Napoleon is often given credit for a complete set of victories save for Waterloo. This is wrong in my assessment since the entire invasion of Russia ended disastrously for the French. On June 24th 1812, Napoleon’s Grande Armee was somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 men when they crossed into Russia. When it was all over in December of that year, less than 10,000 Grand Armee forces made it out.
Borodino was the Stalingrad of the French Invasion. Technically the French were better but they simply could not overcome the numbers of soldiers the Russians could raise, nor could they fight the wintry cold. It was the last major offensive in Russia before the Russians drove Napolean’s forces off their soil.
So it was a French win. Despite one third of the 250,000 men who were joined in battle, 70,000 or one third of their total forces perished. Even though the Russians had to withdraw from the battlefield the next day it was however a strategic Victory for Mikhail Kutuzov, the Russian Field Commander.
Napoleon felt the win was his. The next day he and fellow senior officers were riding through the carnage and quietly assessing the true cost of this battle. There were bodies everywhere and the ground was red with blood and the air filled with the stench of death and gunpowder. A wounded soldier cried out. Napoleon ordered a stretcher for him.
“It’s a Russian sir,” one of his aides commented.
Napolean commented “After a victory there are no enemies, only men.”
Sources and Citations:
Fadiman, Clifton. The Little Brown Book Of Anecdotes, 1985. Little Brown Books, Boston.
Nafziger, George (1984). Napoleon’s Invasion of Russia. New York, N.Y.: Hippocrene Books.