Book Review:
Napoleon's 9th Light Infantry Regiment

By Terry Crowdy

It isn't often you get to live the life of a soldier in a French Napoleonic regiment but in Incomparable you can do just that.

Terry Crowdy's impressive Incomparable: Napoleon's 9th Light Regiment is a fabulous doorway to the goings on in the barracks of one of the French emperor's most highly regarded units.

You meet the soldiers and the officers and follow them through their careers and service in Napoleon's army.

It took Crowdy 10 years to research this highly readable book and he knows the characters so well they spring to life within his words.

And he could have hardly picked a better regiment to focus on.

The 9th Light Infantry regiment was an elite fighting unit throughout the long Napoleonic Wars but it didn't always have things its own way.

Early on it lost officers fleeing the revolution and heading to Austria, it seemed to always be struggling for uniforms and then there was the disaster at Bailen and another involving a lost eagle.

But the 9th was nothing if not a fighting machine and it earned its nickname Incomparable while saving the day at Marengo.

It went on to prove itself time and time again on the Danube in 1809, in Prussia, Russia and in Spain.

A particularly fascinating part of the book was Crowdy's detailing of the French invasion force as it sat at Boulogne waiting to cross the English Channel and invade Britain.

I hadn't read before of what the troops did there in both training and leisure and Incomparable opened it up for me. And check out Marshal Michel Ney's embarkation practices.

Above all Incomparable is a terrific tale of the men who took French military power to the heights of conquering most of Europe.

There are good ones, bad ones and Crowdy doesn't gloss over the brutalities of the war in Spain. He describes the events following the capture of three young Spaniards and the order to execute them. This sparked disgust among many of the officers and troops of the 9th but was carried out by others.

The 9th was also part of the defence of Badajoz and it was their muskets that wreaked such destruction upon the attacking British. About 100 of the 3rd battalion's chasseurs are estimated to have caused 600 British casualties in the assault.

I found I become so involved in the men of the 9th that I had to really force myself to put it down.

It is a mighty read and I didn't want to finish it.

Excellent work Terry, can't wait for your next book.

- Richard Moore





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