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
ineztly 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