Napoleon’s Waterloo Army, Uniforms and Equipment — Review

My goodness, where to start with this book. Firstly, it is a heavy tome, weighing in at 1.86 kgs so after sitting with it in the lap and reading through it, it does get a little uncomfortable. This is definitely a book for reading at the desk, which has the added advantage of making it easier to take notes as you do read through it, you will mostly likely refer to the information jam-packed in the book if researching or looking for some specific information on a French regiment present at Waterloo.

Napoleon’s Waterloo Army — Uniforms and Equipment by Paul L Dawson is published by Frontline Books. It was published on 2 October 2019, contains 696 pages of information and 250 illustrations on the Napoleon’s Waterloo Army (ISBN: 9781526705280).

Paul Dawson is an historian and author who has specialised in the Napoleonic Wars, writing about the French Army, mostly around the time of Waterloo. His other volumes with Frontline include:

  • Battle for Paris 1815
  • Marshal Ney At Quatre Bras
  • Napoleon and Grouchy
  • Waterloo: The Truth At Last
  • Napoleon’s Imperial Guard Uniforms and Equipment
  • Napoleon’s Imperial Guard Uniforms and Equipment

The volume on “Napoleon’s Waterloo Army” to some extent extends the volume “Waterloo: The Truth At Last” and covers the troops that fought at Ligny, Quatre-Bras and Waterloo. The author has based his research and writing on thousands of pages of French archival documents and translations. The written information is backed by many photographs of original artefacts. The photographs have been supplemented with many colour illustrations and paintings by Keith Rocco, well known to many military historians, wargamers and modellers. This book is the most complete study of Napoleon’s field army of 1815 that I have seen.

There are 23 Chapters and an Appendix, as well as Bibliography and Endnotes, Introduction, Acknowledgement and Foreward in this book. In addition, from page 427 to 447 there are 21 pages of Keith Rocco Paintings covering various troop types within the French army. I keep turning back to those pages and looking again and again at those paintings.  The rest of the book is structured into the following chapters:

  1. Clothing the Army
  2. Remounting the Cavalry
  3. The Armée du Nord
  4. Logistics
  5. Headquarters Staff
  6. 1st Corps
  7. 2nd Corps
  8. 6th Corps
  9. 1st Cavalry Division
  10. 2nd Cavalry Division
  11. 3rd Cavalry Division
  12. 5th Cavalry Division
  13. 3rd Cavalry Corps
  14. 4th Cavalry Corps
  15. Support Troops
  16. Imperial Guard Heavy Cavalry Brigade
  17. Guard Light Cavalry Brigade
  18. Young Guard Cavalry
  19. Guard Infantry
  20. The Young Guard
  21. The Artillery and Support Troops
  22. Clothing and Equipment of Napoleon’s Last Army
  23. What Happened to the Men?

The Appendix deals with the 1815 Dress Regulations.

To write this book, Dawson has delved into the:

  • National Archives, Kew, London
  • Archives Nationales, Paris
  • Service Historique Armée du Terre, Paris
  • Personal record boxes of a number of personalities of the time
  • Officer’s records
  • Correspondence Hundred Days
  • Prisoners of War
  • Imperial Guard regimental boxes
  • Line infantry regimental record boxes
  • Light infantry regimental record boxes
  • Line cavalry regimental boxes
  • Artillery record boxes
  • Imperial Guard regimental muster lists
  • Line and light infantry regimental muster lists
  • Line cavalry regimental muster lists
  • Line artillery regimental muster lists

along with more recent works and digital sources.

The volume of research that is in this book is staggering and the information provided on the clothing and equipment of the armies appears quite complete with reasonable assumptions and reasoning behind the assumptions where necessary.

Taking the first chapter, “Clothing the Army” as an example, Dawson discusses the cost of clothing the existing army, as well as the additional costs for the new regiments. He looks at the material used for various items on uniform, the colour of those materials, arguing colour differences. For example, he examples a sample of Aurore cloth from 1823 noting that “Aurore has been shown by many artists to be a shade of yellow, when in fact it is a vivid shade of dark orange”. A colour photo of the cloth is shown as well. He looks at all the cloth used for various items of clothing, and at the end of the chapter, I knew more about the cloth used in the Armée du Nord than I ever thought I would learn in my lifetime.

If you are at all interested in the Armée du Nord uniforms and equipment, then this book is an indispensable addition and an absolute must to be added to your bookshelf. Very highly recommended.