The Campaign of 1812 should have been a another crusade forNapoleon, but he now faced 2 new policies that he had never facedbefore, the severe Russian winter and the notorious scorched-earthpolicy. On June 23, 1812 Napoleon’s Grande Armee, over 500,000 menstrong, poured over the Russian border. An equal amount of Russianforces awaited them.
The result of the campaign was a surprise. Twoauthors, General carl von Clausewitz and Brett James, showsimilarities in reasons why Napoleon had lost this campaign to Russia. Napoleon believed that after a few quick victorious battles, he couldconvince Alexander to return to the Continental System. He alsodecided that if he occupied Moscow, the Russian government wouldcrumple and ask for peace.
” A single blow delivered at the heart ofthe Russian Empire, at Moscow the Great, at Moscow the Holy, willineztly put this whole blind, apathetic mass at my mercy. ” pg 6,1812 Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia. This was his belief he expressed in March 1812. However, whenNapoleon eventually took over Moscow, the Tsar still did notsurrender. Napoleon, sent a message to the Tsar, demanding a immediatesurrender.
However, the Tsar could not surrender because if he did, hewould be assassinated by the nobles. Clausewitz replies by saying, “Napoleon was unable to grasp the fact that Alexander would not, couldnot negotiate. The Tsar knew well that he would be disposed andassassinated if he tried so. ” pg 256, The Campaign of 1812 inRussia. General Clausewitz said, “Napoleon believed if he defeated theRussian Army and occupied Moscow, the Russian leadership will fallapart and the government would call for peace. ” pg 253, The Campaignof 1812 in Russia Brett James also agreed that Napoleon’s occupationhad no result.
” The occupation of Napoleon in Moscow did not have aeffect on the government. ” pg 13, 1812 Napoleon’s Defeat in RussiaWith his battle plan set, Napoleon prepared his troops for the attackon Russia. But, Napoleon did not consider the fierce Russian winterwhich awaited him. According to Ludwig Wilhelm Gottlob Schlosser, aonlooker, he described the army by saying, “The French, down to thelowliest drummer were very fastidious. These poor French devils werenot satisfied with less than soup, meat and vegetables, roast, andsalad for their midday meal, and there was no sign of their famousfrugality.
They were completely devoid of the coming winter. ” pg 13, 1812Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia Napoleon was even warned by General Rappabout the extremities of the oncoming winter in Russia. “The nativessay we shall have a severe winter,” Napoleon retorted scornfully, “Bah! You and your natives! We shall see how fine it is. ” pg 147, 1812Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia Napoleon should have heeded Rapp’s words. As the Grand Armee marched toward Moscow, many horses and men werelost in the freezing snow, and for those who remained, their moraleand effectiveness was at the nadir. General Clausewitz states his point by saying, ” With moreprecaution and better regulations as to subsistence, with more carefulconsideration of his marches, which would have prevented theunnecessary and enormous accumulation of masses on one and the sameroad, he would have preserved his army in a more effective condition.
“pg 255, The Campaign of 1812 in Russia Brett James also shared thesame opinion, ” Napoleon appeared to have made no effort to discoverthe facts in Russia, or prepare his troops for it. ” pg 140, 1812Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia. As Napoleon and his army was making their way to Moscow, theyencountered typhus, colds, and dysentery. Even the mighty Napoleon hadcaught a mild case of the flu. However, his soldiers had received thebrunt of the attack.
Captain Thomas- Joesph Aubry relives this ordeal,” After this the typhus made appalling inroads in our ranks. We werefourty-three officers in our ward. All of them died, one after theother, and delirious from this dreadful disease, most of them singing,some in Latin, others in German, others again in Italian – and singingpsalms, canticles, or the mass. ” pg 210, 1812 Napoleon’s Defeat inRussia General Clausewitz wrote, ” The bad water and the air-borneinsects caused dysentery, typhus, and diarrhea. ” pg 136, The Campaignof 1812 in Russia Brett James also wrote, ” Bad water, bad air, andbad sanitation all contributed to the vile diseases. ” pg 213 1812,Napoleon’s defeat in Russia.
Napoleon had lost about 80,000 men altogether from diseasesalone. But there were some remedies for the sick, doctors providedgruel for the dysentery and warm soup for the colds. Napoleon couldhave lowered the casualties if he had brought more doctors and moresupplies. When Napoleon had finally reached Moscow, he discovered itdeserted.
Two days later, a great fire broke out in Moscow,temporarily forcing Napoleon and some of his troops out of Moscow. IfNapoleon had reached Moscow with at 300,000 men instead of 90,000, hecould have continued his campaign and defeat the weakened Russianarmy. The Emperor could have reached Moscow with at least 300,000 menif he had taken better care of his troops and had not fought everybattle that he came across. Brett James shows that Napoleon regardedhis army as mere numbers and did not contemplate that they would beaffected by hunger and fatigue. ” He would not have lost a 100,000 men if he had not chosen onevery occasion to take the bull by the horns.
” pg 86, 1812 Napoleon’sDefeat in Russia ” Moscow was a good weeks march away, but already thearmy was already disintegrating through sheer hunger. ” pg 147, 1812Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia General Clausewitz also relates with Brettby declaring, ” He reached Moscow with 90,000 men, he should havereached it with 300,000. This would have happened if he treated hisarmy with more care and forbearance. ” pg 255, The Campaign of 1812 inRussia If Napoleon only had at least 300,000 men, he could have waitedfor supplies with the comfort of knowing that he was safe.
Instead,Napoleon retreated and allowed his army to slowly wither under theattack of the Russian guerrillas. Therefore I have shown some reasonswhy Napoleon had lost the Campaign of 1812 to Russia. However,Napoleon did not lose the war out of military errors but of a simplemiscalculation – a miscalculation that was made by Hitler a centurylater. Napoleon believed that if he occupied Moscow, the Russiangovernment would collapse and he would rule Europe with littleopposition. But as history reveals, this tactic does not work andNapoleon is defeated, paving the way for other nations to denyNapoleon’s lust for power.