Book Review: Minden 1759 – The Impossible Victory of the Seven Years War

The Battle Minden 1759 - The Impossible Victory of the Seven Years War

Publisher's Site: Pen and Sword

Fought on August 1, 1759, the Battle of Minden saw British, Hanoverians, Hessians and Prussians under Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick face off against French and Saxon forces under Marshal the Marquis de Contades. The battle ended in an unlikely victory for the British and their allies, as two brigades of British foot (under some confusion about their orders), marched unsupported into the French line, winning the day.

The battle today is commemorated by the Minden Rose worn by participating regiments. Legend says that during the battle, those regiments decorated their uniforms with roses plucked from hedgerows on the battlefield.

Stuart Reid's book, The Battle of Minden 1759 is a well-written, well-documented account of the events leading to the battle, and, somewhat briefly, of the battle itself. The title of the book is somewhat misleading, though, for an account of the actual battle occupies just one of eight chapters. The preceding seven cover the prelude, including some very interesting political twists and turns.

Reid says as much in his introduction:

This, therefore is a book as much about the British Army and its curious road to Minden as it is about the extraordinary victory which two British infantry brigades won there. It is a story which had its unlikely origins in North America and in Germany in a battle on the Weser which saw both sides running away from each other. It is also a story which for the British Army began with a series of futile amphibious operations against the French coast ..

 

I enjoyed the read and learned quite a bit, but I have two complaints:

First, the text needed more maps. For someone unfamiliar with the geography, and only a longtime wargamer's knowledge of the Seven Years War, I found myself turning time and again to the internet to figure out where there various villages, rivers, etc. were located, and what their spatial relationship was to the previously mentioned villages and rivers. I was frankly lost, geographically speaking.

Along the same lines, I got lost in the unfamiliar names. I of course knew Ferdinand, Sackville, Sporken, Kingsley and other significant names, but there were so very many more. Charts showing who these people where, and who their immediate superiors and subordinates were would have been useful. Some of that information was in the appendices, but it would have been nice to have them embedded at various points within the text for easy reference.

All of that said, I suspect that Reid wrote The Battle of Minden for readers better versed in the Seven Years War than I. For those grognards, I think this likely is a must read. For more casual reader, Ithink I would suggest a refresher book or two on the Seven Years War before tackling this one.

Interestingly, the version on Amazon has a different subhead than my review copy. The Amazon version says "The Miraculous Victory of the Seven Years War," while mine says "The Impossible Victory of the Seven Years War."

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