Kevin F. Kiley, Artillery of the Napoleonic Wars (Frontline, 2021)
There are many books on Napoleonic warfare that contain sections on the artillery, but they never seem to answer all the questions I have. I can now stop fretting because Kevin Kiley has written a dictionary for Napoleonic artillery that is more than just a reference book. As a bonus, he adds the closely-related branch of engineering into the mix.
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Kiley’s vignette of Napoleon’s famous ‘whiff of grapeshot’ action in the streets of Paris in 1795 opens out into the dictionary of terms, beginning with abattage des bois, and ending at Zeughaus well over 500 pages later. Along the way, Kiley presents biographies of notable artillerymen, technical details of guns, descriptions of artillery systems, tactics, crew procedures, uniforms (many of them portrayed in a series of colour plates), and a myriad of detail and anecdotes. That makes this a book well worth reading not just to keep on your desk to answer those awkward questions that arise when reading those other books.
Kiley concludes with an epilogue, placing artillery in its new context. He may overplay his hand here on the battlefield effects of the guns, but there is no doubting that Napoleonic warfare ushered in a new era of artillery warfare. Kiley even has some space to include appendices of technical information that will keep the diehard ‘artillerist’ readers happy. If you have more than a passing interest in Napoleonic warfare, then this will be worth every penny of your investment.