Napoleon's Russia Campaign

Napoleon's Russia Campaign

In 1811 the alliance formed between Russia and France was broken, due to the wishes of the Tsar Alexander I to conquer Constantinople and to the need to achieve an approach to Great Britain, an enemy of Russia after having joined the blockade of British trade. Therefore, Alexander I demanded the evacuation of the French armies from Prussia and Pomerania. NapoleonFeeling betrayed, he responded with a declaration of war.

Thus began in 1812 the Russia campaign. Napoleon mobilized the Grand Armée, made up of 600,000 from all parts of the Empire who were willing to fight for France. The Gallic troops achieved good results at the beginning of the fight and were able to invade Russian territory for six months.

But nevertheless, a succession of problems conditioned the French failure. But not only the French army failed, but also all those nations that once yearned to invade Russia, such as for example Hitler In the Second World War. On the one hand, territorial extension it made it almost impossible to maintain control over the conquered areas. It was not a tedious task because the Russians were more numerous, but because they had to travel long distances in a rather hostile place, which facilitated the Russian defensive work.

On the other hand, there was the heterogeneity of the army. Many people knew him as the “Twenty Nations Army”, Which was a problem when fighting for common goals. According to the data of the time, the nation with the most troops within the Grand Armeé was not France, but Prussia. Later, after the failure of this military action, it would be one of the arguments most used by the Prussian leaders to rebel against the political dominance of the Napoleonic Empire.

And finally, there was the inescapable fact of Napoleon's physical decline, as well as the absence of many of his generals and marshals. The emperor thought of waging a swift and withering war, leaving the Russians unable to respond. On June 22, 1812, the French army crossed the Niemen and met little resistance in the battles of Smolensk in August and Borodino in September.

It seemed that he had a clear path to Moscow, but the truth is that the Russian general Kutuzov carried out a tactic of “burned land"And avoided engaging"decisive battles”. In this way, the Napoleonic troops were out of supply and the defending army did not suffer considerable casualties.

In October, Napoleon entered Moscow but only found a burning city, devoid of any type of food. In addition, that moment coincided with the fall of the first snow, so he ordered the withdrawal of the troops without them having been able to reach any of their objectives.

The French army was to reach Smolensk where it had its supply reserves, but the flight was terribly hard, as the Russians launched an attack on October 23 in what was called "battle of Maloiroslavets”. The balance was horrible, about 7,000 soldiers perished.

But the situation for the survivors was not much better, since the cold, reaching 20 degrees below zero, and lack of food decimated the troops. Trying to survive, the soldiers abandoned ammunition and weapons, leaving them extremely vulnerable to attack by Russian defenders.

The Russian Campaign was terminated and Napoleon was left in a very delicate situationbecause he was defeated, not by an army, but by cold, hunger, misery and fear. Of the 614,000 soldiers who left, only 50,000 returned. A massacre that took its toll on him nationally, through an attempted coup, and internationally, with the formation of the sixth coalition and the desire of Prussia to separate from French influence.

It was the first great campaign that the strategist lost and it was the beginning of the decline of the French Empire. The national sentiment that the Russians had had had overcome the invading spirit of the "Twenty Nations Army”.

Image: Public domain

Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was little he loved history and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.

Video: Napoleons Retreat from Moscow 1812