Saturday, April 6, 2013

Misconceptions about 1812

Here are some of the facts that I had wrong regarding Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. Spoilers follow.


  • Napoleon didn't want to invade Russia
  • Napoleon did not want to thoroughly wipe Russia as a fighting and political power
  • Napoleon did not invade during winter
  • The Sweedes were not allies
  • There was no clear objective to the campaign other than defeating the Russian army pronto
  • The Russian army retreat in the first stages was not due to some clever plan
  • The scorched earth policy wasn't explicitly mandated
  • Kutuzov did not lead the Russian army from the start
  • He was not an exemplary character either
  • The Russian top brass was petty, envious and suspicious of each other
  • Alexander was not a strong character; in fact, his sister was stronger-opinionated than he
  • The French were not quite mobile as they encumbered with non-combatants
  • The march forward during hot weather was as bad as the march back during winter
  • The French won at Borodino in the usual sense of the word (though almost in a pyrric way), not the Russians
  • The Russian burnt Moscow, not the French. We even know the names of  those who gave and carried the orders: city mayor Rostopchin and police chief Voronenko
  • Kutuzov was mostly passive


About the only thing that I had straight was that Russia's realignment was necessary for the continental blockade of England to succeed. Oh, and if anything, the French fared worse in less time than the Sweedes did with Charles XII.



Post a Comment