Napoleon Bonaparte and his epoch
Dmitry Karasyuk's author's project

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The Russian Campaign

The Russian Campaign 1812

Bonaparte decided to bring the Russians back into line and gathered a Grande Armee of more than 500,000 men - including contingents from all France's allies - to frighten them. The implied threat did not work and the tsar ordered two Russian armies to protect the Motherland. Led by General Barclay de Tolly and General Bagration, the Russians retreated as Bonaparte's troops swarmed across the frontier on the River Niemen on 24 June.

Combining at Smolensk, the Russian armies fought at Smolensk and Valutino, but the overall strategy was to trade space for time and continue to avoid a major battle with the French. Finally the retreat stopped some 110 kilometres west of Moscow.

Now under the command of General Mikhail Kutusov, the Russians set up strong defensive positions for his 120,000 troops at Borodino and waited for Bonaparte's men to come on. They did so, 133,000 strong, and the fighting was brutal, even in Napoleonic terms, with little quarter being given. Although advised by Marshal Davout to manouevre around the defences and attack from another direction, Bonaparte threw his men into a series of bloody attacks on the Russian positions. At the end of the day - and at the cost of 44,000 Russian casualties and 30,000 French losses - the battle was indecisive, as Bonaparte withheld his Imperial Guard in a move that probably saved Kutusov's army from destruction. But, so far from friendly territory, Bonaparte said he could not take the risk.

Kutusov retreated again and the French occupied a burning Moscow - set on fire by the Russians themselves. Hoping for a Russian surrender that never came, Bonaparte waited in Moscow for five weeks - far too long - and then began what would become one of the greatest disasters in military history. Again ignoring good advice from Davout to take a different, better-supplied route to that they had advanced on, Bonaparte sent his men back to Smolensk through already-plundered territory.

To make a bad situation worse, the snows came early in 1812 and the cold, together with hunger and cossack attacks, doomed what had been one of the most impressive armies ever to be formed. Defended by a magnificent fighting rearguard led by Marshal Ney, the French struggled on. They were almost destroyed during the crossing of the River Beresina where a two-day battle to hold off the Russians allowed what was left of the army to limp across two fragile bridges. Bonaparte left the army on 5 December to return to Paris where a coup had been foiled and to raise another army. His troops dragged themselves on and on 7 December finally crossed the Niemen out of Russian territory. They had survived, but only 20,000 of them.

Belarus, 1992, Mir castle

Belarus, 2010, Mir's Castle

Belarus, 2012, The Patriotic War of 1812

Guinea, 2012, Paintings of 1812

Russia, 1992, Don't Touch, Let Me Approach

Russia, 2007, St. George's Cross; Kulnev in 1812

Russia, 2012, Emblem of victory

Russia. Duhovchinskiy uezd (zemstvo), 1873/1881, Defenitive stamp

Russia. Duhovchinskiy uezd (zemstvo), 1873/1881, Defenitive stamp

Russia. Krasninskiy uezd (zemstvo), 1912, Miloradovich in Battle at Krasnoe 5.11.1812

Russia. Krasninskiy uezd (zemstvo), 1912, Neverovsky in Battle at Krasnoe 2.8.1812

Ukraine, 2010, Ukrainian cozaks in 1812

USSR, 1962, Denis Davidov and partisans

USSR, 1962, Vasilisa Kozhina

USSR, 1975, Laurinston and Kutuzov

Belarus, Mir, Grodno region

Belarus, 2006.09.02, Mir. Castle

Belarus, 2012.07.10, Minsk. Gun

Russia, Krasny, Smolensk region

Russia, Maloyaroslavets, Kaluga region

Russia, Maloyaroslavets-station, Kaluga region

Russia, Tarutino, Chelyabinsk region

Russia, Tarutino, Kaluga region

Russia, Viazma, Smolensk region

Russia, 2002.08.24, Maloyaroslavets. 600th Anniv of Maloyaroslavets

USSR, Maloyaroslavets, Kaluga region

USSR, Maloyaroslavets-station, Kaluga region

USSR, Mir, Grodno region

USSR, Tarutino, Chelyabinsk region

USSR, Tarutino, Kaluga region

USSR, Tarutino, Odessa region

USSR, Viazma, Smolensk region

USSR, 1962.07.2630, Kaluga. Places of battles of 1812

Belarus, 2002, Mir castle

Belarus, 2002, Mir castle

Belarus, 2002, 50th Anniv of Borisov town museum

Belarus, 2003, Neman River

Belarus, 2006, Mir Castle

German Federal Republic, 2012, Bicentenary of The Convention of Tauroggen

Russia, 2000, 850th Anniv of Dorogobuzh

Russia, 2002, 600th anniv of Maloyaroslavets

Russia, 2012, Monument to Alexander I in Taganrog

Russia, 2012, Cavalry battle

USSR, 1958, River Neman

USSR, 1962, Monument of 1812 in Tarutino

USSR, 1966, Neman river

USSR, 1968, Monument of Saltanovka battle

USSR, 1989, Mikhail Zagoskin, Moskow fire

USSR, 1989, 750th anniv of Vyazma

USSR, 1989, Illarion Pryanishnikov, 1812 campain

Russia, 2001, The Council of War at Fili

Russia, 2012, Taganrog. Barrier

USSR, 1953.03.18, The Council of War at Fili

USSR, 1962.09.01, The Council of War at Fili

USSR, 1977.03.18, Neman river

USSR, 1978.12.27, Mir castle

USSR, 1988.04.29, Monuments of 1812 war


2003-2022 Dmitry Karasyuk. Idea, preparation, drawing up
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