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The French invasion of Russia, also known as the Russian Campaign, the Second Polish War, the Second Polish Campaign, the Patriotic War of 1812 , and the War of 1812, was begun by
Napoleon Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) refers to the period that began with the Estates General o ...

Napoleon
to force
Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of Europe. There is no consistent definition of the precise area it covers, partly becau ...
back into the Continental blockade of the United Kingdom. On 24 June 1812 and the following days, the first wave of the multinational crossed the border into Russia with somewhere between 450,000 and 600,000 soldiers, the opposing Russian field forces amounted to around 180,000–200,000 at this time. Through a series of long forced marches, Napoleon pushed his army rapidly through
Western Russia
Western Russia
in a futile attempt to destroy the retreating Russian Army of
Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly Prince A prince is a Monarch, male ruler (ranked below a king, grand prince, and grand duke) or a male member of a monarch's or former monarch's family. ''Prince'' is also a title of nobility (often highest), often hereditary title, hereditar ...
, winning just the Battle of Smolensk in August. Under its new Commander in Chief
Mikhail Kutuzov Prince Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov ( rus, Князь Михаи́л Илларио́нович Голени́щев-Куту́зов, Knyaz' Mikhaíl Illariónovich Goleníshchev-Kutúzov; german: Mikhail Illarion Golenishchev-Kutu ...
, the Russian Army continued to retreat, employing
attrition warfare against Napoleon The attrition warfare against Napoleon began on 24 June 1812 when Napoleon's crossed the Neman River into Russia and ended on 14 December 1812 with the total defeat of the Grande Armée. A visual representation is given by the drawing of Charle ...
forcing the invaders to rely on a supply system that was incapable of feeding their large army in the field. The fierce
Battle of Borodino The Battle of Borodino. was a battle fought on 7 September 1812 during Napoleon's French invasion of Russia The French invasion of Russia, known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812 (russian: Отечественная война 1812 ...

Battle of Borodino
, west of
Moscow Moscow (, ; rus, links=no, Москва, r=Moskva, p=mɐˈskva, a=Москва.ogg) is the capital and largest city of Russia Russia (russian: link=no, Россия, , ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe ...

Moscow
, was a narrow French victory that resulted in a Russian general withdrawal to the south of Moscow near
Kaluga Kaluga ( rus, Калу́га, p=kɐˈɫuɡə), a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. ...

Kaluga
. On 14 September, Napoleon and his army of about 100,000 men occupied Moscow, only to find it abandoned, and the city was soon ablaze. Napoleon stayed in Moscow for 5 weeks, waiting for a peace offer that never came. Lack of food for the men and fodder for the horses, hypothermia from the bitter cold and guerilla warfare from Russian peasants and
Cossack The Cossacks * russian: казаки́ or * be, казакi * pl, Kozacy * cs, kozáci * sk, kozáci * hu, kozákok, cazacii * fi, Kasakat, cazacii * et, Kasakad, cazacii are a group of predominantly East Slavic languages, East Slav ...
s led to great losses. Three days after the
Battle of Berezina The Battle of (the) Berezina (or Beresina) took place from 26 to 29 November 1812, between the French army of Napoleon Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence dur ...
, only around 10,000 soldiers of the main army remained. On 5 December, Napoleon left the army and returned to Paris.


Background

Tsar
Alexander IAlexander I may refer to: * Alexander I of Macedon, king of Macedon 495–454 BC * Alexander I of Epirus (370–331 BC), king of Epirus * Pope Alexander I (died 115), early bishop of Rome * Pope Alexander I of Alexandria (died 320s), patriarch of Al ...

Alexander I
had left the Continental blockade of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
on 31 December 1810. The Treaty of Schönbrunn, which ended the 1809 war between
Austria Austria (, ; german: Österreich ), officially the Republic of Austria (german: Republik Österreich, links=no, ), is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastli ...
and France, had a clause removing
Western Galicia New Galicia or West Galicia ( pl, Nowa Galicja or ''Galicja Zachodnia'', german: Neugalizien or ''Westgalizien'') was an administrative region of the Habsburg Monarchy, constituted from the territory annexed in the course of the Third Partitio ...
from Austria and annexing it to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. Russia viewed this as against its interests and as a potential launching point for an invasion of Russia. Napoleon had tried to get better Russian cooperation through an alliance by seeking to marry
Anna Pavlovna
Anna Pavlovna
, the youngest sister of Alexander. But finally he married the daughter of the Austrian emperor instead. On 20 March 1811
Napoleon II , house = House of Bonaparte, Bonaparte , father = Napoleon, Napoleon I , mother = Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, Marie Louise of Austria , birth_date = , birth_place = Tuileries P ...
(Napoléon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte) was born as the son of Emperor
Napoleon Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) refers to the period that began with the Estates General o ...

Napoleon
I and
Empress Marie Louisefrench: Marie-Louise-Léopoldine-Françoise-Thérèse-Joséphine-Lucie it, Maria Luigia Leopoldina Francesca Teresa Giuseppa Lucia , house =House of Habsburg-Lorraine, Habsburg-Lorraine , father = Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor , moth ...
becoming Prince Imperial of France and King of Rome since birth. Napoleon himself was not in the same physical and mental state as in years past. He had become overweight and increasingly prone to various maladies. The costly and drawn-out
Peninsular War The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was the military conflict War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or paramilitary groups such as Mercenary, mercenaries, Insurgency, insurg ...

Peninsular War
had not been ended yet and required the presence of about 200,000–250,000 French soldiers.


Declaration of war

Officially Napoleon announced the following proclamation:

Soldiers, the second Polish war is begun. The first terminated at Friedland; and at Tilsit Russia vowed an eternal alliance with France, and war with the English. She now breaks her vows, and refuses to give any explanation of her strange conduct until the French eagles have repassed the Rhine, and left our allies at her mercy. Russia is hurried away by a fatality: her destinies will be fulfilled. Does she think us degenerated? Are we no more the soldiers who fought at Austerlitz? She places us between dishonour and war—our choice cannot be difficult. Let us then march forward; let us cross the Niemen and carry the war into her country. This second Polish war will be as glorious for the French arms as the first has been; but the peace we shall conclude shall carry with it its own guarantee, and will terminate the fatal influence which Russia for fifty years past has exercised in Europe.


Logistics

The invasion of Russia clearly and dramatically demonstrates the importance of logistics in military planning, especially when the land will not provide for the number of troops deployed in an area of operations far exceeding the experience of the invading army. Napoleon made extensive preparations for provisioning his army. The French supply effort was far greater than in any of the previous campaigns. Twenty
train In rail transport Rail transport (also known as train transport) is a means of transferring passengers and goods on wheeled vehicles running on rails, which are located on tracks. In contrast to road transport, where the vehicles run ...
battalions, comprising 7,848 vehicles, were to provide a 40-day supply for the and its operations, and a large system of magazines were established in towns and cities in Poland and East Prussia. The
Vistula The Vistula (; pl, Wisła, , german: Weichsel) is the longest river in Poland and the 9th-longest river in Europe, at in length. The drainage basin, reaching into three other nations, covers , of which is in Poland. The Vistula rises at Bar ...

Vistula
river valley was built up in 1811–1812 as a supply base. Intendant General
Guillaume-Mathieu Dumas Guillaume Mathieu, comte Dumas (23 November 1753 – 16 October 1837) was a French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=n ...
established five lines of supply from the
Rhine ), Surselva Surselva Region is one of the eleven administrative districts Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many si ...

Rhine
to the Vistula. French-controlled Germany and Poland were organized into three
arrondissement An arrondissement (, , ) is any of various administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms ...
s with their own administrative headquarters. The logistical buildup that followed was a critical test of Napoleon's administrative and logistical skill, who devoted his efforts during the first half of 1812 largely to the provisioning of his invasion army. Napoleon studied Russian geography and the history of Charles XII's invasion of 1708–1709 and understood the need to bring forward as many supplies as possible. The French Army already had previous experience of operating in the lightly populated and underdeveloped conditions of Poland and East Prussia during the
War of the Fourth Coalition The Fourth Coalition fought against Napoleon Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) refers t ...
in 1806–1807.

However, nothing was to go as planned, because Napoleon had failed to take into account conditions that were totally different from what he had known so far.

Napoleon and the were used to living off the land, which had worked well in the densely populated and agriculturally rich central Europe with its dense network of roads. Rapid forced marches had dazed and confused old-order Austrian and Prussian armies and much use had been made of foraging. Forced marches in Russia often made troops do without supplies as the supply wagons struggled to keep up; furthermore, horse-drawn wagons and artillery were stalled by lack of roads which often turned to mud due to rainstorms. Lack of food and water in thinly populated, much less agriculturally dense regions led to the death of troops and their mounts by exposing them to waterborne diseases from drinking from mud puddles and eating rotten food and forage. The front of the army received whatever could be provided while the formations behind starved.

the most advanced magazine in the operations area during the attack phase was Vilnius, beyond that point, the army was on its own.

Compare on Minard's Map the location of Vilnius.


Ammunition

A massive
arsenal The Royal Armoury, Leeds An arsenal is a place where arms and ammunition Ammunition (informally ammo) is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon or weapon system. Ammunition is both expendable weapons (e ...

arsenal
was established in Warsaw. Artillery was concentrated at
Magdeburg Magdeburg (; nds, label=Low Saxon Low Saxon or Lower Saxon may refer to: Geography *Lower Saxony Lower Saxony (german: Niedersachsen ; nds, Neddersassen; stq, Läichsaksen) is a German state (''Land'') situated in Northern Germany, nor ...

Magdeburg
,
Danzig
Danzig
,
Stettin Szczecin * sv, Stettin * Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...
,
Küstrin
Küstrin
and Glogau. Magdeburg contained a siege artillery train with 100 heavy guns and stored 462 cannons, two million
paper cartridge A paper cartridge is one of various types of small arms A firearm is any type of gun designed to be readily carried and used by an individual. The term is legally defined further in different countries (see #Legal_definitions, Legal definition ...
s and 300,000 pounds/135
tonne The tonne ( or ; symbol: t) is a metric unit of mass equal to 1,000 kilogram The kilogram (also kilogramme) is the base unit of mass Mass is the physical quantity, quantity of ''matter'' in a physical body. It is also a meas ...
s of
gunpowder Gunpowder, also commonly known as black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical explosive. It consists of a mixture of sulfur, carbon (in the form of charcoal) and potassium nitrate (saltpeter). The ...
; Danzig had a siege train with 130 heavy guns and 300,000 pounds of gunpowder; Stettin contained 263 guns, a million cartridges and 200,000 pounds/90 tonnes of gunpowder; Küstrin contained 108 guns and a million cartridges; Glogau contained 108 guns, a million cartridges and 100,000 pounds/45 tonnes of gunpowder. Warsaw, Danzig, Modlin,
Thorn Thorne or Thorns may refer to: Botany * Thorns, spines, and prickles, sharp structures on plants * Thorn, quickthorn or common hawthorn (''Crataegus monogyna'') Places * Thorn, Netherlands * Thorn, German name of Toruń, Poland * Thorn, Bedfor ...

Thorn
and
Marienburg
Marienburg
became ammunition and supply depots as well.


Provisions and transportation

Danzig contained enough provisions to feed 400,000 men for 50 days. Breslau, Plock and Wyszogród were turned into grain depots, milling vast quantities of flour for delivery to
Thorn Thorne or Thorns may refer to: Botany * Thorns, spines, and prickles, sharp structures on plants * Thorn, quickthorn or common hawthorn (''Crataegus monogyna'') Places * Thorn, Netherlands * Thorn, German name of Toruń, Poland * Thorn, Bedfor ...

Thorn
, where 60,000 biscuits were produced every day. A large bakery was established at Villenberg. 50,000 cattle were collected to follow the army. After the invasion began, large magazines were constructed at
Vilnius Vilnius ( , ; see also ) is the capital and of , with a population of 588,412 . The population of Vilnius's functional urban area, which stretches beyond the city limits, is estimated at 706,832 (as of 2019), while according to the Vilnius t ...

Vilnius
,
Kaunas Kaunas (; ; also see other names Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other or The Other may also refer to: Books * The Other (Tryon novel), ''The Other'' (Tryon novel), a 1971 horror novel ...

Kaunas
and
Minsk Minsk ( be, Мінск , russian: link=no, Минск) is the capital and the largest city of Belarus, located on the Svislach (Berezina), Svislach and the now subterranean Nyamiha, Niamiha rivers. As the capital, Minsk has a special administra ...

Minsk
, with the Vilnius base having enough rations to feed 100,000 men for 40 days. It also contained 27,000 muskets, 30,000 pairs of shoes along with brandy and wine. Medium-sized depots were established at
Smolensk Smolensk ( rus, Смоленск, p=smɐˈlʲensk, a=smolensk_ru.ogg) is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The ...

Smolensk
,
Vitebsk Vitebsk (russian: Витебск, ) or Viciebsk ( be, Ві́цебск, ), is a city in Belarus , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Minsk Minsk ( be, Мінск/Менск , russian: link=no, Минск) is the capital and the ...

Vitebsk
and
Orsha Orsha ( be, О́рша, Во́рша, Orša, Vorša; russian: О́рша ; lt, Orša, pl, Orsza) is a city in Belarus in the Vitebsk Region, on the fork of the Dnieper River, Dnieper and Arshytsa rivers. History Orsha was first mentioned in ...

Orsha
, and several small ones throughout the Russian interior. The French also captured numerous intact Russian supply dumps, which the Russians had failed to destroy or empty, and Moscow itself was filled with food. Twenty train battalions provided most of the transportation, with a combined load of 8,390 tons. Twelve of these battalions had a total of 3,024 heavy wagons drawn by four horses each, four had 2,424 one-horse light wagons and four had 2,400 wagons drawn by
oxen An ox () (plural oxen, ), also known as a bullock (in BrE British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substantial ...

oxen
. Auxiliary supply convoys were formed on Napoleon's orders in early June 1812, using vehicles requisitioned in East Prussia. Marshal
Nicolas Oudinot Nicolas Charles Oudinot, 1st Count Oudinot, 1st Duke of Reggio (25 April 1767 in Bar-le-Duc Bar-le-Duc (), formerly known as Bar, is a commune in the Meuse département, of which it is the capital. The department is in Grand Est in northeast ...
's IV Corps alone took 600 carts formed into six companies. The wagon trains were supposed to carry enough bread, flour and medical supplies for 300,000 men for two months. The standard heavy wagons, well-suited for the dense and partially
paved road Pavement may refer to: * Pavement (architecture) Pavement, in construction, is an outdoor floor or superficial surface covering. Paving materials include asphalt Asphalt, also known as bitumen (, ), is a sticky, black, highly viscous liqui ...

paved road
networks of Germany and France, proved too cumbersome for the sparse and primitive Russian dirt tracks. The supply route from Smolensk to Moscow was therefore entirely dependent on light wagons with small loads. Central to the problem were the expanding distances to supply magazines and the fact that no supply wagon could keep up with a forced marched infantry column. The weather itself became an issue, where, according to historian Richard K. Riehn: The heavy losses to disease, hunger and desertion in the early months of the campaign were in large part due to the inability to transport provisions quickly enough to the troops.The '' Intendance'' administration failed to distribute with sufficient rigor the supplies that were built up or captured. By that, despite all these preparations, the Grande Armée was not self-sufficient logistically and still depended on foraging to a significant extent. Inadequate supplies played a key role in the losses suffered by the army as well. Davidov and other Russian campaign participants record wholesale surrenders of starving members of the even before the onset of the frosts. Caulaincourt describes men swarming over and cutting up horses that slipped and fell, even before the horse had been killed. There were even eyewitness reports of cannibalism. The French simply were unable to feed their army. Starvation led to a general loss of cohesion. Constant harassment of the French Army by Cossacks added to the losses during the retreat. Though starvation caused horrendous casualties in Napoleon's army, losses arose from other sources as well. The main body of Napoleon's diminished by a third in just the first eight weeks of the campaign, before the major battle was fought. This loss in strength was in part due to diseases such as
diphtheria Diphtheria is an infection caused by the bacteria, bacterium ''Corynebacterium diphtheriae''. Most infections are asymptomatic or have a mild Course (medicine), clinical course, but in some outbreaks more than 10% of those diagnosed with the di ...

diphtheria
,
dysentery Dysentery () is a type of gastroenteritis Gastroenteritis, also known as infectious diarrhea and gastro, is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract The gastrointestinal tract, (GI tract, GIT, digestive tract, digestion tract, aliment ...
and
typhus Typhus, also known as typhus fever, is a group of infectious diseases An infection is the invasion of an organism's body tissues by disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host tissues to the infectious agents ...
and the need to garrison supply centers.


Combat service and support and medicine

Nine pontoon companies, three pontoon trains with 100 pontoons each, two companies of marines, nine
sapper A sapper, also called pioneer Pioneer commonly refers to a settler who migrates to previously uninhabited or sparsely inhabited land. In the United States pioneer commonly refers to an American pioneer, a person in American history who migrate ...
companies, six miner companies and an engineer park were deployed for the invasion force. Large-scale
military hospitals Image:Austrian military hospital WWI.jpg, 250px, Catholic service in Austrian military hospital during World War I. A military hospital is a hospital owned and operated by the armed forces. They are often reserved for the use of military personnel a ...
were created at Warsaw, Thorn, Breslau, Marienburg, Elbing and Danzig, while hospitals in East Prussia had beds for 28,000.


Cold weather

Following the campaign a saying arose that the Generals and (January and February) defeated Napoleon, alluding to the
Russian Winter Russian Winter, sometimes personified as "General Frost" or "General Winter", is an aspect of the climate of Russia that has contributed to military failures of several invasions of Russia. Mud is a related contributing factor that impairs milita ...

Russian Winter
. Minard's map shows that the opposite is true as the French losses were highest in the summer and autumn, due to inadequate preparation of logistics resulting in insufficient supplies, while many troops were also killed by disease. Thus the outcome of the campaign was decided long before the weather became a factor. Once winter eventually arrived, the army was still equipped with summer clothing, in spite of a 5 week stay at Moscow, and did not have the means to protect themselves from the cold. It had also failed to forge
caulkin A caulkin (or ''caulk''; US spelling "calkin" or "calk") from the Latin ''calx'' (the heel) is a blunt projection on a horseshoe or ox#Shoeing, oxshoe that is often forged, welded or brazed onto the shoe."Know Foot Know Horse", knowfootknowhor ...
shoes for the horses to enable them to traverse roads that had become iced over. The most devastating effect of the cold weather upon Napoleon's forces occurred during their retreat. Starvation coupled with hypothermia led to the loss of tens of thousands of men. In his memoir, Napoleon's close adviser
Armand de Caulaincourt
Armand de Caulaincourt
recounted scenes of massive loss, and offered a vivid description of mass death through hypothermia: This befell a that was ill-equipped for cold weather. The Russians, properly equipped, considered it a relatively mild winter—the Berezina river was not frozen during the last major battle of the campaign; the French deficiencies in equipment caused by the assumption that their campaign would be concluded before the cold weather set in were a large factor in the number of casualties they suffered.


Summary

In ''Napoleon's Russian Campaign'', historian Richard Riehn sums up the limitations of Napoleon's logistics as follows:

The military machine Napoleon the artilleryman had created was perfectly suited to fight short, violent campaigns, but whenever a long-term sustained effort was in the offing, it tended to expose feet of clay. ..In the end, the logistics of the French military machine proved wholly inadequate. The experiences of short campaigns had left the French supply services completed unprepared for .Russia, and this was despite the precautions Napoleon had taken. There was no quick remedy that might have repaired these inadequacies from one campaign to the next. ..The limitations of horse-drawn transport and the road networks to support it were simply not up to the task. Indeed, modern militaries have long been in agreement that Napoleon's military machine at its apex, and the scale on which he attempted to operate with it in 1812 and 1813, had become an anachronism that could succeed only with the use of railroads and the telegraph. And these had not yet been invented.

Napoleon lacked the apparatus to efficiently move so many troops across such large distances of hostile territory. The supply depots established by the French in the Russian interior were too far behind the main army. The French train battalions tried to move forward huge amounts of supplies during the campaign, but the distances, the speed required, and missing endurance of the requisitioned vehicles that broke down too easily meant that the demands Napoleon placed on them were too great. Napoleon's demand of a speedy advance by the over a network of dirt roads that dissolved into deep mires resulted in killing already exhausted horses and breaking wagons. As the graph of
Charles Joseph Minard Charles Joseph Minard (; ; 27 March 1781 – 24 October 1870) was a French civil engineer A civil engineer is a person who practices civil engineering Civil engineering is a Regulation and licensure in engineering, professional engineering di ...

Charles Joseph Minard
, given below, shows, the incurred the majority of its losses during the march to Moscow during the summer and autumn.


Invasion


Crossing the Russian border

The invasion commenced on 24 June 1812 with Napoleon's army crossing the border on schedule with between 450,000 and 600,000 men into Russia:
1. The left wing under
Macdonald MacDonald, Macdonald, and McDonald are surnames of Scottish name, Scottish and Irish name, Irish origin. In the Scottish Gaelic and Irish language, Irish languages they are patronymic, referring to an ancestor with given name Donald. Origins and ...

Macdonald
with the X corps of 30,000 men crossed the Niemen at Tilsit towards Riga defended by 10,000.
X corps of Macdonald 30,000
2. The centre under
Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon Bonaparte ; co, Napulione Buonaparte. (born Napoleone di Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) r ...

Napoleon Bonaparte
with 297,000 men crossed the Niemen at Kaunas/Pilona towards Barclay's first army of 90,000.
Guards of Mortier 47,000
I corps of
Davout
Davout
72,000
II corps of Oudinot 37,000
III corps of
Ney The ''ney'' ( fa, نِی,Ney/نای,Nāy), is an end-blown flute upA shakuhachi showing its ''utaguchi'' (blowing edge) and inlay The end-blown flute (also called an edge-blown flute or rim-blown flute) is a woodwind instrument played by dir ...

Ney
39,000
IV corps of
Eugene Eugene may refer to: People * Eugene (given name) Eugene is a common masculine given name that comes from the Greek language, Greek εὐγενής (''eugenēs''), "noble", literally "well-born", from εὖ (''eu''), "well" and γένος (''g ...
45,000
VI corps of St. Cyr 25,000
Cavalry corps of
MuratMurat may refer to: Places Australia *Murat Bay, a bay in South Australia **District Council of Murat Bay, the former name of the District Council of Ceduna ** Tourville and Murat Bays Important Bird Area, South Australia *Murat Marine Park, a mar ...

Murat
32,000
3. The second centre under
Jérôme Bonaparte Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte (born Girolamo Buonaparte; 15 November 1784 – 24 June 1860) was the youngest brother of Napoleon, Napoleon I and reigned as Jerome Napoleon I (formally Hieronymus Napoleon in German), Kingdom of Westphalia, King of ...

Jérôme Bonaparte
with 78,000 men crossed the Niemen near Grodno towards Bagration's second army of 55,000.
V corps of
Poniatowski Poniatowski (plural: ''Poniatowscy'') is a prominent Poles, Polish family that was part of the szlachta, nobility of Poland. A member of this family, Stanisław August Poniatowski, Stanisław Poniatowski, was elected as King of Poland and reigne ...
36,000
VII corps of Reynier 17,000
VIII corps of
Vandamme
Vandamme
17,000
Cavalry corps of Latour Maubourg 8,000
4. The right wing under Schwarzenberg crossed the Bug near Drohyczyn towards Tormasow's third army of 35,000.
Auxiliary corps of Schwarzenberg 34,000
In the course of the campaign, the IX corps of Victor with 33,000, the divisions Durutte and Loison with 27,000 as part of the XI reserve corps, other reinforcements of 80,000 and the baggage trains with 30,000 men followed the 440,000 of the first wave.
IX corps of Victor 33,000
XI corps of
Augerau
Augerau
parts of the reserve Napoleon's army had entered Russia in 1812 with more than 600,000 men, 180,000 horses and 1,300 pieces of artillery. In January 1813 the French army gathered behind the Vistula some 23,000 strong. The Austrian and Prussian troops mustered some 35,000 men in addition. The numbers of deserters and stragglers having left Russia alive is unknown by definition. The number of new inhabitants of Russia is unknown. The number of prisoners is estimated around 100,000, of whom more than 50,000 died in captivity. Napoleon lost more than 500,000 men in Russia.


March on Vilnius

Napoleon initially met little resistance and moved quickly into the enemy's territory in spite of the transport of more than 1,100 cannons, being opposed by the Russian armies with more than 900 cannons. But the roads in this area of
Lithuania Lithuania (; lt, Lietuva ), officially the Republic of Lithuania ( lt, Lietuvos Respublika, links=no), is a country in the Baltic region The terms Baltic Sea Region, Baltic Rim countries (or simply Baltic Rim), and the Baltic Sea countr ...
were actually small dirt tracks through areas of dense forest. At the beginning of the war supply lines already simply could not keep up with the forced marches of the corps and rear formations always suffered the worst privations. The 25th of June found Napoleon's group past the bridgehead with Ney's command approaching the existing crossings at Alexioten. Murat's reserve cavalry provided the vanguard with Napoleon the guard and Davout's 1st corps following behind. Eugene's command crossed the Niemen further north at Piloy, and MacDonald crossed the same day. Jerome's command wouldn't complete its crossing at
Grodno Grodno ( rus, Гродно, 3=ˈɡrodnə) or Hrodna ( be, Гродна ; pl, Grodno ; yi, גראָדנע, translit=Grodne, , ; see also other names Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other ...

Grodno
until the 28th. Napoleon rushed towards
Vilnius Vilnius ( , ; see also ) is the capital and of , with a population of 588,412 . The population of Vilnius's functional urban area, which stretches beyond the city limits, is estimated at 706,832 (as of 2019), while according to the Vilnius t ...

Vilnius
, pushing the infantry forward in columns that suffered from heavy rain, then stifling heat. The central group marched in two days. Ney's III Corps marched down the road to Sudervė, with Oudinot marching on the other side of the
Neris River Confluence of the Viliya and Narach River, Narach: a conjectured reason for the dual naming of Neris The river Neris () or Viliya ( be, Ві́лія) rises in northern Belarus. It flows westward, passing through Vilnius (Lithuania's capital) and ...
in an operation attempting to catch General Wittgenstein's command between Ney, Oudinout and Macdonald's commands, but Macdonald's command was late in arriving at an objective too far away and the opportunity vanished. Jerome was tasked with tackling Bagration by marching to Grodno and Reynier's VII corps sent to
Białystok Białystok (, , ; also known by #Etymology, alternative names) is the largest city in northeastern Poland and the capital of the Podlaskie Voivodeship. Białystok is the tenth-largest city in Poland, second in terms of population density, and thir ...

Białystok
in support. The Russian headquarters was in fact centered in
Vilnius Vilnius ( , ; see also ) is the capital and of , with a population of 588,412 . The population of Vilnius's functional urban area, which stretches beyond the city limits, is estimated at 706,832 (as of 2019), while according to the Vilnius t ...

Vilnius
on June 24 and couriers rushed news about the crossing of the Niemen to Barclay de Tolley. Before the night had passed, orders were sent out to Bagration and Platov to take the offensive. Alexander left Vilnius on June 26 and Barclay assumed overall command. Although Barclay wanted to give battle, he assessed it as a hopeless situation and ordered Vilnius's magazines burned and its bridge dismantled. Wittgenstein moved his command to Perkele, passing beyond Macdonald and Oudinot's operations with Wittgenstein's rear guard clashing with Oudinout's forward elements. Doctorov on the Russian Left found his command threatened by Phalen's III cavalry corps. Bagration was ordered to
Vileyka Vileyka ( officially transliterated as Viliejka, be, Віле́йка , also ''Вялейка''; russian: Вилейка; lt, Vileika; pl, Wilejka) is a city in Belarus , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Minsk Minsk ( be, М ...
, which moved him towards Barclay, though the order's intent is still something of a mystery to this day. On June 28, Napoleon entered Vilnius with only light skirmishing. The foraging in Lithuania proved hard as the land was mostly barren and forested. The supplies of forage were less than that of Poland, and two days of forced marching made a bad supply situation worse. Central to the problem were the expanding distances to supply magazines and the fact that no supply wagon could keep up with a forced marched infantry column. The weather itself became an issue, where, according to historian Richard K. Riehn: A Lieutenant Mertens—a Württemberger serving with Ney's III corps—reported in his diary that oppressive heat followed by rain left them with dead horses and camping in swamp-like conditions with
dysentery Dysentery () is a type of gastroenteritis Gastroenteritis, also known as infectious diarrhea and gastro, is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract The gastrointestinal tract, (GI tract, GIT, digestive tract, digestion tract, aliment ...
and
influenza Influenza, commonly known as "the flu", is an infectious disease An infection is the invasion of an organism's body Tissue (biology), tissues by Pathogen, disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host (biology), ...

influenza
raging though the ranks with hundreds in a field hospital that had to be set up for the purpose. He reported the times, dates and places of events, reporting thunderstorms on June 6 and men dying of sunstroke by the 11th. Desertion was high among Spanish and Portuguese formations. These deserters proceeded to terrorize the population, looting whatever lay to hand. The areas in which the passed were devastated. A Polish officer reported that areas around him were depopulated. The French light cavalry was shocked to find itself outclassed by Russian counterparts, so much so that Napoleon had ordered that infantry be provided as back up to French light cavalry units. This affected both French reconnaissance and intelligence operations. Despite 30,000 cavalry, contact was not maintained with Barclay's forces, leaving Napoleon guessing and throwing out columns to find his opposition. The operation intended to split Bagration's forces from Barclay's forces by driving to Vilnius had cost the French forces 25,000 losses from all causes in a few days. Strong probing operations were advanced from Vilnius towards Nemenčinė, Mykoliškės,
Ashmyany Ashmyany ( be, Ашмя́ны; Łacinka: ''Ašmiany''; russian: Ошмя́ны; lt, Ašmena; pl, Oszmiana; yi, אָשמענע, ''Oshmene'') is a town in Grodno Region Grodno Region or Grodno Oblast or Hrodna Voblasts ( be, Гродзенска ...
and
Molėtai Molėtai () ( pl, Malaty) is a town in north eastern Lithuania surrounded by lakes. One of the oldest settlements in Lithuania, it is a popular resort for the inhabitants of Vilnius. According to the 2013 census, it had 6,302 inhabitants. The town ...
. Eugene crossed at Prenn on June 30, while Jerome moved VII Corps to Białystok, with everything else crossing at Grodno. Murat advanced to Nemenčinė on July 1, running into elements of Doctorov's III Russian Cavalry Corps en route to Djunaszev. Napoleon assumed this was Bagration's 2nd Army and rushed out, before being told it was not 24 hours later. Napoleon then attempted to use Davout, Jerome, and Eugene out on his right in a hammer and anvil to catch Bagration to destroy the 2nd Army in an operation spanning Ashmyany and
Minsk Minsk ( be, Мінск , russian: link=no, Минск) is the capital and the largest city of Belarus, located on the Svislach (Berezina), Svislach and the now subterranean Nyamiha, Niamiha rivers. As the capital, Minsk has a special administra ...

Minsk
. This operation had failed to produce results on his left before with Macdonald and Oudinot. Doctorov had moved from Djunaszev to Svir, narrowly evading French forces, with 11 regiments and a battery of 12 guns heading to join Bagration when moving too late to stay with Doctorov. Conflicting orders and lack of information had almost placed Bagration in a bind marching into Davout; however, Jerome could not arrive in time over the same mud tracks, supply problems, and weather, that had so badly affected the rest of the Grande Armée, losing 9000 men in four days. Command disputes between Jerome and General Vandamme would not help the situation. Bagration joined with Doctorov and had 45,000 men at Novi-Sverzen by the 7th. Davout had lost 10,000 men marching to Minsk and would not attack Bagration without Jerome joining him. Two French Cavalry defeats by Platov kept the French in the dark and Bagration was no better informed, with both overestimating the other's strength: Davout thought Bagration had some 60,000 men and Bagration thought Davout had 70,000. Bagration was getting orders from both Alexander's staff and Barclay (which Barclay didn't know) and left Bagration without a clear picture of what was expected of him and the general situation. This stream of confused orders to Bagration had him upset with Barclay, which would have repercussions later. Napoleon reached Vilnius on 28 June, leaving 10,000 dead horses in his wake. These horses were vital to bringing up further supplies to an army in desperate need. Napoleon had supposed that Alexander would sue for peace at this point and was to be disappointed; it would not be his last disappointment. Barclay continued to retreat to the Drissa, deciding that the concentration of the 1st and 2nd armies was his first priority. Barclay continued his retreat and, with the exception of the occasional rearguard clash, remained unhindered in his movements ever further east. To date, the standard methods of the were working against it. Rapid forced marches quickly caused desertion and starvation, and exposed the troops to filthy water and disease, while the logistics trains lost horses by the thousands, further exacerbating the problems. Some 50,000 stragglers and deserters became a lawless mob warring with local peasantry in all-out guerrilla war, which further hindered supplies reaching the , which was already down 95,000 men.


Kutuzov in Command

Barclay, the Russian commander-in-chief, refused to fight despite Bagration's urgings. Several times he attempted to establish a strong defensive position, but each time the French advance was too quick for him to finish preparations and he was forced to retreat once more. When the French Army progressed further, it encountered serious problems in foraging, aggravated by
scorched earth A scorched-earth policy is a military strategy that aims to destroy anything that might be useful to the enemy. Any assets that could be used by the enemy may be targeted, which usually includes obvious weapons, military vehicles, transport ve ...

scorched earth
tactics of the Russian forces advocated by
Karl Ludwig von Phull Karl Ludwig August Friedrich von Phull (or Pfuel) (6 November 1757 – 25 April 1826) was a Germany, German general in the service of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Russian Empire. Phull served as Chief of the German General Staff, General Staf ...
. Political pressure on Barclay to give battle and the general's continuing reluctance to do so led to his removal after the defeat at the
Battle of Smolensk (1812) The Battle of Smolensk was the first major battle of the French invasion of Russia. It took place on 16–18 August 1812 and involved about 45,000 men of the Grande Armée under Emperor Napoleon I against about 30,000 Russian troops under General M ...
on August 16–18. He was replaced in his position as commander-in-chief by the popular, veteran
Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov Prince Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov (Mikhail Illarion Golenishchev-Kutuzov Graf von Smolensk) (russian: князь Михаи́л Илларио́нович Голени́щев-Куту́зов; ) was a Field Marshal Field marsh ...
. Kutuzov, however, went on with Barclay's strategy, using
attrition warfare Attrition warfare is a military strategy Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek word ''strategos Image:Greek strategist Pio-Clementino Inv306.jpg, 2 ...
against Napoleon instead of risking the army in an open battle. The Russian Army fell back ever deeper into Russia's interior as he continued to move east while intensifying the guerilla warfare of the
Cossacks The Cossacks * russian: казаки́ or * be, казакi * pl, Kozacy * cs, kozáci * sk, kozáci * hu, kozákok, cazacii * fi, Kasakat, cazacii * et, Kasakad, cazacii are a group of predominantly East Slavic East Slavic may refer ...

Cossacks
. Unable because of politial pressure to give up Moscow without a fight, Kutuzov took up a defensive position some before Moscow at
Borodino The Battle of Borodino. was a battle fought on 7 September 1812 during Napoleon's French invasion of Russia. The ' won the battle against the Imperial Russian Army with casualties in a ratio 2:3, but failed to gain a decisive victory. Napoleon ...

Borodino
. Meanwhile, French plans to quarter at Smolensk were abandoned, and Napoleon pressed his army on after the Russians.


The Battle of Borodino

The Battle of Borodino, fought on 7 September 1812, was the largest and bloodiest battle of the French invasion of Russia, involving more than 250,000 troops and resulting in at least 70,000 casualties. The French under Emperor
Napoleon I Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led Napoleon Bonaparte's battle record, several successful campaigns during the French Rev ...
attacked the
Imperial Russian Army The Imperial Russian Army (russian: Ру́сская импера́торская а́рмия, tr. ) was the land armed force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily in ...

Imperial Russian Army
of General Mikhail Kutuzov near the village of
Borodino The Battle of Borodino. was a battle fought on 7 September 1812 during Napoleon's French invasion of Russia. The ' won the battle against the Imperial Russian Army with casualties in a ratio 2:3, but failed to gain a decisive victory. Napoleon ...
, west of the town of
Mozhaysk MozhayskAlternative transliterations include ''Mozhaisk'', ''Mozhajsk'', ''Mozhaĭsk'', and ''Možajsk''. ( rus, Можа́йск, p=mɐˈʐajsk) is a town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smal ...

Mozhaysk
, and eventually captured the main positions on the battlefield but failed to destroy the Russian army. About a third of Napoleon's soldiers were killed or wounded; Russian losses, while heavier, could be replaced due to Russia's large population, since Napoleon's campaign took place on Russian soil. The battle ended with the Russian Army, while out of position, still offering resistance. The state of exhaustion of the French forces and the lack of recognition of the state of the Russian Army led Napoleon to remain on the battlefield with his army, instead of engaging in the forced pursuit that had marked other campaigns that he had conducted. The entirety of the Guard was still available to Napoleon, and in refusing to use it he lost this singular chance to destroy the Russian Army. The battle at Borodino was a pivotal point in the campaign, as it was the last offensive action fought by Napoleon in Russia. By withdrawing, the Russian Army preserved its combat strength, eventually allowing it to force Napoleon out of the country. The Battle of Borodino on September 7 was the bloodiest day of battle in the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major World war, global conflicts pitting the First French Empire, French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon, Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of Coalition forces of the Napoleonic W ...
. The Russian Army could only muster half of its strength on September 8. Kutuzov chose to act in accordance with his scorched earth tactics and retreat, leaving the road to Moscow open. Kutuzov also ordered the evacuation of the city. By this point the Russians had managed to draft large numbers of reinforcements into the army, bringing total Russian land forces to their peak strength in 1812 of 904,000, with perhaps 100,000 in the vicinity of Moscow—the remnants of Kutuzov's army from Borodino partially reinforced. Both armies began to move and rebuild. The Russian retreat was significant for two reasons: firstly, the move was to the south and not the east; secondly, the Russians immediately began operations that would continue to deplete the French forces. Platov, commanding the rear guard on September 8, offered such strong resistance that Napoleon remained on the Borodino field. On the following day, Miloradovitch assumed command of the rear guard, adding his forces to the formation. On 8 September the Russian army began retreating east from Borodino. They camped outside
Mozhaysk MozhayskAlternative transliterations include ''Mozhaisk'', ''Mozhajsk'', ''Mozhaĭsk'', and ''Možajsk''. ( rus, Можа́йск, p=mɐˈʐajsk) is a town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smal ...

Mozhaysk
. When the village of Mozhaysk was captured by the French on the 9th, the
Grande Armée ''La Grande Armée'' (; French language, French for The Great Army) was the imperial army commanded by Napoleon, Napoleon Bonaparte during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1804 to 1809, it won a series of military victories that allowed the First Fre ...
rested for two days to recover. Napoleon asked
Berthier
Berthier
to send reinforcements from Smolensk to Moscow and from Minsk to Smolensk. The French Army began to move out on September 10 with the still ill Napoleon not leaving until the 12th. Some 18,000 men were ordered in from Smolensk, and Marshal Victor's corps supplied another 25,000.


Capture of Moscow

On 10 September was the main quarter of the Russian army situated at
Bolshiye Vyazyomy Bolshiye Vyaziomy or Bolshye Vyazemye (russian: Большие Вязёмы) is an types of inhabited localities in Russia, urban locality (an urban-type settlement) in Odintsovsky District of Moscow Oblast, Russia. The population is it is the lo ...
. Kutuzov settled in a Vyazyomy Manor on the high road to Moscow. The owner was
Dmitry Golitsyn Image:Dmitriy Vladimirovich Golitsyn.jpg, Portrait by George Dawe Serene Prince Dmitry Vladimirovich Golitsyn or Galitzine (russian: Дмитрий Владимирович Голицын) (29 October 177127 March 1844, Paris) was a Russian caval ...
, who entered military service again. The next day Tsar Alexander signed a document that Kutuzov was promoted General Field Marshall, the highest military rank. Russian sources suggest Kutuzov wrote a number of orders and letters to Rostopchin, the Moscow military governor, about saving the city or the army. On , the main forces of Kutuzov departed from the village, now Golitsyno and camped near
Odintsovo Odintsovo ( rus, Одинцово, , ɐdʲɪnˈtsovə) is a types of inhabited localities in Russia, city and the administrative center of Odintsovsky District in Moscow Oblast, Russia. Western suburb of Moscow. Population: History The village o ...
, 20 km to the west, followed by Mortier and
Joachim Murat it, Gioacchino-Napoleone Murat , religion = Roman Catholic Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancien ...

Joachim Murat
's vanguard. Napoleon Bonaparte, who suffered from a cold and lost his voice, spent the night at Vyazyomy Manor (on the same sofa in the library) within 24 hours. On Sunday afternoon the Russian military
council at Fili The Council at Fili was a Council of war, military council, which was convened on 13 September 1812 after the Battle of Borodino during the French invasion of Russia by Commander-in-chief, Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov in the village of Fili ...
discussed the risks and agreed to abandon Moscow without fighting.
Leo Tolstoy Count Lev Nikolayevich TolstoyTolstoy pronounced his first name as , which corresponds to the romanization ''Lyov''. () (; russian: link=no, Лев Николаевич Толстой,In Tolstoy's day, his name was written as in pre-reform ...

Leo Tolstoy
wrote
Fyodor Rostopchin Count Count (feminine: countess) is a historical title of nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. No ...
was invited also and explained the difficult decision in quite a few remarkable chapters in his book
War and Peace ''War and Peace'' (russian: Война и мир, translit=Voyna i mir; Reforms of Russian orthography, pre-reform Russian: ; ) is a literary work mixed with chapters on history and philosophy by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published se ...

War and Peace
. This came at the price of losing Moscow, whose population was evacuated. Miloradovich would not give up his rearguard duties until September 14, allowing Moscow to be evacuated. Miloradovich finally retreated under a flag of truce. Kutuzov withdrew to the southeast of Moscow. On September 14, 1812, Napoleon moved into Moscow. However, he was surprised to have received no delegation from the city. Before the order was received to evacuate Moscow, the city had a population of approximately 270,000 people. 48 hours later three quarters of Moscow was reduced to ashes by arson. Although Saint Petersburg was the political capital at that time, Napoleon had occupied Moscow, the spiritual capital of Russia, but
Tsar Tsar ( or ), also spelled ''czar'', ''tzar'', or ''csar'', is a Royal and noble ranks, title used to designate Orthodox Slavs, East and South Slavic monarchs. In this last capacity it lends its name to a system of government, tsarist autocra ...

Tsar
Alexander IAlexander I may refer to: * Alexander I of Macedon, king of Macedon 495–454 BC * Alexander I of Epirus (370–331 BC), king of Epirus * Pope Alexander I (died 115), early bishop of Rome * Pope Alexander I of Alexandria (died 320s), patriarch of Al ...

Alexander I
decided that there could not be a peaceful coexistence with Napoleon. There would be no appeasement. On 19 September Murat lost sight of Kutuzov who changed direction and turned west to
Podolsk Podolsk ( rus, Подольск, p=pɐˈdolʲsk) is an industrial city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science ...

Podolsk
and Tarutino where he would be more protected by the surrounding hills and the Nara river. On 3 October Kutuzov and his entire staff arrived at Tarutino. He wanted to go even further in order to control the three-pronged roads from
Obninsk Obninsk (russian: О́бнинск) is a types of inhabited localities in Russia, city in Kaluga Oblast, Russia, located on the bank of the Protva River southwest of Moscow and northeast of Kaluga. History The history of Obninsk began in 1945 ...
to Kaluga and Medyn, so that Napoleon could not turn south or southwest. Kutuzov avoided frontal battles involving large masses of troops in order to reinforce his Russian army and to wait there for Napoleon's retreat. This tactic was sharply criticised by Chief of Staff Bennigsen and others, but also by the Autocrat and Emperor Alexander. (
Barclay de Tolly Barclay de Tolly () is the name of a Baltic German noble family of Scottish Scottish usually refers to something of, from, or related to Scotland, including: *Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family nat ...

Barclay de Tolly
interrupted his service for five months and settled in
Nizhny Novgorod Nizhny Novgorod ( ; rus, links=no, Нижний Новгород, a=Ru-Nizhny Novgorod.ogg, p=ˈnʲiʐnʲɪj ˈnovɡərət), colloquially shortened to Nizhny, known as Gorky () between 1932 and 1990, is the administrative centre of Nizhny Novgo ...

Nizhny Novgorod
.) Each side avoided the other and seemed no longer to wish to get into a fight. On 5 October, on order of Napoleon, the French ambassador
Jacques Lauriston Jacques Alexandre Bernard Law, marquis de Lauriston (1 February 1768 – 12 June 1828) was a French soldier and diplomat A diplomat (from grc, δίπλωμα; romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the s ...
left Moscow to meet Kutuzov at his headquarters near Tarutino. Kutuzov agreed to meet, despite the orders of the Tsar. On 18 October, at dawn during breakfast, Murat's camp in a forest was surprised by an attack by forces led by Bennigsen, known as Battle of Winkovo. Bennigsen was supported by Kutuzov from his headquarters at distance. Bennigsen asked Kutuzov to provide troops for the pursuit. However, the General Field Marshal refused.


Retreat

On October 19th, after 5 weeks of occupation, Napoleon left Moscow. The army still numbered 108,000 men, but his cavalry had been nearly destroyed. With horses exhausted or dead, commanders redirected cavalrymen into infantry units, leaving French forces helpless against Cossack fighters. With little direction or supplies, the army turned to leave the region, struggling on toward worse disaster. Napoleon followed the old Kaluga road southwards towards unspoilt, richer parts of Russia to use other roads for retreat westwards to Smolensk than the one being scorched by his own army for the march eastwards. Napoleon's goal was to get around Kutuzov, but on the 24th he was stopped at
Maloyaroslavets Maloyaroslavets (russian: Малояросла́вец) is a town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than city, cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably ...
on his way to Medyn and forced to go north on the 26th. At the
Battle of Maloyaroslavets The Battle of Maloyaroslavets took place on 24 October 1812 as part of the French invasion of Russia The French invasion of Russia, known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812 (russian: Отечественная война 1812 года, ...
, Kutuzov was able to force the French Army into using the same Smolensk road on which they had earlier moved east, the corridor of which had been stripped of food by both armies. This is often presented as an example of
scorched earth A scorched-earth policy is a military strategy that aims to destroy anything that might be useful to the enemy. Any assets that could be used by the enemy may be targeted, which usually includes obvious weapons, military vehicles, transport ve ...

scorched earth
tactics. Continuing to block the southern flank to prevent the French from returning by a different route, Kutuzov employed partisan tactics to repeatedly strike at the French train where it was weakest. As the retreating French train broke up and became separated,
Cossack The Cossacks * russian: казаки́ or * be, казакi * pl, Kozacy * cs, kozáci * sk, kozáci * hu, kozákok, cazacii * fi, Kasakat, cazacii * et, Kasakad, cazacii are a group of predominantly East Slavic languages, East Slav ...
bands and light Russian cavalry assaulted isolated French units. Supplying the army in full became an impossibility. The lack of grass and feed weakened the remaining horses, almost all of which died or were killed for food by starving soldiers. Without horses, the French cavalry ceased to exist; cavalrymen had to march on foot. Lack of horses meant many cannons and wagons had to be abandoned. Much of the artillery lost was replaced in 1813, but the loss of thousands of wagons and trained horses weakened Napoleon's armies for the remainder of his wars. Starvation and disease took their toll, and desertion soared. Many of the deserters were taken prisoner or killed by Russian peasants. Badly weakened by these circumstances, the French military position collapsed. Further, defeats were inflicted on elements of the at
Vyazma Vyazma (russian: Вя́зьма) is a town A town is a . Towns are generally larger than s and smaller than , though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world. Origin and use The word "t ...
,
Polotsk Polotsk (russian: По́лоцк; be, По́лацк, translit=Polatsk (BGN/PCGN), Polack (official transliteration); lt, Polockas; pl, Połock) is a historical city in Belarus, situated on the Western Dvina, Dvina River. It is the center of the ...
and Krasny. The crossing of the river
Berezina , image = Berezina River.JPG , image_caption = Berezina River in Belarus , map = Bérézina.png , source1_location = Belarus , mouth = Dnieper , mouth_coordinates = , subdivision_ty ...

Berezina
was a final French calamity: two Russian armies inflicted heavy casualties on the remnants of the . In early November 1812, Napoleon learned that
General Claude de Malet
General Claude de Malet
had attempted a
coup d'état A coup d'état (; French for "blow of state"), often shortened to coup in English, (also known as an overthrow) is a seizure and removal of a government and its powers. Typically, it is an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a politic ...
in France. He abandoned the army on 5 December and returned home on a sleigh, leaving Marshal
Joachim Murat it, Gioacchino-Napoleone Murat , religion = Roman Catholic Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancien ...

Joachim Murat
in command. Subsequently, Murat left what was left of the to try to save his
Kingdom of Naples The Kingdom of Naples ( la, Regnum Neapolitanum; it, Regno di Napoli; nap, Regno 'e Napule), also known as the Kingdom of Sicily, was a state that ruled the part of the south of the between 1282 and 1816. It was established by the (1282–13 ...
. In the following weeks, the shrank further, and on 14 December 1812, it left Russian territory.


Historical assessment

Napoleon's invasion of Russia is listed among the most lethal military operations in world history.


Grande Armée

On 24 June 1812, around 400,000–450,000 men of the , the largest army assembled up to that point in European history, crossed the border into Russia and headed towards Moscow. Anthony Joes wrote in the ''Journal of Conflict Studies'' that figures on how many men Napoleon took into Russia and how many eventually came out vary widely.
Georges Lefebvre Georges Lefebvre (; 6 August 1874 – 28 August 1959) was a French people, French historian, best known for his work on the French Revolution and peasant life. He is considered as one of the pioneers of "People's history, history from ...

Georges Lefebvre
says that Napoleon crossed the Neman with over 600,000 soldiers, only half of whom were from France, the others being mainly Poles and Germans. Felix Markham thinks that 450,000 crossed the Neman on 25 June 1812. When Ney and the rearguard recrossed the Niemen on December 14, he had barely a thousand men fit for action. James Marshall-Cornwall says 510,000 Imperial troops entered Russia. Eugene Tarle believes that 420,000 crossed with Napoleon and 150,000 eventually followed, for a grand total of 570,000. Richard K. Riehn provides the following figures: 685,000 men marched into Russia in 1812, of whom around 355,000 were French; 31,000 soldiers marched out again in some sort of military formation, with perhaps another 35,000 stragglers, for a total of fewer than 70,000 known survivors. Adam Zamoyski estimated that between 550,000 and 600,000 French and allied troops (including reinforcements) operated beyond the Nemen, of which as many as 400,000 troops died but this includes deaths of prisoners during captivity. Minard's famous infographic (see above) depicts the march ingeniously by showing the size of the advancing army, overlaid on a rough map, as well as the retreating soldiers together with temperatures recorded (as much as 30 below zero on the
Réaumur scale __NOTOC__ The Réaumur scale (; °Ré, °Re, °r), also known as the "octogesimal division", is a temperature scale for which the melting point, freezing and boiling points of water are defined as 0 and 80 degrees respectively. The scale is name ...
()) on their return. The numbers on this chart have 422,000 crossing the Neman with Napoleon, 22,000 taking a side trip early on in the campaign, 100,000 surviving the battles en route to Moscow and returning from there; only 4,000 survive the march back, to be joined by 6,000 that survived from that initial 22,000 in the feint attack northward; in the end, only 10,000 crossed the Neman back out of the initial 422,000.


Imperial Russian Army

General of Infantry Mikhail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly served as the Commander in Chief of the Russian Armies. A field commander of the First Western Army and Minister of War,
Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov Prince Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov (Mikhail Illarion Golenishchev-Kutuzov Graf von Smolensk) (russian: князь Михаи́л Илларио́нович Голени́щев-Куту́зов; ) was a Field Marshal Field marsh ...
, replaced him, and assumed the role of Commander-in-chief during the retreat following the Battle of Smolensk. These forces, however, could count on reinforcements from the second line, which totaled 129,000 men and 8,000 Cossacks with 434 guns and 433 rounds of ammunition. Of these, about 105,000 men were actually available for the defense against the invasion. In the third line were the 36 recruit depots and militias, which came to a total of approximately 161,000 men of various and highly disparate military values, of which about 133,000 actually took part in the defense. Thus, the grand total of all the forces was 488,000 men, of which about 428,000 gradually came into action against the Grande Armee. This bottom line, however, includes more than 80,000 Cossacks and militiamen, as well as about 20,000 men who garrisoned the fortresses in the operational area. The majority of the officer corps came from the aristocracy. About 7% of the officer corps came from the
Baltic German The Baltic Germans (german: Deutsch-Balten or , later ; and остзейцы ''ostzeitsy'' 'Balters' in Russian) are ethnic German inhabitants of the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, in what today are Estonia and Latvia Latvia ( o ...

Baltic German
nobility from the governorates of
Estonia Estonia ( et, Eesti ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( et, Eesti Vabariik, links=no), is a country in northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden ...
and
Livonia Livonia ( liv, Līvõmō, et, Liivimaa, fi, Liivinmaa, German and North Germanic languages, Scandinavian languages: ', archaic German: ''Liefland'', nl, Lijfland, Latvian language, Latvian and lt, Livonija, pl, Inflanty, archaic English ...
. Because the Baltic German nobles tended to be better educated than the ethnic Russian nobility, the Baltic Germans were often favored with positions in high command and various technical positions. The Russian Empire had no universal educational system, and those who could afford it had to hire tutors and/or send their children to private schools. The educational level of the Russian nobility and gentry varied enormously depending on the quality of the tutors and/or private schools, with some Russian nobles being extremely well educated while others were just barely literate. The Baltic German nobility were more inclined to invest in their children's education than the ethnic Russian nobility, which led to the government favoring them when granting officers' commissions. Of the 800 doctors in the Russian Army in 1812, almost all of them were Baltic Germans. The British historian
Dominic Lieven Dominic Lieven (born 19 January 1952) is a research professor at Cambridge University (Senior Research Fellow, Trinity College) and a Fellow of the British Academy Fellowship of the British Academy (FBA) is an award granted by the British Aca ...
noted that, at the time, the Russian elite defined Russianness in terms of loyalty to the House of Romanov rather in terms of language or culture, and as the Baltic German aristocrats were very loyal, they were considered and considered themselves to be Russian despite speaking German as their first language. Sweden, Russia's only ally, did not send supporting troops, but the alliance made it possible to withdraw the 45,000-man Russian corps Steinheil from Finland and use it in the later battles (20,000 men were sent to
Riga Riga (; lv, Rīga , liv, Rīgõ, ) is the capital of Latvia and is home to 614,618 inhabitants (2021), which is a third of Latvia's population. Being significantly larger than List of cities and towns in Latvia#Cities, other cities of Latvi ...

Riga
).


Losses

A serious research on losses in the Russian campaign is given by Thierry Lentz. On the French side, the toll is around 200,000 dead (half in combat and the rest from cold, hunger or disease) and 150,000 to 190,000 prisoners who fell in captivity. Hay has argued that the destruction of the Dutch contingent of the was not a result of the death of most of its members. Rather, its various units disintegrated and the troops scattered. Later, many of its personnel were collected and reorganised into the new Dutch army. Most of the Prussian contingent survived thanks to the
Convention of Tauroggen The Convention of Tauroggen was an armistice An armistice is a Treaty, formal agreement of warring parties to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, as it may constitute only a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made t ...
and almost the whole Austrian contingent under Schwarzenberg withdrew successfully. The Russians formed the
Russian-German LegionGerman-Russian or Russian-German (with or without hyphen) may refer to: *Germany–Russia relations (c.f. a "German–Russian treaty") *Germans in the old Russian Empire or present-day Russia **History of Germans in Russia, Ukraine and the Soviet Uni ...
from other German prisoners and deserters. Russian casualties in the few open battles are comparable to the French losses, but civilian losses along the devastating campaign route were much higher than the military casualties. In total, despite earlier estimates giving figures of several million dead, around one million were killed, including civilians—fairly evenly split between the French and Russians. Military losses amounted to 300,000 French, about 72,000 Poles, 50,000 Italians, 80,000 Germans, and 61,000 from other nations. As well as the loss of human life, the French also lost some 200,000 horses and over 1,000 artillery pieces. The losses of the Russian armies are difficult to assess. The 19th-century historian Michael Bogdanovich assessed reinforcements of the Russian armies during the war using the Military Registry archives of the General Staff. According to this, the reinforcements totaled 134,000 men. The main army at the time of capture of
Vilnius Vilnius ( , ; see also ) is the capital and of , with a population of 588,412 . The population of Vilnius's functional urban area, which stretches beyond the city limits, is estimated at 706,832 (as of 2019), while according to the Vilnius t ...

Vilnius
in December had 70,000 men, whereas its number at the start of the invasion had been about 150,000. Thus, total losses would come to 210,000 men. Of these, about 40,000 returned to duty. Losses of the formations operating in secondary areas of operations as well as losses in militia units were about 40,000. Thus, he came up with the number of 210,000 men and militiamen.


Aftermath

The Russian victory over the French Army in 1812 was a significant blow to Napoleon's ambitions of European dominance. This war was the reason the other coalition allies triumphed once and for all over Napoleon. His army was shattered and morale was low, both for French troops still in Russia, fighting battles just before the campaign ended, and for the troops on other fronts. Out of an original force of 615,000, only 110,000 frostbitten and half-starved survivors stumbled back into France. The
War of the Sixth Coalition In the War of the Sixth Coalition (March 1813 – May 1814), sometimes known in Germany as the War of Liberation, a coalition of Austrian Empire, Austria, Kingdom of Prussia, Prussia, Russian Empire, Russia, the United Kingdom of Great Britain ...
started in 1813 as the Russian campaign was decisive for the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major World war, global conflicts pitting the First French Empire, French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon, Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of Coalition forces of the Napoleonic W ...
and led to Napoleon's defeat and exile on the island of
Elba Elba ( it, isola d'Elba, ; la, Ilva; Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into ...

Elba
. For Russia, the term ''Patriotic War'' (an English rendition of the Russian Отечественная война) became a symbol for a strengthened national identity that had a great effect on Russian patriotism in the 19th century. A series of revolutions followed, starting with the
Decembrist revolt The Decembrist Revolt ( ru , Восстание декабристов, translit = Vosstanie dekabristov , translation = Uprising of the Decembrists) took place in Russia on , during the interregnum following the sudden death of Emperor ...
of 1825 and ending with the
February Revolution The February Revolution ( rus, Февра́льская револю́ция, p=fʲɪvˈralʲskəjə rʲɪvɐˈlʲutsɨjə, tr. ), known in Soviet historiography Soviet historiography is the methodology of history History (from Greek , ' ...
of 1917.


Alternative names

Napoleon Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) refers to the period that began with the Estates General o ...
's invasion of Russia is better known in Russia as the ''Patriotic War of 1812'' (
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
, ). It should not be confused with the ''
Great Patriotic War The Eastern Front of World War II was a Theater (warfare), theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers against the Soviet Union (USSR), Polish Armed Forces in the East, Poland and other Allies of World War II, Allies, which encompa ...
'' (, ), a term for
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...

Adolf Hitler
's invasion of Russia during the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
. The ''Patriotic War of 1812'' is also occasionally referred to as simply the "''War of 1812''", a term which should not be confused with the conflict between Great Britain and the United States, also known as the
War of 1812 The War of 1812 (18 June 1812 – 17 February 1815) was a conflict fought by the United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It ...
. In Russian literature written before the Russian revolution, the war was occasionally described as ''"the invasion of twelve languages"'' (russian: нашествие двенадцати языков). Napoleon termed this war the "Second Polish War" in an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists and patriots. Though the stated goal of the war was the resurrection of the Polish state on the territories of the former
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, formally known as the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and, after 1791, the Commonwealth of Poland, was a country and bi-federation A federation (also known as a federal state) is ...
(modern territories of
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...

Poland
,
Lithuania Lithuania (; lt, Lietuva ), officially the Republic of Lithuania ( lt, Lietuvos Respublika, links=no), is a country in the Baltic region The terms Baltic Sea Region, Baltic Rim countries (or simply Baltic Rim), and the Baltic Sea countr ...
,
Latvia Latvia ( or ; lv, Latvija ; ltg, Latveja; liv, Leţmō), officially known as the Republic of Latvia ( lv, Latvijas Republika, links=no, ltg, Latvejas Republika, links=no, liv, Leţmō Vabāmō, links=no), is a country in the Baltic re ...

Latvia
,
Estonia Estonia ( et, Eesti ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( et, Eesti Vabariik, links=no), is a country in northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden ...

Estonia
,
Belarus , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Minsk Minsk ( be, Мінск , russian: link=no, Минск) is the capital and the largest city of Belarus, located on the Svislach (Berezina), Svislach and the now subterranean Nyamiha, Niam ...

Belarus
and
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in . It is the in Europe after , which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with to the north; , , and to the west; and to the south; and has a coastli ...

Ukraine
), in fact, this issue was of no real concern to Napoleon.


Historiography

The British historian
Dominic Lieven Dominic Lieven (born 19 January 1952) is a research professor at Cambridge University (Senior Research Fellow, Trinity College) and a Fellow of the British Academy Fellowship of the British Academy (FBA) is an award granted by the British Aca ...
wrote that much of the historiography about the campaign for various reasons distorts the story of the Russian war against France in 1812–14. The number of Western historians who are fluent in French and/or German vastly outnumbers those who are fluent in Russian, which has the effect that many Western historians simply ignore Russian language sources when writing about the campaign because they cannot read them. Memoirs written by French veterans of the campaign together with much of the work done by French historians strongly show the influence of "
Orientalism 300px, Eugène Delacroix, ''The Women of Algiers,'' 1834, the Louvre">Women_of_Algiers.html" ;"title="Eugène Delacroix, ''The Women of Algiers">Eugène Delacroix, ''The Women of Algiers,'' 1834, the Louvre, Paris In art history, literature an ...
", which depicted Russia as a strange, backward, exotic and barbaric "Asian" nation that was innately inferior to the West, especially France. The picture drawn by the French is that of a vastly superior army being defeated by geography, the climate and just plain bad luck. German language sources are not as hostile to the Russians as French sources, but many of the Prussian officers such as
Carl von Clausewitz Carl Philipp Gottfried (or Gottlieb) von Clausewitz (; – ) was a Prussian general and military theorist who stressed the "moral" (meaning, in modern terms, psychological Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. Psychology incl ...

Carl von Clausewitz
(who did not speak Russian) who joined the Russian Army to fight against the French found service with a foreign army both frustrating and strange, and their accounts reflected these experiences. Lieven compared those historians who use Clausewitz's account of his time in Russian service as their main source for the 1812 campaign to those historians who might use an account written by a Free French officer who did not speak English who served with the British Army in World War II as their main source for the British war effort in the Second World War. In Russia, the official historical line until 1917 was that the peoples of the Russian Empire had rallied together in defense of the throne against a foreign invader. Because many of the younger Russian officers in the 1812 campaign took part in the Decembrist uprising of 1825, their roles in history were erased at the order of
Emperor Nicholas I Nicholas I ( rus, Николай I Павлович, r=Nikolay I Pavlovich; – ) reigned as Emperor of Russia The emperor or empress of all the Russias or All Russia, ''Imperator Vserossiyskiy'', ''Imperatritsa Vserossiyskaya'' (often titled ...

Emperor Nicholas I
. Likewise, because many of the officers who were also veterans who stayed loyal during the Decembrist uprising went on to become ministers in the tyrannical regime of Emperor Nicholas I, their reputations were blacked among the radical ''intelligentsia'' of 19th century Russia. For example, Count
Alexander von Benckendorff Konstantin Alexander Karl Wilhelm Christoph Graf von Benckendorff (russian: Александр Христофорович Бенкендорф, Alexander Khristoforovich Benkendorf, ) was a Baltic German Cavalry General and statesman, Adjutant ...

Alexander von Benckendorff
fought well in 1812 commanding a Cossack company, but because he later become the Chief of the Third Section Of His Imperial Majesty's Chancellery as the secret police were called, was one of the closest friends of Nicholas I and is infamous for his persecution of Russia's national poet
Alexander Pushkin Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (; rus, links=no, Алекса́ндр Серге́евич Пу́шкинIn Pushkin's day, his name was written ., r=Aleksándr Sergéyevich Púshkin, p=ɐlʲɪkˈsandr sʲɪrˈɡʲe(j)ɪvʲɪtɕ ˈpuʂkʲɪn, a=ru ...
, he is not well remembered in Russia and his role in 1812 is usually ignored. Furthermore, the 19th century was a great age of nationalism and there was a tendency by historians in the Allied nations to give the lion's share of the credit for defeating France to their own respective nation with British historians claiming that it was the United Kingdom that played the most important role in defeating Napoleon; Austrian historians giving that honor to their nation; Russian historians writing that it was Russia that played the greatest role in the victory, and Prussian and later German historians writing that it was Prussia that made the difference. In such a context, various historians liked to diminish the contributions of their allies.
Leo Tolstoy Count Lev Nikolayevich TolstoyTolstoy pronounced his first name as , which corresponds to the romanization ''Lyov''. () (; russian: link=no, Лев Николаевич Толстой,In Tolstoy's day, his name was written as in pre-reform ...

Leo Tolstoy
was not a historian, but his extremely popular 1869 historical novel ''
War and Peace ''War and Peace'' (russian: Война и мир, translit=Voyna i mir; Reforms of Russian orthography, pre-reform Russian: ; ) is a literary work mixed with chapters on history and philosophy by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published se ...

War and Peace
'', which depicted the war as a triumph of what Lieven called the "moral strength, courage and patriotism of ordinary Russians" with military leadership a negligible factor, has shaped the popular understanding of the war in both Russia and abroad from the 19th century onward. A recurring theme of ''War and Peace'' is that certain events are just fated to happen, and there is nothing that a leader can do to challenge destiny, a view of history that dramatically discounts leadership as a factor in history. During the Soviet period, historians engaged in what Lieven called huge distortions to make history fit with Communist ideology, with Marshal Kutuzov and Prince Bagration transformed into peasant generals, Alexander I alternatively ignored or vilified, and the war becoming a massive "People's War" fought by the ordinary people of Russia with almost no involvement on the part of the government. During the Cold War, many Western historians were inclined to see Russia as "the enemy", and there was a tendency to downplay and dismiss Russia's contributions to the defeat of Napoleon. As such, Napoleon's claim that the Russians did not defeat him and he was just the victim of fate in 1812 was very appealing to many Western historians. Russian historians tended to focus on the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and ignore the campaigns in 1813–1814 fought in Germany and France, because a campaign fought on Russian soil was regarded as more important than campaigns abroad and because in 1812 the Russians were commanded by the ethnic Russian Kutuzov while in the campaigns in 1813–1814 the senior Russian commanders were mostly ethnic Germans, being either
Baltic German The Baltic Germans (german: Deutsch-Balten or , later ; and остзейцы ''ostzeitsy'' 'Balters' in Russian) are ethnic German inhabitants of the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, in what today are Estonia and Latvia Latvia ( o ...
nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility has often been an Estates of the realm, estate of the realm that p ...
or Germans who had entered Russian service. At the time the conception held by the Russian elite was that the Russian empire was a multi-ethnic entity, in which the Baltic German aristocrats in service to the House of Romanov were considered part of that elite—an understanding of what it meant to be Russian defined in terms of dynastic loyalty rather than language, ethnicity, and culture that does not appeal to those later Russians who wanted to see the war as purely a triumph of ethnic Russians. One consequence of this is that many Russian historians liked to disparage the officer corps of the Imperial Russian Army because of the high proportion of Baltic Germans serving as officers, which further reinforces the popular stereotype that the Russians won despite their officers rather than because of them. Furthermore, Emperor Alexander I often gave the impression at the time that he found Russia a place that was not worthy of his ideals, and he cared more about Europe as a whole than about Russia. Alexander's conception of a war to free Europe from Napoleon lacked appeal to many nationalist-minded Russian historians, who preferred to focus on a campaign in defense of the homeland rather than what Lieven called Alexander's rather "murky" mystical ideas about European brotherhood and security. Lieven observed that for every book written in Russia on the campaigns of 1813–1814, there are a hundred books on the campaign of 1812 and that the most recent Russian grand history of the war of 1812–1814 gave 490 pages to the campaign of 1812 and 50 pages to the campaigns of 1813–1814. Lieven noted that Tolstoy ended ''War and Peace'' in December 1812 and that many Russian historians have followed Tolstoy in focusing on the campaign of 1812 while ignoring the greater achievements of campaigns of 1813–1814 that ended with the Russians marching into Paris. Napoleon did not touch
serfdom in Russia 300px, ''A Peasant Leaving His Landlord on Yuriev Day'', painting by Sergei V. Ivanov The term ''serf'', in the sense of an unfree peasant of tsarism , tsarist history of Russia , Russia, is the usual English-language translation of () which ...
. What the reaction of the Russian peasantry would have been if he had lived up to the traditions of the French Revolution, bringing liberty to the serfs, is an intriguing question.


Swedish invasion

Napoleon's invasion was prefigured by the
Swedish invasion of Russia The invasion of Russia by Charles XII of Sweden was a campaign undertaken during the Great Northern War between Sweden and the allied states of Russia, Poland, and Denmark. The invasion began with Charles's crossing of the Vistula on 1 January 17 ...
a century before. In 1707
Charles XII Charles XII, sometimes Carl XII ( sv, Karl XII) or Carolus Rex (17 June 1682 – 30 November 1718 O.S.), was the King of Sweden The monarchy of Sweden concerns the monarchical head of state of Sweden,See the #IOG, Instrument of Government ...
had led Swedish forces in an invasion of Russia from his base in Poland. After initial success, the
Swedish Army The Swedish Army ( sv, svenska armén) is the land force An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest se ...
was decisively defeated in
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in . It is the in Europe after , which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with to the north; , , and to the west; and to the south; and has a coastli ...

Ukraine
at the
Battle of Poltava A mass burial of Russian soldiers who died in The Battle of Poltava, alt= The Battle of Poltava; russian: Полта́вская би́тва; uk, Полта́вська би́тва (8 July 1709) was the decisive victory of Peter the Great (P ...

Battle of Poltava
.
Peter IPeter I may refer to: Religious hierarchs * Saint Peter (c. 1 AD – c. 64–88 AD), a.k.a. Simon Peter, Simeon, or Simon, apostle of Jesus * Pope Peter I of Alexandria (died 311), revered as a saint * Peter I of Armenia (died 1058), Catholicos o ...

Peter I
's efforts to deprive the invading forces of supplies by adopting a
scorched-earth A scorched-earth policy is a military strategy Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organizations to pursue desired strategic goals. Derived from the Greek word ''strategos Image:Greek strategist Pio-Clementino Inv ...

scorched-earth
policy is thought to have played a role in the defeat of the Swedes. In one first-hand account of the French invasion,
Philippe Paul, Comte de SégurPhilippe may refer to: * Philippe of Belgium (born 1960), King of the Belgians (2013–present) * Philippe's or Philippe the Original, a restaurant in Los Angeles * Philippe (footballer) (born 2000), Brazilian footballer See also

* Philip (name ...
, attached to the personal staff of Napoleon and the author of ''Histoire de Napoléon et de la grande armée pendant l'année 1812'', recounted a Russian emissary approaching the French headquarters early in the campaign. When he was questioned on what Russia expected, his curt reply was simply 'Poltava!'. Using eyewitness accounts, historian
Paul Britten Austin Paul Britten Austin (5 April 1922 – 25 July 2005) was an English author, translator, broadcaster, administrator, and scholar of Swedish literature. He is known in particular for his translations of and books on the Swedish musician, sin ...
described how Napoleon studied the ''History of Charles XII'' during the invasion. In an entry dated 5 December 1812, one eyewitness records: "Cesare de Laugier, as he trudges on along the 'good road' that leads to Smorgoni, is struck by 'some birds falling from frozen trees', a phenomenon which had even impressed Charles XII's Swedish soldiers a century ago." The failed Swedish invasion is widely believed to have been the beginning of Sweden's decline as a great power, and the rise of
Tsardom of Russia The Tsardom of Russia or Tsardom of Rus' (russian: Русское царство, translit=Russkoye tsarstvo, later changed to: ), also externally referenced as the Tsardom of Muscovy, was the centralized Russian state from the assumption of the ...
as it took its place as the leading nation of north-eastern Europe.


German invasion

Academicians have drawn parallels between the French invasion of Russia and Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of 1941.
David Stahel David Stahel (born 1975 in Wellington Wellington ( mi, Te Whanganui-a-Tara ) is the capital city of New Zealand. It is located at the south-western tip of the North Island, between Cook Strait and the Remutaka Range. Wellington is the major p ...
writes: The invasion by Germany was called the Great Patriotic War by the Soviet people, to evoke comparisons with the victory by Tsar Alexander I over Napoleon's invading army. In addition, the Germans, like the French, took solace from the notion they had been defeated by the Russian winter, rather than the Russians themselves or their own mistakes.


Cultural impact

An event of epic proportions and momentous importance for European history, the French invasion of Russia has been the subject of much discussion among historians. The campaign's sustained role in Russian popular culture may be seen in
Leo Tolstoy Count Lev Nikolayevich TolstoyTolstoy pronounced his first name as , which corresponds to the romanization ''Lyov''. () (; russian: link=no, Лев Николаевич Толстой,In Tolstoy's day, his name was written as in pre-reform ...

Leo Tolstoy
's ''
War and Peace ''War and Peace'' (russian: Война и мир, translit=Voyna i mir; Reforms of Russian orthography, pre-reform Russian: ; ) is a literary work mixed with chapters on history and philosophy by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy, first published se ...

War and Peace
'',
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky ( ; rus, Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский,Петръ Ильичъ Чайковскій in Russian pre-revolutionary script. ; 7 May 1840 – 6 November 1893Russia was still using Old style and new style da ...

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
's ''
1812 Overture ''The Year 1812 Solemn Overture'', Op. 49, popularly known as the ''1812 Overture'', is a concert overture Overture (from French ''ouverture'', "opening") in music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition ...

1812 Overture
'', and the identification of it with the German invasion during World War II, which became known as the ''Great Patriotic War'' in the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
.


See also

*
Antony's Parthian War Antony's Parthian War was a military campaign by Mark Antony, the eastern triumvir of the Roman Republic, against the Parthian Empire under Phraates IV.http://www.camrea.org/2017/02/21/antonys-parthian-war-politics-and-bloodshed-between-empires ...
, a Roman invasion of the Iranian world, which is widely compared to Napoleon's invasion of Russia * Arches of Triumph in Novocherkassk, a monument built in 1817 to commemorate the victory over the French *
General Confederation of Kingdom of PolandGeneral Confederation of the Kingdom of Poland (Polish language, Polish ''Konfederacja Generalna Królestwa Polskiego'') was a Confederation (Poland), Polish confederation established by emperor Napoleon Bonaparte on the eve of French invasion of Rus ...
* Kutuzov (film) * List of ''In Our Time'' programmes, including "Napoleon's retreat from Moscow" *
List of wars The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to war: War War is an intense armed conflict between states, government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, gen ...
*
Nadezhda Durova Nadezhda Andreyevna Durova (russian: Наде́жда Андре́евна Ду́рова) (September 17, 1783 – March 21, 1866), also known as Alexander Durov, Alexander Sokolov and Alexander Andreevich Alexandrov, was a woman who, while disguis ...

Nadezhda Durova
*
Operation Barbarossa Operation Barbarossa (german: link=no, Unternehmen Barbarossa), also known as the German invasion of the Soviet Union, was the code name A code name, call sign or cryptonym is a code word In communication Communication (from Latin ''c ...

Operation Barbarossa
* Vasilisa Kozhina *
War and Peace (film series) ''War and Peace'' (russian: Война и мир, Transliteration, trans. Voyna i mir) is a 1966–67 Soviet War film, war Drama (film and television), drama film co-written and directed by Sergei Bondarchuk and a film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's ...
* ''War and Peace'' (opera), an opera by Prokofiev


Notes


References


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * * *


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:French Invasion Of Russia Campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars 19th-century conflicts Conflicts in 1812 Wars involving Russia Wars involving France 19th century in the Russian Empire 1812 in the Russian Empire 1812 in France France–Russia military relations Invasions by France Invasions of Russia