Research Subjects: Napoleon Himself


 

 

 

Address to the Troops at the Beginning of the Russian Campaign, May 1812

Address to the Troops before the Battle of Borodino, September 7, 1812

Letter to Alexander I., Emperor of Russia

Bibliography


Napoleon's Addresses: 1812 Russian Campaign

Compiled By Tom Holmberg

 

Address to the Troops at the Beginning of the Russian Campaign, May 1812

"Soldiers: The second war of Poland has commenced.  The first war terminated at Friedland and Tilsit.  At Tilsit, Russia swore eternal alliance with France, and war with England.  She has openly violated her oath, and refuses to offer any explanation of her strange conduct till the French Eagle shall have passed the Rhine, and, consequently, shall have left her allies at her discretion.  Russia is impelled onward by fatality.  Her destiny is about to be accomplished.  Does she believe that we have degenerated? that we are no longer the soldiers of Austerlitz? She has placed us between dishonor and war.  The choice cannot for an instant be doubtful.  Let us march forward, then, and crossing the Niemen, carry the war into her territories.  The second war of Poland will be to the French army as glorious as the first.  But our next peace must carry with it its own guarantee, and put an end to that arrogant influence which, for the last fifty years, Russia has exercised over the affairs of Europe."

Address to the Troops before the Battle of Borodino, September 7, 1812

"Soldiers: This is the battle you have so much desired.  The victory depends upon you!  It is now necessary to us.  It will give us abundance of good winter quarters, and a prompt return to our country.  Behave as at Austerlitz, at Friedland, at Witepsk, at Smolensk, and let the latest posterity recount with pride your conduct on this day; let them say of you, 'He was at the battle under the walls of Moscow.'"

Letter to Alexander I., Emperor of Russia

"Monsieur, my brother: — Having been informed that the brother of your Imperial Majesty's Minister at Cassel was in Moscow, I sent for him, and we have had a conversation of some length.  I have advised his making my sentiments known to your Majesty.

"The superb and beautiful city of Moscow no longer exists.  Rostoptchine gave orders to burn it.  Four hundred incendiaries were arrested on the spot, all of whom declared that they had received their orders from the governor and the director of the police; they were shot.

"The fire at last appears to have ceased.  Three-quarters of the buildings have been burned, the other quarter remains.

"Such conduct is atrocious and useless.  Was its object to make way with some treasure?  But the treasure was in caves which could not be reached by the fire.

"Moreover, why destroy one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the work of centuries, for so paltry an end?  It is the same line of conduct that has been followed from Smolensk, and has left 600,000 families homeless.  The fire-engines in Moscow were either broken or made way with, and a portion of the arms in the arsenal given to malefactors, which obliged us to fire a few shots at the Kremlin in order to disperse them.

"Humanity, the interests of your Majesty and of this great city, required that the city should be confided to me as a trust, since it was exposed by the Russian army.  It should not have been left without administration, magistrates, and civil guards.  Such a plan was adopted at Vienna, Madrid, and twice at Berlin.  We ourselves followed out this plan at the time of the entrance of Sonvarof [Suvurov?].

"Incendiaries authorize pillage, to which the soldiers surrender themselves in order to dispute the débris with the flames.

"If I imagined for an instant that such a state of affairs was authorized by your Majesty, I should not write this letter; but I hold it as impossible that, with your Majesty's principles, and heart, with the justice of your Majesty's ideas, you could authorize excesses that are unworthy of a great sovereign and of a great nation.  While the engines were carried from Moscow, one hundred and fifty pieces of field cannon, 60,000 new muskets, 1,600,000 infantry cartridges, 400,000 weights of powder, 300,000 weights of salt-petre, as much sulphur, etc., were left behind.

"I wage war against your Majesty without animosity; a note from you before or after the last battle would have stopped my march, and I should even have liked to have sacrificed the advantage of entering Moscow.  If your Majesty retains some remains of your former sentiments, you will take this letter in good part.  At all events, you will thank me for giving you an account of what is passing at Moscow."

 

Bibliography:

Napoleon's Addresses: Selections from the Proclamations, Speeches and Correspondence of Napoleon Bonaparte. Edited by Ida M. Tarbell. (Boston: Joseph Knight, 1896.)

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2003

 

 

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