French invasion of Russia

1812 conflict during the Napoleonic Wars / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The French invasion of Russia, also known as the Russian campaign, the Second Polish War, the Army of Twenty nations, and the Patriotic War of 1812 was launched by Napoleon to force the Russian Empire back into the continental blockade of the United Kingdom. Napoleon's invasion of Russia is one of the best studied military campaigns in history and is listed among the most lethal military operations in world history.[18] It is characterized by the massive toll on human life: in less than six months nearly a million soldiers and civilians died.[19][17]

Quick facts: French invasion of Russia, Date, Location, Re...
French invasion of Russia
Part of the Napoleonic Wars
Clockwise from top left:
Date24 June – 14 December 1812
(5 months, 2 weeks and 6 days)
Result Russian victory

First French Empire French Empire

French allies:
Flag_of_the_Habsburg_Monarchy.svg Austrian Empire
Flag_of_the_Kingdom_of_Prussia_%281803-1892%29.svg Kingdom of Prussia
Flag_of_Denmark_%28state%29.svg Kingdom of Denmark
Russian Empire Russian Empire
Commanders and leaders

450,000[2] – 685,000[3] total:

508,000 – 723,000 total:[2]

Casualties and losses



Total military and civilian deaths:
c. 1,000,000[17]
French invasion of Russia is located in Europe
Begin and end in Paris
Begin and end in Paris
Summit of the French invasion of Russia
Orange_pog.svgPrussian corps Red_pog.svgNapoleon Blue_pog.svgAustrian corps

On 24 June 1812 and the following days, the first wave of the multinational Grande Armée crossed the Niemen into Russia. Through a series of long forced marches, Napoleon pushed his army of almost half a million people rapidly through Western Russia, now Belarus, in an attempt to destroy the separated Russian armies of Barclay de Tolly and Pyotr Bagration who amounted to around 180,000–220,000 at this time.[20][21] Within six weeks, Napoleon lost half of the men because of the extreme weather conditions, disease and hunger, winning just the Battle of Smolensk. The Russian Army continued to retreat, under its new Commander in Chief Mikhail Kutuzov, employing attrition warfare against Napoleon forcing the invaders to rely on a supply system that was incapable of feeding their large army in the field.

The fierce Battle of Borodino, seventy miles (110 km) west of Moscow, was a narrow French victory that resulted in a Council at Fili. There Kutuzov decided not to defend the city but to a general withdrawal to save the Russian army.[22] (At the time, Moscow was a very important city, but not the capital of Russia; from 1732 to 1918, Saint Petersburg served as a capital). On 14 September, Napoleon and his army of about 100,000 men occupied Moscow, only to find it abandoned, and the city was soon ablaze, instigated by its military governor. Napoleon stayed in Moscow for five weeks, waiting for a peace offer that never came.[23] Because of the nice weather he left late, hoping to reach the magazines in Smolensk by a detour. Losing the Battle of Maloyaroslavets he was forced to take the same route as he came. In early November it began to snow, which complicated the retreat. Lack of food and winter clothes for the men and fodder for the horses, and guerilla warfare from Russian peasants and Cossacks led to greater losses. Again more than half of the men died on the roadside of exhaustion, typhus and the harsh continental climate. The Grande Armée had deteriorated into a disorganized mob, and the Russians could not conclude otherwise.

In the Battle of Krasnoi Napoleon was able to avoid a complete defeat. Meanwhile, he was almost without cavalry and artillery, and deployed the Old Guard for the first time.[24] Although several retreating French corps united with the main army, when the Berezina was reached, Napoleon had only about 49,000 troops and 40,000 stragglers of little military value. On 5 December, Napoleon left the army at Smorgonie in a sledge and returned to Paris. Within a few days, 20,000 more perished from the bitter cold and louse-borne diseases.[25] Murat and Ney, the new commanders, continued, leaving more than 20,000 men behind in the hospitals of Vilnius. What was left of the main armies crossed the frozen Niemen and the Bug disillusioned.

Although estimates vary because precise records were not kept,[26] numbers were exaggerated and auxiliary troops were not always counted, Napoleon's army entered Russia with more than 450,000 men,[27] more than 150,000 horses,[28] around 25,000 wagons and almost 1,400 pieces of artillery. Only 120,000 men survived (excluding early deserters);[lower-alpha 1] as many as 380,000 died in the campaign.[30] Consequently, Napoleon's reputation of invincibility was shattered.[31]