Research Subjects: Eyewitness Accounts

British Memoirs of the Napoleonic Wars

By Robert Burnham

In 1998, I compiled and published on the Napoleon Series a bibliography of British memoirs. It consisted of about 100 memoirs, diaries, and letters that I had collected. This bibliography is a major expansion of my first efforts and contains hundreds of new entries. When I first started collecting, Ken Trotman, was virtually the only publisher still doing reprints, however by the beginning of the 1990s, Greenhill Books and Spellmount joined in. The new century as seen a renaissance in the publishing of memoirs, diaries, and other primary sources. There are several reasons for this. First is because of the efforts Gareth Glover has made in finding and editing previously unknown material in archives throughout the British Isles. It seems like Ken Trotman publishes at least five or six new books by Gareth every year. Another reason is the advent of Google Books. Memoirs that were previously only available to scholars in university libraries have been digitized and made available on line. For those who prefer print copies over digital copies, there are several companies now that have taken many of these electronic books and put them in print. Whatever format you prefer, the number of books now available is staggering.

How to Use This Bibliography

This bibliography is divided into twenty-five sections, such as Generals, Artillery, Infantry, etc. In most sections the books are listed in alphabetical order by the author's last name. However in some sections, such as the ones for the infantry and cavalry, the books are listed first by regiment and then by alphabetical order of the author. It should be noted that in many cases the author served in several regiments or positions. When this occured the book is listed in all relevant sections. For example John Fremantle served in the Coldstream Guards and as an aide-de-camp to the Duke of Wellington. His entry is listed in both the Foot Guards Section, Wellington's Military Family Section, and the Aides-de-Camp Section.

Some units, such as the Foot Guards and the 95th Rifles, have so many entries, they are listed separately.

Rather than placing the different battalions and regiments of the King's German Legion under their respective branches (i.e. infantry or cavalry), I have placed all entries concerning the King's German Legion in their own section.

For each entry I tried to include notes on what the book was about: where and when the individual served; what infantry company or battallion, cavalry troop and regiment, or artillery troop or brigade he was in, his rank, etc. If I do not provide any notes, it usually means that I do not own the book.

I have also included a separate section for enlisted soldiers. A soldier will have an entry under his regiment, but also in the Enlisted Soldier Section.

Some sections are not self-expanatory:

Wellington's Military Family: A commanding general of an army had what was known as a military family. These were officers and other individuals who work directly for him within the headquarters and not for a specific department. These inluded: aides-de-camp, the headquarters commandant, the military secretary, and servants. This list covers those individuals who worked directly for The Duke of Wellington.

Corps Attached to the Army Headquarters: In the army headquarters there were staffs and corps for different organizations that supported army operations, but were not never permanently assigned to a division. These included the Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery, Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Staff Corps, and the Staff Corps Regiment of Cavalry. The subordinate elements would be temporarily assigned to the divisions, based on operations. For example an Royal Engineer officer could be assigned to a division to oversee the destruction of bridges.

The Staff Attached to the Headquarters is the staff that was in the headquarters, but were not part of the departments. These included chaplains, the judge advocate general, and the paymaster general, among others.

Why I Did not Include Some Books

Occasionally the same book has been published over the years with different titles. This recently came to my attention when I discovered Leonaur a company that specializes in taking older editions of a book, re-formatting them and then publishing them under a title that is different than the original one. There is nothing wrong with this and I applaud their efforts -- I have even bought several titles from them that I did not have -- however, to avoid confusion I always used the original title in an entry.

The Future

It seems like more memoirs are pubished every year. Some are reprints of long out-of-print books, while others have never been published before. There are many memoirs, diaries, and other papers in archives just waiting to be discovered / pubished. For example, I recently picked up Nick Lipscombe's Wellington's Guns. In his bibliography he listed 20 sets of papers in the James Clavell Library at the Royal Artillery Museum that have not been published before. Among these papers include those of Robert Bull, Robert Gardiner, Norman Ramsey, and William Robe. Let's hope we will see them sometime soon!

This bibliography is by no means complete. If you know of a book that is not included, please contact me.

Robert Burnham

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2013; last updated December 2016

 

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