The Defeat of Napoleon in Russia

The Defeat of Napoleon in Russia
The Campaign of 1812 should have been a another crusade for
Napoleon, but he now faced 2 new policies that he had never faced
before, the severe Russian winter and the notorious scorched-earth
policy. On June 23, 1812 Napoleon's Grande Armee, over 500,000 men
strong, poured over the Russian border. An equal amount of Russian
forces awaited them. The result of the campaign was a surprise. Two
authors, General carl von Clausewitz and Brett James, show
similarities in reasons why Napoleon had lost this campaign to Russia.
Napoleon believed that after a few quick victorious battles, he could
convince Alexander to return to the Continental System. He also
decided that if he occupied Moscow, the Russian government would
crumple and ask for peace. " A single blow delivered at the heart of
the Russian Empire, at Moscow the Great, at Moscow the Holy, will
instantly put this whole blind, apathetic mass at my mercy." pg 6,
1812 Napoleon's Defeat in Russia.
This was his belief he expressed in March 1812. However, when
Napoleon eventually took over Moscow, the Tsar still did not
surrender. Napoleon, sent a message to the Tsar, demanding a immediate
surrender. However, the Tsar could not surrender because if he did, he
would be assassinated by the nobles. Clausewitz replies by saying, "
Napoleon was unable to grasp the fact that Alexander would not, could
not negotiate. The Tsar knew well that he would be disposed and
assassinated if he tried so." pg 256, The Campaign of 1812 in
General Clausewitz said, "Napoleon believed if he defeated the
Russian Army and occupied Moscow, the Russian leadership will fall
apart and the government would call for peace." pg 253, The Campaign
of 1812 in Russia Brett James also agreed that Napoleon's occupation
had no result. " The occupation of Napoleon in Moscow did not have a
effect on the government." pg 13, 1812 Napoleon's Defeat in Russia
With his battle plan set, Napoleon prepared his troops for the attack
on Russia. But, Napoleon did not consider the fierce Russian winter
which awaited him. According to Ludwig Wilhelm Gottlob Schlosser, a
onlooker, he described the army by saying, "The French, down to the
lowliest drummer were very fastidious. These poor French devils were
not satisfied with less than soup, meat and vegetables, roast, and
salad for their midday meal, and there was no sign of their famous
They were completely devoid of the coming winter." pg 13, 1812
Napoleon's Defeat in Russia Napoleon was even warned by General Rapp
about the extremities of the oncoming winter in Russia. "The natives
say we shall have a severe winter," Napoleon retorted scornfully, "
Bah! You and your natives! We shall see how fine it is." pg 147, 1812
Napoleon's Defeat in Russia Napoleon should have heeded Rapp's words.
As the Grand Armee marched toward Moscow, many horses and men were
lost in the freezing snow, and for those who remained, their morale
and effectiveness was at the nadir.
General Clausewitz states his point by saying, " With more
precaution and better regulations as to subsistence, with more careful
consideration of his marches, which would have prevented the
unnecessary and enormous accumulation of masses on one and the same
road, he would have preserved his army in a more effective condition."
pg 255, The Campaign of 1812 in Russia Brett James also shared the
same opinion, " Napoleon appeared to have made no effort to discover
the facts in Russia, or prepare his troops for it." pg 140, 1812
Napoleon's Defeat in Russia.
As Napoleon and his army was making their way to Moscow, they
encountered typhus, colds, and dysentery. Even the mighty Napoleon had
caught a mild case of the flu. However, his soldiers had received the
brunt of the attack. Captain Thomas- Joesph Aubry relives this ordeal,
" After this the typhus made appalling inroads in our ranks. We were
fourty-three officers in our ward. All of them died, one after the
other, and delirious from this dreadful disease, most of them singing,
some in Latin, others in German, others again in Italian - and singing
psalms, canticles, or the mass." pg 210, 1812 Napoleon's Defeat in
Russia General Clausewitz wrote, " The bad water and the air-borne
insects caused dysentery, typhus, and diarrhea." pg 136, The Campaign
of 1812 in Russia Brett James also wrote, " Bad water, bad air, and
bad sanitation all contributed to the vile diseases." pg 213 1812,
Napoleon's defeat in Russia.
Napoleon had lost about 80,000 men altogether from diseases
alone. But there were some remedies for the sick, doctors provided
gruel for the dysentery and warm soup for the colds. Napoleon could
have lowered the casualties if he had brought more doctors and more
supplies. When Napoleon had finally reached Moscow, he discovered it
deserted. Two days later, a great fire broke out in Moscow,
temporarily forcing Napoleon and some of his troops out of Moscow. If
Napoleon had reached Moscow with at 300,000 men instead of 90,000, he
could have continued his campaign and defeat the weakened Russian
army. The Emperor could have reached Moscow with at least 300,000 men
if he had taken better care of his troops and had not fought every
battle that he came across. Brett James shows that Napoleon regarded
his army as mere numbers and did not contemplate that they would be
affected by hunger and fatigue.
" He would not have lost a 100,000 men if he had not chosen on
every occasion to take the bull by the horns." pg 86, 1812 Napoleon's
Defeat in Russia " Moscow was a good weeks march away, but already the
army was already disintegrating through sheer hunger." pg 147, 1812
Napoleon's Defeat in Russia General Clausewitz also relates with Brett
by declaring, " He reached Moscow with 90,000 men, he should have
reached it with 300,000. This would have happened if he treated his
army with more care and forbearance." pg 255, The Campaign of 1812 in
Russia If Napoleon only had at least 300,000 men, he could have waited
for supplies with the comfort of knowing that he was safe. Instead,
Napoleon retreated and allowed his army to slowly wither under the
attack of the Russian guerrillas. Therefore I have shown some reasons
why Napoleon had lost the Campaign of 1812 to Russia. However,
Napoleon did not lose the war out of military errors but of a simple
miscalculation - a miscalculation that was made by Hitler a century
later. Napoleon believed that if he occupied Moscow, the Russian
government would collapse and he would rule Europe with little
opposition. But as history reveals, this tactic does not work and
Napoleon is defeated, paving the way for other nations to deny
Napoleon's lust for power.