- Napoleon’s Finest: Davout and His 3rd Corps. Combat Journal of Operations, 1805–1807
The III Corps, commanded by Marshal Louis Nicolas Davout has often been termed the X Legion of Napoleon's Grande Armée. Davout's command was, next to the Imperial Guard, the best organized in the army. It had a particular reputation for hard fighting and was involved in the bitterest of engagements, especially during the "Glory Years" 1805–7. This period witnessed the greatest Napoleonic victories, at Ulm, Austerlitz, Jena-Auerstädt, Friedland, and the very bloody indecisive battle of Eylau. Davout and his III Corps took a major part in all of these campaigns and were critical at the battles of Austerlitz, Auerstädt, and Eylau. Although the composition of the corps varied, its heart consisted of the three infantry divisions commanded by the "Immortals," Generals Friant, Gudin, and Morand. [End Page 526]
The primary documents of the operations of Davout's corps were compiled by a descendant in 1896. As such, it is a great source on the command, operations, and tactics of an army corps during the Napoleonic wars. Scott Bowden, Matthew Delamater, and the other editors have produced an edited English translation of this work.
Although expensive, this is a magnificent book, bound in red leather with gold lettering on the cover and gold leaf pages. Within the covers are highly detailed color maps depicting the routes of the armies, battles, and the battlefield deployments of the Corps down to battalion level in its combats during the campaigns of 1805–7. There are detailed orders of battle and unit strengths of each battalion in the Corps at the various stages of operations are given. Additionally there are many plates depicting the uniforms of the troops and combat of the period. The outstanding graphics, tables, maps, and diagrams are critical in following the very detailed text.
Each chapter concentrates on one of the major campaigns. There is a short editor's introduction giving an overview of the campaign, followed by translations of the actual combat reports written by Marshal Davout, the various division commanders, and in some cases the brigade and regimental commanders. Interspersed in the text, along with the graphics, are thumbnail biographies of the various officers writing the reports.
The information and manner of presentation make this work a definite must for both the professional historian and the layman specialist. The primary documents are an aid in research, while the combination of the graphics and text provides an insight into the tactics of the period, and the way a Napoleonic corps fought. This also makes the volume an excellent companion for any detailed study of the campaigns of 1805–7 and for those who are interested in the military career of Davout, Napoleon's Iron Marshal.
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