….One of the anomalies of the crusade of Napoleon’s Grande Armee into the Russia of Tsar Alexander is that the Russians began in a position of numerical inferiority, something that had not happened at any other time except during the Mongol Yoke. Even Hitler’s massive onslaught of 150 Wehrmacht divisions hurled into the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa in 1941 did not enjoy the advantage in numbers held by Napoleon in 1812. Napoleon’s host had an almost mythic quality, reminiscent of the army of Great King Xerxes in The Persian Wars. Historian Alan Schom writes:
“Napoleon’s mighty force was phenomenal in size and strength as it continued its advance. They were marching by the thousands, the tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands. It was incredible, it was fascinating, it was aew inspiring, but above all, it was terrifying. All Europe was trembling at the very thought of this massive Gallic-led horde, the likes of which had not been seen since the eighth century invasion of Europe by the Arabs and Berbers, and before that by Attila the Hun. Bavarians, Wurttemburgers, troops from Berg, Hesse-Darmstadt, Frankfurt, Nassau-Aremberg, Isenburg, Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, Wurzberg, Saxony, Anhalt-Berburg, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Waldeck, Schaumburg-Lippe, Westphalia, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Oldenburg, occupied Denmark, occupied Prussia, occupied Spain and Portugal, occupied Holland, occupied Switzerland, northern Italy, the occupied Papal States, Danzig and Illyria, tiny San Marino and the miniature principality of Liechtenstein….the marched hundreds of miles, some ultimately two thousand miles, because once more Napoleon Bonaparte had refused peace, because – obsessed beyond any rational thought – he demanded war and further conquest”
Tsar Alexander responded to the “Gallic horde” by trading space for time, evacuating Vitebsk and famously, Moscow, which was set to the torch. Alexander made use of the terrain, Russia’s vast and unforgiving span of earth to decimate the invaders whose lines of supply stretched vaporously thin.
Read the rest here.
The roundtable has been of superb quality and I will do a final aggregation post of the final third of the contributions once everyone has posted their concluding remarks.