1812 – Napoleon in Moscow
By Paul Britten Austin
Frontline Books (www.frontline-books.com)
RRP GBP £14.99
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This is the second volume in a three part series dealing with Napoleon’s doomed Russian campaign of 1812. These volumes should be read together as they are in chronological order. The first volume called “1812 - The March on Moscow” and is also reviewed here.
Napoleon’s Grand Armee reached the gates of Moscow and it prepared itself for a triumphal entry to this marvellous city. But it found the city completely abandoned by its inhabitants. The only life was the men who were fanning the flames of the buildings they had ignited and those placing incendiary devices in empty buildings. Moscow had been set alight and it burned for three whole days and nights.
Looters dodged the fires in order to plunder and pillage and so begins the second volume. The Armee entered the city once the fires had died down and the city they entered was entirely ruined. This was no prize for such a gallant army – there were only ruins. Napoleon then waited five weeks at the Kremlin in anticipation that his “brother the Tsar” in St Petersburg would capitulate. He was denied no such offer to make peace and to settle their differences peacefully.
Indeed the Russian army was gathering its strength. Concurrently Murat’s cavalry who were encamped as Napoleon’s advance guard were suffering from dreadful conditions and three days hard march away at Winkowo. This cavalry formation was being starved to death as they had insufficient supplies.
Napoleon eventually realised his predicament and the futility of his plans. He then prepared himself to start leaving Moscow and the long retreat back to France. When his advance guard was leaving Moscow it was surprised and attacked by the Russians and perhaps the most famous exodus in military history ensued.
In a similar manner to the first volume of the series (1812 – The March on Moscow) this volume uses hundreds of eyewitness accounts. These accounts were created by both French and Allied soldiers of Napoleon’s army and they brilliantly bring this volume to life. Like the first volume reviewed this edition should be on the shelf of any serious student of this campaign or Napoleonic historian.