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The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army
Amazon.com ^ | Unknown | Unknown

Posted on 05/31/2009 1:03:31 PM PDT by decimon

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Even as the Russians retreated before him in disarray, Napoleon found his army disappearing, his frantic doctors powerless to explain what had struck down a hundred thousand soldiers. The emperor’s vaunted military brilliance suddenly seemed useless, and when the Russians put their own occupied capital to the torch, the campaign became a desperate race through the frozen landscape as troops continued to die by the thousands. Through it all, with tragic heroism, Napoleon’s disease-ravaged, freezing, starving men somehow rallied, again and again, to cries of “Vive l’Empereur!”

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(Excerpt) Read more at amazon.com ...


TOPICS: Books/Literature; Health/Medicine; History; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: bonaparte; france; godsgravesglyphs; napoleon; napoleonbonaparte; typhus; worldhistory
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The above segment of a book review may answer a question about what accounted for Napolean's defeat in Russia.

Via InstaPundit

1 posted on 05/31/2009 1:03:31 PM PDT by decimon
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To: SunkenCiv

Complex ping.


2 posted on 05/31/2009 1:04:12 PM PDT by decimon
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To: decimon

I just finished reading The Ghost Map by Johnson and I really recommend it for those, who like myself, are fascinated by plagues. It’s about the 1854 cholera epidemic in Soho, London England.


3 posted on 05/31/2009 1:05:08 PM PDT by Mercat (The Constitution is not a suicide pact.)
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To: decimon

Typhus? Yeah, right. Two of Russia’s generals were most responsible for Napoleon’s defeat. Do you know their names?


4 posted on 05/31/2009 1:06:45 PM PDT by Krankor
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To: decimon

There was a plaque on my hospital commander’s desk:

“Disease has killed more soldiers and decided more wars than all the bullets and bombs ever fired in anger.”

I believe it is a quote or a paraphrase though I do not know the source.


5 posted on 05/31/2009 1:07:37 PM PDT by taxcontrol
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To: Krankor

Kutozov and Bagration


6 posted on 05/31/2009 1:09:09 PM PDT by OldCorps
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To: Krankor

I believe they are “January” and “February” though I do not know their official ranks.


7 posted on 05/31/2009 1:10:01 PM PDT by taxcontrol
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To: OldCorps

Close, but no cigar. The two I’m talking about have been responsible for keeping Russia safe for generations.


8 posted on 05/31/2009 1:12:00 PM PDT by Krankor
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To: taxcontrol

You, sir, are a true historian.


9 posted on 05/31/2009 1:13:09 PM PDT by Krankor
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To: decimon

10 posted on 05/31/2009 1:13:11 PM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet)
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To: Mercat
The book was good but the Author is a commie, his slavering over Marx almost made me puke. That aside a good read.
11 posted on 05/31/2009 1:15:13 PM PDT by Little Bill (Just a Poor White Person , clinging to God, Guns, and the Constitution)
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To: decimon

Napoleon lost another 50,000 men to disease (yellow fever) in Haiti. He sent them there with the intention of using it as a staging area for militarizing the Louisiana Territory. There was a slave revolt, and in the process he lost not only most of his army, but Haiti as well. He gave up his North American ambitions, and offered President Jefferson a chance to buy the Louisiana Territory, doubling the size of the USA.


12 posted on 05/31/2009 1:16:26 PM PDT by Hugin (GSA! (Goodbye sweet America))
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To: taxcontrol
“Disease has killed more soldiers and decided more wars than all the bullets and bombs ever fired in anger.”

Possibly so. But a big letdown to military buffs.

13 posted on 05/31/2009 1:17:31 PM PDT by decimon
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To: decimon

Yeah ... as a hard charging Infantry Sergent, my first reaction was “No Way!” But then I did a little research. Hard to accept that one of the greatest inventions ever employed by the military is the latrine.


14 posted on 05/31/2009 1:21:41 PM PDT by taxcontrol
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To: Hugin
Napoleon lost another 50,000 men to disease (yellow fever) in Haiti.

"An army travels on its stomach." When it can no longer stand, I guess.

15 posted on 05/31/2009 1:22:36 PM PDT by decimon
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To: decimon

At first I thought this was about all of the departed voters democrats rely on to swing elections.


16 posted on 05/31/2009 1:26:56 PM PDT by Jagman
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To: Krankor; taxcontrol

The “Generals January and February” saying is a crock. Napoleon invaded Russia in June 1812, and what was left of his army left Russia in December 1812. A quick review of the calendar reveals that no months named January or February appeared between those dates.


17 posted on 05/31/2009 1:29:28 PM PDT by Cheburashka (Democratic Underground: you now know where all those who took the brown acid at Woodstock wound up.)
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To: decimon

An obvious (and maybe dumb) question is this: Why was typhus a worse problem for Napoleon’s army than for the Russians? I would guess the answer is that the French forces were more concentrated, allowing the disease to spread more easily.


18 posted on 05/31/2009 1:31:30 PM PDT by hellbender
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To: taxcontrol
An aside but I remember reading somewhere that maleria has killed approx. 1:5 people who have ever lived.
19 posted on 05/31/2009 1:32:51 PM PDT by yankeedame ("Oh, I can take it but I'd much rather dish it out.")
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To: Hugin
He gave up his North American ambitions, and offered President Jefferson a chance to buy the Louisiana Territory, doubling the size of the USA.

Napoleon knew that France and Britain were weeks away from resuming their war, and sold Louisiana to the U.S. because he knew as a French colony it would fall to the British easily. A fire sale, as it were.

1803:
30 April: Napoleon sells Louisiana to United States.
18 May: Britain declares war.

http://www.napoleonsims.com/timeline/timeline.htm

20 posted on 05/31/2009 1:37:49 PM PDT by Cheburashka (Democratic Underground: you now know where all those who took the brown acid at Woodstock wound up.)
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To: hellbender
An obvious (and maybe dumb) question is this: Why was typhus a worse problem for Napoleon’s army than for the Russians? I would guess the answer is that the French forces were more concentrated, allowing the disease to spread more easily.

Shorter lines of supply and friendlier local population, too. The Russians would have had better access to food, clothing, and shelter than the French, who would have had to bring everything with them or steal it from the natives.

21 posted on 05/31/2009 1:38:07 PM PDT by x
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To: hellbender
An obvious (and maybe dumb) question is this: Why was typhus a worse problem for Napoleon’s army than for the Russians? I would guess the answer is that the French forces were more concentrated, allowing the disease to spread more easily.

The Wikipedia entry for typhus shows three types. "Epidemic typhus" comes from lice. Maybe the Russians didn't get the lice.

22 posted on 05/31/2009 1:39:22 PM PDT by decimon
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To: decimon

Thick tan line: Napoleon's vast army heading for Moscow.
Thinning black line: Napoleon and a couple friends coming home.

23 posted on 05/31/2009 1:43:33 PM PDT by ClearCase_guy (We are a ruled people, serfs to the Federal Oligarchy -- and the Tree of Liberty thirsts)
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To: hellbender

Isn’t typhus spread through contaminated water? Having thousands of men encamped around streams and lakes, living in close proximity to latrines, etc.


24 posted on 05/31/2009 1:44:49 PM PDT by Madam Theophilus
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To: Madam Theophilus
Isn’t typhus spread through contaminated water?

Typhoid fever. Whole other disease.

25 posted on 05/31/2009 1:49:48 PM PDT by decimon
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To: decimon

I checked Wikipedia, and it says millions died of typhus in Russia during WW I and the subsequent Russian civil war. Russians are certainly not immune.


26 posted on 05/31/2009 1:51:24 PM PDT by hellbender
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To: ClearCase_guy

Attrition. Definitely attrition. ;-)


27 posted on 05/31/2009 1:51:37 PM PDT by decimon
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To: Madam Theophilus

You are thinking of typhoid fever, which is a completely different disease, spread by the oral-fecal route. Typhus is spread by blood-sucking insects or other arthropods.


28 posted on 05/31/2009 1:52:41 PM PDT by hellbender
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To: hellbender
I checked Wikipedia, and it says millions died of typhus in Russia during WW I and the subsequent Russian civil war. Russians are certainly not immune.

If they're human then they are not immune. But in this campaign they were possibly not louse infected as were the French.

29 posted on 05/31/2009 1:54:15 PM PDT by decimon
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To: decimon
I'm having trouble researching the issue with an internet connection slower than those found on the Russian steppes, but I think surviving typhus confers lifetime immunity. More of the Russians may have had the disease already before the war. Also, as has been said, the French forces were larger and more concentrated.

I also wondered why the French were affected more by yellow fever than the Haitian blacks. This is probably the answer:

" Disease outbreaks in towns and non-native people may be more serious because of higher densities of mosquito vectors and higher population densities.[15]"

Although the pathogens are very different, typhus is also an insect-borne infection, so the same factors might apply as with yellow fever.

30 posted on 05/31/2009 2:18:15 PM PDT by hellbender
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To: Cheburashka

Yep. One can only speculate on what might have happened though, if instead of getting (literally) bogged down in Haiti, Napoleon had sent those troops directly to New Orleans and fortified the Mississippi as he planned to do.


31 posted on 05/31/2009 2:32:46 PM PDT by Hugin (GSA! (Goodbye sweet America))
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To: Krankor

General Mud and Marshal Snow. The same two defeated Hitler as well.


32 posted on 05/31/2009 2:42:25 PM PDT by Argus (We've gone downtown to Clown Town, and that's where we'll be living from now on..)
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33 posted on 05/31/2009 4:12:13 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________ Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: decimon

That bug and the little ice age that is the same as we are heading.


34 posted on 05/31/2009 4:13:56 PM PDT by bmwcyle (Hey GOP follow Dick Cheney's lead)
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To: decimon; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1ofmanyfree; 21twelve; 24Karet; 2ndDivisionVet; ...

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Thanks decimon.

Something that's bugged me over the years -- Napoleon must have been aware of Herodotus' "Historia", and the account of the Persians trying to chase down the Scythians up in what is I guess the Ukraine, anyway, the plains north of the Black Sea. They never could catch up to them (the Scythians would see them marching up, pack up everything, and ride off for some hours, leaving the Persians a few days march behind), and finally had to amscray because of the change of the season. And even if Nappy overlooked that, one would think that the Kaiser would have remembered Napoleon. And for that matter, that *Hitler* would have remembered both of them... Or all three...

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

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35 posted on 05/31/2009 4:16:05 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________ Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: SunkenCiv

I saw a segment about that. How Nappy coulda been a contendah, if: The weather hadn’t turned bad, typhus hadn’t been such a killer, and Russia hadn’t been so stubborn.

Actually, by the amount of dead, I would say that the graves of Nappy’s army show more evidence of typhus than war injuries. Mass graves have been found where the interred had no injuries. On doing further research, it was found that typhus was the culprit. Works fer me!!


36 posted on 05/31/2009 4:25:58 PM PDT by Monkey Face (Is a vegetatian permitted to eat animal crackers?)
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To: JoeProBono
From a London Bathroom Wall, A Lesson in Complementaries by Stephen J. Dubner
Thanks, Berosus.
37 posted on 05/31/2009 4:28:33 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________ Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: Monkey Face
Even the cold wouldn't account for it, although that certainly would have taken some toll on a bunch of dehydrating untreated sickos. I wonder if it was just the flu, given the time of year for the retreat? But of course, the campaign was six months long, plenty of time for typhus to hit them in the summer month, er, months. ;') Always pays to get your innoculations up to date before you travel in Asia.
38 posted on 05/31/2009 4:36:24 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________ Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: SunkenCiv

According to the segment I saw, typhus was the culprit, based on the DNA samples of the unmarred bones. And there were several mass graves between Russia and Europe that gave evidence of the disease.

We can survive cold, given the proper tools, but I suspect this was beyond what the retreating soldiers could handle.


39 posted on 05/31/2009 4:40:50 PM PDT by Monkey Face (Is a vegetatian permitted to eat animal crackers?)
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To: Madam Theophilus; decimon; hellbender
Typhus was a common risk in the Nazi death camps and concentration camps.
Typhus is caused by one of two types of bacteria: Rickettsia typhi or Rickettsia prowazekii. The form of typus depends on which type of bacteria causes the infection. Rickettsia typhi causes murine or endemic typhus. Endemic typhus is uncommon in the United States. It is usually seen in areas where hygiene is poor and the temperature is cold. Endemic typhus is sometimes called "jail fever." Lice and fleas of flying squirrels spread the bacteria. Murine typhus occurs in the southeastern and southern United States, often during the summer and fall. It is rarely deadly... Rickettsia prowazekii causes epidemic typhus and Brill-Zinsser disease. Brill-Zinsser disease is a mild form of epidemic typhus. It occurs when the disease re-activates in a person who was previously infected. It is more common in the elderly. -- *

40 posted on 05/31/2009 4:42:34 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________ Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: Little Bill

Thanks!


41 posted on 05/31/2009 4:42:42 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________ Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: SunkenCiv
...Rickettsia prowazekii.

That looks Polish. I see it now...Napolean and Hitler made the mistake of going through Poland on the way to Russia. ;-)

42 posted on 05/31/2009 4:54:23 PM PDT by decimon
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To: decimon

Remember that every General or Emperor or Tyrant or whatever is always fighting the last war and thinks HE has solved the problem(s) thereof.

Ergo, Hitler no doubt thought he could beat General Winter in Russia via the use of blitzkreig tanks, even though the majority of German transport in WWII was still horse-drawn.


43 posted on 05/31/2009 5:11:59 PM PDT by wildbill ( The reason you're so jealous is that the voices talk only to me.)
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To: wildbill
Ergo, Hitler no doubt thought he could beat General Winter in Russia via the use of blitzkreig tanks, even though the majority of German transport in WWII was still horse-drawn.

Hitler certainly made his errors. But looking strictly at military prowess, the Werhmacht was likely as good an army as there has been. I'm sure that even the Israelis study their tactics. No choice, really.

44 posted on 05/31/2009 5:24:18 PM PDT by decimon
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To: SunkenCiv

Thanks everyone for putting me straight on the difference between typhus and typhoid. You learn something new everyday with Free Republic!


45 posted on 05/31/2009 5:25:24 PM PDT by Madam Theophilus
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To: SunkenCiv
And even if Nappy overlooked that, one would think that the Kaiser would have remembered Napoleon. And for that matter, that *Hitler* would have remembered both of them... Or all three...

Those who fail to learn from History...

And the lesson is, I know what happened to them, but I'm smarter than they were, so I'll succeed where they failed, because...


46 posted on 05/31/2009 5:38:30 PM PDT by ApplegateRanch (The mob got President Barabbas; America got shafted)
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To: SunkenCiv
Yes, physical stress (including poor diet) and poor environment seem to play a big role in typhus. That's why I find it hard to believe that typhus alone beat the French. Their campaign went downhill from the very beginning. Their supply lines were too long and subject to Russian guerilla attacks, and they couldn't live off the land due to the Russian scorched-earth policy. Also, as your quote shows, cold temperature favors the disease.

Napoleon's big successes were all in highly developed western Europe. He didn't do so well in guerilla wars in backward countries.

47 posted on 05/31/2009 7:06:15 PM PDT by hellbender
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To: hellbender

Napoleon peaked early in his career as supreme field commander. If he’d had more patience and aptitude for politicking, he’d have been better off, and so would have Europe. OTOH, we wouldn’t have “The 1812 Overture”, so...


48 posted on 05/31/2009 7:19:38 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________ Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: decimon

Well, c’mon, they’ve got the sausage.


49 posted on 05/31/2009 7:21:08 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________ Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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To: Monkey Face

In a way, he had the right idea — his entire host numbered something like 1.5 million, which is an enormous number. Obviously not all were soldiers, there was a remarkably well-thought-out support staff. About one-third of them made it back to the border of Russia. Horrendous. And some people still say Wellington beat Napoleon. :’)


50 posted on 05/31/2009 7:23:53 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________ Profile updated Monday, January 12, 2009)
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