Skip to comments.Killer Swarms (It wasn't the Russian winter that stopped Napoleon.)
Posted on 11/26/2012 11:08:01 PM PST by cunning_fish
Today marks the bicentennial of the culminating catastrophe that befell the Grande Armée as it retreated from Russia. This past weekend one of the French Emperor's descendants, Charles Napoleon, traveled to Minsk in Belarus to attend ceremonies commemorating the disaster at the nearby Beresina River crossing, where thousands died -- many by drowning -- in a final, panicked rout in freezing weather. Bonaparte had marched deep into Russia with nearly half a million soldiers; he returned with less than 25,000.
Given that Napoleon was the great captain of his time -- perhaps of all time -- and that his armies had conquered and held most of Europe, the tragic events on the Beresina demand explanation. His defeat is something of a puzzle, too, as the Grande Armée won the campaign's pitched battles fought at Smolensk and Borodino. Harsh winter weather, the commonly assumed culprit, cannot explain the result either; the first frost didn't arrive to bedevil the retreat until just a few weeks before the Beresina crossing.
The answer to the puzzle is that Napoleon and his forces were beaten by what a young Russian hussar, Denis Davydov, called his "indestructible swarm" of Cossacks and other raiders who constantly harried the French columns on the march. They also struck relentlessly, repeatedly, and to fatal effect at the Grande Armée's supply lines. As David Chandler, an eminent historian of Napoleon's campaigns, put it: "raids of Cossacks and partisan bands did more harm to the Emperor than all the endeavors of the regular field armies of Holy Russia."
(Excerpt) Read more at foreignpolicy.com ...
I believe history has shown us that if you’re gonna invade Russia, you’d best be able to make a ‘Summer trip’ of it, or you’re doomed.
The cossacks would not have attacked the French supply lines, as there were no supply lines as commonly understood. Rather, they would have attacked French hussars who were securing French soldiers as they attempted to live off the land. Nappy took a different route back, as the route out was pretty much eaten out.
The popular map showing the size of Nappy’s forces as he marched on Moscow, and retreated, is misleading in several ways. On the way out, Nappy took his time, expecting that after each battle the Russian emperor would seek terms. On the way back, Nappy rushed, and his wounded were abandoned. The Berezina was such an obstacle because the temperature was unseasonably warm. Normally frozen, it was cold, but not frozen.
Well, it is questionable. Up to half of Russian road system is only driveble in winter. Getting struck there in summer you’ll be a sitting duck for enemy airpower and armed civilians the way French and Germans did.
Napoleon wanted to have one or two grand battles on the order of Austerlitz in order to win out over Russia.
Czar Alexander refused a pitched battle, yielding ground, attacking units that strayed away from the main columns, attacking Napoleon's supply lines, all while holding together a fragile coalition of Prussia and, Austrians,Swedes, as well as a very fractious military staff.
When winter set in and Napoleon had to retreat, Alexander's forces harried him all of the way back to Paris.
And to think, Patton wanted to start a war with the USSR after the defeat of nazi Germany.
My dad was in favor of it and almost personally started Patton’s war. Glad he didn’t.
Borodino was a pyrrhic victory for Le Grand Armee; it was so costly there was little cohesion left in Napoleon’s ranks by time they got to Moscow, only to find that crown jewel burned to a shell and the Russians conspicuously absent. His army dissolved in an orgy of looting and plunder until he realized — too late — that his capture of the city did not incite peace with the czar, and that his rabble would be stranded in a burned-out city with a hostile army just leagues away, no provisions, and a Russian winter coming on. In a panic, he tried to organize a retreat but the troops were encumbered first by their ill-gotten loot, then their lack of forage (for them and their livestock), and finally by the cold.
The army that staggered back to Paris was anything but “Grand”.
A good movie on the subject is WAR AND PEACE. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063794/
The Russian version of 1967 (8 hours). Get the uncut version from the RUSSIAN CINEMA COUNCIL on e-bay, not the KULTUR cut version sold by Barnes and Noble.
Then get the Russian version (in English) of WATERLOO. Staring Christopher Plummer and Rod Steiger.
Given the abuses heaped upon the Americans by every bureaucrap from the city level to Obama and Holder, the Guru suggests a reading of the Japanese High Command’s perspective on why they never considered invading America -
“There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass”.
The Guru also hopes America’s invaders, AKA Liberals, Goonion leaders/members, education trough feeders, government trough feeders, entitlement classes, Queer Nation members, and Welfare ParasiticPersons do not push the American people too far.
However, with the yawning chasm between producers and parasites growing daily, and with the deliberate dumbing down of the ParasiticPerson classes, arguably it is a good time to consider a very long vacation off planet - were that possible.
How long before we are forced to become the Cossacks ambushing the blue-helmeted invaders and cutting their supply lines? < /rhetorical Q >
I dunno...perhaps if Patton had we never would have had Saul Alinsky, or Frank Marshall Davis, or...just daydreams...
Think about it. The Russian industries were beyond the Urals, out of bombing range. They had a non aggression treaty with the Japanese. They had another whole army uncommitted to the conflict.
If Patton had gotten his war, we could not bomb the industrial area. They might come in on the side of the Japanese, and it has been suggested that they might invade Alaska with their uncommitted Army.
Using what for a Russian navy vs. the U.S. Pacific Fleet that had just defeated Japan?
Agreed that a land war in Europe would have been ugly.
It’s like that goofy novel “what if Lee had Klashnikovs”. Really.
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