Napoleon Bonaparte and his Russian campaign in 1812. Burning of Moscow. Destruction of the French army in Russia
"Napoleon" invades Russia in 1812.
The utter defeat of Napoleon in Russia, and The Grand 1812 Overture
Brilliant use of Fireworks.
Memories of a fateful year.
"Napoleon" invades Russia in 1812.
On June 24, 1812, the Grande Armée of 690,000 men, the largest army assembled up to that point in European history, crossed the river Neman and headed towards Moscow.
On 12th December in the same year, a remnant of, perhaps as few as 30,000, starving and demoralised soldiers were expelled from Russian Territory.
What caused this catastrophic collapse in the fortunes of Napoleon Bonaparte, and why did he embark on this mad adventure in the first place?
The answer to the first part of the question is that the patriotism of The Russian People, led by their Tsar, Alexander I was such that the very notion of having invaders on the soil of "Mother Russia" was unthinkable. Also the vastness of the country, allied with the savagery of the Russian winter, meant that, once the French started to retreat, defeat and starvation were sure to follow.
The fact that the French usurper insisted in fighting a war in Spain at the same time as his eastern adventure did not help either. There is only so much that even the most determined of depredators can do.
Adolf Hitler, the twentieth century's, imitator of Bonaparte, learned the same lesson before Stalingrad in 1943.
For the second part of the question, we have to consider the character of the aggressor himself. Napoleon Bonaparte had won so many victories, that he considered himself to be invincible. He had destroyed Prussia, and Italy. Holland and Belgium were beneath his heel. His Empire covered the greater part of continental Europe. Even The Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II had to humiliate himself by virtually selling his daughter to the lowly parvenu Frenchman, as the price of peace.
So, you see, Bonaparte had reason to believe that he would conquer Russia, as he had all these others.
How wrong he was.
Initially the French drove all before them. The Imperial Russian army did not have the numbers to put up an effective fight. But an appeal from The Orthodox Metropolitan of Moscow and one from The Tsar brought patriotic Russians from all classes rushing to join up and defeat the invader.
The Russian army was led by the elderly general Kutozov, a veteran of the earlier wars of Catherine II.
The two armies met at the battlefield of Borodino, just outside Moscow. After a fiercely fought battle, the Russians retreated beyond Moscow. Historians disagree on who won this engagement. Casualities were about even, but it was the Russians that left the field.
Brilliant use of Fireworks.
The utter defeat of Napoleon in Russia, and The Grand 1812 Overture.
The French occupied the ancient capital of Russia, and that is where it all went seriously wrong for them.
Moscow in 1812 was mainly built from old wooden buildings. Whether the clever Russians set it on fire, or the cooking fires of the invaders did the trick, almost the entire city was reduced to a glowing heap of ashes. Bonaparte and his army were deprived of winter quarters, and there was no proper supply line from France. They had no option but to retreat.
The Russians harried them the whole way, while they struggled across the country in the depts. of winter. Needless to say, their "brave" leader deserted them, and rushed back to France by sleigh; hoping to get there before the dreadful news of defeat reached the French capital. It was his intention to see if there were still any "Gallic Mugs" stupid enough to join a new army.
The destruction of the Grande Armee, gave heart to all those, who had suffered under the Napoleonic yoke for so long. A coalition was put together to defeat him, and in 1814 that is exactly what happened. The leading light in the coalition was the very same Tsar Alexander, whose country the "Corsican slug" had tried to rape.
Bonaparte was exiled to Elba. But sometimes when you hit a rat with a shovel it takes more than one blow to kill it. Such was the case with this pernicious piece of vermin.
After a year in comfortable exile Bonaparte escaped. He managed to stay at large for one hundred days, until those two great pest controllers, Wellington and Blucher, brought the final descent of the shovel on his head at the Battle of Waterloo.
In the year 1882 the anniversary of the defeat in 1812 was celebrated in Russia. Tchaikovsky was commissioned to compose a great festival overture to celebrate the victory over the invader.
The result was the famous 1812 overture.
Although the history of Russia has been a troubled one, especially since 1917, there is one year that they certainly earned the gratitude of the rest of the world. That was the year that they put the "Corsican" to flight.
The glorious and happy year of 1812.
Enjoy the music.
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