Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March

Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March

by Adam Zamoyski

Napoleon dominated nearly all of Europe by 1810, largely succeeding in his aim to reign over the civilized world.

To conquer the island nation, he needed Russia's Tsar Alexander's help.

Napoleon's men were eventually turned back, and their defeat was a momentous turning point in world affairs.

Dramatic, insightful, and enormously absorbing, Moscow 1812 is a masterful work of history.

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 4.29
  • Pages: 704
  • Publish Date: August 9th 2005 by Harper Perennial
  • Isbn10: 006108686X
  • Isbn13: 9780061086861

What People Think about "Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March"

in reality the book is about failure and indecision, about the useless sacrifice of thousands in a vain and pointless enterprise that somehow manages to sum up all that is wrong with man's ambition - in fact, Napoleon summed it all up when he coined his quip on reaching Warsaw, having abandoned his men; "From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step." Watching the build-up to the Russian campaign is like watching a samurai preparing himself for ritual suicide... Napoleon's arrogance towards and exploitation of his allies, his incompetence and dithering is astounding. "The Frenchmen came to remove our fetters," the peasants quipped, "but he took our boots too." The Russians wore more comfortable uniforms and had superb artillery but Russian troops were conscripted for a period of twenty-five years - when they left their villages they were given a symbolic funeral since they were never expected to return. Their training and discipline was harsh and they did not lay down their arms; "Frederick the Great is alleged to have said that one first had to kill the Russian soldier and then push him over." The real tragedy is that they were lead by a gang of in-fighting incompetents that belong more in a school staffroom than on the field of battle. The Russians had spent a year and a half deploying for an offensive, only to retreat the moment operations began. One small fact jumped out at me - it concerned the battle of Borodino: "It had been the greatest massacre in recorded history, not to be surpassed until the first day of the Somme in 1916." Perhaps the most surprising bit of the story is the march on Moscow. His glory was their common property, and to diminish his reputation by denouncing him and turning away from him would have been to destroy the common fund of glory they had built over the years and which was their most prizes possession." What I really like about this sort of book is the way it tries to tell the story of the ordinary men. The Russian Campaign set the seeds for the setting up of autocratic structures throughout, and this in the face of the desires for greater freedom the man-in-the-street (especially the Russian exposed to the greater liberties of the West) expected. Russia and Prussia became dominant powers and it is no conceit to see in Napoleon's failure the sowing of the seeds of that greater conflict to come in 1939.

Napoleon threw men around like toy soldiers and reading this remarkably compelling book youre left thinking what it was all about, so much waste and suffering. It was amazing reading about starving soldiers suffering from frostbite with bits falling off and putting up rearguard actions where it is almost incidentally mentioned that the French lost 25,000 men and the Russians 20,000, or that 150,000 horses died in a couple of days at the start of the campaign due to flash floods. Perhaps the greatness of Napoleon lies in the fact that he clearly didnt care about individual lives, only the outcomes of his battles and how things reflected on him.

Despite a maximum effort to establish forward supply bases & tag along meat on the hoof, in the knowledge that Russia was completely different from the densely populated and fertile German lands, the logistical demands of an army 400.000 strong (the exact number remains a point of contention) overburdened whatever measures were supposed to alleviate the meagre spoils of the land. Like all armies predating the internal combustion engine, it could only march and fight by virtue of the horse. Napoleon's very timing of the campaign was tailored to the fact that horse fodder could not be transported in bulk. Colonel Boulaert of the Guard artillery describes the pitiful conditions of the horses as early en route as East Prussia: A cold start of the year meant that the harvest was late. the excreta left behind by men and animals on the Russian side testified to a good state of health, while ours showed in the clearest way possible that the entire army, horses as well as men, was suffering from diarrhoea... Looking at it within the wider context of the military campaign from the Russian side, it is striking how cautious the commanders were to preserve their armies to fight another day, against better odds. Conversely, Napoleon is an eternal optimist; the fact that fair weather held until his retreat from Moscow was well under way had much to do with it. Russia Against Napoleon: The Battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814 by Dominic Lieven

I'm going to be completely honest here: I bought this book approximately a million years ago solely because of the 1812 Overture. Meh. This book is FULL of troop numbers and casualty numbers and how many horses died on a particular day (seriously, I think at least a million horses had died in horrible ways in the 295 pages that I read), and there's little illustrations of the troop movements in various battles. Still, if you like military history and reading about a LOT of horses dying in horrible ways (like, there's way more description around how the horses died than how the men died), maybe you'll have a better experience with this than I did!

The author tell us about disaster campaign and the horrible events described for the soldiers.

Ma rimane realistica; così come la parte dell'invasione: con i generali russi che non sanno cosa fare, si fanno dispetti tra di loro e lo zar che non capisce cosa accade.