History : Jun-Jul 2015
14 JUNE/JULY 2015 HECHO HISTÓRICO been heavy, the victory had opened up the road to Moscow, and the emperor had ev- ery reason to believe that capturing what was considered Russia’s spiritual center — St. Petersburg was its political capi- tal— would bring his epic campaign to a triumphant conclusion. “Peace waits for me at the gates of Moscow,” he optimis- tically declared. The first French troops to enter the city marveled at what they saw. “Even those French, so proud of their I t was September 14, 1812, when the em- peror Napoleon Bonaparte caught his first glimpse of the sparkling domes that topped the Orthodox churches of Moscow. “There, at last,” he said, “is that famous city!” It had been three months since the French had launched their invasion of Russia, and just a week before Napoleon’s mighty army had nar- rowly defeated the Russians at the Battle of Borodino. Though French losses had Paris, were surprised by the sheer size of the Russian capital, of the magnificence of its buildings, of its elegant lifestyle, and of the riches we found there,” wrote Napoleon’s chief doctor. In its enormous expanse of over 8,400 acres, Moscow boasted some 464 factories and work- shops, 329 churches, as well as numer- ous palaces and many imposing public buildings. As the French soldiers marched along streets lined with such architectural Moscow, 1812: Fighting the French with Fire The Grande Armée of France had dominated the battlefields of Europe for over a decade when Napoleon Bonaparte embarked upon his most ambitious campaign yet. Leading over 450,000 soldiers, he invaded the vast expanse of the Russian Empire. His goal: to capture Moscow— reasoning that when the city surrendered so would the country. He was utterly mistaken. NAPOLEON WATCHES as the flames engulf the city of Moscow on September 15, 1812. This oil painting by A. F. Smirnov was completed in 1813.