R.F. Delderfield is mostly known for fiction, but this book shows he was quite good at popular non-history as well (his fiction was mostly historical, so the two do go together).

In this case, he’s looking at Napoleon from after the retreat from Russia to his first abdication. He starts (very effectively) with the experience of Hamburg in this period. As exaggerated reports of the vast Russian army swarming into Germany sweep Europe, disaffected areas enter a period of instability. Not fans of the Continental System, the leading citizens wanted out, and the local Cossack commander seemed to offer just that. But the number of actual Cossacks in the area was small, the cities of the Baltic coast weren’t really willing to put up with the pillaging and requisitions needed to support them, and a brief moment of independence ends with Davout garrisoning Hamburg after about a month and a half.

Much of Europe went through the same emotional journey as Napoleon seemed entirely beaten at the end of 1812, but it would be another two years of desperate fighting before the true dissolution of Napoleon’s empire would happen.

Overall, on this subject, I would recommend Lieven’s Russia Against Napoleon, but it’s not a replacement for this book. Imperial Sunset is a bit more focused, and more looks at the French side of what was happening, whereas Lieven’s book naturally focuses on the Coalition side, and mostly Russia, so the two complement each other too. I’d give this book a slight edge in prose, though Delderfield doesn’t do as good a job with helping you mentally juggle where everybody is, and where they’re going. Either book is a good popular history that cover two years that often get left out of the Napoleonic myth.