On the march with the French


1812 Invasion of Russia
French Command Structure
Russian Command Structure

On the Road with the Grande Armee
Map of the first stages of the Great Retreat

Map of the last stages of the Great Retreat
Jean-Roch Coignet's Description of the Retreat
Coignet's Brush With Cossacks

The French troops that set out on the campaign were seasoned, confident men, while the Allies varied in both quality and morale.

They were men from Poland, Saxony, Italy, Bavaria, Hesse, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Westphalia, Wurtemberg, Baden, Switzerland, Croatia, Berg, Naples and Mecklenberg. There were even Austrians and Prussians among them.

Each had to carry:

4.5kg musket 1 pair thick linen trousers
1 brush bag 1 bandage and lint
2-3 pairs of shoes Spare hobnails, soles
5kg flour or rice 30 cartridges (1kg)
1 kg dried-bread biscuits 1 pair thick linen gaiters
2 shirts  

The march began on 19 October in heat and dust and very quickly the pace - an average of 40 kilometres a day (25 miles) - together with the load they were forced to carry, along with a lack of good water, had men falling out sick and exhausted. Within two days, some 50,000 troops had melted from the Grande Armee.

The French timetable for rests:

Five minutes in the hour
30 minutes after 30 kilometres
24 hours every five days

By the time the Grande Armee reached Moscow, desertion, sickness, leaving garrisons and battles had whittled its numbers to 100,000 men.

The return march saw it disintegrate from one of the most magnificent modern armies put together to a rabble that virtually fell across the River Niemen on 14 December, 1812.


Napoleon Bonaparte
Career Portraits
Quotes Family
Loves Letters
Plots Murdered?
His will Places
Era of Napoleon
Powers Opponents
Coalitions Allies
People Timelines
Key sites Shrapnel
Campaigns Battles
Armies Generals
Marshals Winners
Glossary Medical
Weapons 1812 War
Uniforms Battlefields
War at Sea
Naval War Heroes
Artworks Signals
Nelson Trafalgar
Key Maps Peninsula
Animated 1796/1800
1809 Russia
French Revolution
Revolution Guillotine
Posters People
Art, Film, Games
Education Goya
Sharpe Hornblower
Books Movies
DVDs Music
Wargames Images
Cartoons Caricatures
About Us Sources
Awards Sitemap
Links Militaria
Miniatures Reenactors
Forum Quizzes
Home Waterloo Diorama
Copyright Richard Moore 1999-2017 | Privacy Policy | Contact Us