Saka Light Cavalry

Saka Light Cavalry

Thursday, 12 April 2018

1812 Napoleons Fatal March on Moscow

It's a few years ago, but I read a review of this book and decided to buy it. Once bought it sat waiting for an opportunity to read it and was almost forgotten. Problem was that every time I thought about it I had a couple of books already waiting a turn. However I finally got round to reading it and have to admit I really enjoyed it. Part of the reason I took so long to actually read the book has been the idea that the part of the book dealing with the retreat would be repetitive and so grim as to wear down the reader. Whilst it is grim by the very nature of the retreat I feel Adam Zamoyski did a great job of narrating the events and kept the text fresh as he moved along the retreat.

Not that the book was all about the retreat of course, much of the book deals with the build up of events that lead to the forming of the Grande Army and how Napoleon and Alexander slipped towards a war neither really wanted and how the tragic events unfolded. Most interesting was the level of losses taken by the advancing army to which Napoleon was for the most part unaware as commanding officers gave false reports so as not to anger Napoleon. Indeed the whole venture showed that Napoleon seemed not to be his old self and the steady erosion of the army was avoidable to a fair extent and the rushed preparations and fairer to follow up orders sent was a root cause of the eventual loss of the campaign and the fall of France as the major power. Shades of Hitler's invasion from start to finish really are apparent.

Adam Zamoyski's view of Kuturzov being extremely cautious and incompetent really makes interesting reading and leaves the reader with the thought that if overall command had been given to a more aggressive and competent commander then far less of the Grande Army would have made it back to friendly bases and the 1813 campaign would have been much shorter if it had happened at all. This leads to the question of the possibility of the return to power of Napoleon and the whole 100 days campaign being a none starter? 

The book provides less meat for possible battle ideas than I was hoping for but certainly will add some flavour to anyone thinking of wargaming this campaign. I can fully recommend picking up a copy of this book though don't sit on it like I have done.

4 comments:

  1. Sounds a good book. I've often toyed with the idea of painting up the figures for this period myself, in skirmish of course.

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    1. Some great 28mm figs of the retreat are available as well

      Ian

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  2. It is such a fascinating campaign, full of amazing feats of horror, endurance, humanity and the quest for survival writ large. I have just finished reading von Brandt's memoirs, covering his time in the Peninsula and then in Russia. It's a great read too. I read parts of Zamoyski's book when we were looking at games of the bicentennial in 2012. Your post reminds me that, like you, I need to read it all! :)
    It must be remembered that the Russians suffered great losses too in both the retreat and advance (in their case). Kutusov was keen to keep the army intact and to push just hard enough. He did not agree with taking the war beyond Russia's borders, while Alexander saw his opportunity to lead a war of 'liberation'.

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    1. Yes the Russian army was on the point of breaking apart at the end of the French retreat.

      Ian

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