Sunday, January 19, 2020

The French Army of the Orient 1798-1801 "Napoleon's Beloved Egyptians" - a review..

Bought this at Warfare as I have had a prolonged fascination with this theatre of the Napoleonic wars for years, but have never really delved into the history.

A superb book, so good in fact that I thought it deserved a full review rather than just losing it among the book reviews over there to the left..

Yves Martin is not a professional historian or author (in fact it sounds like in his real work he's in the same line of business as I am), but nonetheless this is absolutely stunning..  the level of detail and research is second to none..

The subject of the book is the French army that Napoleon took to Egypt, and which was subsequently stranded there by the Royal Navy's victory at the Nile under Nelson.

He describes the make up of the army through the 3 main periods of the occupation, the Bonaparte period, the Kleber period (after Bonaparte abandoned them to return to Europe to pursue political goals on the main stage), and the post Kleber period under (who seems to me to be) the largely inept Menou before the army was repatriated to Europe by of all organisations, the Royal Navy following the capitulation by Menou after the Battle of Alexandria..

He has detailed orders of battles for all campaigns and stages of the occupation; details on the organisation of all the arms of service including the auxiliary forces The French recruited (the Greek Legion, the Coptic Legion, the Guides, and most intriguing of all the Dromedaires (the picture on the front of the book,  above, is of them) a forerunner of Kitchener's Camel Corps, and the Foreign Legion forces of similar tactical role..

What Martin especially does well on though is detail on the uniforms - being stranded the wrong side of the Mediterranean from their usual clothing supplies/sources, the French army resorted to local materials in whatever colour was available and the result is stunning. Martin has included lots of colour plates depicting the various regiments, and the level of research is such that the French even kept samples of the cloth in their archives so that he could reconstruct them more accurately!

Found this on Pinterest - one army, every uniform colour under the rainbow...
.. huge amounts of detail, lots and lots of colourful uniform detail, orders of battle, and interesting snippets on how the French army was organised and fought in Egypt and Syria. very much recommended.. Steve the Wargamer rates this one as 9 out of 10 ...  


  1. This is a very good book. The two volumes published by Partizan Press are also good.

    1. Thanks Simon - would those be the Charles Grant volumes? Yes... those would be on my list at some point.. a huge amount of time ago I ordered something from Partizan and they sent it wrapped in dust covers from those two books - I liked them so much I mounted them and put them on the wall!

  2. Really interesting and colourful period, nice review!
    Best Iain