Napoleon

(1769-1821)

Military leader and Emperor of France

"Moscow - The Most Terrible of All My Battles . . ."

In mid-June 1812, the vast army that Napoleon had assembled on the banks of the Niemen River was poised for action, ready to face the determined Russian army. Crossing into Russia on the twenty-fourth, the troops soon succumbed to the unbearable summer heat and lack of provisions. Fatigue and insufficient coordination among the army's several flanks, and the Russian strategy of provocation and withdrawal left the French even more vulnerable ......

Dawn had just broken on September 7 when the French opened fire at the field of Borodino, about 70 miles west of Moscow. By day's end, with nearly 80,000 dead, Kutusov retreated toward Moscow and the French to their pre-battle position, claiming a real, if Pyrrhic victory. One week later, the French captured Moscow. It was to prove the most significant conflict of the Russian Campaign and, in Napoleon's own words, "The most terrible of all my battles . . ."

These paragraphs are taken from a history of the Napoleonic War in Russia. The sense is the same but the content is quite different from Napoleons own words as related in a interview diary written en route to St. Helena:

Month day August 18th, 1815

Napoleon as usual appeared on Deck after Dinner and entered in to conversation with the Admiral to whom he told the following - The burning of Moscow was the com-mencement of my bad fortune - He says that the War in Russia was the most destruc-tive and dreadful that ever he had wit-nessed - on his March towards Moscow the whole country around as far as his Eye could reach observe appeared like a sea of fire owing to the Towns and Villages …