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Napoleon's Russian Campaign

de Philippe-Paul de Ségur

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In the summer of 1812 Napoleon gathered his fearsome Grande Arm#65533;e, more than half a million strong, on the banks of the Niemen River. He was about to undertake the most daring of all his many campaigns: the invasion of Russia. Meeting only sporadic opposition and defeating it easily along the way, the huge army moved forward, advancing ineluctably on Moscow through the long hot days of summer. On September 14, Napoleon entered the Russian capital, fully anticipating the Czar's surrender. Instead he encountered an eerily deserted city--and silence. The French army sacked the city, and by October, with Moscow in ruins and his supply lines overextended, and with the Russian winter upon him, Napoleon had no choice but to turn back. One of the greatest military debacles of all time had only just begun. In this famous memoir, Philippe-Paul de S#65533;gur, a young aide-de-camp to Napoleon, tells the story of the unfolding disaster with the keen eye of a crack reporter and an astute grasp of human character. His book, a fundamental inspiration for Tolstoy's War and Peace, is a masterpiece of military history that teaches an all-too-timely lesson about imperial hubris and its risks.… (més)
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A first hand account by Napoleon's aide-de-camp of the disaster of the French led by Napoleon in Russia - beaten mostly by winter, and hubris.
Read Samoa Aug 2003 ( )
  mbmackay | Nov 28, 2015 |
Philippe-Paul de Ségur puts humanity back into an event where we get distracted by the sheer number of the dead. I've read histories now where historians estimate the size of The Grande Armée to have been anywhere from 300,000 and 600,000 men on the way to Moscow; survivors of the campaign are estimated between 30,000 to 50,000. That's a lot of zeroes, and a lot of rounding, and a lot of missing stories of human happenings.

Maybe the best possible representation of the quantitative loss was conceived by Charles Joseph Minard in his famous graphic, here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Minard.png

Ségur, though, made me understand what it was like to be there:

“The road was constantly running through swampy hollows. The wagons would slide down their ice-covered slopes and stick in the deep mud at the bottom. To get out they had to climb the opposite incline, thickly coated with ice on which the horses’ hoofs, with their smooth, worn-out shoes, could find no hold. One after another they slipped back exhausted — horse and drivers on top of each other. Then the famished soldiers fell upon the fallen horses, killed them and cut them in pieces. They roasted the meat over fires made from the wrecked wagons, and devoured it half cooked and bloody.”

An amazing book. ( )
  poingu | Jan 29, 2015 |
An unexpectedly moving piece of history. As Napoleon's aide-de-camp during the Russian campaign, Segur was present during the battles and the disastrous retreat, as well as the discussions and decision-making that brought on the destruction of the Grande Armee without ever losing a battle to the Russians. We feel Napoleon's uncertainty about whether to advance on Moscow and his consternation at the ruthless and to him (and me) barbarous lengths to which the Russian elite were prepared to go to avoid defeat, sacrificing large sections of their own population and setting fire to their capital, all the while blaming the French and inspiring fear and hatred in their subjects. This misrepresentation of his character and intentions seemed particularly to get under Napoleon's skin. The relative chivalry of the French stands in stark contrast, and one cannot help but admire the skill and daring of their generals in the face of such appalling and constantly worsening odds.
Segur is frequently generous with his praise of the Russians, especially Barclay, for sticking to his tactics. However, it is the heroism of so many of the doomed French which sticks in the mind, as well as the humanity of Napoleon, whom we are accustomed to regard more as an icon of good or evil. He was a much greater, and in many ways better, man than his eventual conquerors.
An interesting side note. The number of Scots involved is surprising. - Barclay was the overall Russian commander, until removed due to xenophobic back biting. It was only after the war that it was recognized that he had in fact saved Russia. On the French side, we find Lauriston and MacDonald. We Scots get everywhere! ( )
1 vota augustusgump | Jul 26, 2012 |
A great telling of the Napoleonic campaign of Russia by one of his generals. Incredibly good detail on the workings of Napoleon's army, the formations, obstacles and the incredible amount of resources it takes to move an army across the hellish landscape that is Russia. ( )
  phaga | Mar 5, 2010 |
Beautifully written ( )
  busterrll | Jul 31, 2008 |
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Philippe-Paul de Ségurautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Gay, PeterIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Townsend, J. DavidTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Introduction by Peter Gay -- Napoleon, the great victor, is always fascinating, even in defeat.

Ch 1: Napoleon had moved his troops in Poland and East Prussia from Koenigsberg to Gumbinnem.
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Wikipedia en anglès (3)

In the summer of 1812 Napoleon gathered his fearsome Grande Arm#65533;e, more than half a million strong, on the banks of the Niemen River. He was about to undertake the most daring of all his many campaigns: the invasion of Russia. Meeting only sporadic opposition and defeating it easily along the way, the huge army moved forward, advancing ineluctably on Moscow through the long hot days of summer. On September 14, Napoleon entered the Russian capital, fully anticipating the Czar's surrender. Instead he encountered an eerily deserted city--and silence. The French army sacked the city, and by October, with Moscow in ruins and his supply lines overextended, and with the Russian winter upon him, Napoleon had no choice but to turn back. One of the greatest military debacles of all time had only just begun. In this famous memoir, Philippe-Paul de S#65533;gur, a young aide-de-camp to Napoleon, tells the story of the unfolding disaster with the keen eye of a crack reporter and an astute grasp of human character. His book, a fundamental inspiration for Tolstoy's War and Peace, is a masterpiece of military history that teaches an all-too-timely lesson about imperial hubris and its risks.

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