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Gallery » Danzig Report 112 - July, August, Septembet 2001 » The invasion of Russia and retreat from Moscow

 

The invasion of Russia and retreat from Moscow.

Towards the end of 1811 Napoleon began extensive logktic preparations for the invasion of Russia. Ammunition wagons, artillery, forges, ambulances, horses, draft oxen, fodder and other supplies were amassed in depots. By the spring of 1812 he had built up an immense force of 614,000 front line and reserve troops. From April of that year there was no permanent garrison in Danzig, but the city became an important concentration point for the Grande Armée assembling for the invasion of Russia. On 13 May a bill was presented to 28 of the richest rneichants obliging them to pay 3 million Francs to the garrison immediately. If they refused to pay up the sum demanded they were to be arrested and have their assets plundered. Napoleon was preparing the city for yet another siege. It was necessary to store enough food for the people and forage for horses and other animals, to organise additional hospitals and reinforce fortifications. By 15 May the great bulk of Napoleon’s forces was concentrated in the Danzig-Warsaw area lining the banks of the Vistula, and on the 26 May orders for the advance toward the Niemen were issued by Imperial Headquarters.

In the period between 7 and 11 June, 1812, Napoleon visited Danzig again to inspect his troops and the city fortifications. His health had so deteriorated that he was lethargic and tended to delay operational decisions. Nevertheless it is reported that his first words to Rapp were very much to the point “What are your merchcusts doing with all their money 7 War is about to slur!. Now! will look after that myself’. On 23 June Napoleon crossed the Niemen with half a million soldiers and began his advance on Moscow, Within six weeks the army had penetrated deep into Russia, without any major battles, but they lost nearly a third of their strength to exhaustion and disease. Hard fighting followed with heavy losses on both sides at Smolensk and Borodino, On 14 September Napoleon entered a near deserted Moscow with just 95000 men. His supply line was now so depleted and vulnerable, however, that after occupying the city for only a few weeks he had no choice but to retreat, pursued by the Russians

 

Danzig Report Vol. 1 - Nr. 112 - July - August - September - 2001, Page 27.


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