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The Forgotten War Against Napoleon

Gareth Glover
In Print
Pen & Sword Military (2017)

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This entry created 2 April 2018. Last revised on 2 April 2018.

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The Forgotten War Against Napoleon

Conflict in the Mediterranean 1793-1815

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288 pages. 16 color plates, 33 maps. Preface, acknowledgements, index and bibliography.

The author's contention is that the Mediterranean theater of war has been "forgotten" by historians, and in this book he sets out to provide an overview of military events at sea and along the coasts.

In 56 brief chapters, the author skips back and forth between locations of military activity, often pointing out how naval and land activities were interrelated. This ranges from the British attempt to seize Toulon, to trying to block the French fleet in Toulon harbor, the Dardanelles, to Malta and Sicily, the war in Spain (particularly along the east coast), southern Italy, and the Adriatic. He ventures inland to cover the fighting in Egypt and the Russo-Turkish War. An abundance of maps help to introduce the reader to the geography.

Wargamers will find that the book does what the back cover claims: It's a useful introduction to this theater of the Napoleonic Wars, allowing readers to select specific areas of interest for future research.

I found the maps to be a mixed blessing: many appear to be 'old' maps, though no credits are provided. Unfortunately, a better job should have been done to ensure that place names mentioned in the text were included on the maps (this is particularly true for the Russo-Turkish War, where most of the battles are not listed on the map!).

The section of color plates provides reproductions of paintings of sea and naval battles and events (and one tower diagram).

Coverage of British activities is complete, but of other allies against France is spotty. For example, a British attempt to rescue the Pope is detailed, while a later Spanish attempt is summarized in one sentence; British activities in the Adriatic get several chapters, while prior Russian activities in the Adriatic are left undetailed.

One problem is that the author, while explaining the actions of the British admirals and generals on the scene, fails to fill in what is going on at higher levels – as if the British war was directed by a government without personalities or politics. For the French, the author writes as if there was no government except for Napoleon, whom he criticizes personally. This gives the book a feeling of anti-French bias.

Despite my occasional annoyance at the author, this is a useful reference book for Napoleonic gamers. It's not a quick or a 'fun' book to read, but it covers historical events not easily found in other works. I'm particularly inspired by the possibilities of a naval campaign in the Adriatic…

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.