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Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier

de Jakob Walter

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496849,825 (3.73)10
A grunt's-eye report from the battlefield in the spirit of "The Red Badge of Courage" and "All Quiet" "on the Western Front--"the only known account by a common soldier of the campaigns of Napoleon's Grand Army between 1806 and 1813. When eighteen-year-old German stonemason Jakob Walter was conscripted into the Grand Army of Napoleon, he had no idea of the trials that lay ahead. The long, grueling marches in Prussia and Poland sacrificed countless men to Bonaparte's grand designs. And the disastrous Russian campaign tested human endurance on an epic scale. Demoralized by defeat in a war few supported or understood, deprived of ammunition and leadership, driven past reason by starvation and bitter cold, men often turned on one another, killing fellow soldiers for bread or an able horse. Though there are numerous surviving accounts of the Napoleonic Wars written by officers, Walter's is the only known memoir by a draftee, and as such is a unique and fascinating document--a compelling chronicle of a young soldier's loss of innocence as well as an eloquent and moving portrait of the profound effects of war on the men who fight it. Professor Marc Raeff has added an Introduction to the memoirs as well as six letters home from the Russian front, previously unpublished in English, from German conscripts who served concurrently with Walter. The volume is illustrated with engravings and maps, contemporary with the manuscript, from the Russian/Soviet and East European collections of the New York Public Library. Honest, heartfelt, deeply personal yet objective, "The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier" is more than an informative and absorbing historical document--it is a timeless and unforgettable account of the horrors of war.… (més)
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This memoir is memorable for its description of foot slogging hell, as Napoleon's Grande Armee advances into Russia, reachng Moscow before an ignominious retreat. The weather and wretched privation - no food or shelter while under constant threat of harrying attacks by Cossack soldiers, make one wonder how anyone survived - few in fact did. ( )
  DramMan | Aug 5, 2023 |
5509. The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier, by Jakob Walter Edited and with an Introduction by Marc Raeff (read 22 Oct 2017) In 1856 Jakob Walter sent an account of his doings as a soldier for Napoleon. Walter was born in 1788 in Rosenberg, Wuerttemburg, and in 1806-1807, 1809,, and 1812 was in Napoleon's army. The book is called a diary, but actually the account of his time in the Army was written later and sent to his son in Kansas in 1856. It was not published until the 20th century. The account of his time in Russia is extremely vivid and gut-wrenching and one is amazed that he managed to live through what he describes, unless he is exaggerating the events. On the retreat from Moscow he managed to usually be on a horse, which was likely to be stolen from him. He seldom had decent food and what he ate is enough to make a person regurgitate just reading about it. He made no attempt to destroy the lice he was infected with. One breathes a sigh of relief when he finally gets out of Russia. My greet-great-grandfather's brother was in Russia with Napoleon's army and the stories which have come down in the family in regard to that time are similar to what Walter describes in this book, which added to my interest in the account. ( )
1 vota Schmerguls | Oct 22, 2017 |
What could be worse than retreating from Moscow in the dead of winter with Napoleon's army? This young man made it and emigrated to the U.S. ( )
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
We normally view the war experience from the perspective of generals, great strategists, and politicians who invent euphemisms to allay our fears. (See Paul Fussell's [book:Wartime]for more examples). There are few books showing what war was like from the perspective of the grunt (most were killed for one thing). An exception is The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier by Jakob Walter. This manuscript was discovered at the University of Kansas several years ago. Walter was a stone mason who was conscripted by Napoleon. He served in three campaigns that he describes in a reportorial fashion in this short book. The most harrowing of the three was the retreat from Moscow.
Napoleon had developed an intricate and reliable logistical system for delivering ammunition and weapons to the soldiers at the front. Soldiers were expected to buy their own food from local merchants or sutlers who followed the army. This usually worked reasonably well (especially when supplemented with occasional marauding raids). During the Russian campaign it failed miserably because of the slash and burn campaign of the retreating Russians who left nothing in their wake. Whatever food was found was given to the French Imperial Guard troops. Unfortunately our hero was a German conscript. His tales of searching for food and clothing during the bitter winter are heartrending. Of 600,000 troops Napoleon took with him to Russia only 25,000 returned. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Walter's description of the Grand Army's retreat from Moscow is gut-wrenching. This is man reduced to his basest survival mode and it's not pretty. Despite all that, Walter's story is oddly dispassionate. He and his fellow Germans really didn't have a dog in the fight between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander, but were forced to go along with the Grand Army at Napoleon's behest. As a consequence, the non-French soldiers were the lowest priority to get food and supplies once the army crossed into the barrens of western Russia, and then were more often targets of the French on the way home. Walter didn't aspire to anything more than making it back to Germany, and unlike the vast majority of the 600,000 who went to Russia, he survived (barely).

This edition of the diary includes a decent introduction by scholar Mark Raeff, as well as notes provided by the University of Kansas professor who discovered the manuscript. Finally, there are six letters from other soldiers who seemed to suffer about as much as Walter. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the Napoleonic era. ( )
1 vota ninefivepeak | Feb 18, 2013 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Jakob Walterautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Malcolm-Russo, CarolDissenyadorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Raeff, MarcEditorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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And us, the men, the mean, the
rank and file?
Us, tramping broken, wounded,
muddy, dying?
Having no hope of duchies or endowments ...

(Edmond Rostand, L'Aiglon, Acte II, scene 9
Adapted into English by L.N. Parker, New York, 1900)
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In the year 1806, I was drafted with many of my comrades into military service in the conscription at that time and was assigned to the regiment of Romig, which afterward was given the name of Franquemont and of Number 4 and which was in the Ludwigsburg garrison.
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A grunt's-eye report from the battlefield in the spirit of "The Red Badge of Courage" and "All Quiet" "on the Western Front--"the only known account by a common soldier of the campaigns of Napoleon's Grand Army between 1806 and 1813. When eighteen-year-old German stonemason Jakob Walter was conscripted into the Grand Army of Napoleon, he had no idea of the trials that lay ahead. The long, grueling marches in Prussia and Poland sacrificed countless men to Bonaparte's grand designs. And the disastrous Russian campaign tested human endurance on an epic scale. Demoralized by defeat in a war few supported or understood, deprived of ammunition and leadership, driven past reason by starvation and bitter cold, men often turned on one another, killing fellow soldiers for bread or an able horse. Though there are numerous surviving accounts of the Napoleonic Wars written by officers, Walter's is the only known memoir by a draftee, and as such is a unique and fascinating document--a compelling chronicle of a young soldier's loss of innocence as well as an eloquent and moving portrait of the profound effects of war on the men who fight it. Professor Marc Raeff has added an Introduction to the memoirs as well as six letters home from the Russian front, previously unpublished in English, from German conscripts who served concurrently with Walter. The volume is illustrated with engravings and maps, contemporary with the manuscript, from the Russian/Soviet and East European collections of the New York Public Library. Honest, heartfelt, deeply personal yet objective, "The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier" is more than an informative and absorbing historical document--it is a timeless and unforgettable account of the horrors of war.

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