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The Failure of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign

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Essay title: The Failure of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign

Napoleon Bonaparte was seemingly invincible. Under his command, the Grande Armee had conquered much of Europe, and was viewed by others as an austere foe. Though despite all this, Napoleon made a fatal mistake: he entered Russia. Of the 600,000 troops that reached the Russian border, only 100,000 made it out (Moore, Online). Through the Russian Campaign the seemingly indomitable man of Napoleon began to crumble at the base, and after numerous fatal errors, the foundation fell. Napoleon's Russian Campaign of 1812 resulted in failure.

Napoleon unleashed his armies to Russia in June of 1812. The initial reason for the start of the Russian Campaign was that of desertion (Bloy, Online). This became evident when Czar Alexander I of Russia left the Continental System. While hurting Britain's economy, the Continental System also hurt Russia's. Soon enough, Napoleon sent over 600,000 troops to Russia, hoping to straighten out the czar (Burnham, Online). The czar seemed not to be worried, and readily commanded two Russian armies to protect their country. The initial attacks against the Russians were relentless, and the two armies were readily overwhelmed. On June 24 the two Russian armies retreated, under the command of General Barclay de Tolly and General Bagration (Moore, Online). The Czar Alexander was cunning, and instead of directly confronting the Grande Armee, he would always retreat. This greatly irritated Napoleon, who pressed on further and further, deep into Russia (Sparknotes, Online). However, this process of enticement and retreat seemed to be working, as the battle-hungry Napoleon kept on proceeding. Knowing that they could not win a fight by force, the Russians were cunning and traded space for time with the French. By this time, the Russians had developed the "scorched-earth" policy, which was the destruction of one's own land (Burnham, Online). Whenever the Russians would retreat, they would burn all the land behind them. This greatly angered Napoleon, mainly because one of his most formidable strategies in war was using the land of the enemy for his own resources (PBS, Online). Napoleon had gravely underestimated the Russians.

The gravest threat to the Russian forces was a direct, large-scale confrontation with Napoleon's army, but such a colossal battle was surely inevitable. Despite the constant retreating, the Grande Army did engage the Russians in one significant conflict: the Battle of Borodino. The Russians, under the control of General Mikhail Kutusov, assembled massive defensive positions in await for Napoleon's army. The tally of Napoleon's men reached 133,000, where only 120,000 backed the Russians (Moore, Online). The battle began, and the fighting was fierce. By the end of the Battle of Borodino, 44,000 Russian troops were lost, and the death count for Napoleon's army reached 30,000 (Moore, Online). Knowing they were defeated, the Russians retreated yet again, this time to Moscow, hence drawing out the conflict even more. Borodino proved to be a major turning point, as after the battle, many men on both sides had been lost.

After Borodino, the French forthwith made their way to Moscow. The Russians, knowing that another large-scale assault was probably going to transpire, retreated out of Moscow. The Russians were cunning however, and this time laid scorched-earth tactics on their own city, Moscow. General Kutusov was adroit, and ordered his army to burn the city. Everyone in Moscow evacuated, fleeing elsewhere. Napoleon had finally reached Moscow on September 14, 1812, then ablaze (Sparknotes, Online). Throughout the campaign, disease had become a major issue among Napoleon's army. By the time the army reached Moscow, over 200,000 soldiers had perished from disease alone, far more than whom died from combat had (Moore, Online). Despite his ailing soldiers, Napoleon waited and waited for a Russian surrender. He refused to leave Moscow, because a formal resignation from Russia would issue Napoleon's success. Napoleon lingered in the torched Moscow for five agonizing

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