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Crisis In The Snows: Russia Confronts Napoleon
The Eylau Campaign 1806-1807
By James R. Arnold & Ralph R. Reinertsen
Undaunted, the young Tsar Alexander sent his armies westward to confront the French. The ensuing collisions took place in Poland, one of Europe’s poorest, most barren regions. Terrain, weather, and luck played critical roles. Then came a seemingly implausible reversal of fortune when an inexperienced Russian army, riven by command dissension, inflicted a pair of severe checks at Pultusk and Golymin. Napoleon’s opponents rejoiced to see the ‘Corsican Ogre’ falter as he retired to winter quarters to lick his wounds. The Russian armies were not done. Flush with his success at Pultusk, Russian General Leontii Bennigsen assumed overall command of the tsar’s forces and launched a surprise offensive. It compelled Napoleon to abandon winter quarters and begin a grueling campaign. Napoleon's brilliantly conceived strategic envelopment miscarried. A five-day all-out pursuit finally brought the Russians to bay on the snow covered ground of Eylau. Here over 140,000 French and Russian soldiers fought a terrible battle. They displayed surpassing courage and moments of inspired leadership, and committed costly blunders as victory trembled in the balance. The battle inflicted nearly 60,000 casualties, leaving thousands of dead and wounded littering the exposed slopes as frozen darkness descended. Then and thereafter, both sides claimed victory, but what was absolutely clear was that for the first time in his career Napoleon had met a foe capable of resisting his sweeping strategic thrusts and tactical flourishes.
Using primary sources gleaned from libraries and archives in Europe and the United States, Crisis in the Snows removes the shroud of Napoleon's propaganda to portray the demoralizing reality of the winter campaign in Poland. Napoleon's Grande Armée is revealed not as a smoothly oiled machine but rather a war-weary force whose soldiers doubted that France's security required a march into Poland. Yet, when summoned to battle by a man who possessed a unique capacity to inspire French self-sacrifice, Napoleon's soldiers repeatedly displayed prodigies of valor.
Previous accounts have relied upon German historians whose goal was to rewrite the history of Prussia's inglorious 1806 collapse, Bennigsen’s self-admiring memoirs, or British propagandists. Russia’s warriors have passed into history as walking muskets; stupid, inflexible, but brave and led by inept officers. Crisis in the Snows gives voice to the Russian experience during a pivotal campaign and portrays a very different reality.
Well illustrated with portraits, drawings, paintings and maps, and supplemented with detailed appendices on the strengths and composition of the rival forces, Crisis in the Snows provides a novel interpretation of the 1806-1807 campaign that foreshadows the well-known disaster of 1812.
$60.00 plus postage
470 pages including 37 maps, 53 illustrations and 8 appendices
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