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Napoleon Bonaparte's Greatest Blunder, The Invasion of Russia (1812)

January 19, 2012  by: Madan G Singh  Points: 12   Category: Others    Views: 558

Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 with a Grand Army of 600,000, only to suffer a colossal retreat.


In 1812, all the countries of Europe had ganged up against France and Napoleon. England, Russia and Prussia were all opposed to Napoleon and his rule. In particular the Russians incensed Napoleon as they sided with his opponents. Napoleon thus thought of a grand campaign to subdue Russia. He planned his invasion in 1812. Napoleon expected a quick victory and he was confident that his French Army would break Russian powere and make it a vassal state like he had made of the rest of Europe.

For the invasion, Napoleon amassed a grand army of 600,000 soldiers. In addition horse drawn artillery in great numbers was assembled . This massive force invaded Russia. The French grand army made a quick entry into Russia, but what surprised Napoleon was that Russian army avoided any pitched battle with his army. The Russian army just withdrew, but followed a scorched earth policy. In this they destroyed all foods and other items when they retreated. The advancing French army thus could not live of the land and had to have supplies brought from France creating a logistic problem.

Napoleon at the head of his army reached Moscow. He expected the Tsar to come out to negeotiate with him the terms of surrender. Nothing of this sort happened and the Russians along with the Tsar just withdrew from Moscow. However they set the city on fire and went away. Thus when the French army entered Moscow all they could find was smoldering fires and no food. This was a serious setback to the French army, as devoid of food and winter setting in, the tables had turned against Napoleon.

Winter now set in and the watch word was snow, slush and mud. The result was that the Grand army was at its wits end. With no food and no supplies Napoleon had a hungry force with him. With the snow and drift piling up all around, the French army had to retreat. On the way back the heavy guns of the French army had to be abandoned and the men were reduced to eating their horses in the biting cold. When Napoleon retreated the Russian army mounted attacks on the French. At the end only 95,000 soldiers of the grand army made it back from the Russian campaign. it was a costly battle and Napoleon never recoverd from this defeat. It was a colossal blunder and severely dented Napoleon' s claim as a great soldier.The Russian campaign was Napoleon's nadir and paved the way for his ultimate defeat at Waterloo.

Now with the 200th anniversery of the Russian campaign coming up, the fact is that Napoleon lost his crown by his attack on Russia. It is a defeat that cannot be brushed aside

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