August 1, 2007 cameron

#25 – The Invasion Of Russia (Part II)

In this episode, David talks us through The Battle of Borodino, which took place on September 7, 1812, and was the largest and bloodiest single-day battle of the Napoleonic Wars, involving more than a quarter of a million soldiers and resulting in at least 70,000 casualties. Next stop – MOSCOW.

The Battle of Borodino

For further reading, I recommend:


Comments (18)

  1. Andrew

    Just picked up the podcast. I am in Quispamsis, NB, Canada. Its been a wonderful series. It reminds me of those fabulous discussions I have on occasion with people who are exceptionally passionate about whatever it may be that intersests them. At times, I find myself wanting to jump into the dialogue, then remembering the guy in the car next to me is probably not listening to what I am enjoying.


  2. On this podcast I mentioned the first conference of the Napoleonic Historical Society. That conference promises to be an outstanding experience where participants can listen to recognized experts give presentations, pick up some nice goodies at the bourse and, most of all, socialize with people who share their passion for Napoleonic history.

    The conference will be at the Union League Club in Chicago, Illinois, 12-14 October 2007. Registration is $375 which includes dinner on Friday, lunch and dinner on Saturday, and Sunday brunch. For further information, contact our treasurer, Barbara Chambers, at [email protected]. You can also contact me through my website,


  3. Thanks guys.

    Another great podcast – and for me personally very timely as I have just watched the DVD of War and Peace which contains an amazing reconstruction of the battle of Borodino.

    I can’t wait for the next one.

  4. Joshua Parker

    There’s nothing on the last 20 minutes of the podcast, its very upsetting to see a podcast 1 hour and 20 minutes long when its really only 60 minutes long, that’s how good you guys are *cries and wipes weepy eyes*

    I think even if Napoleon hadn’t been poisoned at the time of Borodino he probably was feeling unwell. As a soldier and with the poor medicine of the time Napoleon was always troubled by ailments not necessarily huge life threatening ones but discomforting enough to probably put him off his game during a battle. Napoleon’s letters often talk about his health at different times. I know he had a recurring case of scabies that plagued him. I don’t think STI’s would have been beyond question given the amount of sexual partners Napoleon had and the lack of protection.

    Napoleon may not have had a great deal of respect for the Russian army but I don’t buy that his lack of activity was the result of hubris alone, I think Napoleon was wiser than that and he’d had more than enough experience by this point to know the Russian army were no push over, Eylau was a close thing and the whole Russian retreat had been conducted very orderly. Zamoyski mentions that Borodino could have been a more conclusive victory had Napoleon committed the Guarde but it was an unlucky stroke that before he could a small party of Cossacks attacked his back line which caused him to fear a Russian flank and thus he kept the Guarde where they were. Perhaps illness, combined with weariness and lack of motivation is what crippled his spirit. In the 1813 he was far more motivated to protect France and fought well once again. 1812 was not a campaign Napoleon wanted just something he felt he had to do to maintain the empire. Napoleon did well at Quatre Bras as well but again Waterloo was a struggle, though in that case there seems to be clearer evidence that Napoleon was suffering from ill health. The facts can be tough to determine but I really felt Gallo’s books gave a clear picture of how Napoleon must have felt during these battles. It must have been terribly depressing to have to fight these same enemies over and over again in such a short time.

  5. Cameron Reilly

    Joshua, you must have downloaded the show pretty quickly after it went up, because I noticed the dead air and uploaded a new version pretty fast. Sorry about that sir! Good comments about Borodino.

  6. Thanks, Colin, as always, for your kind support. Ditto to Josh as well. Its hard to say exactly why Napoleon didn’t send in the Guard, but I don’t think Napoleon’s health was an issue on that decision. He consulted his staff and they recommended that he not send in his only reserves. Remember, he was a very l-o-n-g way from home. A younger Napoleon might have gone for broke and, had he done so, he would likely have had a major victory. Then the question would be whether or not Tsar Alexander would sue for peace. To be honest, I rather doubt it. He had lots more soldiers and plenty of land in which to retreat. Even with a major victory, Napoleon would be deep into hostile territory with a relatively small, very tired, army. He could not just keep on going.

    On the other hand, a major victory that scattered the Russian army might have made it easier to winter in Moscow, as there would be less fear of Russian counter-attacks. If such a defeat for the Russians somehow led to their not burning Moscow, then wintering in Moscow would have been a very real option. In the spring, a rested and reinforced Grande Armée might do some serious damage.

    Of course, there is still the problem of being away from Paris all that long, and keeping tabs on events in Vienna and Berlin, but if he could keep his allies loyal, all might have worked out very differently.

    Keep in mind some of my earlier comments on this campaign, namely some of Napoleon’s earlier mistakes (mostly taking too long or not following through with successful encounters). We’ll see some more similar errors in and after Moscow. Literally, had Napoleon not made any one of these mistakes the entire campaign might have turned out far better.



  7. Joshua Parker

    Well Cameron RSS may be God’s gift to mankind 🙂

    So much more useful than sliced bread.

  8. I can confirm the speed with which Cameron corrected the dead space. My son told me there was a new podcast out (yes, you have a whole family following here) but warned me about the dead space. By the time I had downloaded it it had been fixed. It can’t have been much more than three hours later.

  9. Wes

    I would just like to say that the Napoleon Podcast is the best history podcast I have fould so far. I live in Montana and am a farmer and it gets pretty boring just driving around the field so I bought an Ipod and started to listen to Podcasts. I fould the Napoleon Podcast about three weeks ago, downloaded them all, and listened to them in a week. My boredom and yet to return. You guys are awsome. The only problem so far is that the time between episodes is too long, lol. I hope this is the first of many history podcasts David and Cameron do. I am anxious to here the Julius Ceaser and Alexander ther Great Podcasts. Maybe even something on the American Revolution or our founding fathers. I would love to here Cameron’s take on that topic. We all know how this story ends, but as I listen I keep hoping that somehow Napoleon will Kick Ass and just win. Keep up the Great Work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Cameron

    Thanks for all of the positive comments folks! Help us out by going into iTunes and voting for the show and leave a comment about how much you enjoy it. The link to iTunes voting is in the post above!

  11. The anticipation of waiting for the next episode is almost unbearable. Apart from Trafalgar, Bonaparte has been either triumphant or not to badly discomforted in all the podcasts so far.

    It has been a fascinating story, but it is about to get really interesting. How is the guy that David and Cameron have got us to know so well going to cope with the complete collase of all that he has built up? Nothing in fiction remotely compares to the drama ahead.

  12. Wes

    Its going to make for some interesting stories in the next few episodes. I love the way David and Cameron dig a little deeper and find the small stories that we would probably never hear about otherwise. I particularly enjoyed the one about the dog going to bed with Napoleon and Josephine on their wedding night. Those are the stories that really give you some insight into the true nature of the person. David and Cameron have intruduced us to this dashing young man that nothing can really stop. They have brought us to the pinicle of Napoleons life and now the only place to go is down. I just hope that the decent is as interesting. I don’t know how anyone could cope with the total collapse of everything that he’s built, but you have to give Napoleon credit for comming back from Elba and trying again, so must have been able to cope somewhat to successfull, for a time, kickstart a comeback. Just hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next installment, but I also like the suspense.

  13. Donald D

    Cameron and David,

    Bonjour from Montreal, (Quebec) in French Canada , the home province of Ben Weider and where our system of civil Law is governed by ‘Le Code Civil’, which is derived from Napoleonic France.

    I must sayt that I really enjoy listening to your podcast as I commute to an from work and during my lunchtime power walks. It’s been two week now and I am at podcast 19. Keep em coming.

    Your North American listeners may be interested to know that there is an excellent travelling exhibition of Napoleonic artefacts produced by Russel Etling. I beleive it is now showing at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

    As I have recently taken an interest in visiting Europe, I particularly appreciate David’s personal anectdotes of historical sites and places to visit that are linked to Napoelonic history.

    Interesting show. Bravo!


  14. Joe PineHill

    David/Cameron, just a general comment, the Podcast is fantastic. History has always been a hobby of mine. I was teen ager during the Golden Years of Wargaming, and War in Peace by Avalon Hill was a favorite of our group.

    Your Napoleon 101 has renewed my interest in the era, I picked up a copy of David’s book of Imperial Bullitens. Your podcast alone is worth the price of admission of my Ipod

  15. Joe PineHill

    David/Cameron, just a general comment, the Podcast is fantastic. History has always been a hobby of mine. I was teen ager during the Golden Years of Wargaming, and War in Peace by Avalon Hill was a favorite of our group.

    Your Napoleon 101 has renewed my interest in the era, I picked up a copy of David’s book Imperial Glory. Your podcast alone is worth the price of admission of my Ipod

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