Book Review of The Face of Battle by John Keegan Essay

995 Words 4 Pages

John Keegan, the author of “The Face of Battle” is allowing the reader to view different perspective of history, from the eyes of the soldier. Although by his own account, Keegan acknowledges, “I have never been in a battle. And I grow increasingly convinced that I have very little idea of what a battle can be like.” Keegan scorns historians for pointing the finger of failure after an evolution occurs and not examining the soldier’s point of view while the battle is transpiring.
Keegan chooses the three well documented campaigns of Agincourt in 1415, Waterloo in 1815, and Somme in 1916 to answer the question of his thesis: To find out how men who are faced with the threat of single-missile and multiple-missile
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King Henry V sought to regain some French territory lost in the Hundred Year War and set out on a 120 mile journey to Maisoncelles where the English came head to head, or 300 yards, with the French. The English bowmen enticed the French to action and when the French responded they were met at the English line which consisted of three groups and archers on the right and left. Keegan goes on to tell of how the different groups of warriors affected each other: the archers versus the cavalry and infantry, the cavalry versus infantry, and infantry versus infantry. The worse effect must have been on the French soldiers that after the order was given to kill all survivors unless they were rich, noblemen, or worth a ransom. The third chapter, titled “Waterloo, June 18th, 1815”, skips ahead four hundred years to Waterloo in 1815 after Napoleon returned from his exile in Elba to face the Prussians and the British soldiers. Keegan gives an extremely thorough look at the battle evolution and breaks the timeline down into five phases: diversion, weakening the center front with artillery, further weakening the center front with cavalry, infantry attack, Prussia reserve arrival and Napoleon’s defeat. Keegan goes on to describe how no soldier on either side would have been able to view the entire battlefield and how the events of combat for eight straight hours, after already going through a skirmish with the
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