1812 - Napoleon in Moscow, Paul Britten Austin

1812 - Napoleon in Moscow, Paul Britten Austin

1812 - Napoleon in Moscow, Paul Britten Austin

1812 - Napoleon in Moscow, Paul Britten Austin

This is the second part of a trilogy that uses eyewitness accounts to follow the progress of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. The focus in this volume is on the period the French spent in Moscow, from their arrival in mid-September to their departure in mid-October, and the first week after their departure, when Napoleon still hoped to force a decisive battle.

I must admit I did wonder if the stay in Moscow would provide enough material for an entire book, but Britten Austin has had no problem in filling this compelling book. There are several distinct strands to the text: the dramatic fire that destroyed large parts of the city; the every day life of the soldiers in partly destroyed Moscow; the continuing military activities as Ney's advance guard fenced with the Russian armies outside the city; the failure of Napoleon's attempts to turn Borodino and the occupation of Moscow into a political victory and finally the decision to leave Moscow, the first days of that movement and the first major clash with the Russian armies outside Moscow - a battle that forced Napoleon to reconsider his plans, and that helped lead to the disastrous decision to return west along the same route used on the initial invasion.

The book is built around extracts from the accounts of over 100 eyewitnesses to the campaign, some of the very highest rank and others from the ranks, and covering most of the nationalities that were present with the army (French, Italian, German and Dutch accounts are most common). The eyewitness accounts are linked by a text that is part narrative and part commentary, and that provides a solid frame for the book.

This is a very high quality piece of work, and provides an invaluable account of an often-overlooked period in the disastrous invasion of Russia, but a period in which the quality of the French army began to decline and winter crept ever closer. As with the first of the three, this entry in Britten Austin's trilogy comes highly recommended.

Chapters
1 - 'Fire! Fire!'
2 - Napoleon Leaves the Kremlin
3 - The Fair of Moscow
4 - A Disconsolate Advance Guard
5 - Settling in for the Winter?
6 - Marauding Parties
7 - Lovely Autumn Weather
8 - A Lethal Truce
9 - Preparations for Departure
10 - Battle at Winkovo
11 - Taking French Leave
12 - 'Where Our Conquest of the World Ended'
13 - 'That's Enough, Gentlemen. I Shall Decide'

Author: Paul Britten Austin
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 240
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2012 edition of 1995 original



Paul Britten Austin

Paul Britten Austin (5 April 1922 – 25 July 2005 [1] ) was an English author, translator, broadcaster, administrator, and scholar of Swedish literature.

He is known in particular for his translations of and books on the Swedish musician, singer and poet Carl Michael Bellman, including his prizewinning book The Life and Songs of Carl Michael Bellman. He also translated books by many other Swedish authors.

Alongside his work on Swedish literature, Austin spent 25 years assembling a trilogy of history books, 1812: Napoleon's Invasion of Russia, telling the story of Napoleon Bonaparte's failed campaign entirely through eyewitness accounts.


1812 : Napoleon in Moscow

"Napoleon's Grande Armee waits at the gates of Moscow, preparing to enter in triumphal procession. But it finds a city abandoned by its inhabitants - save only the men who emerge to fan the flames as incendiary fuzes hidden throughout the empty buildings of Moscow set the city alight. For three days Moscow burns, while looters dodge the fires to plunder and pillage. And so begins 1812: Napoleon in Moscow, Paul Britten Austin's atmospheric 'word-film' presented through the testimony of more than 100 of the people who witnessed and took part in the campaign. A large proportion of these close-up accounts have never been seen in English before."--Jacket

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1812: Napoleon in Moscow

This account of Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia, in the words of those who experienced it, offers “a brilliant insight into men at war” (David G. Chandler, author of The Campaigns of Napoleon).

Hundreds of thousands of men set out on that midsummer day of 1812. None could have imagined the terrors and hardships to come.

They’d been lured all the way to Moscow without having achieved the decisive battle Napoleon sought—and by the time they reached the city, their numbers had already dwindled by more than a third. One of the greatest disasters in military history was in the making.

The fruit of more than twenty years of research, this superbly crafted work skillfully blends the memoirs and diaries of more than a hundred eyewitnesses, all of whom took part in the Grand Army’s doomed march on Moscow, to reveal the inside story of this landmark military campaign. The result is a uniquely authentic account in which the reader sees and experiences the campaign through the eyes of participants in enthralling day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour detail.


1812: The March on Moscow

I’ve been meaning to read Paul Britten Austin’s majestical trilogy on Napoleon’s 1812 campaign since it was first published in the 1990’s. It’s only taken me twenty years to get started on the first volume 1812: The March on Moscow. After reading this book and enjoying it a great deal I am committed to finishing the next two volumes over the coming few months.

This story of Napoleon’s fateful invasion of Russia has been told many times before, and why not – a drama on a massive scale - over 450, I’ve been meaning to read Paul Britten Austin’s majestical trilogy on Napoleon’s 1812 campaign since it was first published in the 1990’s. It’s only taken me twenty years to get started on the first volume 1812: The March on Moscow. After reading this book and enjoying it a great deal I am committed to finishing the next two volumes over the coming few months.

This story of Napoleon’s fateful invasion of Russia has been told many times before, and why not – a drama on a massive scale - over 450,000 men of the Grande Armée, the largest army assembled up to that point in European history marching into the wilds of unknown Russia.

The first volume of the trilogy takes us from the fateful crossing of the Niemen River, through the many battles and skirmishes, to the battle at Smolensk and finally the bloodbath at Borodino before Napoleon finally enters Moscow with what remains of his once mighty Grande Armée.

So what has this book got to offer that hasn’t already been told? With twenty years of research the author has managed to skilfully weave the first-hand accounts of over 100 particpants into a narrative of events as seen and experienced by the French and Allied soldiers of the Grande Armée.

Many of the accounts taken are from officers and soldiers known to most readers of Napoleonic history, such as de Segur, Bourgogne, Caulaincourt, Rapp, and Marbot. But there are a host of others, less well-known, but still offering great accounts and different perspectives of this calamitous event.

I was a bit hesitant in starting the book as I was unsure how well the narrative would flow with multiple first-hand accounts however I was pleasantly surprised and then hooked. The author has managed to use these accounts and fit them into the narrative of the story quite unobtrusively.

This is a well-told story and many of the events described come alive with the accounts as experienced and recorded by the men who fought under Napoleon. The only issues I had with the book were a small number of spelling errors or typos that should have been identified by the editor and corrected and the number of maps supplied two general maps and two battle maps, all at the very end of the book.

For anyone who really wants to understand the horrors that the soldiers of Napoleon's army underwent during this invasion, then this is the book for you - highly recommended. . more


Contents

Search had been made for the fire engines since the previous day, but some of them had been taken away and the rest put out of action. The Poles reported that they had already caught some incendiaries and shot them, . they had extracted the information that orders had been given by the governor of the city and the police that the whole city should be burnt during the night. [2]

Before leaving Moscow Count Rostopchin is supposed to have given orders to the head of police (and released convicts) to have the Kremlin and major public buildings (including churches and monasteries) set on fire. During the following days the fires spread. According to Germaine de Staël, who left the city a few weeks before Napoleon arrived, it was Rostopchin who ordered to set his own mansions on fire, so no Frenchmen should lodge in it. [3] Today, the majority of historians blame the initial fires on the Russian strategy of scorched earth.

Furthermore, a Moscow police officer was captured trying to set the Kremlin on fire where Napoleon was staying at the time brought before Napoleon, the officer admitted he and others had been ordered to set the city on fire after which he was bayonetted by guardsmen on the spot on the orders of a furious Napoleon. [4]

The catastrophe started as many small fires, which promptly grew out of control and formed a massive blaze. The fires spread quickly since most buildings in Moscow were made of wood. And although Moscow had had a fire brigade, their equipment had previously either been removed or destroyed on Rostopchin's orders. The flames spread into the Kremlin's arsenal, but the fire was put out by French Guardsmen. The burning of Moscow is reported to have been visible up to 215 km away. [5]

Tolstoy, in his War and Peace, not only a novel, but mixed with chapters on history and philosophy, suggests that the fire was not deliberately set, either by the Russians or the French, but was the natural result of placing a deserted and mostly wooden city in the hands of invading troops, when fires would have started nearly every day even with the owners present and a fully functioning police department, what was not the case, and that the soldiers will start fires–from smoking their pipes, cooking their food twice a day, and burning enemy's possessions in the streets. Some of those fires will inevitably get out of control. Without an efficient firefighting action, these individual building fires will spread to become neighborhood fires, and ultimately a citywide conflagration.


Massacre at Valutina

Lance-corporal Heinemann was a member of the voltigeur company of the Brunswick Chasseurs. He writes a terrifying account of how his company (which had already lost 77 of their original 150 men so far on the campaign) was overrun and slaughtered.

Heinemann’s company was out ahead of the main French force when Marshal Murat road up shouting “What are you doing here? Forward! Through those thickets, in line of skirmishers, against the enemy! The army’ll come up behind you!”

Murat departed and the company began the advance. Heinemann continues, “Beyond us lay an open field. We waited for our regiments to come up in support. First we caught brief glimpses of groups of Cossacks then of Russian hussars and, soon afterwards, whole lines of enemies, swathed in dust clouds… We looked behind us, to see if any of our own are coming up. Not a chance!… And at each moment our danger is growing.”

“The coronet is calling in our skirmishers, spread out to right and left, and the Cossacks are cutting off our retreat… Our little force forms a double square, six ranks deep – an insignificant little troop amidst countless enemies! Sabre in hand, our captain steps out boldly from the square, baring his chest to the Cossack skirmishers. He’ll be the first to fall, going on ahead to prepare night quarters for 65 comrades in eternity…”

“With a thousandfold hurrah the galloping Cossacks break into our defenseless group from all sides. After a mere couple of minutes our front ranks are lying on the ground, stabbed through by a thousand lances. Our muskets’ smoke disperses to reveal a horrible bloodbath. None of us sees the least chance of escaping the slaughter now beginning. The Cossacks are making such easy work of us, our inability to resist seems to stir their blood-lust to madness. Surrender is out of the question. As if driven by some obscure instinct, anyone who’s still alive throws himself down on the ground and plays dead. Comes a moment of horrible waiting. Happy he who finds himself lying under heaps of corpses! Even if the blood of those of our comrades who’ve been stabbed through seeps down over our bodies, if their limbs twitch and jerk on top of ours, if the dying breathe their last sighs into our ears and their corpses press upon us – at least there’s still a chance of surviving underneath this terrible rampart. In such lethal need it’s every man for himself!”

“… I was one of the few still alive. Blood was seeping through my uniform, soaking me to the skin and gluing my eyelids together. Though still not wounded, I could hear the clash of the lances and sabres, mingled with our assassins’ dull oaths, muttering between their teeth their terrible ‘Pascholl! Sabacki Franzusky!‘ [Die, dog of a Frenchman!] as they exerted all their strength to probe the bodies of the dead with their lances and sabres, to see whether beneath them there mightn’t be something still alive. Finally my turn comes. A lance-thrust passing through the chest and back of a comrade who was lying on top of me, strikes my skull a glancing blow and rips open the skin. Yet I feel no pain. Lying there half-conscious, all I long for is an end to the slaughter.”

The Cossacks dismount and throw the dead aside, looking for anyone who might still be alive. “… In this terrible moment I can’t help opening my eyes to see what’s going on. Suddenly I’m aware of a bearded face with white teeth, bending closely down over me, and hear the Cossack’s savage scornful laugh as he finds another victim to slaughter. A hundred arms drag me out from amidst the mangled corpses. And above me I see innumerable lances raised, ready to stab me – when, all of a sudden, familiar sounds suddenly ring out. Orders shouted in German! The clash of weapons! Heavenly music… The blue Westphalian hussars are fighting the Cossacks and Russian green hussars hand to hand, and after them come our chasseurs. The Cossacks depart, cursing. Only a few still go on eagerly searching for plunder then even these gallop off, and all is quiet around our square’s burial place.”


Find out more

1812: The Great Retreat by Paul Britten-Austin (Greenhill Books, 1996)

1812: Napoleon's Invasion of Russia by Paul Britten-Austin (Greenhill Books, 2000)

With Napoleon in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Faber Du Faur, 1812 by Christian Wilhelm von Faber du Faur ed. Jonathan North (Greenhill Books, 2001)

1812: Eyewitness Accounts of Napoleon's Defeat in Russia ed. Anthony Brett-James (Macmillan, 1966)

Napoleon's Invasion of Russia by George F Nafziger (Presidio Press, 1998)

In the Legions of Napoleon: Memoirs of a Polish Officer by Heinrich von Brandt ed. Jonathan North (Greenhill Books, 1999)

In the Service of the Tsar against Napoleon by Denis Davidov, translated by Gregory Troubetzkoy (Greehill Books, 1999)


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At the gates of Moscow, Napoleon's Grand Army prepares to enter in triumphal procession. But what it finds is a city abandoned by its inhabitants &ndash save only the men who emerge to fan the flames as incendiary fuses hidden throughout the empty buildings of Moscow set the city alight. For three days Moscow burned, while looters dodged the fires to plunder and pillage. And so begins 1812: Napoleon in Moscow, Paul Britten Austin's atmospheric second volume in his acclaimed trilogy on Napoleon's catastrophic invasion of Russia.

After the fires died down the army settled in the ruins of Moscow for five weeks Napoleon waited at the Kremlin, expecting his 'brother the Tsar' in St Petersburg to capitulate and make peace, while in fact the Russian Army was gathering its strength. At the same time Murat's cavalry, the advance guard, was encamped in dreadful conditions three days' march away at Winkowo, where it was being starved to death. When Napoleon eventually realized the futility of his plans and prepared to leave Moscow, his advance guard was surprised by a Russian attack. The most astounding exodus in modern times ensued.

1812: Napoleon in Moscow follows on from the brilliant 1812: The March on Moscow, which took Napoleon's army across Europe to the great city. Paul Britten Austin brings this next phase of the epic campaign to life with characteristic verve. Drawing on hundreds of eyewitness accounts by French and allied soldiers of Napoleon's army, this brilliant study recreates this disastrous military campaign in all its death and glory.

As featured in bibliography for article 'Napoleon en Moscu'

Despeta Ferro, no.31

For those who enjoy firsthand accounts, interesting factoids, and martial color this book is certainly a must.

I would highly recommend this book and would consider it a must to those who have read and enjoyed his previous book of 1812 The March on Moscow.

The Napoleon Series - June 2013 - reviewed by Greg Gorsuch

Almost as epic as the campaign and a masterpiece.

The Bulletin

This is the second part of an acclaimed trilogy accounting for Napoleon Bonaparte's ill-fated Russian campaign of 1812. It begins in the aftermath of the bloody, inconclusive Battle of Borodino and Napoleon's entry into Moscow, and it follows the gradual unraveling of his strategy due to the refusal of the Tsar to surrender, the onset of winter, and the return of the Russian army at Winkowo, setting in motion the withdrawal of the Grande Arm馥 in what would become a decisive rout. Paul Britten Austin brilliantly describes events in his unique, almost drama-documentary style, drawing upon in excess of a hundred accounts from all quarters of Napoleon's forces. These have been edited and sewn together for the sake of a continuous narrative, but not particularly challenged in their factual accuracy or balance, and as such the book takes on the appearance of a series of contemporary despatches from the front.

Pegasus Archive

This account of the 1812 campaign is like no other in the English language. Austin has combined descriptive prose with quotes from primary sources to produce a readable account. By using present tense he brilliantly combines his own prose with extracts from memoirs and letters into a story-like telling of the history that transports the reader back two hundred years.

This study is a must. Whether the single-volume version or the more desirable three separate books, these are 'keepers' that belong in the personal library of any Napoleonic enthusiast.

http://avonnapoleonicfellowship.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/an-account-like-no-other-in-english.html

Avon Napoleonic Fellowship

Britten Austin spent decades reading memoirs, letters and diaries written by those who took part in Napoleon's most fatal adventure. He presents these extracts from within a narrative of the campaign as the soldier saw it. The heat of the summer, the vast distances, the elusive foe and the bloody battle of Borodino. Then the awe of Moscow, the horror of the fire and the onset of cold weather. This is a moving story that captures the spirit and drama of the times and makes for an unforgettable and haunting trilogy.

The Good Book Guide

The content is well researched and appropriately selected giving real insights into the French in Moscow. The real quality of the book is that we get to see the big event from many personal perspectives.

Clash of Steel

This is a very high quality piece of work, and provides an invaluable account of an often-overlooked period in the disastrous invasion of Russia, but a period in which the quality of the French army began to decline and winter crept every closer. As with the first of the three, this entry in Britten Austin's trilogy comes highly recommended.

History of War Website

Drawing on hundreds of eyewitness account by French and allied soldiers of Napoleon's army, this brilliant study recreates this disastrous military campaign in all its death and glory.

Books Monthly

A closely-knit and totally compelling account of this huge endeavour as seen by the French and their allied participants from Napoleon to the private soldier.

The British Army Review

This trio is built up of interwoven excerpts from original accounts of this campaign . . . the total effect is compelling.

Colonel John R. Elting

What a vivid account this is! . . . Thoroughly enjoyable.

Military Illustrated

The 1812 campaign was the single most important cause of Napoleon’s downfall. Austin’s volumes are a magnificent contribution to the history of that mighty enterprise.

Andrew Uffindell

A brilliant insight into men at war. The book is almost as epic as the campaign.

David G. Chandler

Heralded as a classic . . . The text is enriched with first-hand accounts which bring the whole narrative to life with an air of stark realism . . . Britten Austin’s trilogy truly ranks as a masterpiece

Waterloo Journal

Watch the video: Napoleon in Russia ALL PARTS