Napoleon attended school for military officers, so it stands to reason they would have some books around which they based their curriculum. Are there any complete and publicly available recordings of such books (from any nation at this time period) available?

  • 4
    Where have you already looked/researched? You might find that the established military schools have websites containing historic documents. Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 15:03
  • 1
    There are many. For example, in France there was "l’ordre mixte" or "manual of 1791" as it is known. Britain had a similar manual issued in 1792. Commented Jul 5, 2018 at 15:19

2 Answers 2


As I mentioned in the comments, there are many such manuals. The following have been digitised and made available as downloadable PDF files from Archive.org:


Réglement concernant l'exercice et les manœuvres de l'infanterie, also known as "l’ordre mixte" or simply the "[manual of 1791]"

Petit manuel du canonnier, ou instruction générale sur le service de toutes les bouches à feu en usage dans l'artillerie (1812)

In addition, I found this Bibliography of French Military Manuals and Instructions Concerning the Napoleonic Period, which appears quite exhaustive, although you would need to visit the listed archives to consult the documents.

Great Britain / United Kingdom :

Rules and Regulations for the Formations, Field-exercise, and Movements, of His Majesty's Forces (1792)

Rules and regulations for the formations, Field-exercise, and Movements, of His Majesty's Forces (1811)

(It can be instructive to see how this manual changed over the period to incorporate lessons learned and developments in weapons and tactics.)

Instructions for the Drill, and the Methods of Performing the Eighteen Manoeuvres - John Russell (1804)


Dienst-reglement für die Kaiserliche Königliche Infanierie (1807)


Dienst-reglement für die Kaiserliche Königliche Cavallrie (1807)

Das Oesterreichische Militaer Betreffende Schriften (1796)


Vorlesungen über die Taktik der Reuterey, von Einem Obersten der Reuterey - Friedrich Wilhelm Graf von Bismark (1818)

Handbuch für Officiere, in den anwendbaren Theilen der KriegesWissenschaften Von der Artillerie - Gerhard von Scharnhorst (1787)


(These manuals don't appear to be available on Archive.org, but can be found on Google Books)

Tratado de Artilleria Vol 1 - Don Tomas de Morla (1816)

Tratado de Artilleria Vol 2 - Don Tomas de Morla (1816)

Tratado de Artilleria Vol 3 - Don Tomas de Morla (1816)

Tratado de Tactica para la Infanteria Ligera (1814)

Tarifas de Todos los Haberes de un Regimiento Infanteria de Linea (1802)

United States:

A hand book for infantry: containing the first principles of military discipline - William Duane (1814)

In addition, Professor Kenneth Johnson (currently Deputy Department Chair of the Department of Research at the United States Air University’s Air Command and Staff College) wrote a paper in 2011 titled A Soldier Is Not a Soldier Without Training (PDF download), in which he discusses the training given to Napoleon's armies over time. He describes several of the texts that were used in his paper, which might be of interest to you.

  • I find that last source by Prof. Johnson lacking in (a) understanding of Larrey's flying ambulance and its astounding return-to-unit statistics when discussing officer casualties, note 39; and (b) appreciation for the effectiveness of French skirmishers under talented commanders such as Davout. Davout won his great achievements at Austerlitz, Auerstadt, and Teugn-Hausen with a Corps that broke down 100% into skirmish order on every sort of broken terrain. In all three of those battles his forces were vastly outnumbered and out-gunned. Commented Jul 6, 2018 at 0:09
  • 1
    @PieterGeerkens Yes, I agree. Although, to be fair, Larrey's Ambulance Volante is all-too-often forgotten when academics discuss Napoleonic battles. This is not a great paper in several regards (his treatment of other key aspects is superficial at best), but it does at least provide some useful references regarding training, and so I felt it may be useful in the limited context of this question. Commented Jul 6, 2018 at 0:24
  • 1
    Nothing boosts morale like seeing 40%+ wounded comrades back with their units in 2-3 weeks. Not always in a combat role, but functioning live human beings none-the-less. You had to be Archduke Charles to get care in the Austrian army comparable to that available to every line fusilier and chasseur in the French army. Commented Jul 6, 2018 at 0:29

Napoleon himself recommended

Peruse again and again the campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, Engene, and Frederick. Model yourself upon them. This is the only means of becoming a great captain, and of acquiring the secret of the art of war.

Even better, Google Books has:

The following are the detailed French correspondence for the 1809 campaign in Germany and Austria. (Unfortunately I don't know of any digitized English translations.) Although not explicitly textbooks, much can be learned from the directives, after action reports, and logistical preparation evidenced through the campaign.
- Campagne de 1809 - Tome Premiere by Saski
- Campagne de 1809 - Tome Deuxieme by Saski
- Campagne de 1809 - Tome Troisieme by Saski

Similarly, here are the Austrian accounts.
- Oesterreichischer Krieg gegen Frankreich von 1809

This (authorized!) four volume Life of Frederick II, King of Prussia, was published in Strasbourg in 1787, and would have been known to Napoleon.
Vol 1., Vol 2, Vol 3, Vol 4.

As an example of what is available at Archive.org, here is a search of all digitized books in that archive, printed between 1757 and 1814 and with Frederick the Great listed as a subject. It includes amongst other treasures Jomini's multi-volume comparison of Frederick's campaigns to Napoleons.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.