) shows the charge of the Scots Greys at Waterloo, © Leeds Museums and Galleries (City Art Gallery) UK/The Bridgeman Art Library.
All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
The right of Robert Harvey to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library.
ISBN: 978-1-84529-635-3
eISBN: 978-1-84901-260-7
Printed and bound in the EU
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

 

 

 

For my beloved Jane and Oliver
CONTENTS

Acknowledgements

List of Illustrations

Maps

Introduction

PART ONE: FRANCE IN TUMULT 1789–93

1 The Collapse of the Ancien Regime

2 The Tennis Court Revolution

3 To Kill a King

4 The Republic Goes to War

5 The Latin Adventurer

6 The Terror

7 The Boy from Ajaccio

8 Angry Young Officer

9 The Corsican

10 Toulon

PART TWO: BRITAIN ASLEEP 1789–95

11 The Appeasers

12 The Boy-Statesman

13 Progress and Repression

14 The Russian Ogre

15 The Approach of War

16 The Phoney War

17 Dunkirk

18 The Grand Old Duke of York

19 The Spice Islands

PART THREE: CONQUEROR OF ITALY

20 The Outsider

21 Italian Whirlwind

22 King of North Italy

23 The Coming Man

PART FOUR: HEARTS OF OAK

24 ‘Tis To Glory We Steer’

25 The Floating World

26 The Glorious First of June

27 The Irish Flank

28 Cape St Vincent

29 Mutiny

30 The Battle of Camperdown

PART FIVE: THE INVASION OF EGYPT

31 The Lure of the Sphinx

32 Strange Young Man

33 The Action Hero

34 Battle of the Pyramids

35 Battle of the Nile

36 The Upper Nile

37 Into the Holy Land

38 The Siege of Acre

PART SIX: THE SHORT PEACE

39 Coup d’état

40 Marengo

41 Copenhagen

42 Peace in Our Time

43 The Consul’s Peace

44 The Emperor’s War

PART SEVEN: SAILOR SUPERSTAR

45 Britain Under Siege

46 To the West Indies

47 Trafalgar

48 Death of a Statesman

PART EIGHT: KING OF KINGS

49 The War Machine

50 Austerlitz

51 The Grenville Interlude

52 The Prussian Campaign

53 The Treaty of Tilsit

54 Economic War

55 The Sea Wolf

56 The Intelligence War

57 Peninsular Uprising

58 Moore’s Army

PART NINE: BRITAIN ALONE

59 Arthur Wellesley

60 Corunna

61 Aix Roads

62 The Austrians Strike Back

63 Duel of the Titans

64 Ruler of All He Surveyed

PART TEN: THE PENINSULAR WAR

65 Oporto

66 Talavera

67 The Lines of Torres Vedras

68 Coimbra

69 Into Spain

70 Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz

71 Salamanca

72 Nemesis in Madrid

73 The Kill: Vitoria

74 Into France

PART ELEVEN: THE INVASION OF RUSSIA

75 The Grande Armée

76 Vitebsk

77 Smolensk and Borodino

78 Moscow Burns

79 General Winter

80 Ney’s Escape

81 Napoleon’s Flight to Paris

82 The Fightback

PART TWELVE: FIGHT TO THE DEATH

83 On the Offensive

84 The Battle of the Nations

85 The Invasion of France

86 The Great Chase

87 Louis XVIII

88 Return of the Bogeyman

89 While the Duke Danced

90 Ligny and Quatre Bras

91 Waterloo: the British Buckle

92 The British Attack

93 Aftermath

94 Napoleon’s Legacy

Select Bibliography

Index

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars were the first of the modern great conflicts dressed in the trappings of the old. On land they bore all the romance of a dying era: gaudy and colourful uniforms, cavalry charges, lances, swords and muskets; and at sea the billowing sails and magnificent, creaking, flexible structures of wooden ships. Many of the commanders on both sides were still romantic, dashing, often eccentric, gallant and chivalrous.

But they were also the first wars of mass mobilization – the French levee en masse – of rapid transportation of huge armies from one front to another – witness Napoleon’s army marching in weeks from Boulogne to Ulm and Austerlitz; of colossal set piece battles involving hundreds of thousands of men and huge casualties, such as Borodino, Leipzig and Waterloo; and of the laying waste of vast territories with terrible suffering inflicted on the civilian populations of the time. Proportionately more people probably died in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars than in the First or Second World Wars; and they lasted more than four times as long as either. This greatest of all wars at the time was understandably dubbed the Great War – a century before the 1914–18 war.

One of the book’s central themes is that the war was a clash of national interests, not merely the whim of one man, Napoleon, much as he tried to claim the full credit. Moreover, like a Wagnerian opera, it is a story that builds up steadily to a pinnacle or climax. However dramatic the early and middle stages of the war, particularly the sea battles, they are dwarfed by the immensity of the Peninsular War,
Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, the Battle of the Nations, the fall of France and then Waterloo at the end. So far as I know no one since Sir Arthur Bryant (supremely successfully, but with an understandable patriotic slant given that he was writing during the Second World War) has attempted this.

This book seeks above all to portray the intensity of the struggle between Britain and France during this period – the first between a constitutional and a modern totalitarian power – while also covering the immense continental conflict, which determined the fate of Europe and indeed of much of the world for the next century. The book also tries to evaluate the extent to which the French Revolution’s and Napoleon’s ideals transformed Europe, in spite of his eventual defeat. I make no apology for the length of the work: there are innumerable short histories of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars: but very few which seek to do justice to the whole colossal experience – perhaps the greatest conflict of all time.

I owe huge debts to the many who have helped on this venture. The bibliography contains most of the sources and books I have drawn upon. I particularly want to highlight by far the best recent biography of Napoleon by Frank McClynn, which is comprehensive, well-written and always thought-provoking – although I disagree with many of its refreshingly trenchant judgments; John Ehrman’s beautifully written and exhaustive biography of William Pitt, which is surely the definitive work for decades, and is not so much a biography as a hugely comprehensive portrait of a whole age; Sir Arthur Bryant’s masterly history of the war; Christopher Herrold’s vivid and exciting study of Napoleon in Egypt; Charles Esdaile’s brilliant account of the Peninsular War, which uniquely and importantly shows a complete appreciation of the Spanish and Portuguese points of view; and General Segur’s eyewitness account and Adam Zamoyski’s superb book about the Napoleonic invasion of Russia. The many other books that are as deserving are listed in the bibliography.

In more personal terms, I am immensely grateful to my teachers Michael Phillips, Peter Lawrence, John Peake and David Evans for instilling a lasting appreciation of history; to Jonathan Wright and Alan Ryan at Oxford for showing me its relevance to modern political
decision-making; to Brian Beedham and Gordon Lee of the
Economist
for sharpening my writing skills; to my father and Raleigh Trevelyan for encouraging me to write; to Marchesa Serlupi Crescenzi for information on Napoleon’s Italian background; to Andrew Williams and his family, to Lawrence James and Grant MacIntyre for their encouragement; to my editors Nick Robinson, Leo Hollis, David Blomfield, Sarah Moore; to my brilliantly perceptive agent and friend Gillon Aitken; to my indefatigable and immensely painstaking and efficient assistant Jenny Thomas and to her historian husband Geoffrey for his helpful suggestions throughout; to my sister Antonella and her family; to my mother for her ideas and huge moral support; to many other good friends for distracting me; and above all as always to Jane and Oliver for supporting me and keeping me human during this immense enterprise.

ILLUSTRATIONS

Louis XVI, King of France, taken by the people from the Tuileries Palace on 20 June 1792. Engraving English School, nineteenth century. Private Collection/© Ken Welsh/The Bridgeman Art Library.

Chateau des Tuileries, 10 August 1792, colour engraving by Jourdan after G. Texier (1750–1824). Musée de la Ville de Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France. © Giraudon/The Bridgeman Art Library.

Napoleon, in 1785, at age 16. Sketch by unnamed comrade, in
Sloane, Life of Napoleon
, Volume 1, page 20. © Mary Evans Picture Library.

Portrait of Napoleon as a general on horseback in Italy, 1796/97. Copper engraving by Jean Joseph Francois Tassaert (1765–1835) after a drawing by Philippe Auguste Hennequin (1762-1833). © akg-images.

BOOK: The War of Wars
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