Once Napoleon had consolidated his grip on the reins of power of the new-born French Republic, he began to change the nature of the state from a nascent democracy of sorts into an Empire with all the trappings of dynastic royalty. The Senatus Consultum of 18th May 1804 gave the form to the Imperial Court; households of courtiers were established for the Emperor and Empress and the Imperial family, dignitaries of the Empire, ministers of the Empire were appointed; and having previously been abolished in 1793 the dignity of the Marshal of the Empire was recreated. Fourteen active and four honorary Marshals were handed their batons, eight more would be created during the years following; intended to be bulwarks of the regime. However these men were not plucked from obscurity they were men of genuine renown, and in most cases significant military talent, they had fought in numerous battles and campaigns during the tumultuous early days of the Republic. However apart from a handful of individual biographies and collections of anecdotes which mainly dealt with the years of glory under the Empire, few works in English had really investigated the formative careers of the Marshals under the banners of the Republic. In his epic five volume work, published posthumously between 1926-1936, Colonel Phipps looks into the early careers of the Marshals as they pursued La Gloire from their varied beginnings as sons of inn-keepers, coopers, officers of the Royal French Army; some of noble blood, some of the most common. The careers of men such as Masséna, Ney, Soult, Mortier, Murat and Davout are charted in detail, they are compared and contrasted with each other with expert judgement. The Author uses his extensive knowledge of the numerous French first-hand sources of the period along with published histories which have never been translated into English.The fourth volume in this outstanding series concentrates on Bonaparte's first campaign in Italy between 1796-1797 and his first steps into the murky world of Paris and power politics during the Fructidor coup d'état. His battles at Cosseira, Dego, Lodi, Castiglione and Rivoli are chronicled along with the deeds of his generals, including many of the future marshals. With Italy wrested from the hands of the Austrians, and the long siege at Mantua finished, Napoleon dictates his peace at Campo-Formio on his own initiative. His glorious campaign in Italy has given Napoleon much weight with the people of France and much uneasiness to the ruling Directorate, his political manoeuvring and military allies give him an edge in Paris as another government falls.The work is in conception and execution original, and as a book of reference alone is likely to retain its value. It is also good reading because Colonel Phipps was exceedingly well documented, at least from the French side, and was a good judge of character. His criticism of strategy and tactics is always intelligent and to the point, so that he contributes something new to the campaigns with which he deals, even though his main interest is with the careers of the future marshals. - Times Literary Supplement.
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