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Swords Around A Throne Paperback – March 22, 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

This authoritative and enthralling book describes and analyzes Napoleon's most powerful weapon-the Grande Armee, which at its peak numbered over a million soldiers, and without which his military genius would have accomplished little. Elting examines every facet of this incredibly complex human machine: its organization, command system, logistics, weapons, tactics, discipline, recreation, mobile hospitals, camp followers, and more

About the Author

Colonel John R. Elting has edited and written numerous books on military history, including Amateurs, to Arms!: A Military History of the War of 1812 and A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (March 22, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306807572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306807572
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #786,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Swords Around A Throne is undoubtedly the best book yet published on the organizational history of the Grande Armee. Written by a recognized authority on the subject, who taught at West Point for 11 years of a 40 year Army career, it gives the reader, in concise, authoritative, and witty prose, the story of Napoleon's Grande Armee from its inception to its destruction and after. Col Elting covers the Grande Armee from muzzle to buttplate.

Every possible subject is covered, from its commanders, all the combat arms and supporting services, strategy, tactics, and logistics, to such seldom covered topics as marches, bivouacs, awards, horses, discipline, law and order, military intelligence, and the Imperial General Staff. Based on thirty years of research, most of it from primary sources, some not used before in English, it puts the end to many myths and misconceptions (such as the Waterloo myths about the Imperial Guard), and enlightens the reader as to what made up that terrible instrument of war, the Grande Armee. A companion volume to the author's A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars, it also stands alone as a work of immense depth, accuracy, and profound insight.

Background material is also provided in the early chapters on the Royal Army of the Ancien Regime and the armies of the French Revolution. Additionally, allies, foreign troops in French service, and the Grande Armee's enemies are also given separate chapters. The book is also highly anecdotal, being peppered with stories of personages great and not so great. Keen insight into the character of the soldiers talked about is thorough and uncanny. Generals, captains, and the man in the ranks are all quoted and talked about throughout this engrossing study.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Swords Around a Throne covers the organization and operations of one of the world's greatest armies. It is very detailed and fills a gap that many other Napoleonic era books leave open. The many elements of Napoleon's Grande Armee are thoroughly examined, including the cavalry, artillery, line infantry, light infantry, naval soldiers, engineers and the commanders. If you are looking for an in-depth account of the elements of the Grande Armee, this book is for you.
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Swords Around a Throne is not your typical Napoleon book. Elting concentrates on topics which MAY rate a sentence or paragraph in other biographies. Elting concentrates on the different divisions of the Grand Armée including uniforms, in-depth looks at his marshals and the navy instead of regurgitating the different battles he fought. Swords Around a Throne is a good change of pace to the other biographies of Napoleon as it provides a different aspect to the Napoleonic Wars and his empire. Well worth the time to read.
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By A Customer on August 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
Thoroughly enjoyable, funniest army history ever written. Mr Elting shows a remarkable command of the subject, which is crisply presented and brought to life in chapters covering every aspect of army life - from general to private, from uniforms and organization to medals and pay - including information on the Grand Armee's allies and enemies. Napoleon once remarked that, in order to understand soldiers, you first had to love them. Mr Elting, an old soldier himself, totally proves this assertion. If you are a Napoleonic buff, this is your book. If you are not a Napoleonic fan, read it anyway, because it is one of the best histories about common people I know of.
(NOTE: if you read "Swords around the throne" while leafing through the four-volume "Napoleonic uniforms" by the same author, the experience will be truly unforgettable.)
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This a a difficult book to review, because it is so very complete and thorough, and the author's style is very engaging and entertaining. The problem is that there is SO much information, the reader can't help to get bogged down on boring sections, and at times, choke on Elting's purple prose.
I highly recommend this for those who already have firm background on the period, particularly the battles and campaigns. If you are keenly interested in what the grand armee ate for breakfast the morning of Austerlitz, you won't be disappointed. It is also an excellent topical reference.
The downturn for me was about page 300. Elting only occassionally translates French phrases (very disconcerting for a Germanophile) and it was hard for me to get excited about the uniform piping of every single transportation, supply, service, and administrative battalion. But read on! It does get better.
If you want to know about Napoleonic warfare in general, I would steer you to Rothenberg and Chandler. If you want to eat, sleep, march, breathe, and fight with one of the greatest armies in western history, it is worth the time.
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Format: Paperback
I must confess that prior to reading this book I did not know much about Napoleon, his armies or his campaigns. However since reading this book I've purchased many books on the subject and have become totally enthralled by the Napoleonic Wars. This is all due to the superb book written by Elting. His manner of writing is captivating...I could not put it down. His description of all the various facets of the Grand Army, its way of life, the different personalities, its uniforms, weapons and just about everything else one can think of is desribed in minute detail. Elting writes with much wit and apt sarcasm, which had me in stitches quite a few times. This book is a definite must for students of the era and even for people wanting an introduction to Napoleon's army. The book also left me in awe of the man himself...Napoleon. I am about to start reading it for a second time!
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