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Napoleon’s Mercenaries (Hardback)

Foreign Units in the French Army Under the Consulate and Empire, 1799 to 1814

Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: Napoleonic Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: Napoleonic Library

By Guy Dempsey
Frontline Books
Series: The Napoleonic Library
Pages: 352
Illustrations: Illustrated with a central plate section
ISBN: 9781848328310
Published: 22nd February 2016



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This superb and comprehensive book details the foreign units which formed such an important part of Napoleon's forces. It examines each non-French unit in turn, giving an overview of the unit's origins, its organizational and combat history, its uniforms and standards, and details of the unit's eventual fate. Colourful accounts, taken from contemporary reports and memoirs, emphasize the qualities of the unit and throw light on what life was like for many of the foreign soldiers recruited into the Grande Armée. In total more than 100 different foreign units that served in the French Army are investigated in detail in this ambitious publication.

Some foreign units fought and flourished throughout the Consulate and Empire, whilst others lasted for just a few months. Covers Polish, German, Swiss, Italian, Spanish, and other units in the French Army and presents a combat history and details uniforms for each regiment.

Napoleon's Mercenaries is the best single-volume study of this aspect of Napoleon’s army and a vital reference for every Napoleonic enthusiast.

“Little can be found on the foreign units that were an integral part of the French army ... For a long time a gap has existed, but now Napoleon’s Mercenaries fills this gap.” Robert Burnham, Napoleonic Series.

First published in 2002 and now again in 2016, this title looks at the foreign units that formed an important part of Napoleon’s armies. Following his overview of Napoleon’s mercenaries, the author examines each non-French unit in turn, providing an overview of its origins, organisation, combat history, uniforms, standards and its eventual fate.

Napoleon’s foreign troops varied in quality, from the excellent Vistula Legion and Swiss regiments to the more dubious battalions of foreign deserters and Spanish prisoners of war. Some units fought and flourished throughout the Consulate and Empire, while others lasted just a short time.

Colourful accounts, taken from contemporary reports and memoirs emphasise the qualities of each of almost 100 of these units and throw light on what life was like for many of Napoleon’s foreign troops. Some 40 monochrome illustrations support the text, along with three Appendices (Organisation of Piedmontese Troops 1798-1801, Organisation of Lithuanian Forces 1812 and Foreign Troops in 1815), as well as a bibliography and index.

This really is a splendid book that provides a wealth of information on a fascinating topic, and comes highly recommended by this reviewer.

Stuart Asquith, Author

Guy Dempsey has collected an enormous amount of information on the mercenary units of the French army during the Napoleonic wars, and has presented it in an interesting manner. The book is well written and organised in such a way as to make the information easily accessible, and boasts a lengthy bibliography and good index...

... Dempsey's excellent study of Napoleon's mercenaries is a must for the serious Napoleonic scholar and will be of great interest to anyone interested in military history.

The Journal of Military History - John G. Gallaher

In all this book seems very comprehensive and thoroughly researched from a wide variety of primary and secondary sources. It also incorporates many interesting anecdotes related to the formations in question. It is not at all dry to read! . . . . In summary, if you have any interest in these colorful and unique units, whether singularly or collectively, this book would be a most welcome addition to your Napoleonic Library. Fascinating, and highly recommended.

Blunders on the Danube

Outstanding reference work, deserves a place in every Napoleonic enthusiast's library.

The Miniatures Page
 Guy Dempsey

About Guy Dempsey

GUY DEMPSEY has had a life-long interest in Napoleonic military history, with an emphasis on working with primary sources. He is the author of a number of authoritative works including Albuera 1811: The Bloodiest Battle of the Peninsular War.

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