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About the Author

Includes the name: Brent Nosworthy

Works by Brent Nosworthy

Associated Works

MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History — Summer 1999 (1999) — Author "Tactical Exercises: Cavalry versus Infantry" — 11 copies
MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History — Spring 2006 (2006) — Author "Arms and Men: Breechloaders Level the Playing Field" — 7 copies


Common Knowledge



Nosworthy begins and ends this study of the tactics of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars with arguments that tactical minutiae are important to understand military history. In a particular battle, the two sides ' tactical abilities may cancel out because they use the same tactical systems with the same level skill, but this no more means that tactics were inconsequential than that strength would irrelevant to wrestling because a match between two equally strong wrestlers is perforce decided by something else. In between he considers the evolution of Napoleonic tactics - stressing continuities back to the Seven Years' War and beyond - and the constraints put on tactics by the technology of the day.

A major point he makes is that grand tactics - the movement of bodies of troops across the across the battlefield - cannot be analyzed separately from the low-level tactics of how troops formed up in those bodies and how they used their weapons, because an army's abilities on the latter level determined what it can do on the former. Napoleonic grand tactics could only supplant their Linear predecessors because of low-level improvements.

The book quite readable and broadly convincing, although I lack the background in Napoleonics to judge the plausibility of many of Nosworthy's detailed arguments, and sometimes I could have used explanations in more depth. At a few points - notably regarding the utility of cuirass and lance for the cavalry - he seems to disagree wtih himself from chapter to chapter, which suggests the book could have been more tightly edited, but I noted few if any typographical errors.
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1 vote
AndreasJ | 1 other review | Apr 9, 2018 |
The subtitle is plenty descriptive, though it should be added it deals only with western Europe, especially France and Prussia, while there's hardly anything on Spain. It's less forbiddingly academic than I'd been led to expect, but Nosworthy presumes significant prior knowledge of the period - just as an example, he once refers to "Luxembourg's time", taking for granted the reader knows when that was. He also expects the reader to have at least a basic familiarity with Napoleonic tactics, which he frequently uses as a point of comparison.

Organizationally, the book suffers a bit from significant repetition - one wonders if some of the chapters were originally written independently and only later combined into a larger whole. Otherwise it's written well enough, and while there's of necessity a lot of military jargon, it's explained as it's introduced.

The book deals with both tactical doctrine and practice, and the sometimes significant gap between them - official regulation often lagged battlefield practice by decades, and sometimes prescribed impractical or wholly theoretical methods.
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AndreasJ | Jun 5, 2013 |
In this book Nosworthy examines the battle tactics of the Napoleonic era in close detail,
Pursuing technical aspects with an academic rigour, Nosworthy studies the battlefield from an organisational and a technological viewpoint and through the historical development of tactics. Having cut his teeth in the period from the introduction of the bayonet to the Seven Years War in his 'Anatomy of VIctory' the author's comfort with source material, the concepts and even battlefield psycholgy come through.
Two insights particularly struck me:
1. That the mystery or alledged simplicity of the French revolutionary tactical system has been overstated or misunderstood by many historians due to the paucity or inaccessibilty of the sources.
2. While there were differences between the French and British tactical models, there are many common strands (ignoring the Sharpe fantasy of quick-fire riflemen!), and that Allied tactics responded to French success in an attempt to gain the upper hand on the battlefield.
The detailed study of British and French tactics in practice are particularly valuable.
Am I over-enthusiastic in giving it a 5-star rating?
Possibly, but I have found that Napoleonic military histories too often either ignore tactical terms of reference in examining battles, or quite simply do not have any grasp of the realities of the firing line.
By "zooming in" so far, this work does of course miss out on the bigger operational and strategic elements and does not really touch on individual generals or personalities at all, but there are plenty of books out there that do.
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Donogh | 1 other review | Jul 5, 2010 |
This volume is an effort to examine the impact that the wide-spread introduction of rifled weaponry in the 19th century had on tactical deployment, and thus on the face of battle in the War between the States. Does Nosworthy succeed? Well, only in a so-so fashion. While there is a great deal of useful content in this work, the reality is that it's such a shambling mass that (as a friend noted) one expects to find a chapter devoted to the introduction of the kitchen sink. The nadir of this is when Nosworthy throws in a few chapters on the introduction of the ironclad warship and shell-firing cannon, but without any great examination of how this related to assaulting coastal fortifications and amphibious warfare. Probably the best way to assimilate this work is to read the first and last sections (where Nosworthy does a fine job of examining the world context) and then dig into those chapters that seem most relevant to your interests, seeing as Nosworthy never generates much of a narrative drive.… (more)
Shrike58 | Jan 23, 2007 |

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