The Great Retreat 1812

Napoleon's Retreat 1812

On the evening of June 23, 1812, the first of Napoleon’s troops marched over the Neman River and set foot on Russian soil, thus starting the invasion with an imposing army of approximately half a million men. The Emperor’s movements were fast and combative at the beginning, but all would change when the first rains turned the roads into impassable quagmires ...

In late September, Russian patriots and a retreating Russian Army burned Moscow. A month later, Napoleon and his exhausted army - short of food and supplies - were forced to withdraw. This began a long-suffering march in which Napoleon’s long line of communication was constantly harassed; convoys were attacked by bands of partisans and peasants, and Cossacks pounced on small detachments. Men’s clothing was too light for the bone-chilling, well-below zero cold that few had experienced before. Horses were not shod for ice. Wagons and guns were soon abandoned by demoralized troops that threw down their weapons and trudged along snow-covered roads strewn with dead and dying ...

It only ended in the middle of December 1812, not quite six months from the outset, when the last remnants of a decimated Grande Armée left the Russian territory like a ghastly premonition of things to come ...
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