Cover image for Moscow 1812 : Napoleon's fatal march
Moscow 1812 : Napoleon's fatal march
Zamoyski, Adam.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
1. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2004]

Physical Description:
xxvi, 644 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow. London : HarperCollins, 2004.
Format :


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DC235 .Z35 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DC235 .Z35 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Napoleon's invasion of Russia and his ensuing terrible retreat from Moscow played out as military epic and human tragedy on a colossal scale -- history's first example of total war. The story begins in 1811, when Napoleon dominated nearly all of Europe, succeeding in his aim to reign over the civilized world like a modern-day Charlemagne. Part of his bid for supremacy involved destroying Britain through a continental blockade, but the plan was stymied when Russia's Tsar Alexander refused to comply. So he set out to teach the Tsar a lesson by intimidation and force. What followed was a deadly battle that would change the fate of modern Europe.

By invading Russia in 1812, Napoleon was upping the ante as never before. Once he sent his vast army eastward, there was no turning back: he was sucked farther and farther into the one territory he could not conquer. Trudging through a brutal climate in hostile lands, his men marched on toward distant Moscow. But this only galvanized the Russians, who finally made a stand at the gates of the city. The ensuing outbreak was a slaughter the likes of which would not be seen again until the first day of the Somme more than a century later.

What remained of Napoleon's army now had to endure a miserable retreat across the wintry wastes of Russia, while his enemies aligned against him. This turned out to be a momentous turning point: not only the beginning of the end for Napoleon's empire, but the rise of Russia's influence in world affairs. It also gave birth to Napoleon's superhuman legend -- the myth of greatness in failure that would inspire the Romantic poets as well as future leaders to defy fate as he had done.

In this gripping, authoritative account, Adam Zamoyski has drawn on the latest Russian research, as well as a vast pool of firsthand accounts in French, Russian, German, Polish, and Italian, to paint a vivid picture of the experiences of soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict. He shows how the relationship between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander came to distort their alliance and bring about a war that neither man wanted. Dramatic, insightful, and enormously absorbing, Moscow 1812 is a masterful work of history.

Author Notes

Adam Zamoyski was born in New York, was educated at Oxford, & lives in London. His other books include biographies of Chopin & Paderewski & a history of Poland.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Varied interpretations of Napoleon's retreat from his invasion of Russia have been attempted, but before confronting War and Peace, it behooves readers to ground themselves in the chronology of the 1812 campaign. Zamoyski sets the diplomatic table that preceded Napoleon's adventure, the 1807 treaties of Tilsit that made Russia France's ally. Resentment in Russia made them dead letters by 1811. Switching from incisive portraits of the principals in these preliminaries, Napoleon and the dreamy Czar Alexander I, Zamoyski synthesizes a comprehensible account of the invasion itself, buttressed by graphic descriptions that survivors left about their misery. Affairs deteriorated so rapidly for la Grande Armee that only a fifth of it actually reached Moscow. Zamoyski excels in the gruesome battle scenes along the way--Borodino, of course, but especially the invaders' disintegration at the Berezina River. Zamoyski displays not only narrative ability but also persuasive interpretive skill when he turns to events in the Russian camp. They belie the retrospective memory of nationalist resistance, which is a dubious proposition considering Russia's autocratic, serf-supported society. The author disclaims definitiveness for his panorama, but modesty won't protect him from deserved praise. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This massive study of Napoleon's famous Russian campaign may rank as the best recent study in English. Napoleon's exclusion of English trade from the Continent and Czar Alexander's territorial ambitions in Central Europe were just two elements in a collision that really did have an epic quality, to which the book's painstaking detail, balanced judgments, thoroughness of research and fluent writing do full justice. Napoleon, Alexander and their entourages are fully characterized, as are crafty Kutuzov, dashing Murat (who ruined the French cavalry) and the indomitable or inept of lesser rank. The outcome, Zamoyski shows, turned on logistics, with the French advancing inexorably farther from their bases, and strategy, in which Napoleon failed either to destroy the Russian army in a single campaign or to accept a limited victory in the first year and renew the campaign in 1813. The result was the retreat from Moscow, and the author spares none of the harrowing details of cold, storm, starvation and the vigorous efforts of the Russians to turn defeat into disaster. Napoleon and his Grand Army were still formidable foes, as at the crossing of the Berezina, but discipline was breaking down, supplies had almost vanished and the doom of Napoleon's military power was sealed. Agent, Gillon Aitken Associates. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Moscow 1812 Napoleon's Fatal March Chapter One Caesar As the first cannon shot thundered out from the guns drawn up before the Invalides on the morning of 20 March 1811, an extraordinary silence fell over Paris. Wagons and carriages came to a standstill, pedestrians halted, people appeared at their windows, schoolboys looked up from their books. Everyone began to count as the discharges succeeded each other at a measured pace. In the stables of the Ecole Militaire, the cavalry of the Guard were grooming their horses. "Suddenly, the sound of a gun from the Invalides stopped every arm, suspended every movement; brushes and curry-combs hung in the air," according to one young Chasseur. "In the midst of this multitude of men and horses, you could have heard a mouse stir." As news had spread on the previous evening that the Empress had gone into labour, many patrons had given their workmen the next day off, and these swarmed expectantly in the streets around the Tuileries palace. The Paris Bourse had ceased dealing that morning, and the only financial transactions taking place were bets on the sex of the child. But the excitement was just as great among those who had nothing riding on it. "It would be difficult to imagine with what anxiety the first cannon shots were counted," recalled one witness: everyone knew that twentyone would announce the birth of a girl, and one hundred that of a boy. "A profound silence reigned until the twenty-first, but when the twenty-second roared forth, there was an explosion of congratulation and cheering which rang out simultaneously in every part of Paris." People went wild, embracing total strangers and shouting "Vive l'Empereur!" Others danced in the streets as the remaining seventyeight shots thundered out in a rolling barrage. "Paris had never, even on the greatest holidays, offered a picture of more general joyfulness," noted another witness; "there was celebration everywhere."' A balloon went up, bearing into the sky the celebrated aeronaut Madame Blanchard with thousands of printed notices of the happy tidings, which she scattered across the countryside. Messengers galloped off in all directions with the news. That evening there were fireworks and the capital was illuminated, with candles in the windows of even humble mansard rooms. Theatres staged special performances, printmakers began churning out soppy images of the imperial infant borne on celestial clouds with crowns and laurels hovering over him, and poets set to work on commemorative odes. "But what one will never be able to convey adequately," wrote the young Comte de Ségur, "is the wild intoxication of that surge of public rejoicing as the twenty-second cannon shot announced to France that there had been born a direct heir to Napoleon and to the Empire! " The twenty-year-old Empress Marie-Louise had felt the first pains at around seven o'clock on the previous evening. Dr Antoine Dubois, Premier Accoucheur of the Empire, was on hand. He was soon joined by Dr Corvisart, the First Physician, Dr Bourdier, the Physicianin-Ordinary to the Empress, and Napoleon's surgeon Dr Yvan. The Emperor, his mother and sisters, and the various ladies of the Empress's household brought to twenty-two the number of those attending her, either in her bedroom or in the next chamber. Beyond that, the salons of the Tuileries were filled with some two hundred officials and dignitaries, who had been summoned at the first signs of the Empress going into labour and stood about awkwardly in full court dress. Every now and then, one of the ladies-in-waiting on duty would come out and give them a progress report. As the evening wore on, small tables were brought in and they were served a light supper of chicken with rice washed down with Chambertin. But the banter was subdued: things were clearly not proceeding smoothly in the Empress's bedroom. At about five in the morning the Grand Marshal of the Empire came out and informed them that the pains had ceased and the Empress had fallen asleep. He told them they could go home, but must remain on call. Some went, but many of the exhausted courtiers stretched out on benches or rolled up carpets into makeshift mattresses and lay down on them in all their finery to snatch some sleep. Napoleon had been with Marie-Louise throughout, talking to her and comforting her with all the solicitude of a nervous father-to-be. When she fell asleep Dubois told him he could go and take some rest. Napoleon could do without sleep. His preferred means of relaxation was to lie in a very hot bath, which he believed in as a cure for most of his ailments, be it a cold or constipation, from which he suffered regularly. And that is what he did now. He had not been luxuriating in the hot water for long when Dubois came running up the concealed stairs that led from his apartment to the Empress's bedroom. The labour pains had started again, and the doctor was anxious, as the baby was presenting itself awkwardly. Napoleon asked him if there was any danger. Dubois nodded, expressing dismay that such a complication had occurred with the Empress. "Forget that she is Empress, and treat her as you would the wife of any shopkeeper in the rue Saint Denis," Napoleon interrupted him, adding: "And whatever happens, save the mother!" He got out of his bath, dressed hastily and went down to join the doctors at his wife's bedside. The Empress screamed when she saw Dubois take out his forceps, but Napoleon calmed her, holding her hand and stroking her while the Comtesse de Montesquiou and Dr Corvisart held her still. The baby emerged feet first, and Dubois had a job getting the head clear. After much pulling and easing, at around six in the morning he delivered it ... Moscow 1812 Napoleon's Fatal March . Copyright © by Adam Zamoyski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March by Adam Zamoyski All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.