First Italian Campaign |
The Egyptian Campaign |
Second Italian Campaign |
The Ulm-Austerlitz Campaign |
The Prussian Campaign |
The Peninsular War |
The Austrian War |
The Russian Campaign |
From Lützen to Elba |
The Waterloo Campaign
Russian Campaign, 1812
1811, Tsar Alexander I, supposedly allied with Napoleon,
refused to be part of the continental blockade of British
goods any longer. Napoleons edict barring trade
with Great Britain was ruining the Russian economy.
Tensions quickly escalated; every attempt to negotiate
The Russian army starts to concentrate its forces
on the borders. Napoleon went to Kaurakin, the Russian
ambassador, and harshly questioned him. "What
does this mean? What does Russia want from me? You
know its easy to start a war but its
very difficult to finish one."
June 24, 1812, ignoring the advice of his closest advisors,
Napoleon invaded Russia. Never in living memory had
so large an army been assembled Italians, Poles,
German, French more than 600,000 men from every
corner of his empire. Napoleon prophesied the war would
be over in twenty days.
An army of 600,000, it would seem to be absolutely
irresistible no matter what happened. Hell
simply pour in enough men to overwhelm the Russians,
force them to engage in battle and defeat them.
know Alexander," Napoleon said. "I once had influence
over him; it will come back. If not, let destiny be
accomplished and let Russia be crushed under my hatred
And Napoleon, once again with this sense of destiny.
His star was such that he thought he could defeat
Russia this enormous country.
army trudged slowly across Russia's vast, open spaces.
He hoped to annihilate his enemy quickly, but the Russians
would not give battle.
Napoleon had an army twice
the size of the Russians. There were so many that
the Russians didnt dare fight. They started
to retreat because they didn't have a choice. They
had to retreat. But while they were retreating,
they were, in fact, weakening Napoleon's army.
the Tsar's armies retreated, they burned the countryside
behind them, leaving the Cossacks to hack at Napoleon's
rear and flanks, then gallop away.
And I think that early on, Napoleon began to
realize that this time he had bitten off just a
little more than he could chew.
the days passed, the blazing heat of the Russian summer
began to take its toll. Soldiers fell out from exhaustion,
sickness, and desertion more than five thousand
a day. After two months, before Napoleon had fought
a single battle, 150,000 soldiers were out of action.
A lot of these foreign troops just took off and
left. They werent Frenchmen, they werent
loyal to him specifically. They were fighting because
their king was allied to Napoleon.
last, with summer ending, the Russians turned and faced
their enemy at the crossroads village of Borodino. Moscow,
the holy city of Russia, was at stake. On the morning
of September 8, the soldiers of the Tsar prepared
themselves for battle, chanting, "'Tis the will
of God, 'tis the will of God."
were prepared to die, to die for Russia. Everyone
saw this as a holy day, that they were going to
die for a great purpose. There was a tradition to
put on clean underwear before death. They all put
on clean white underwear and went into battle.
battle of Borodino was a brutal slug-fest. Napoleon
threw his enormous army at the Russians in a frontal
assault, showing little of his old strategic subtlety.
was a wild attack. They were killing each other,
killing each other. There were deaths without stop.
It was horrific.
battle began at 6:30 in the morning and lasted until
3 in the afternoon. At that point, both armies were
exhausted. The Russians fought the Emperor's armies
to a standstill. The next day they withdrew, leaving
Napoleon proclaiming victory.
was at his mercy, but the Russians refused to make peace.
As Napoleons army entered the city on September
14, he found it almost deserted. That night, Moscow
began to burn.
of red, rolling flames," Napoleon recalled later, "like
immense waves of the sea. Oh, it was the most grand,
the most sublime, and the most terrifying sight the
world ever beheld."
Russians burned Moscow themselves. And when Moscow
went up in flame, this was the worst blow to Napoleons
army. Napoleon couldn't stay in Moscow.