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
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
"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."
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
on Napoleon's Addresses | Napoleon
Himself Index ]