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Napoleon the russian conflict

Napoleon "The Russian Conflict"

Napoleon was one of the greatest military leaders of all time. By 1812 Napoleon

had expanded

the territory of France all over Europe including Spain, Italy, Holland, and Switzerland.

The countries that

Napoleon did not directly control, he was usually allied with. The turning point of

Napoleon's career also

came in 1812 when war broke out between France and Russia because of Alexander I's

refusal to enforce

the continental $

Even the French nation could not provide all the manpower and supplies needed to

carry out the

Emperor's grandiose plan for subduing Russia. Throughout 1811, he worked to mobilize

the entire

continent against Russia. He not only levied the vassal kingdoms in Spain, Italy, and

Germany but also

summoned Austria and Prussia to furnish their share of men and goods. Altogether,

Napoleon could count

on nearly 700,000 men of 20 nationalities of whom more than 600,000 crossed the

border. Grown far

beyond its original intended size, the army was difficult to assemble and hard to feed.

Between Tilsit and

Moscow, there lay over 600 miles of hostile barren countryside. Because of lack of

supplies and the

difficulty to feed the large army, Napoleon's plan was simple: bring about a battle, defeat

the Russian

army, and dictate a settlement. Apparently neither he nor his soldiers, who cheerfully

began crossing the

Nieman River, thought beyond the immediate goal.

Already 300 miles into Russia, Napoleon had not yet found a way to exploit his

advantage. In the

Emperor's programming the resources necessary to achieve his objective, he had

anticipated fighting a

battle within a month after crossing the Nieman. Toward the end of that month Napoleon

began to realize

that events were disproving the validity of his estimates. Dying horses littered the roads

and the advanced

guard found little forage as Russians everywhere abandoned their homes. Napoleon

knew that he needed to

fight. At Smolensk, he set up for a battle and waited but the Russians, afraid of a trap

steadily withdrew

their troops from Smolensk and continued to retreat deeper into Russia.

The only major battle in the Russian campaign proved that something was definitely

lacking in

Napoleon's judgment. Borodino was a battle of legendary proportions. Before the battle


proclaimed, "Soldiers, here is the battle you have so long desired!" However, the fight

was inconclusive.

At its end, Napoleon found himself the possessor, not of a victory, but of a barren

hillside and an

increasingly compelling commitment to advance further into the east. Well into the battle,

the French had

almost cracked the left side of the Russian Army. Several French generals had requested

that Napoleon

would commit the guard infantry into battle. This would create the final blow and insure

the Russian defeat.

After 14 hours of intense combat, the fighting died out at nightfall, and Mikhail

Illarionovich Kutusov, the

Russian general, gratefully began to retreat his troops. The guard infantry had remained

unused. After the

Battle of Borodino, in which losses on both sides totaled !

over 70,000 men, Napoleon had 100,000 effectives remaining, while Kutusov probably

had no more than

55,000. Both sides claimed a victory, whereas actually, both sides had lost. While the

Russian army filed

disconsolately toward Moscow, the Emperor of the French rationalized his indecision at

Borodino by

contenting himself with the capture of the city.

On September 14, Napoleon rode into Moscow at the head of a fraction of the

Empire's military

strength. Meanwhile, Napoleon's opponent had made a decision that was to shape the

remainder of the

campaign. Kutusov made up his mind not to fight another battle in defense of Moscow.

Kutusov ordered

the city's population out into the countryside, released all inmates from the city jails, and

destroyed the city

firefighting equipment. Napoleon and his army of 100,000 arrived only to find a handful

of the original

inhabitants and several hundred criminals and lunatics freely roaming and plundering the

streets. That

night, fires sprang up all over the city. Fire swept through the city for several days and

by morning it was

apparent that most of the city had been consumed by the flames. Left with no choice,

Napoleon sent peace

proposals to Alexander, but Alexander refused to even discuss the concept of peace

while the French

remained on Russian soil. Napoleon was given an opportu!

nity to evacuate Moscow by acting like he was reinforcing his brother-in-law's troops.

Napoleon's plan was

to march to Kaluga and Bryansk. By returning along an untraveled route, he hoped to

find forage for the

horses, avoid the appearance of a retreat, and eventually settle the army in winter

quarters somewhere

between Smolensk and Minsk. There appeared to be a good chance to reach his

destination before the first

frost. It was imperative to do so. The horses were not shod for heavy snow, nor had

the troops been issued

any winter gear. On October 31, Napoleon and the guard reached Vyuzma; Davout (his

general) had

cleared Borodino. One week later a heavy snow fell and, with it, the morale of the

French. On icy roads it

was impossible for the starving horses to pull their loads. Tired men dropped in their

tracks and pushed to

the side of the road, were lost forever. Artillery pieces, loot, and many of the wounded

were left behind.

November was an unending catastrophe!

for the decimated French army. Men began to fight for scraps of bread and frozen

horseflesh. As the army

began to fragment, there were extraordinary acts of individual heroism. Mere survival

itself required

unending strength of will. Many men fell and simply refused to rise again and go on.

Marching out of

Smolensk, the ragged, frozen and famished group of men knew that they must sooner or

later fight the

Russians as well as the winter. On November 16, Kulusov blocked the French escape

routes. The Russians

made many attacks on the French. And because of the health of the French soldiers,

there was little

opposition for the Russian's attacks. Napoleon had returned to France to preserve his

empire. With his

desertion marking the end of the war.

A lengthy bulletin had appeared in The Moniteur on the return of Napoleon. Until

November 6,

the weather was good, and the movement of the army was executed with success, but on

the 7th the cold

commenced. French officers and soldiers had fought bravely, and their General had led

expertly. The

Russian winter, not the Russian army, had defeated him.

Electronic Arts EA 3D Atlas 1995, N.Y. New York

Grolier Incorporated Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1994 N.Y. New York

SoftKey Infopedia 2 1996 N.Y. New York

Webster New World Dictionary 1984 N.Y. New York

Word Count: 1107

Source: Essay UK -

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