The Battle of the Berezina, Napoleon's Great Escape, Alexander Mikaberidze

The Battle of the Berezina, Napoleon's Great Escape, Alexander Mikaberidze

The battle of the Berezina saw the last organised fighting during Napoleon's retreat from Russia in 1812. Strictly speaking it was a French victory, in that Napoleon, his Marshals, many of his officers and the Imperial Guard were able to escape across the river despite being there being one Russian army defending its banks and two chasing close behind the retreating Grand Army.

The sub-title is accurate if somewhat misleading - although Napoleon and his Marshals escaped across the Berezina, a large part of the army was destroyed - perhaps as much as two thirds of the combatants in the Grand Army were killed or captured during the fighting, along with an unknown number of non-combatants. Even once across the river the Grand Army continued to suffer, and by the time the survivors reached Vilna it had almost disappeared.

Mikaberidze had produced a well balanced account of this controversial campaign, paying a great deal of attention to the role of the three Russian army commanders, the arguments and rivalry between them and the role that played in Napoleon's great escape. He also draws attention to the bravery of the bridge builders in the Grand Army, most of whom perished in the icy waters of the Berezina. He also draws our attention to the multi-national nature of the Grand Army, and the dominant role playing in the fighting on the Berezina by non-French troops, drawn from most European nations.

This is a very readable account of an important and often neglected battle - if the Russian commanders had successfully coordinated their efforts and captured Napoleon then the Napoleonic Wars would have been cut short by three years, and some of the largest and most costly battles need not have been fought.


From the Nieman to Moscow
Departure from Moscow
Turning Point: The Battle of Maloyaroslavets
From Maloyaroslavets to Smolensk
The Battle of Vyazma
The Battle of Krasnyi
Ensnaring the Eagle: The St Petersburg Plan
Russian Leadership

Campaign Chronicle
11 October-17 November: Minsk
18-22 November: Struggle for Borisov
23 November: Combat at Loshnitsa
24-26 November: Chichagov and Oudinot's Feint
Northern Front: Campaign Sumary
 Combat at Smolyany
 The Watching Game
 From Chereya to Loshnitsa
Central Front: From Krasnyi to Orsha
 From Orsha to Bobr
 But Where if Kutuzov?
26 November: The Crosing, Day 1
 The Battle of Brili
 Wittgenstein's Misjudgment
27 November: The Crossing, Day 2
 The Battle of Stary Borisov: Wittgenstein Arrives and Partouneux Surrenders
28 November: The Crossing, Day 3
 Russian Plans for Attack
 Operations on the Western Bank: Battle of Stakhov-Brili
 Operations on the Eastern Bank: The Battle of Studyanka
 Burning the Bridges
Aftermath: The End of the Campaign, 30 November-31 December 1812

Author: Alexander Mikaberidze
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 284
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2010

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