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Current time:0:00Total duration:16:39

Video transcript

in the last video I talked about the two campaigns that eventually lead to Napoleon's downfall one of those was the Peninsular campaign Peninsular campaign where Napoleon and the French Empire had to waste a significant amount of resources fighting and trying to hold Spain and the other almost more direct catalyst for the fall of Napoleon was his invasion invasion of Russia and we're going to see in this video why it was so disastrous for Napoleon this is easily one of the top five I would say famous military campaigns in all of history so let's let's remind ourselves the relationship between Napoleon and or between the French Empire and Russia after the fourth coalition so end of you might remember the Treaty of Tilsit at the end of the fourth coalition Treaty of Tilsit they're friends Russia was part of the Continental System which means that they would boycott or that they would not trade with Britain or allow Britain to use any of Russia's ports and Russia was allowed to do anything that they want with the Ottoman Empire so everything was good but then we move forward to 1811 where in 1811 and Russia starts relaxing the Continental System Russia relaxes Continental system essentially meaning that they started to trade a little bit with Britain so this are all of a sudden does this begins to annoy if it angers Napoleon in order for an embargo in order for an embargo to work in order for the Continental system work everyone on the continent has to not trade with Britain because if someone trades with Britain Britain could just trade with them and then that trade could circulate through the rest of Europe so in order for this to work has to be total so this already annoys Napoleon especially because he defeated the Russians in in in in the fourth coalition and the Treaty of Tilsit he thought he was being nice to them look just just just don't do any trade with Great Britain we're going to be good buddies but then what really got Napoleon this 1812 he hears that no that Russia is thinking about taking taking the French empires part of Poland or the Duchy of Warsaw so Russia thinking about about taking about taking Poland so Napoleon figures gee were no longer friends I better attack them preemptively so against against the advice of a lot of people about actually invading Russia Napoleon decides to invade so this directly leads to Napoleon Napoleon in fading and his other option obviously would have been just to defend Poland from Russia but Napoleon you know he he just says no look if they're gonna if they're gonna double-cross me like that I'm just going to go full tilt and show them who's boss so he decides to invade in April of 1812 April of 1812 and Napoleon's no dummy he realizes that the Russian winter is really vicious so he says so look if I start in the late spring like this and I engage the Russians and I decisively defeat them all everything will be said and done and I'll be Emperor of Russia as well before before Russia even begins to get cold so what I'm going to do here to just understand how devastating this campaign ends up being to Napoleon I'm going to use one of the most famous charts in the history of charts some people consider this to be the best most well-designed chart ever and this was this was created by Charles let me use another color I keep using this this was created by Charles Joseph Menard Charles Joseph Menard you can actually get a bigger version of this on Wikipedia but that was too big for my screen so this is a smaller version but it's a fascinating chart so what it shows is the size of Nepal in army as it invades Russia and the size of the army is shown by the width of this brown line right here so when he starts invading Russia he has 450,000 men 450,000 men if you could read this number that's what it says and you can find zoom versions on the web if you just do a search on this and on the invasion of Russia you'll find this chart it's very very famous I more than even teaching you the history this is also just a neat chart to look at it it's something you should be exposed to at some point but as you can see and just so you have some scope of what's going on not only does it show you the size of his forces it shows the path that it travels and you can already see that as the as the forces are traveling the number of soldiers in the force is getting smaller and smaller and he keeps updating the numbers so obviously that width is smaller than that width but it looks like it's you know it's less than half the forces at this point then at this point and just to understand where this is going on here is a map of Eastern a map of Eastern Europe and Charles Joseph Menards map starts right around here in Lithuania so this is where the Napoleon forces were strongest we're headed 450,000 and it kind of goes like this this is Moscow right here so this is this is kind of the endpoint and if I were to trace if I were to trace this shape onto here it would look something like this it would look I'm just trying to show the path roughly roughly like this and then you get to Moscow so that line is the same thing as that line just so you have some context within the broader geography of Europe so it's starting off in what's roughly the north the the north will almost exactly the north eastern border of present-day Poland or you could say the southwestern border of what's now Lithuania cross this through what is now Belarus and then goes on into Russia now as you can see here I already pointed out that as he's traveling as he's travel as the forces are traveling these 450,000 men horses and and and armaments and cannons and everything else is getting thinner and thinner and what is it's just basic military logistics you have to keep your supply routes open you have to keep leaving men behind you have to keep leaving men behind to essentially guard the supply routes so just as the longer your your campaign the further into enemy territory you have you have to keep leaving men behind to guard it and this whole time Napoleon kept wanting to engage with the Russians the whole time that he was the whole time that he was traveling he kept expecting to engage the Russians but just as he was about to engage the Russians the Russians would back up a little bit and this kept tapping him there were small skirmishes so obviously he lost some troops here there but most of this was just to maintain the supply line eventually he is able to have a I guess we could say a a skirmish or a brief I don't want to say a skirmish it was actually maybe a brief battle with the Russians in August in small tanks and that is let me make sure I get it right on the map that is right there but once again Napoleon was victorious but the Russians retreated it wasn't a decisive victory over the Russian army eventually he just keeps chasing them keeps chasing them until we get to September 7th 1812 so we are in September of 1812 and now you can imagine that you know we're kind of in the fall now and it gets cold quickly out here in in Russia so already it's getting to be a kind of precarious position but Napoleon is confident he's like you know what if I can decisively defeat the Russians I can take Moscow Moscow will have food in it and all will be send on and that's actually brings up another point that brings up another point you might remember when I talked about the War of the third coalition that Napoleon and it's in general good military tactics to invade during the fall because the fall is the harvest season that way you don't have to have as many supplies carried with you you don't have to guard the supply routes as carefully because you can just go and take all of the all of the farmers crops to feed your troops but what the Russians did is what they call scorched earth tactics scorched scorched earth tactics which essentially means exactly what it sounds like as the Russians kept retreating back as they kept retreating back they burned everything that could be of benefit to Napoleon's troops so they burned all the fields they burned all the fields as they retreated so the Napoleon's troops couldn't access the local resources so they had to keep having a very I guess you could say a costly supply chain from where they started as opposed to just feeding off of the land and then the Russians just continued to do this on and on and on all the way to Moscow all the way to September 1812 where we have the Battle of Borodino if I'm saying it correctly so we have September of 88 een the Battle of Borodino and at this point Napoleon only had 135,000 only had 135 thousand of his originally for hunt of his original 450,000 men the rest had to be left behind to guard the supply route or they deserted because they were getting starting to get hungry or they were lost just with minor skirmishes that happened along the entire way and at the Battle of Borodino the after a long protracted super bloody battle super bloody battle in which let me write these numbers down 44 these are all estimates 44,000 Russian Russian casualties mostly death but also wounded or captured and 35,000 thirty-five thousand French many historians think this is the most bloody day of battle up to this day in history the French are victorious so we have a French victory here French victory here so Napoleon's feeling good about himself Borodino Borodino is right outside of Moscow he's like you know what I'm just going to walk into Moscow they're going to hand the keys of the city over to me and then my troops are going to have a good time in Moscow being able to eat on all the food that must be there and I will now be emperor of Russia's well so about a week later he walks into Moscow and it's completely deserted so Moscow Moscow deserted all of the inhabitants of left and they've taken all the food with them and then on top of that Moscow starts burning so Moscow burns and burns and there's some debate as to why Moscow burned some historians believe it's because the Russians deliberately set fire to the city some believe that it was just a tinderbox waiting to burn and that the Napoleon's true and Napoleon's troops were just a little irresponsible with where they built fires it's not clear but needless to say it made Moscow useless to Napoleon and this is kind of a major change you know Napoleon just expected look if I beat your if I beat your army decisively like I did at Borodino I won I take the city now you should you know you should you should give me food and shelter and I am you Emperor but the Russians had something different in mind they said no you will never take Russia you can have Moscow you can have a burned Moscow there's nothing in it and we'll just like to see you retreat in the Moscow winter and by Napoleon's own accounts this is a quote this is a quote that he gave the most terrible of all my battles was the one before Moscow the French showed themselves to be worthy of victory right this is it Verdi no but the Russians showed themselves worthy of being invincible so with no one to recognize Napoleon or to help him out or to feed his troops he and he's kind of in a you know a worthless Moscow he decides to just to turn around especially because the Russian winter is approaching so this on this chart you could see they went all the way to Moscow they had 135,000 troops they lose thirty five thousand of them so you have a hundred thousand troops coming back this black line right here this represents the retreat and then things start getting cold so it's really interesting about this this chart that Minard made is it has a couple things you show the you see you should see the route that Napoleon's army took on as it as it went into Russia then in black this is it's retreat it gets thinner and thinner and thinner and you see where they went and on top of that he shows the temperature the temperature as they retreated and this is on something called a Ramirez scale but you can just multiply these numbers if you can see them by 1.25 so you can see that was already you know is not that bad but over here we're already below freezing we're well below freezing over here at the coldest point if if Menards numbers are right and I've seen some historians contest the numbers but it was cold nonetheless it's negative 37 degrees as we start approaching into November and December so Napoleon's forces as before they had this whole supply chain its core stirred so there's nothing to eat there were still had nothing to eat then it started getting cold and while it was cold and they were retreating some of the troops would desert they would be attacked by peasants they would be attacked by you know just a little bit a little bit they'd be attacked by various Russian forces and then there kind of the final blow was when they were trying to cross the Berezina River so this right here is the Berezina River very Xena River and you can even see from from the Norwich chart that the width was respectable but then after trying to cross that River it just got decimated by almost you know they almost half of the half of the soldiers died or disappeared and these are depictions these are paintings these are just paintings of the retreat of Napoleon's forces in the winter and this is actually a painting of of the crossing crossing of Berezina crossing of the Berezina River and by the time that the forces got back at the end of 1812 all the way over here by Menards map you only have ten thousand troops of the original 450 thousand so only one in forty-five returned the other were either captured deserted or or just died so when this happened you could imagine that what not only did Napoleon lose so many soldiers also lost on the order of two hundred thousand horses actually total casualties for this campaign the Napoleon's the estimates are about three hundred thousand French troops the estimates I saw had about two hundred thousand Russian troops and just to be clear portion of the French troops would died as they tried to retreat 200,000 Russian troops and then there's a huge amount of Russian of Russian civilian casualties and there are also soldiers from other countries participating on on well especially on the French side when all is said and done estimates are over over 1 million over 1 million dead from the French invasion but beyond even just the human casualties Napoleon lost on the order of 200,000 horses tens I forgot the exact number but thousands of cannons so you could imagine that it was just a huge huge loss to the French military so by the time this was done the rest of the powers of Europe could kind of finally see Napoleon being weakened he was already bogged down in the peninsula he had had this huge defeat as he tried to invade Russia they finally realized that he was you know now's the time that they can form maybe a sixth coalition and really take Napoleon out