Napoleon’s Russian Campaign: A Lesson Learned
Prologue: A Fatal Decision
The Campaign of 1812 was to be Napoleon’s crowning achievement. His Grand Armee of over four hundred thousand men from all corners of his empire was the largest he had ever assembled. Napoleon labeled it “an army of 20 nations.” Under his command, the Grande Armee had conquered much of Europe and was viewed by Napoleon’s enemies as more than just a terrible foe but as seemingly invincible. His armies were said to be unbeatable and his tactics in battle were considered second to none. In despite all this, Napoleon made a fatal mistake: he invaded Russia.
Factors that Led to the Invasion of Russia
There has been much speculation over the motives behind Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Relations between Czar Alexander and Napoleon had been uneasy ever since the treaty of Tilsit. The main reason for the escalating hostility was the Duchy of Warsaw. The Duchy was a French satellite state on the border of Russia that Czar Alexander saw as a security threat. The treaty of Schonbrunn, which expanded the Duchy of Warsaw, intensified Czar Alexander’s fear that Napoleon planned to combine the Russian part of Poland into the Duchy of Warsaw and establish an independent Polish sovereignty. Another reason was Russia’s unwillingness to remain in the Continental system. The Continental system was a response by Napoleon to the British blockades of the French coasts. The Continental system was Napoleon's plan to defeat Britain by destroying its ability to trade. Napoleon was instilling a new type of warfare, a warfare of economics. As an island nation, trade was the most vital lifeline for Britain. Napoleon believed that if he could isolate Britain economically, he would be able to invade the nation after the economic collapse. Napoleon issued a decree that said all commercial ships wishing to do business in Europe must first stop at a French port in order to ensure that there would be no...