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Defeat: Napoleon's Russian Campaign

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  180 Ratings  ·  30 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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Jul 22, 2011 Eric rated it really liked it
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
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
Jun 06, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Nick Black
Oct 07, 2012 Nick Black rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nick by: Eric
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.
Augustus Gump
Jul 25, 2012 Augustus Gump rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Philippe-Paul de Ségur puts humanity back into an event where we get distracted by the sheer number of the dead. I've read histories now where historians estimate the size of The Grande Armée to have been anywhere from 300,000 and 600,000 men on the way to Moscow; survivors of the campaign are estimated between 30,000 to 50,000. That's a lot of zeroes, and a lot of rounding, and a lot of missing stories of human happenings.

Maybe the best possible representation of the quantitative loss was conc
Oct 18, 2009 Eric rated it it was amazing
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
Don Heiman
Jun 13, 2014 Don Heiman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a classic. Count de Segur served Emperor Napoleon for 15 years as an aide-de-camp and later he served Napoleon as his quarter master general during the Russian Invasion of 1812. The abridged de Segur memoir was written by his son and became a standard reference on the tragedy of invasion and the burning of Moscow resulting from the Russian strategy for defeating Napoleon's army. I found the writing exceptional and I now better understand the reasons for why Russian General Kutulov's ...more
Apr 29, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 26, 2010 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 -
Eric Pecile
Jun 26, 2016 Eric Pecile rated it it was amazing
Interesting that this is one of the more complete histories of the Moscow campaign and properly ascribes the defeat to the weather and the burning of Moscow rather than to some sort of French failure as any British based history would allow. Correctly highlights the fact that Napoleon was one of the few if not the only general in history to take Moscow by military arms successfully. Any 19th century aficionado has to read this fantastic primary account.
Sep 06, 2011 Padraic rated it it was amazing
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...
Dec 10, 2010 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
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.
Vanessa Fabiano
Apr 21, 2014 Vanessa Fabiano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
started, love the front row perspective. segur really goes on about how napoleon manages to offend everyone and rub their (aristocratic) noses in his upstart grandeur. reading on iphone, with interruptions.
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.
Oct 19, 2012 Jeanette rated it it was ok
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.
Tom Wascoe
Mar 20, 2016 Tom Wascoe rated it really liked it
A detailed account of Napoleon's disastrous campaign in Russia as told by one of his aides. A memoir, written 20 years later, that accurately depicts the mistakes of Napoleon and the sufferings of his "Grand Army".
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.
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.
Aug 31, 2010 Charles rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfic-history
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!
Jun 07, 2009 Billy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: napoleon
First hand account of Napoleon's disastrous Russian expedition. This volume is a heavily edited version of de Segur's massive effort. No index and only one map.
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.
Jan 07, 2013 Patrick rated it liked it
A fun read in your interested in the tactical elements of the campaign. For a comprehensive history, I'd look elsewhere.
Charles Greer
Charles Greer rated it it was amazing
Mar 02, 2014
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Jan 30, 2014
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Oct 23, 2012
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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...

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