Having had an interest in Military History for as long as I can remember, and the Napoleonic Wars in particular, I am always looking out for further books on the subject.
This one, BORODINO AND THE WAR OF 1812, has a slightly misleading title as it refers solely to Napoleons invasion of Russia and does not discuss British involvement in America during the same year!
CHRISTOPHER DUFFY has written an extensive and fact filled account of the campaign. He begins the book with a brief history of Napoleons rise to power in Revolutionary France and evaluates military tactics and weaponry of the Era. Then he discusses the opposing French and Russian forces and their respective commanders. This takes up the first 50 pages of the 208 page book.
We then come to the invasion proper when in June 1812 Napoleon assembles his largest army to date, around 450,000 French and Allied troops, and marches headlong into Russia in the hope of soon locating and destroying Tsar Alexanders army. He is disappointed and finds only a desolate country swept completely bare by the constantly retreating Russian forces . With the Russian High Command jealous and at odds with each other, the elderly but vastly experienced General Kutuzov is finally given overall command of the army and continues the policy of retreat. Finally, almost at the very gates of Moscow, Kutuzov decides to make his stand on prepared ground at Borodino.
Here DUFFY gives a good description of this large and complex Napoleonic battle. Aided by several maps of troop movements, he describes the heavy fighting around the now famous landmarks of the Bagration Fleches and Raevsky Redoubt, which changed hands several times throughout the day, and tries to explain the lacklustre performances of both Napoleon and Kutuzov during the bitter contest. While Napoleon was mentally and physically exhausted due to the harsh campaign, Kutuzov placed his command post too far to the rear for him to give effective orders.
While the narrative is realistic, some readers may feel confusion when the action at different parts of the field moves forwards and backwards in time in relation to events previously described, while there are several references to the 1863 American Civil War battle of Gettysburg which leads me to presume that DUFFY is an American himself!
The final portion of the book deals with various historical essays written about Borodino as well as how the battle has been presented in fiction and on film, the most famous obviously being WAR AND PEACE written by LEO TOLSTOY. Bringing up the rear is an interesting Appendix giving Orders Of Battle for the French and Russian forces involved.
CHRISTOPHER DUFFY has clearly researched his subject well and includes 16 pages of pictures (the majority being portraits and battle paintings) too, ensuring the book is a worthwhile read!