Book Review: The Battle of Znaim. by John Gill

by Russ Lockwood

The Battle of Znaim. by John Gill. Hardback. 486 pages. Subtitled: Napoleon, the Hapsburgs, and the End of the War of 1809.

The author of the brilliant Thunder on the Danube trilogy about the 1809 war between Austria and France brings the war to a conclusion with the post- Wagram Battle of Znaim. The first 100 pages traces the origins of the 1809 war and offers a quick overview of the campaign in Bavaria and Italy as well as a nice synopsis of the Battle of Wagram. It all sets up the Austrian retreat and French pursuit that resulted in the July 10-11 pinning action in and around the town of Znaim.

Gill brings you inside the command tents of Archduke Charles and Napoleon, explaining the multitude of options, hopes, and fears that descended on the commanders in chief and their senior commanders. Better yet, you also get the political influences, and especially the Austrian infighting, that accompany Archduke Charles and Napoleon as they weigh battle versus the fragmentation of their armies in retreat and pursuit.

Map of Battle of Znaim. Image from web.

The book is exceptionally well organized and crafted, with Gill’s sparkling prose explaining events with a smooth mixture of novel-like heat and cool analysis. The endnotes alone cover pages 335 to 383, followed by various appendices, including the Order of Battle.

The book contains a full Order of Battle for Znaim, and for you Wagram buffs, a new and improved OOB of that battle, too. Did I mention that the OOBs contain not only unit names and numbers, but the number of battalions, and barring some exceptions, the number of troops in each regiment? Well done, that!

And let’s talk maps! The book contains 22 black and white maps, far more than the usual half-dozen in most battle books. Better yet, they all have a scale on them — apparently no small achievement in publisher cartography. And bestest of the bestest, you can actually find towns mentioned in the text on the maps! It’s almost as if author and publisher heard the lament of wargamers and decided to go that extra step.

Great prose. Great research. Great maps. Great OOBs. Great book. Enjoyed it!

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