1812 by Antony Brett-James
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A superb series of eyewitness reports of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, the battle of Borodino, the burning of Moscow and the disastrous retreat, 1812 is a mosaic clipped from diaries, letters, memoirs of officers, soldiers, townspeople, a boy, a priest, Bagration, Mme. de Stael-- a gallery of observers and participants. Perhaps no event of the last century equalled the magnitude of agony and irony of this march. Of Napoleon's Grand Army's half million, only 20,000 returned. The Russian losses are estimated much lower because they remained well-fed, while the French marched to exhaustion across scorched earth. Indeed, they were conquering a vast and silent graveyard. Central to every incident is the figure of Napoleon and debate over his strategies: what is he thinking now wonder his officers, wonder the Russians, wonder the wounded. Napoleon's original aim had been quite modest-- simply a march of a few hundred miles into Russia, one decisive battle, then victory by diplomacy.... This genre of historical composition is no longer very original but it is heartbreakingly direct and bettered only by the subjective intensity of a novelist, say like Tolstoy. He would have approved.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1966
Publisher: St. Martin's Press