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Thread: Napoleon's invasion of Russia came to grief because of inadequate logistics

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    Napoleon's invasion of Russia came to grief because of inadequate logistics

    and the Tsar's scorched earth policy. Could Napoleon have salvaged his expedition by pausing to bring up supplies from Poland? Were simple arrogance and impatience Napoleon's undoing? Could he have consolidated his gains, regrouped and resumed his military advances against the Russian empire?

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    In Memoriam Military Professional Minskaya's Avatar
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    Napoleon should have paused and wintered at Smolensk to replenish supplies and firm up logistics. That said, I believe his military foray into the steppes was ill conceived and decisiveness was unobtainable. Russia is not Egypt.

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    In Memoriam Military Professional Minskaya's Avatar
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    Cossack horsemen chewed up Napoleon's forces. As an aside, where I grew up is the Cossack homeland in Ukraine and it was a Zaporozhian Cossack that taught me how to ride. Their demonstrations of horsemanship are still a big attraction for tourists and a must see if you ever find yourself in the Zaporizhia Oblast.

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    For Napoleon's stated aims, the interior of Russia didn't matter. He should have used two campaign seasons. In the first he should have secured the Baltic and Finland. This would have denied Tsar Alexander the easiest route to Britain. The second season should have been liberate the Ukraine and Crimea and other Black Sea areas removing the other sea route to Britain.

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    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    1.The campaign in Russia was delayed by the economic crisis which hit France in 1811 and early 1812.Killing and looting their customers came at a cost.Nothing they could not have overcomed,but the moment was poor.Napoleon,being busy leading the state,the French attack commenced late in the year.
    2.The campaign in Russia was poorly planned from a logistic pov.Marching half a million merry fellows through Poland and Russia of 1812 was a magnet for typhus.Having campaigned there just 5 years earlier,there is no excuse for mishap.
    3.Poland could have been restored on a much grander scale than the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.The Poles would have been blocking any Russian advance into Central Europe and prevented any linkup between Austria,Prussia and Russia.Germans+Russians are an unbeatable combination,in hindsight.
    4.All the above would not have mattered if the Russians had adopted the wrong choice to stay and fight.I'm a Napoleon fan,but the truth is the Russians were just better in 1812.Their intel was spot on,they had a realistic view on what was possible and what wasn't.Tactically the French were superior,but strategy trumps tactics most of the time.
    Napoleon's only chance came and went at Borodino.
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    For Napoleon's stated aims, the interior of Russia didn't matter. He should have used two campaign seasons. In the first he should have secured the Baltic and Finland. This would have denied Tsar Alexander the easiest route to Britain. The second season should have been liberate the Ukraine and Crimea and other Black Sea areas removing the other sea route to Britain.
    Could Napoleon have achieved his war aims with a smaller expedition, say a picked force of 150,000 men? The Mongols were seriously outnumbered, yet prevailed against most of their opponents. A smaller French expedition might have tempted the Russians to seek battle instead of using a Fabian strategy. The Mongols were often met in battle on the open field because their numbers seemed so paltry and easy to overcome on that account.

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    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    That was not possible.The Russians were not going to give him that.

    ''I speak often to officers who are of great merit and knowledge and who have no affection for the head of the French government. I have asked them about what strategy would be best in the coming war, taking into account the theatre of operations, the strength and the character of our adversary... the system we should follow in this war is the one of which Fabius and indeed Lord Wellington offer the best examples. It is true that our task will be more difficult in that the theatre of operations is for the most part open countryside...if the Russians could sustain this war for three campaigns then the victory will certainly be ours, even if we don’t win great victories, and Europe will be delivered from its oppressor.Napoleon’s goal and his hopes are all directed towards concentrating sufficient strength to deliver crushing blows and decide the matter in a single campaign. He feels strongly that he cannot remain away from Paris for more than one year and that he would be lost if this war lasted for two or three years.''

    That's from Count Chernyshev's,one of the chief Russian intel operatives in Paris,last report to the War Minister Barclay de Tolly.Previously they had infiltrated French intelligence,they had secret French foreign policy memorandums as soon as they were elaborated,they had access to the French War Ministry monthly data wrt strength,location and direction of every French regiment and even got intimate info about Napoleon's health and disposition.
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

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    Field mechanik Senior Contributor omon's Avatar
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    back in school they thought us that his troops just froze to death, never were ready for cold climate like in russia. russian winter proved to be a weapon in itself, few times.
    "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" B. Franklin

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