grande armee

Arc de Triomphe - France

The construction of the  Arc de Triomphe was ordered in 1806 by the French Emperor Napoleon. It was built to honour the French army, then known as the Grande Armee, who had conquered much of Europe and were considered invincible. The names of 128 battles are inscribed on the white walls of the Arc, along with the Generals who took part in them. 

Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, accompanied by an eternal flame, which burns in memory of all soldiers who have never been identified. 


When the Tsar broke the continental system agreement and by extension the treaty signed on the Nieman river, Napoleon sprung into action marching his Grand Armee to the gates of Moscow after a string of humiliating Russian defeats, he did not invade Russia in winter, ”Napoleon knew about the Russian winter, he had read the accounts of Charles the Twelfth, - he had fought in blizzards before - he had no intention go to Moscow, he wanted to fight a twenty days war along the border of Russia” (Roberts, Intelligence Squared), he was not short sighted he knew the winter was his enemy and launched his counter invasion in the spring right after winter. When arrived at Moscow in winter after a string of Russian defeats, rather than the customary surrender and transfer of control of the city to the invaders once the gate was reached. The Russians had determined that they should fall back and move their armies behind the Ural mountains, furthermore  the Russian high command expected the French to take refuge in their fallen and abandoned city, accordingly they took an unprecedented action. It is disputed if the Russian command sent suicide squads to set ablaze much of Moscow or if the the fires were started by Russian patriots, in the hopes of destroying not only the shelter for Napoleon’s Grand Armee, but also much of the Grand Armee itself. All in all about two thirds of Moscow burned to the ground, and Napoleon was forced to withdraw. (“Napoleon Enters Moscow.” As Napoleon and his forces limped back to France, to try to defend his Empire from the forces arrayed against him, during a full retreat his army was ruthlessly hounded and attacked oftentimes without any ability to form a defence by Russian cavalry and Cossack Rangers. Napoleon lost no battle against men, but against nature and an unprecedented sucker punch, which paved the way for European powers to damage cities, as assets in war rather than centers to be protected. Willful destruction of civilian property gradually became more and more permissible in the eyes of western world generals after this point.

When finally Napoleon’s battered armies reached his own borders, he was utterly broken, the Rhineland was in disarray, the Prussians, Austrians and Russians marched on Paris, France had been at war for over a decade and was long tired, and Napoleon lost the war, out of the many wars and seven coalitions of nations that marched on him, Napoleon had lost this one, but the thing is many individuals that we revere lost wars and battles. Peter the Great, Frederick the Great, Catherine the Great lost the war against Sweden, George Washington lost more battles than he won but we still view these people as great. (Roberts, Intelligence Squared) Napoleon after his defeat was allowed to retain his title, a one thousand man guard and he was imprisoned and made lord of the Isle of Elba by his captors.

                                                    Jean Rapp

                                                French General

                                   (April 27, 1771 – April 27, 2016)

                                          Happy 245th Birthday!

Soliders! you are naked and starving: the Government owes you much and can give you nothing. Among these rocks, your patience, your courage, are admirable; but not one ray of glory can shine down on you. I will lead you into the most fertile plain of the earth. Wealthy cities, great provinces, will be in your power; and there await you honour, glory, and riches. Soliders of Italy, will your courage, will your constancy fail?– Napoleon Bonaparte, Nice, March 27th, 1796

                                      Louis Alexandre Berthier

                                      First Prince de Wagram

                                       First Duc de Valangin

                             First Sovereign Prince of Neuchâtel

                                            Marshal of France

                                         Constable of France

                                     Chief of Staff to Napoleon

                         (February 20, 1753 – February 20, 2015)

                                      Happy 262nd birthday!


The Hundred Days, Part I —The Emperor of Elba Island

On this day in history, March 1st, 1815 — Napoleon returns from Elba

By March of 1814, it was clear that Napoleon Bonaparte and his empire was facing certain defeat. The Grande Armee had been decimated in the disastrous Russian Campaign and had been badly mauled at Leipzig. Now the situation was certainly grim as Russian, Austrian, and Prussian armies of the Sixth Coalition invaded France from the east while British forces likewise invaded from Spain. There were shortages of everything; guns, gunpowder, uniforms, food, and manpower, Napoleon was even forced to fill in the gaps with old men and children. The French economy teetered on a knife edge. Despite brilliant tactics on Napoleon’s part, nothing could stem the tide of the invasion. On the 30th of March, Coalition troops stormed and occupied Paris. On April 11th, Napoleon abdicated, convinced by his marshals that the situation was hopeless. The Bourbon Monarchy was re-installed in the form of King Louis XVIII. Napoleon, determined never to be captured, attempted suicide with a poisonous pill he wore around his neck, but the poison was old and spoiled, only making him sick rather than killing him.

After resigning his powers as Emperor of France and all of his titles, it was   decided by the Coalition that he would be exiled to Elba, a small island off the coast of Italy populated by 12,000 people. He was given the title “Emperor of Elba”, allowed a personal guard of 1,000 soldiers, given a grand palace to live in, and given the power to rule over the island and its inhabitants as he saw fit. However he was not permitted to leave the island ever. Napoleon was fortunate, he easily could have been lined against a wall and shot.

Life at Elba was good for Napoleon.  Elba was an still is a Mediterranean paradise which attracts thousands of tourists annually.  Napoleon was given a fine villa to live in, not a luxurious as his former Fountainbleu, but certainly comfortable.  He also had access to fine food, wines and liqueurs, and the best entertainment Europe had to offer.  As Emperor of Elba, Napoleon also instituted the same reforms which he had done in France.  He instituted modern agricultural methods, developed iron mines, built roads, developed a modern sewage system, and built a small navy.  As Emperor of Elba, he was also often called upon to act as a judge in disputes between his subjects. While Napoleon lived the life of a European ruler, he was separated from his family and his life as pretend emperor of a small island was not enough for a man who once ruled most of Europe.  There was news of political instability as the people of France despised the new Bourbon King.  There were also rumors that Napoleon was to be further exiled to a remote island in the Atlantic.

On February 26th, 1815, having spent only 300 days on the island Napoleon left Elba on the ship Swiftsure with 600 troops.  On March 1st they landed on the southeastern coast of France.  Napoleon and his small band disembarked, marching north towards Paris.  Although he only had an army of 600, Napoleon hope that the loyalty of his people would restore to him the empire which he once ruled.

To Be Continued…

                                                 Battle of Eylau

                                             February 7-8, 1807

                                           209 years ago today….

                                          Dominique Jean Larrey

                     French Surgeon and Physician to the Grand Army

                                     (July 8, 1766 – July 25, 1842)