Cover image for 1812 : Napoleon's Russian campaign
1812 : Napoleon's Russian campaign
Riehn, Richard K., 1928-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : McGraw-Hill, [1990]

Physical Description:
ix, 525 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DC235 .R43 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

On Order

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

A combination of political and military history is retold in this study of how France spread its troops and its new form of nationalism across the European continent. Military writer Riehn first establishes the contemporary diplomatic situation of Europe as he traces Napoleon's impressive series of victories on the battlefield and at the treaty table. After setting the scene for Napoleon's Russian strategy, Riehn details the disastrous campaign that ensued. In this instance, the author illustrates how grandly Napoleon's military genius failed after a string of triumphs. While the book acknowledges the role of the cruel Russian weather and landscape in this defeat, it also uncovers the major mistakes and miscalculations made by Napoleon himself and by the army bureaucracy that can be pinpointed as the ultimate causes of the debacle. For the military buff, Riehn's vivid portrait of the individual confrontations will only add to the striking analysis that the writer provides. Glossary, appendixes, and bibliography. To be indexed. --John Brosnahan

Publisher's Weekly Review

This major study of one of history's most decisive military campaigns richly details the invasion of Russia in June 1812 by Napoleon's army of 600,000. Although the emperor expected to blitz the Tsar's forces into rapid surrender, five months later he was fortunate to escape with a tattered remnant of 8000 followed by some 40,000 starving stragglers. Riehn, a translator and freelance writer on military topics, analyzes Napoleon's miscalculation of Russian resources and resolve, his poorly conceived logistics and uncharacteristic indecisiveness at Smolensk and Borodino where he missed his two chances to destroy the enemy. Included is a review of French and Russian military establishments of the day, showing how the two forces were mobilized, trained and deployed in the field. Riehn reveals how severe winter conditions during the last part of the retreat enabled Napoleon to claim that ``only God and the elements'' had proved stronger than his Grand Army. Napoleon actually came away from the 1812 catastrophe with his reputation enhanced. Recommended for military student and general reader alike. Military Book Club selection. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Most historians writing about Napoleon's 1812 debacle succumb to the inherent drama of the tragedy: Moscow in flames, dashing Cossacks, and lines of infantry suffering in the frigid Russian winter. Riehn takes a more hard-eyed professional approach, weighing the technical, strategic, and diplomatic factors in this serious study of the military elements of the campaign. His examination of the historiography, line tactics, and late-Napoleonic battlefield dynamics alone will make this a treatise of lasting importance. Casual readers will still do best with Curtis Cate's popular but respectable The War of the Two Emperors: The Confrontation Between Napoleon and Alexander (LJ 10/1/85). Military Book Club selection.-- Raymond L. Puffer, U.S. Air Force History Prog., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Riehn maintains convincingly that Bonaparte not only had a flawed invasion plan and was frequently indecisive at key moments in the operation, but also that he underestimated Tsar Alexander I and the Russian people. In Riehn's estimation, harsh winter conditions played a secondary role in Napoleon's Russian disaster. The author, a devotee of military history, will impress the reader with his extensive data; however, the few citations noted are primarily from German sources and secondary works. An extremely slim bibliography indicates that Riehn does not have complete command of the literature for the Napoleonic era. His remarks on the French revolutionary background are oversimplified, and he has little concern for the diplomacy of the period. In discussing the campaign, Riehn's emphasis on detail produces a dull, repetitious, and often confusing story, which makes this publication almost worthless as popular history. Three maps and a brief glossary of military terminology offer little relief for the situation. Although Riehn has some interesting insights about the changing face of modern warfare, his work will appeal to a very limited audience. The numerous tables in the text and the 23 appendixes focusing on the military units engaged in the war may have some value as a reference source. -T. M. Keefe, Saint Joseph's University