Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher was one of the most colorful personalities of the Napoleonic Wars. Unlike many important figures of the period, he did not have a long career in military or political affairs after the Napoleonic era (he was already seventy-two years old at Waterloo). Hence his actions during the wars were unbesmirched by subsequent events and decisions; this was not so for many other prominent commanders or heads of state. Blücher became a Prussian hero and then a pan-German hero, celebrated in folklore, song, poetry, and novels. He was commemorated officially by the state with statues, monuments, and eponymously named streets, ships, railroads, and plazas. Blücher collectibles decorated the homes of thousands of middle-class Germans well into the twentieth century. And, though few serious biographies have appeared in recent decades, German scholarship in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries covered his career in considerable detail.
It is therefore surprising that there is little substantive English-language work about Blücher. Indeed, this new biography by Michael Leggiere (Univ. of North Texas) represents the first such book in four decades (excluding translations of older German monographs). Leggiere has spent many years researching and writing about campaigns Blücher was directly involved in, particularly during the period German historians call the “War of Liberation” (1813–14).
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