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Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,880 ratings  ·  142 reviews
Napoleon dominated nearly all of Europe by 1810, largely succeeding in his aim to reign over the civilized world. But Britain eluded him. To conquer the island nation, he needed Russia's Tsar Alexander's help. The Tsar refused, and Napoleon vowed to teach him a lesson by intimidation and force. The ensuing invasion of Russia, during the frigid winter of 1812, would mark th ...more
Paperback, 704 pages
Published August 9th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published August 3rd 2004)
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 ·  1,880 ratings  ·  142 reviews

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Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This book is the ideal addition to Tolstoy's "War and Peace". Despite being a serious scientific work it feels almost like a novel. It is very rich in quotes by participants of the events, both from the higher classes as well as citizens and rank and file soldiers. Being able to read the sources in five major languages (English, Polish, French, Italian and Russian) Adam Zamoyski manages to keep a relatively unbiased position. A slight inclination towards the Polish nation is understandable given ...more
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
This book starts with a birth surrounded by all the pomp and power of an empire at its peak. in reality the book is about failure and indecision, about the useless sacrifice of thousands in a vain and pointless enterprise that somehow manages to sum up all that is wrong with man's ambition - in fact, Napoleon summed it all up when he coined his quip on reaching Warsaw, having abandoned his men; "From the sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step."
Watching the build-up to the Russian campai
Czarny Pies
Feb 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History buffs
Recommended to Czarny by: I make it a point to read all of Zamoyski's books.
Shelves: european-history
Nobody knows the Napoleonic era better than Adam Zamoyski. This book reads like a novel and yet is thoroughly researched. Amazingly Zamoyski even finds something new to say about this absurd and famous moment in history. His use of the Aleksander Fredro archives greatly enhances the section on the retreat.

I wish Tolstoy had read this book before starting the second volume of War and Peace, as Zamoyski clearly shows how the retreat should have been described. Tolstoy, however, was trying to prote
Sotiris Karaiskos
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A very interesting and detailed narration of the events of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. The author uses historical sources but above all uses the narratives of those who lived through all these tragic events, thus giving a humanistic aspect to his book. Perhaps it sometimes overdone it, making some chapters somewhat tedious but most of the time these extracts contribute to the value of this book. ...more
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
excellent account of Napoleon's defeat from a Polish perspective (and it shows as the "French" = in reality a coalition of troops from all over Europe including Italians, Germans, poles, Swiss, Spanish etc are bad, but the Russians worse, incompetent and scared by napoleon's reputation till the end and the Berezina final disaster when they had Napoleon and the remains of the Grand Armee for the taking and they let it got from fear of defeat- I read a ton of books on Napoleon including his memoir ...more
Nov 06, 2011 added it
Napoleon threw men around like toy soldiers and reading this remarkably compelling book you’re left thinking what it was all about, so much waste and suffering. At the time he was considered a monster by many and a hero by many others, the ‘world spirit’ even, and I think it was only because he burst onto the old European scene of Royal dictatorships and shook the whole medieval edifice finally loose and became a hero to the likes of the Romantic poets and Beethoven (for a while) that he was con ...more
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The court-sanctioned art of Ingrès and David, together with the unmistakably resplendent dress uniforms, have given Napoleonic campaigns a contemporary luster that continues to dazzle us two centuries on.

The 1812 invasion of Russia is gilded with an extra layer of pathos (in the demise of the Grande Armée) and patriotism (in the Tolstoyesque Russian historiography). Zamoyski strips some of it away through the drawings and engravings made in situ . Here the artillery crews push their caissons str
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
A clear, detailed and compelling history of Napoleon’s Russian campaign.

Zamoyski vividly describes the brutal conditions and hardships faced by both the French and Russian armies, as well as the combination of bad planning, bad execution and bad weather that ended up turning against the French. Napoleon comes off as indecisive. Alexander comes off as vain, lazy, and easily duped by Napoleon. Zamoyski is critical of Kutuzov, and describes how popular ideas about the campaign developed (“General W
DNF on page 295.

I'm going to be completely honest here: I bought this book approximately a million years ago solely because of the 1812 Overture. Yeah. I knew nothing about Napoleon's march on Moscow, but I knew and loved the 1812 Overture, so I figured I may as well learn the story behind it.

And going into a reread probably 8 years after I bought it, all I remembered was one disturbingly descriptive scene of how French soldiers ended up slicing bits off the officer's horses as they were walki
Walter Mendoza
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A work about of Napoleon's vast objective, the invasion of Russia. The author tell us about disaster campaign and the horrible events described for the soldiers. Zamoyski also analysed the political run up to the campaign, maybe not enough detail on battle strategy. Well described and researched, the author also made an excellent use of the first hand accounts of the soldiers and witness the suffering like cannibalism; the best part of the book is about of the retreat, well described for example ...more
Anthony Ryan
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and highly accessible account of Napoleon's most disastrous campaign. Zamoyski writes clear and compelling prose, mercifully free of any academic tedium, without allowing the vast scale of events to obscure the human element. Recommended for history buffs or anyone who wants to know why a very wise man once said, 'Never get involved in a land war in Russia.' ...more
Dec 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book to learn about this brutal campaign. Zamoyski looks at the weakness and strengths of both sides, turning the light on the psychological as well as the military aspects of two men who led their countries in victory and defeat.
'Aussie Rick'
One of the better single volume accounts covering Napoleon's 1812 campaign. ...more
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
the books depicts the true cruel reality of war, although the author has pay too much attention to the soilders suffering but the book is written at nice pace the first half start superbly with the prevelant political atmosphere between the Russians and napoleon's France turning sour later it's slowly moves towards the actual war fought and the suffering of the soilders facing the harsh Russian winter and the last chapter summarise the aftermath in the European politics at the moment of time.mus ...more
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, napoleon
It was a chapter in the Murakami book I read, KAFKA ON THE SHORE, where the protagonist is reading a book about Napoleon's ill-fated invasion of Russia in 1812 that prompted me to read this book. The Napoleonic War Era might just be one of my favorite periods in history to read about, and though I've played countless war games from this era back in my twenties (games from Strategy & Tactics, who are still around, by the way), I can't recall ever reading a really detailed account of this particul ...more
Erik Edmunds
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book provides an excellent and comprehensive account of all the complex factors that led to Napolean's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. Like any good work of historical scholarship, the author starts with information detailing what set the stage for the invasion, and he then takes the reader in detail through the invasion itself, from the early French successes, to the wasted time in Moscow, to the miserable winter retreat across western Russia. What I found most impressive in this bo ...more
Miles Smith
Zamoyski's books are always a literary and historical treat. Moscow 1812 is no exception. This is a brutal endurance-test as well as a necessary revision of certain historical presumptions, especially for the Anglophone world. Zamoyski pours cold water on the notion that Kutusov was a great general, one of the initial claims I found surprising. The narrative argues the point fairly persuasively. Zamoyski proves an absolutely expert at showing just how hubristic Napoleon was, and how his invasion ...more
Aug 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Fabulous book! Everyone's heard of Napoleon's march to Moscow, but who's heard of the details? This book provides a wonderful exploration of the strategic and leadership successes and (mostly) failures that changed history, while clearly showing the depth and scale of human tragedy. ...more
David Nichols
Feb 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Deeply researched, richly detailed, and grim as can be. This is not a history for the faint of heart, nor for anyone fond of animals. But it's pretty close to a definitive account of Napoleon's worst mistake and gravest defeat. ...more
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is like a train wreck. It's horrific but you can't look away. Napoleon's march to Russia was bleak, the battles poorly planned, the weather unbearable and the results all too true and verifiable. Brilliantly written.
Aurélien Thomas
May 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: napoleonic-era
'Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 was one of the most dramatic episodes in European history, an event of epic proportions, etched deeply in the popular imagination.'

And indeed, one just have to think about the battle of Borodino ('the greatest massacre in recorded history, not to be surpassed until the first day of the Somme in 1916' ) or the crossing of the Berezina ('a powerful symbol of the failure and tragedy that lie at the heart of the Napoleonic myth') to get an idea of how the Russi
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book that provides the overall strategic situation that led to Napoleon's invasion of Russia and a careful examination of the choices he made and their impact. A nicely detailed look at the planning and logistics leading up to the invasion, the invasion campaign, and Napoleon's retreat. A nice mix of analysis, narrative and individual stories to provide insight and give a sense of experiencing this.
Flat out a good book, very authoritative.
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, yes
10/10. Factual history that almost reads like a novel. I learned things from the this. Such as the Russian Army was characterized by gross incompetence and miscommunication. The victory was entirely because of the Russian winter and uncharacteristic mistakes by Napoleon. My only complaint was near the end he goes on and on with accounts of the horrible conditions of the French retreat. A few examples would have sufficed,
Cathal Kenneally
Sensational. Riveting historical report on a doomed campaign. The graphic descriptions of how the soldiers suffered on both sides. Heartbreaking stuff.
Like all great leaders Napoleon had his flaws but he blamed his mistakes on others around him. I have now procured a copy of a book about Napoleon as he is that interesting
Jacob Aitken
This book explores the causes, circumstances, and aftermath of Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia. Overall, the author did an admirable job describing the Russian invasion. He was able to get into the lives of the soldiers remarkably well. One of his themes is that Napoleon was not really defeated by Marshall Kutuzov. Zamoisky follows the thesis that the Russian weather destroyed Napoleon.

I will not contend Zamoisky’s thesis: it is hard to feed an army of 600,000 in the middle of one of th
Jul 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was advised to read this book by our Kenny. And since when has he ever wrongly advised me of anything? That's right, most times never. Having known very little about Napoleon's military conquests and even less about the march to and retreat from Moscow, I was intrigued why Kenny would always mentions this one book repeatedly.

So borrowing it from him, I found it be quite an in-depth analysis of Napoleon and Alexander and their respective thoughts on Europe. Certainly Napoleon's plans for a unif
Alan Vecchio
Jul 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm of a dual mind on this book. On the positive side it gives an incredibly clear & detailed presentation of a period in history that I knew very little about. I only had a very vague understanding of the Napoleonic period in general and of Napoleon's invasion of Russia and the subsequent disastrous retreat. I now have a much better sense of that period.

On the negative side the author portrays the retreat in the most graphic & gory details. I don't normally a cringe easily but I found myself li
Nov 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: military-history
This book is well written; it will horrify you. As events escalate the the Grande Armee finds itself shorter on food, without horses, and colder by the day, their suffering becomes almost unbearable to read about. "The Second Polish War" as Napoleon termed it, would be one of the most disastrous episodes in military history. The numbers of men involved and the numbers who died as a result were not surpassed for another hundred years until the first world war.

Needless to say, the vents here are
Dan Harvey
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
After reading heaps of fiction books in a row, I thought it was time to mix in a non-fiction. I previously did not know much about Napoleon's march on Moscow, other than that it did not go well for him....certainly as a North American I know much more about the British/US war in 1812. I found Zamoyski's writing style very engaging with just the right balance of colour and content - had trouble putting it down and was keen to tell my partner all the interesting bits and pieces as I went along. Th ...more
Singleton Mosby
Aug 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
I quite liked his writing style. The chapters describing the withdraw of the Grande Armee were quite graphic however, far more brutal then anything i´ve read about it so far. Of course I had seen the book quite a few times but I only picked it up once I heard a nice interview with Zamoyski on the Napoleon Podcast.
Glad I read the book and I´ll for certain try to read some more about the battles along the Berezina and some personal memoires about the campaign. The author´s view on Napoleon himsel
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A historian and a member of the ancient Zamoyski family of Polish nobility. Born in New York City and raised in England. He is Chairman of the Board of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation. On June 16, 2001, in London, England, he married the artist Emma Sergeant.

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