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Entering Moscow

As the author states in his Author's Note, "There has been many books written on the campaign, but very few in English have looked at it from the Russian perspective.

Defeat: Napoleon's Russian Campaign

Chapter 1 outlines preparations to the war, Chapter 2 deals with the events in Vilna where Napoleon met Russian envoy Alexander Balashov, who was sent to negotiate with the invader. Chapters 2 and 3 follow the retreat of the Russian 1st and 2nd Armies while Chapters concentrate on the failed Russian offensive at Smolensk and the subsequent battles for and around this city. Chapter 8 introduces the new Russian commander-in-chief Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov, who took over the command of the armies in late August Chapters 9 and 10 discuss the battle at Borodino which failed to give Napoleon a decisive victory he was seeking.

In Chapters 11 and 12, the author follows the Russian armies retreat and the famous council of war at Fili, where the Russian high command decided to abandon Moscow. In chapter 13 the reader will learn about the French occupation of Moscow while chapters 14 and 15 provide details on the northern and southern flanks which oftentimes receive limited attention in the studies of the Russian campaign.

With Chapter 16, the book reaches the turning point of the campaign as the French suffer a defeat at Tarutino 18 October and Napoleon decides to leave Russia and withdraw westward. There are four appendixes featuring orders of battle of the Russian armies for June and December and of opolchenye forces at Borodino, and a table of French losses compiled by a Russian intelligence officer in The book incorporates dozens of memoirs of Russian participants as well as a few from the opposite side. It is full of numerous quotes from diaries, memoirs, letters and other sources that are translated from Russian and weaved into the narrative.

Using dozens of Russian memoirs, Spring accomplishes the same task for the Russian army and he must be commended for this. Yet, after completing this book, I was left with rather conflicting feelings about it. It is an interesting book that will introduce an English-speaking audience to many Russian memoirs that have not been fully utilized until now. So the book does contribute to creating "a more balanced view of the campaign from the 'other side'.

Thus in "Prelude to War," the author simply notes that "many Russian generals wanted an offensive war before Napoleon's European Army was ready and bombarded with their plans for occupying the Duchy of Warsaw so that, according to Bagration, 'the theater of war will leave the limits of our empire. General Karl Ludwig Pfuel author refers to him as "Phull" is only mentioned in passim p.


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The author tends to accept the contemporaries' memories at their face values, instead of putting them through a scholarly scrutiny, comparing and contrasting various accounts and secondary literature. Thus, Chapter 1 relies too much on the memoirs of Countess de Coiseul-Gouffier, although there are numerous documents and studies available on this issue.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Chapter 15, which is about the Southern flank where Alexander Tormasov's 3rd Army of Observation fought the Austrians and Saxons, is just three pages long and provides nothing new on the Russian side, instead repeating generic information which can be easily gleaned from any previously published book. In it the author cites only five sources, and some of his quotes are not properly referenced. Vereshagin's book which is cited as the source, although Vyazemsky's journal has been published.

Chapter 14 deals with the northern flank where Marshal Macdonald tried, unsuccessfully, to take control of the Baltic provinces while Marshal Oudinot clashed with General Wittgenstein in and around Polotsk. Macdonald's campaign is discussed in just a page, using reports of reports of a British rear admiral, while the two battles of Polotsk are covered in nine pages, of which five and half pages are a long excerpt from the memoir of Rafail Zotov, a junior officer in the St.

Petersburg opolchenye. Although Zotov provides a vivid picture of the fighting, his viewpoint is rather limited and, like any other memoir, cannot be trusted as the main source for the battle. There are plenty of other sources on this battle — Wittgenstein's correspondence, official journals of military operations, memoirs of other participants and secondary studies, none of which are used in the book. Similar problems exist throughout the book.


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Chapter 16, entitled Taruntino, spends less than four pages out of fourteen on the battle itself, and even then the battle account is rather sketchy, driven primarily by quotes from memoirs. Even if one accepts the argument that this book's main goal was to showcase the Russian human experiences of the war, the fact is that, in some case, the author failed to use many important memoirs that would have significantly improved his work.

For example, Chapter 19 on the Berezina Crossing is primarily based on memoirs of Langeron and Rochechouart, with minor use of Ermolov, Wilson and Zotov.

The defeat of Austria, 1800–01

Missing are such interesting memoirs as those of Chichagov, Arnoldi, Czaplic, Falenberg, Khrapovitskii, Malinovskii, O'Rourke and Sukhetskii, which all contain valuable details on the Berezina events. The book also includes sixteen plates of illustrations, but captions for some of them contain mistakes. Image 1 on plate 11 is identified as "The Battle of Polotsk by P.

Guesse," although it is I. The book would have greatly benefited from a more rigorous copy-edit since it contains many poorly constructed sentences and format errors. For example, although Table of Content identifies chapter 3 as dealing with the 1st Western Army, turning to page 30, the reader will discover that this chapter is not numbered, chapter 4 is numbered as three, and chapter 5 as four; fortunately, after skipping on chapter 5, the numbering of subsequent chapters is correct.

The book is also full of typos and inconsistent transliterations which may, at first, seem minor but gradually become rather annoying. Chapter 9 refers to the battle of Shevandino, instead of Shevardino, while Chapter 16 is entitled Taruntino, instead of Tarutino. The same Russian names are often given both in Russian transliteration and Latin form. Russian regimental names are cited in at least two different versions, and a few of them are incorrect transliterations of original names.

In fact, the author may not be fluent in Russian since time and again he fails to take into account conjugation of Russian words and translates them as they are. By clicking on "Submit" you agree that you have read and agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

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Napoleon’s Education and Early Military Career

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