Defeat: Napoleon's Russian Campaign
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Defeat: Napoleon's Russian Campaign

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  90 ratings  ·  22 reviews
In the summer of 1812 Napoleon gathered his fearsome Grande Armée, more than half a million strong, on the banks of the Niemen River. He was about to undertake the most daring of all his many campaigns: the invasion of Russia. Meeting only sporadic opposition and defeating it easily along the way, the huge army moved forward, advancing ineluctably on Moscow through the lon...more
Paperback, 289 pages
Published October 21st 2008 by NYRB Classics (first published 1824)
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A must for disaster junkies, fans of slow breakdown and group degeneration—anyone who can’t get enough of that horrible sorting which leaves some of the shipwrecked with their wits and capacity for teamwork, others with nothing but predacious urges and a callous despair. Also a plum if you like Romanticism. Once the retreat from Moscow begins, every page is a canvas of Delacroix or Géricault: pathetic calamities under exotic skies, in turbulent colors.* (Negligible cannibalism, which is a surpri...more
NAPOLEON’S RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN. (1824; Eng. trans. 1958). Philippe-Paul de Segur; translated into English by J. David Townsend. ****.
This is an excellent history of Napolean’s 1812 Russian campaign, written by his aide-de-camp. Philippe-Paul de Segur (1780-1873) began the campaign as Napoleon’s aide, but was ultimately promoted to the rank of brigadier general. He was constantly by Napoleon’s side, and was witness to all orders and battles first hand. This history was originally published in two v...more
Elijah Kinch Spector
Upon entering Russia many of the soldiers had thrown away their winter uniforms in order to be able to carry a heavier load of provisions.
- p. 128

Ah, Napoleon. Napoleon looms so large over the 19th century, and over the 19th century novel, that it's often hard for me to remember that, before this book, everything I'd learned about him came from fiction. He's just such a fascinating figure: I can never decide if I'm rooting for or against the guy. Sometimes he's the champion of the people who sca...more
Nick Black
The best war memoir I've read save those of William Sherman (which ought be required reading for every American male). Perfection.
I was given this book by a goodreader last year, and finally got around to it. Thanks so much, Jen!
as i get older, i find myself wanting to read books about war pretty much all the time. so it goes! yet another weighty historical tome I've been shamed into reading by mighty eric, who one must assume is hung like reggie freakin' nelson.
A suspenseful retelling of the beginning of the fall of Napoleon. de Segur has a key eye for detail and sets a standard for reportage and subtle forshadowing for which both journalists and screenwritings ought to aspire.

In a mere 289 pages he recounts Napoleon's Russian campaign - its empty victories leading to the destruction of an abandoned Moscow, and the brutal and complete destruction of his army that follows. With spare writing he paints a vivid picture of a man of greatness found suddenly...more
Augustus Gump
An unexpectedly moving piece of history. As Napoleon's aide-de-camp during the Russian campaign, Segur was present during the battles and the disastrous retreat, as well as the discussions and decision-making that brought on the destruction of the Grande Armee without ever losing a battle to the Russians. We feel Napoleon's uncertainty about whether to advance on Moscow and his consternation at the ruthless and to him (and me) barbarous lengths to which the Russian elite were prepared to go to a...more
Just finished this last night and its quite fantastic. Segur (the author) removes himself in such a way from his involvement in the campaign that you feel utter decimation of the humanity within the soldiers is felt when its called for and when its not it feels relatively removed from his own opinions of those months. You get a very good view of Napoleon himself on a personal level, as well as his Kings, Princes, and top Marshalls. Segur is for the most part non-biased in his accounts, though th...more
The author (an eyewitness to the campaign) does not get bogged down too much in the details, and instead focuses more on his observances of human nature, Napoleon, and war in general. There are some good lessons for how an army can be, in the authors words, 'unbeaten yet defeated.'

I confess a bit a chill went through me when I read this section, when a French marshal urges retreat and says,

'Didn't you see the field of yesterday's engagement, or notice the fury with which the Russian recruits -...more
Diego Favilla Czwil
Leí su versión en castellano.Muy bueno.
Fascinating insider account of the entire disastrous Russian campaign of 1812. Surprisingly contemporary translation limps at spots, but de Segur comes across as a real person rather than an icy narrator. Most satisfying moment - watching the Little Corporal ride painfully across the Russian steppes with a severe urinary tract infection...
Patrick Haga
A great telling of the Napoleonic campaign of Russia by one of his generals. Incredibly good detail on the workings of Napoleon's army, the formations, obstacles and the incredible amount of resources it takes to move an army across the hellish landscape that is Russia.
I expected much more from this book than I got, and that probably says more about me than anything else. The author simply doesn't communicate the epic sweep. This is a fantastic story told in a disjointed way without much characterization or sense of place.
A first-hand account of Napoleon's Russian invasion and retreat omits some global details -- but this powerful testimony to those terrible days is often more interesting than any historical recreation.
This is good! And it's poetic, beautifully done. The imagery is vivid and unforgettable. I think it was employed by Tolstoy in War and Peace. I want to read War and Peace, but I lost my copy.
Oct 21, 2008 Tosh marked it as to-read
Brian and others,

I just want to let you know about this book. I think it will be a great interest for you guys. 'War and Peace' was sort of based on this particular book.
I have a much older version of this book, published in 1958 and translated from the French by J. David Townsend. I thought it was quite good, however. Enjoyed it.
I love Russian history but had a hard time with this one, because it assumes a vast knowledge of what happened before this book....Still, interesting!
A fun read in your interested in the tactical elements of the campaign. For a comprehensive history, I'd look elsewhere.
Chris Marsh
Mar 10, 2013 Chris Marsh marked it as to-read
I read the fiction of War and Peace. Now I'd like to read a real life account of Napoleon's 1812 march on Moscow.
A must read before you undertake War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
Jan 21, 2009 Ben added it
Very good. The Grand Army just entered Moscow...
The crossing of the Berezina. Awful.
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French general and historian Philippe-Paul, comte de Ségur, was the son of Louis Philippe, comte de Ségur.
More about Philippe-Paul de Ségur...
A History of the Expedition to Russia Vol. 2 A History of the Expedition to Russia Vol. 1 La retraite de Moscou Histoire de Napoléon et de la Grande-Armée pendant l'année 1812 Tome 2 The Two Great Retreats of History

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