'The day-to-day life and experiences of the ordinary soldier have always fascinated me, and I’ve wanted to write a book like this for a long time. It examines the clash between the often illiterate Russian conscript, who was the worst paid in Europe and had very little chance of promotion, on the one side, and the better-paid and educated Imperial Guardsman of Napoleon’s army, who allegedly ‘had a marshal’s baton in his knapsack’, on the other. By using not only written accounts, but also archaeological evidence as well as medical and pension records, I hope I have produced a book which does justice to the Napoleonic soldier.
I chose to look at the combat experiences of Guardsmen and Jaeger at the battles of Krasnoe (17 November 1812), Leipzig (16 October 1813) and Craonne (7 March 1814), during the warfare that raged across Europe from Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow to the invasion of France and the eventual fall of Paris. But choosing which battles to include was the easy part! For one thing, there is a lot of confusion in the composition of the Young Guard Divisions in 1813 and 1814, especially during the campaign in France. Because regiments were raised just for a few months and due to the weakness of many of these regiments, many had to be brigaded together more and more to form a reasonable body of men – so it was very difficult to pin Young Guard soldiers down!
However, working for a record office and so knowing the value of original sources, I relished the challenge of disentangling the often confusing contemporary accounts of battle left by soldiers on both sides, and constructing a picture of what it was like to participate in these three battles. I really enjoyed this exercise and hope the Osprey readers gain new insights from my research.'