ESSAI SUR LE MÉCANISME DE LA GUERRE, ou application des premiers principes de mécanique au mouvement et à l'action des corps d'armée; avec des exemples tirés principalement de la dernière guerre, et quelques inventions ou machines relatives à l'art militaire. Développés en cinq planches. Dédié à S.A.S. le prince de Neuchâtel, vice-connétable. Par un officier français, de la Légion d'honneur, et de plusieurs Académies. A Paris. Chez Magimel ..., Cocheris fils ..., et Barba ...
1808. 8vo, pp. [viii], xvi (but xiv as mispaginated), 216; with five large folding engraved plates containing some 65 figures; outer margin of final plate nicked with loss but not affecting image, some light foxing and browning throughout, stitching and gutters exposed at p. 208; First edition of this little known work on the ‘mechanism of war’ by the charismatic and somewhat forgotten officer of both the Revolution and the Empire, the military engineer-cum-romance novelist and librettist, Jacques Antoine Révéroni Saint-Cyr (1767-1829).
Révéroni Saint-Cyr divides his work into two parts: the first dealing with the principles of warfare and the ‘mechanisms’ of strategic positions, marches, battles and retreats. The second section includes a more detailed discussions upon certain tactical manoeuvres and various ‘machines’ of war, including the art of sieges, the use of hidden bunkers and trenches to gain a dominant firing position, the use of ‘Chevaux de frise servant de chariots de bataillons’, the use of aerial observation, the use of pontoons to traverse rivers, and concluding with a section on defensive floating ‘contremines’. The work is interspersed throughout with examples drawn from his previous experiences during campaigns, with the five folding engraved plates at the end, and containing 65 small and neatly executed figures, illustrate a number of the strategic positions, and the machines of war under discussion.
Révéroni Saint-Cyr dedicates his work to the Prince of Neuchatel, Marshal Berthier, under whom he had served as an aide-de-camp. During the Revolution, as a member of the serving army Révéroni Saint-Cyr had initially tried to defend the monarchy, though ultimately escaped Paris and spent some time near Le Havre, before serving with the Army of the North. Recalled to Paris he was appointed as a professor of fortifications at the newly created l’École polytechnique, ultimately becoming Head of the division at the Ministry of War under Marshal Berthier. He came to the attention of Bonaparte during the Royalist insurrection in 1795, though subsequently declined Bonaparte’s request to travel with him to Egypt due to infirmity which prevented him from riding. This appears to have damaged his career, as he was clearly an able and skilled engineer.
Encouraged by Carnot, Révéroni Saint-Cyr later revised and republished the present work in 1826 under the title: ‘Statique de la guerre, ou Principes de stratégie et de tactique’. In addition to a number of other works on military engineering, Révéroni Saint-Cyr was also quite a prolific writer of literature, plays and librettos, notably his novel of 1798 ‘Pauliska, ou La Perversité moderne’, ‘La Princesse de Navarre’ (1812), ‘L’Officier russe à Paris’ (1814), and ‘Le Torrent des passions’ (1818). Created a Baron and officer of the Légion d'honneur under Napoléon, a ‘Chevalier de Saint-Louis’ by Louis XVIII, he was decorated with the order of Military Merit of Bavaria. He was a member of the Société des sciences et arts of Paris, of the Academy of Lyon, and of numerous other academies and societies, though eventually he succumbed to mental illness and was detained in an asylum. Work listed under Réveroni in Michaud v. 35, p. 495; OCLC locate copies at UCLA, Yale, Dartmouth College, and the US Military Academy.
Condition: uncut and stitched as issued in the original plum wastepaper wrappers, author’s name written in a contemporary hand on upper wrapper and then more legibly in a later hand below, with title on spine in manuscript, spine cracked but holding, covers a little soiled, extremities a bit dog-eared, but a good unsophisticated copy.