Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Review The Battle of Minden 1759: The Miraculous Victory of the Seven Years War

I  decided to  do a review of this book, because frankly  I was disapionted. 

I  want to be carefull  when reviewing something dealing with the SYW, while I'm  FAR from  an  expert in Napoleinc history, I  do  feel much more comfterble saying stuff about that period. Simply  because I have studied  as a hobby  for  some 13 yerars. Which not that far from half my life.

But with  the exeption of on online soures and discussions  I have only  read one book about this war, And it delt with the Prussian  battles of 1757.

So I'll try not  to make any judgment on the history of the book. 

So I orderd   this book because as far as I  know, no book  deals specifically with Minden, The battle is part  of other  books, But no book deals  with this battle as  a main topic. Not even a  Osprey tittle deals with  the  battle.

It was 203 pages long.  So  that  should be a big nice detailed  description of the battle. 
Now  this is my fault for not checking better. But i was quite disapointed when I got the book and read  the index, In a book  of  203 pages, only 20 pages deal with  the battle.... frankly  I  feel this  is  false  advertisment. Calling a book the battle of minden when only 10% of the book is about  the actual  battle?

So  what does the book deal with?

First the book it self is just 119 pages(in in reality  20% ish  of the book deals with the  battle) 
Another 80 ish  pages are OOBs(more on that later) transcripts of parts of  Sackvilles Court Martial,  and general info on  the armies inolved

The main book really deals with  two things;  first  it deals with the war in western Germany,  You  get a description of  Hastenbeck   and everything ells that   happens in   estern Germany up  to and including  Minden. Second  part is  the  British  involvment in the  war, The political and military, it deals with the costal raids in northen france  ect.

Now  these  parts  are fine, I liked this part. I did learn alot that I did not know. (and some  things I allready should have known but didn't) 
From  the start (in the introcution)  the author makesit clear he  feels Sackville  got shafted by  history.  While he is not pro Sackville , and makes it clear he is at best  a competent general. He clearly feels  Sackville  was not a coward,  did not act out of jealousy  ect. Simply he become a  scapegoat. He makes a good case  for this. But again, this deals with the history  and I don't  feel I  can make  a judgment on history. 

But Now comes Minden, as I said it's 20  pages long, and atleast 3 pages  deals  with  the deployment.
Now why is it short? It's possible becasue nothing happend in the battle. The book and other sources all seem  to  agree  that those  6  British battalions, with support  of two  Hannoverian  battalions  won the enitre  battle. And everything ells that happend  didn't do  much.

Ok, I can kinda buy  that. So I can buy  not having 70 pages devoted  to the battle. 

But one of  the  reasons for the short description of  the battle is the dry way  it's writen. I'ts consice to a fault. I've read three  paragraph long miniature AAR with love  lively language.

There are a few first hand acounts put in  the battle.  Two of  them basicly descibe the  same thing.  There are almost no descriptions from the french side.(except for the two French  commanders) 

Lets for instance take  the big show down, The British murder the french cavarly. This is  given in a short  descrition and then comes a first hand acount(by an  officer that  seem  to have problems keeping track of  when and how   thnigs  happned. ) And thats it..

Where  are the first hand acounts from the french? I'm sure some  french officer  or trooper wrote about riding  into death?  How about more acounts from the british? I'm sure other officers, NCOs and even some privates did  write  letters or  diaries of this climatic happening?  What about french infantry  that too   got malled by the British infantry and Hanoverian  Guard?

Sure you might not  get 70 pages. But for crying  out  loud, try and  get 30  pages  out of a  battle that  is the title of the book.  

How about when  the  prussian  dragoons charge  inn, sure the battle  was won, but I'm sure some dragoon  wrote  about riding over and cutting down the  enemy. Yes half the allied castualites where british, what about  the other half? You don't  really get a feeling where that other half got killed and wouned?  Did  they all just get hit by long  range  cannon fire  from the  french?

Except for the defence of Sackville this book did not tell me much  new about  the battle  that I havn't read  on kronoskaf or other online sources. 

Now what about  the the other half of the book that is suplimentary?
It's actually very good. It got a  detaled OOB for both Allies and French. Not only that, but uniform info  on  every regiment. This  I feel can  only be valueble  for us Wargamers. Sure some people are just intersted in  uniforms, but would they care about a  list of facing  colors? Who except Wargamers and mabye reenactors need  to know this? This is   by now means a complaints. It's wonderfull.
I'm doing Minden  with Might and  Reason, and  the OOB  needs a converged Hanoverian  grenadier battalion. But kronoskaf dosn't list what regiments those gernadiers come from, so I didn't know  how to paint them.  But  this OOB   does. Now it turns  out that they all came from  those  Hanoverian battalions in  the same division,  which mabye I should have guessed. But it's still nice.

It also  have a  descirption of the inner working  of the armies invloved,  Their regimental structurs,   national  diffrences in cavarly types ect.  I  knew most of this. But still nice to have. 

And the book  also have  a transcript from parts of the  Courts Martial of Sackville, specificaly the questining of  british artillery officers. Not suprising  from the rest of  the book,  this  transcript backs up the authors opinion that Sackville got a raw deal.
This I do find intresting, actually dealing what a person said in a court of law some 270  years ago is very cool. 

So for  me the  book is a mixed bag,  I actually  enjoyed almost all of it, except the actual Minden part. It takes you just a few minutes to  read   through the battle.  And I  find that  disapointing.  

So this is my opinion,   take it for what it  is. I will  recomend  it, I'm  far from sorry I  bought  it. But I   guess I'll have to wait for another book to  deal with the battle of Minden  in  more detail.


nundanket said...

If you're interested in the story of Scoville and Minden, there is another book which covers the Sackville affair in some depth. I read it many years ago and can't remember if it gives more than 20 pages on the battle. It's called The Coward of Minden: the Affair of Lord George Sackville by Piers Mackesy.

Gunfreak said...

I've heard much about that book. It's definitely on my to buy book.