Tuesday 31 March 2020

JMH rates our Clausewitz 1796 book 'outstanding'

JMH, the Journal of Military History, is really the premier place to get a positive book review, and Professor Frederick Schneid has kindly provided one. Professor Schneid is a great authority on the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era, having published a number of books of his own on this topic.

We were therefore very happy to see his review of our translation of Clausewitz's history of Napoleon's 1796 Italian Campaign in JMH 84/2 (April 2020). He calls it:

'An outstanding example of smooth translating and erudite editing and annotation. Virtually every page contains textual footnotes to help an unfamiliar reader better understand the detail that Clausewitz's contemporary audience would have understood. [...] Murray & Pringle further provide the reader with current interpretation and detail that makes this particular Clausewitzian history more valuable than the original unexpurgated work.'

Our thanks to Professor Schneid for his kind review.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Clausewitz 1796: "three books in one"

The Michigan War Studies Review has published an enthusiastic review of 'Napoleon's 1796 Italian Campaign', our edited and translated edition of Clausewitz's history of the campaign. Choice quotes:

'a valuable contribution to the growing body of work involving the erudite Prussian'

'effectively three books in one [viz., the original German manuscript; analysis from the French general staff edition; and Professor Murray's examination of] subjects and passages that anticipate ideas contained in On War.'

'a fine appendix of orders of battles'

'I applaud Nicholas Murray and Christopher Pringle for their salutary, thought-provoking addition to the literature by and about Clausewitz, who remains the model of how to write operational military history'

My thanks to Professor John T. Kuehn for his generous review.
The review is here.
The book itself is here.

We're doing our best to make further salutary and thought-provoking additions to the Clausewitz literature; our manuscripts for two more Clausewitz volumes on the history of the 1799 campaigns in Italy and Switzerland are in press with the University Press of Kansas now.

Friday 6 March 2020

This week's epic: Aspern-Essling

At OWS we have been steadily working our way through Napoleon's biggest and bloodiest battles, using scenarios designed by our OWS comrade Mark. I haven't been able to play all of Mark's games but have enjoyed a few: Borodino, Wagram, Friedland.

This week's epic was Aspern-Essling (1809). Napoleon had established a bridgehead across the Danube north of Vienna, with the villages of Aspern and Essling as its bastions; the Austrian army converged on it; two days of bloody fighting ensued. Both sides lost over 20,000 men; the French avoided being driven into the Danube, but failed to break the Austrians, so they withdrew. Napoleon had to wait until Wagram six weeks later to finally win the campaign.

Dawn on Day 2: a mass of French reinforcements has arrived overnight (left of picture),
but Aspern (by the wood, mid-pic) has fallen to the Austrians' dawn attack.
The two little discs by the wood are overturned General figures, where Napoleon and one of his marshals are having to hastily decamp as they are surrounded by routers and Austrians.

Our game turned out a bit worse for the French. It didn't look that way initially. The Austrian army was mostly rated Passive and had hardly any Generals represented on table. Consequently many of its units were slow to move off the start line (indeed a couple failed to get into action all game - clearly they were held back prudently in reserve). This was compounded by impressive lack of coordination among us Austrian players, as John promptly deployed his line to mask my batteries. Banter abounded: my exasperated line to an Austrian comrade was 'you're not fighting the Seven Years War now'. Best one on the French side was when Crispin asked Mark J (aka Napoleon) something to the effect of what was he going to do with his troops, to which Mark replied, 'I think you'll find that technically they're all my troops'.

Nonetheless, we got our act together sufficiently to take Aspern at dawn on Day 2. French reinforcements were making their way across fitfully, thanks to the Austrians sabotaging their pontoon bridges by floating down burning ship-mills. Desperate French efforts to counter-attack foundered as precious heavy cavalry masked their own guns and were sacrificed in vain. The battle ended in a clear Austrian victory.

It did seem a bit tough for the French, with a lot depending on their luck or otherwise with the reinforcements' arrival dice. On the other hand, there were perhaps a few things they could have done differently. Regardless of the outcome, it's an interesting battle and was a distinctively different game, and one which we are all keen to try again.

Full blow-by-blow AAR with lots more photos on Colin's blog here.

(We are not the first to try Aspern-Essling with BBB. A group in Virginia fought Day 1 a few months ago. See Manteuffel's AAR here.)

(Edit: and another group a few months before that as well. See the Pushing Tin blog here.)

Finally, as a side-note, here's an obscure historical nugget. My main focus lately has been the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848-1849 (my book on the Winter Campaign is in press right now). The Austrian commander during the Winter Campaign, Feldmarschall Windisch-Graetz, fought at Aspern-Essling as a junior cavalry officer. I bet you didn't know that.