|THE ITALIAN CAMPAIGN OF 1859: |
The Campaign, Battles and Equipment
Stephen Summerfield (2016)
Having recently seen the announcement of this forthcoming book on Warfare in the Age of Steam blog, an order was quickly placed with Ken Trotman Books. The reply I received from Richard Brown was that the book was still undergoing final preparations before publication. A few weeks later the book arrived in the post mid-November with handsome cover art. As I read, I wished more care had been taken during the final pre-publication editorial and content review.
While the quality of the paperback book, itself, is high (glossy cardstock cover, quality paper), the contents are a discordant mish-mash of articles seemingly thrown together without focus. Add to that a lack of proofreading and I nearly gave up after reading the first page of Chapter One. Giving up after only one page? Hardly a fair trial, you say. Well, an example from the first page of Chapter One on page 9 reads,
"The troops were condemned to live of the country, the need got clothing and shoes became urgent."
Chapter One begins with an overview of the Austrian Army. Following the first page of Chapter One are two pages of Orders of Battle for the Austrians during the campaign. No introduction announcing the upcoming OB. Turn the page and there it is. Following that interruption, text returns to discussing the composition of the Austrian Army. Much of the outline in Chapter One focuses on Austrian equipment with a level of detail that left me scratching my head. In a brief overview of the 1859 campaign, is it necessary to highlight that,
"The limber...had the pintle placed 35cm behind the axletree...?"This detail seems at odds with the description of Austrian uniforms which simply states that,
"The uniform was introduced in 1852."Chapters Two and Three follow the outline of Chapter One by providing a similar overview of the French and Piedmont-Sardinian Armies. While Austrian artillery is given a section within the Austrian chapter, the French chapter focuses almost exclusively on artillery. The Sardinian overview spends three pages devoted to tables showing composition and strength by branch of service. Such detail was not present for either Austria or France.
The next three chapters (4-6) present Major Miller's 1861 works entitled, "The Italian Campaign of 1859: Parts 1 and 2: General Account." Chapter Four provides brief recaps of the battles of Montebello, Palestro, Magenta, and Solferino. Chapter Five provides a brief analysis and critique of the strategy and war operations and then performs the same for each of the individual battles. Chapter Six finishes off Miller's lectures with a look at why the Austrians failed in the campaign. I found these three chapters interesting.
The final five chapters reprint translations of W.J. Fiedler as compiled by Ralph Weaver of the Continental Wars Society. Many of the translations focus on Montebello. Since one of my current scenario development interests encompasses the Battle of Montebello, I read these short works with interest.
Scattered throughout the text are uniform plates, illustrations, and maps from a variety of sources. The same map of Solferino is given a one page treatment followed immediately by a two page spread of the same map. No need for both. Proofreading should have culled one of these duplicates. Given that the book is an aggregation of disparate topics on the 1859 campaign, it is easy to understand why the book lacks a common thesis. Perhaps the book's best use might be as a primer on the 1859 campaign. At GBP21 post-paid, it represents a fair value but did not meet my expectations. I had much higher hopes.