Napoleon's Russian Campaign: recommendations

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Napoleon's Russian Campaign: recommendations

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Fev 16, 2016, 10:30pm

I'm reading War and Peace and interested in reading more about the battle of Borodino. I have The Campaigns of Napoleon. Any recommendations?

Fev 17, 2016, 1:10pm

This is a topic where your language skills come into play. Nothing beats reading Carl von Clausewitz's own account of the 1812 campaign, set in Fraktur for period immersion: Der Feldzug 1812 in Russland.

Edward Tufte has justly praised Charles Joseph Minard's illustration as the greatest infographic ever created. Recent research has shown that Russian losses have been equally severe, so that one has to mentally add the huge Russian suffering to the chart.

In English, Dominic Lieven's pro-Russian Russia against Napoleon : the battle for Europe, 1807 to 1814 is probably the best work on the market. A good read is Adam Zamoyski's 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow, adding the betrayed Polish perspective.

Christopher Duffy's two classic books are wonderful red meat accounts Borodino and the War of 1812 and Austerlitz 1805. The Russians already campaigned earlier in Europe: Eagles Over The Alps: Suvorov In Italy and Switzerland, 1799.

There are also an Osprey campaign booklet and F. G. Hourtoulle's badly translated Borodino, la Moskowa : la bataille des redoutes about the battle. In only a few pages, they can't really do justice to a battle of 300.000 people (5 times the Super Bowl stadium visitors).

1812 was a truly international campaign with many regional accounts, such as, for me as a Swiss, the famous stand of the red-clothed Swiss regiments at the Beresina, pushing back 23 Russian charges, while the brave French engineers built and kept up the bridges over the icy river (certain death for the engineers, in contrast to the stupid Hollywood representation of ice, cold and water in The Revenant). Or the various German contingents or even the Austrian sideshow at the southern flank.

Fev 17, 2016, 1:35pm

Alas, I am limited to English and a smattering of German.

Thank you for the detailed post. It gives me a place to start.

Fev 17, 2016, 2:18pm

Wunderbar! You might brush up your German or learn a new language with (free) which makes it easy to integrate ten minutes of language practice into a daily schedule.

Fev 17, 2016, 5:42pm

For a more dramatic first hand account of the campaign I can recommend History of the Expedition to Russia, Undertaken By the Emperor Napoleon in the Year 1812 by General Count Philip De Segur. I have the english version published in 1825 in London. It's almost two centuries old but still a good read. It's available through Google Books as a free e-book.

Editado: Fev 17, 2016, 7:40pm

>4 jcbrunner: I'll have to check that out as well. German for reading is one of my bucket list items.

>5 jztemple: Interesting. Certainly worth a look. Thanks!

ETA: Anyone have any thoughts on 1812 Napoleon's Invasion of Russia

Fev 18, 2016, 12:45am

I will second the recommendations of the books by Dominic Lieven and Adam Zamoyski; they are both extremely good and they complement each other very well, with Lieven focused more on the Russian side of events while Zamoyski gives more attention to the French side.

Mar 15, 2016, 12:39pm

For those who can read Dutch, there's also Johan Op de Beeck's Napoleons nachtmerrie 1812 Hoe de keizer en zijn soldaten ten onder gingen in Rusland (i.e. "Napoleon's Nightmare 1812, How the Emperor and his soldiers perished in Russia") which is a very readable account of the 1812 campaign.

It leans heavily on the memoirs of Joseph Abbeel (°1786 - +1866) a Flemish soldier who was drafted into Napoleon's army in 1806.
He followed the Emperor throughout Europe and took part in the 1812 campaign in Russia.

Abbeel was one of the few who survived and put the story down in his memoirs.