Book Review:
A Desperate Business

By Ian Fletcher

One thing you can know for sure is that when you sit down to look at one of Ian Fletcher's books you'll not only learn a lot, but you'll have a damn good read at the same time.

His latest effort, A Desperate Business, is a marvelously informative192-page effort that gives you an in-depth overall view of the 100 Days' Campaign and mixes it up with excellent eyewitness accounts that add real color.

There are some very good photographs of the battlefields and surrounding locations, as well as portraits, military art works and some exquisite maps.

While covering all the major incidents of the campaign in detail, Fletcher also brings in new aspects and information that haven't been widely known before.

He may have fired the first returning salvo at European authors who have slammed Wellington and the British view of the Waterloo Campaign, and stated the redcoats' commander deliberately used the Prussians as bait to keep Napoleon Bonaparte off his own troops.

A Desperate Business puts forward the communications between the two armies and includes the inaccurate dispositions given to Wellington by his key aide William de Lancey and upon which he based his messages to Field Marshal Blucher.

The information looks to put paid to the allegations against the British commander.

A Desperate Business also gives a great account of how the Infamous Army came together and was without many of the veteran regiments that had served so well in the Peninsula.

Almost an eighth of the book is taken up with the crucial battle at Quatre Bras and it is the best account of this classic encounter-style battle that I have read.

It also points out that Wellington, in a desperate situation and awaiting much-needed reinforcements, had been relying on De Lancey's disposition reports to plan tactics at Quatre Bras but the redcoat columns he was expecting to arrive were far from where they should have been. This seems to back up the assertion that Wellington had not deliberately deceived the Prussians - as he himself was placed in extreme danger by the poor quality information.

Some of the extracts used from a member of the 33rd Foot, Frederick Pattison, are wonderful accounts and really throw you into the middle of the action.

The retreat from Quatre Bras to Waterloo has the delightful tale of Captain Cavalie Mercer's trials in getting his guns away from the pursuing French - the "Fox Hunt" as he put it.

Fletcher has devoted almost 90 pages of his book to the actual battle of Waterloo and fills it with astonishingly good material from eyewitnesses, his own studies and some fantastic images.

Not only are there scores of black-and-white photos and paintings, but also 24 pages of colour images that show the British army's uniforms, key incidents in the struggle, as well as some very fine landscapes of the area.

Fletcher has rounded out his examination with details of the little looked at the aftermath of Waterloo - the advance on Paris.

Of great note is the fact that Wellington had to rein in the vengeful Prussians, who were eager to put Paris to a sacking, by persuading Blucher such an event would be very costly for all sides. He even had to stop the marshal trying to blow up the Pont de Jena, which offended the Prussians by commemorating one of their humiliating defeats at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte.

On a lighter side there is a description of how the victorious Austrian, Prussian and Russian armies marched through the streets of Paris with new uniforms and looking as if they were on a parade ground, whereas Britain's unbeaten redcoats appeared in the uniforms they had been in for the entire campaign.

A Desperate Business is a must-have if you want to get some truly excellent detail on Wellington's Waterloo campaign and his courageous army. It should be in every enthusiast's home library.

- Richard Moore





Napoleon Bonaparte
Career Portraits
Quotes Family
Loves Letters
Plots Murdered?
His will Places
Era of Napoleon
Powers Opponents
Coalitions Allies
People Timelines
Key sites Shrapnel
Campaigns Battles
Armies Generals
Marshals Winners
Glossary Medical
Weapons 1812 War
Uniforms Battlefields
War at Sea
Naval War Heroes
Artworks Signals
Nelson Trafalgar
Key Maps Peninsula
Animated 1796/1800
1809 Russia
French Revolution
Revolution Guillotine
Posters People
Art, Film, Games
Education Goya
Sharpe Hornblower
Books Movies
DVDs Music
Wargames Images
Cartoons Caricatures
About Us Sources
Awards Sitemap
Links Militaria
Miniatures Reenactors
Forum Quizzes
Home Waterloo Diorama
Copyright Richard Moore 1999-2017 | Privacy Policy | Contact Us