Andreas W. Stupka


With this appeal Napoleon started the biggest massing of troops the world had seen up to that point in time. The French emperor had marched up against Russia with a gigantic army and had invaded the country. Like an all-devouring dragon this host advanced against Moscow. Rather late the Russians went into battle. With its roughly 80.000 dead and injured, Borodino had been the battle with the heaviest losses of all the Napolean era, and at first sight it had not been very successful. Moscow was conquered. Somehow Napoleon had won the battle, but it represented a turning point for the ambitious operation of crushing Russia. The campaign became a disaster, making the invincible lion Napoleon a nearly toothless tiger. After this Russian adventure with all its losses the whole empire, which he had built up within few years, collapsed. The Battle of Nations of Leipzig finally became the capstone of French supremacy in Europe. Strategic goals which had been too high-flown, false military-strategic assessments, surprises in operation control, tactical peculiarities, and underrated logistics are in their combination nothing unique, but can occur like that time and again in different ways. So, even in the course of unsuccessful campaigns of today some of these parameters might have coincided in a similar way. Thus, it is fundamentally important for the military-scientific context to analyse campaigns and derive knowledge, in order to be able to optimize future military missions not only materially, but above all concerning the art of command and control. This is especially true of modern peace missions, which - as a rule - represent actions of attack or invasions: be it establishment of peace in a country by defeating the enemy, or separation of parties by force, or stabilizing vast regions - reflecting on Napoleon’s campaign of 1812 is always appropriate. Napoleon should not have started the campaign without the necessary supply guarantees. He should have reckoned on the Russians getting out of the way until a possible decisive battle right in front of Moscow. The concept of guerrilla warfare as well as the cooperation of regular and irregular armed forces finalized the Russians’ victory in a special way. The deciding factor for this success, however, was the military-strategic decision for flexible defence, aiming at wearing out the enemy, combined with taking advantage of space and weather. In the course of this campaign Napoleon’s genius failed to a great extent, because his way of thinking was adjusted to a strategy of annihilation, which had come up to him as the more advantageous solution in the course of all his previous campaigns because of the narrowness of space in Europe.