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The War Napoleon Cannot Afford to Win

"It is possible, and even probable, that Napoleon will defeat us, but that will not bring him peace... We shall leave it to our climate, to our winter, to wage our war." -- Czar Alexander the First.

After the humiliating defeat of Russia by Napoleon's forces a few years ago, Russia has nearly gone bankrupt. Napoleon has imposed an embargo on all British products but this policy has hurt Russia more than it has hurt the UK. Thus, Czar Alexander the 1st has authorized his customs agents to identify British goods as Made in America. This has infuriated Napoleon so he amasses the largest army in history (to this point). Over 600,000 soldiers will march into Russia. Less than 120,000 will march out. If every soldier had tried to shoot the man standing next to him, more men would have survived. The Russians used the same tactics as George Washington did, avoiding a decisive battle, leading the opposing army on a merry chase, and draining their resources. The tactic works, but the Russian nobility is upset that their lands are being trashed, so the Czar replaces the younger general with an older, more experienced general... who continues the same tactic until General Winter arrives. ("General Winter" is an old Russian joke, but it applies to Napoleon and it will apply to Hitler during World War 2.) 70 miles outside of Moscow, Napoleon finally catches the Russian Army. It is a slaughter. 70,000 troops are killed, wounded or captured in a single day. It is like the dog chasing the bear. When the dog finally catches him, watch out. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
For a comparison, 70,000 in a day verses 83,000 in 4 months at the Battle of Anzio during World War 2. Napoleon knew about Russian winters, so he set out in the middle of summer. His troops carried only summer clothing. If he had stayed with his original plan he would have hunkered down for the winter in prepared quarters, but the Russian army always seemed within reach. His army was strung out and it was during Napoleon's retreat that the winter weather started killing his troops and maiming his horses. 200,000 horses were lost. FYI, when a horse slips and falls on ice, most times you end up shooting the horse. If the horse was pulling a wagon, you lose the wagon. If the horse was pulling a cannon, say bye-bye to the cannon. Napoleon's horses needed a special traction device on the shoes called calkin or calks, but the French didn't know how to make them. The Russians knew but they weren't telling. [4]

Mr. Madison's War

Great Britain is at war with Napoleon and they need experienced sailors to man their warships. Over 12,000 sailors from vessels flying the American flag are impressed into the British Navy. "Impressed" is a nice way of saying "Shanghaied". Most of these impressed sailors are American citizens. The American government has officially complained and so far, Britain has flipped America the bird. In May of last year, the American frigate USS President opened fire on HMS Little Belt which was followed in November by the Battle of Tippecanoe. The aftermath revealed that the British are equipping Indians for war. (Really?) And then President James Madison uncovers a secret plot by the British government to encourage New England (mostly Federalists) to secede from the Union! (FYI, this is a mistake. Britain couldn't care less.) Meanwhile Congress has authorized increases in militia enlistments up to 80,000. To ease the tension, the British Parliament concedes that it must make concessions to America if for no other reason than to free itself up to concentrate on its war with Napoleon (the real threat). Due to the slowness of communication, the American Congress starts debating a declaration of war at the same time. Madison submits his war message to Congress, and on June 17th, 1812, the Senate votes 19 to 13 for war, but their hearts are not in it. [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
If they had better communication this wouldn't have happened. The telegraph is going to stop a few wars once an overseas line is laid. The vote in the Senate was much closer than it appears. When a few Senators realized that the vote would pass no matter what they did, they switched their vote in support of the war. A similar thing happened before Gulf War 2 (as I recall). President Bush the Younger asked the Senate for a vote in support of the war and it passed. Then some Senators asked for a re-vote so that they could change their vote. That motion was granted, so that Senator Hillary Clinton could get on the record voting for the Iraq War.... and against it. She knew she could finesse it later on. When Senator John F. Kerry ran for President he was ridiculed for saying that he voted for $87 billion dollars of war funding before he voted against it. It was funny how he said it, but don't be too hard on Senator Kerry. All politicians do this. It is called LYING, and it is not exclusively a Democrat trait. [7] [8]

In Other News

  • Louisiana becomes the 18th state. Not all of it. They will add a few pieces here and there along the way. [9]
  • Grimm's Fairy Tales is published. [10] [11]
  • The Felling mine explosion prompts the invention of the mining lamp. Currently they are using candles and a device that throws off sparks. (Do I have to say it?) [12]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1812, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Age of Napoleon: A History of European Civilization from 1789 to 1815, The, The Story Of Civilization. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 067121988X. “He (Alexander) knew that British goods— or goods from British colonies— were being admitted into Russia under papers forged by Russian traders or officials, certifying that the material was American and therefore admissible; Alexander allowed it; and part of it passed through Russia into Prussia and other countries.” 
  2. Battle of Anzio - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 21 June 2016. “Both sides had realised that no decisive result could be achieved until the spring and reverted to a defensive posture involving aggressive patrolling and artillery duels whilst they worked to rebuild their fighting capabilities. In anticipation of the following spring, Kesselring ordered the preparation of a new defence line, the Caesar C line, behind the line of beachhead running from the mouth of the river Tiber just south of Rome through Albano, skirting south of the Alban Hills to Valmontone and across Italy to the Adriatic coast at Pescara, behind which 14th Army and, to their left, 10th Army might withdraw when the need arose.”
  3. French invasion of Russia - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 21 June 2016. “The Battle of Borodino (Russian: Бородинская битва, Borodinskaya bitva; French: Bataille de la Moskowa), fought on September 7, 1812, was the largest and bloodiest battle of the French invasion of Russia, involving more than 250,000 troops and resulting in at least 70,000 casualties. The French Grande Armée under Emperor Napoleon I attacked the Imperial Russian Army of General Mikhail Kutuzov near the village of Borodino, west of the town of Mozhaysk and eventually captured the main positions on the battlefield but failed to destroy the Russian army. About a third of Napoleon's soldiers were killed or wounded; Russian losses, while heavier, could be replaced due to Russia's large population, since Napoleon's campaign took place on Russian soil.”
  4. Caulkin - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 21 June 2016. “A caulkin (or caulk; US spelling 'calkin' or 'calk') from the Latin calx (the heel) is a blunt projection on a horseshoe that is often forged, welded or brazed onto the shoe. The term may also refer to traction devices screwed into the bottom of a horseshoe, also commonly called shoe studs or screw-in calks. These are usually a blunt spiked cleat, usually placed at the sides of the shoe.”
  5. Borneman, Walter R.. 1812: The War That Forged a Nation. Harper Perennial. ISBN 9780060531133. “As so often happens in politics, it was a crazy little affair that quickly took on a life of its own. At the center of it was an Irishman named John Henry. Born in 1777, Henry immigrated to the United States in 1798, and then made his way to Montreal to dabble in the fur trade. In 1808 he made a business trip to New England, and upon his return to Canada took it upon himself to send a report to the British government on the state of affairs that he had found there. The following year Sir James Craig, governor-general of Canada, was apparently impressed enough to commission Henry to make another trip to New England and secure additional information, particularly about Federalist opposition to any coming war.” 
  6. Impressment - definition of impressment (2016). Retrieved on 21 June 2016. “The act or policy of seizing persons and compelling them to serve in the military, especially in naval forces.”
  7. Kerry's Top Ten Flip-Flops. CBS News (September 29, 2004). Retrieved on 21 June 2016. “Then, in October 2003, a year after voting to support the use of force in Iraq, Kerry voted against an $87 billion supplemental funding bill for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He did support an alternative bill that funded the $87 billion by cutting some of President Bush's tax cuts.”
  8. Kerry's #1 Flip Flop. YouTube (2016). Retrieved on 21 June 2016. “'I Actually Did Vote for the $87 Billion, Before I voted Against It'”
  9. Louisiana - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 21 June 2016. “Louisiana became the eighteenth U.S. state on April 30, 1812; since the Territory of Orleans became the State of Louisiana, the District of Louisiana was simultaneously renamed the Missouri Territory.[55] Additional land, known as the Florida Parishes, was soon annexed into the state of Louisiana on April 14, 1812.”
  10. Grimms' Fairy Tales - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  11. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 380-381. 
  12. Felling mine disasters - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 16 June 2016. “At 11:30 on Monday, 25 May 1812 the first explosion occurred. For half a mile around the earth shook and the noise was heard up to four miles away.[5] Large clouds of dust and small coals were thrown up from both William Pit and John Pit. As well as the small particles, the coal baskets and pieces of wood were blown out of the pits and landed nearby. The dust fell like a shower for up to a mile and a half downwind.”

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