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January 15, 2013

"It wasn't the Russian winter that stopped Napoleon."

News to me.

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.


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A decent article, but it doesn't go into the exact way that Russian partisan activity resulted in the deaths of so many French troops. I suspect these didn't consist mainly of battle casualties but rather of malnutrition and related conditions caused because the partisans were able to drastically reduce the amount of food available to feed the French troops.

I recall a few years ago that thousands of bodies of French troops were found and examined in Lithuania. The findings were that most died from malnutrition.

The French fed their armies mainly from foraging (stealing) from the local population. This foraging activity had been made difficult a few years earlier after France occupied Spain because Spanish partisan bands would pounce on small foraging parties the French sent out.

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