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Borodino 1812 (Campaign) [Paperback]

Philip Haythornthwaite
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Aug 2012 Campaign (Book 246)
The battle of Borodino was one of the greatest encounters in European history, and one of the largest and most sanguinary in the Napoleonic Wars. Following the breakdown of relations between Russia and France, Napoleon assembled a vast Grande Armee drawn from the many states within the French sphere of influence. They crossed the river Neimen and entered Russian territory in June 1812 with the aim of inflicting a sharp defeat on the Tsar's forces and bringing the Russians back into line. In a bloody battle of head-on attacks and desperate counter-attacks in the village of Borodino on 7 September 1812, both sides lost about a third of their men, with the Russians forced to withdraw and abandon Moscow to the French. However, the Grande Armee was harassed by Russian troops all the way back and was destroyed by the retreat. The greatest army Napoleon had ever commanded was reduced to a shadow of frozen, starving fugitives. This title will cover the events of Napoleon's disastrous Russian campaign of 1812 in its entirety, with the set-piece battle of Borodino proving the focal point of the book.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey (20 Aug 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849086966
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849086967
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 9.7 x 0.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 29,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Tells of the most important battle of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812, and covers the entire campaign from his inital entry into Russia through his retreat. The battle of Borodino is the focal point and is covered in its entirety, including illustrations throughout and packing in fine detail for any student of the times."
- James A. Cox, "The Midwest Book Review"

"The author provides historical context, profiles the opposing commanders and their armies, and then zeroes in on details of Borodino, including providing a complete order of battle...the highlight is dramatic artwork delivered by Peter Dennis, who brilliantly evokes the desperation of both the bloody battle and the doomed French retreat."
- "Toy Soldier & Model Figure"

About the Author

Philip Haythornthwaite is an internationally respected author and historical consultant specializing in the military history, uniforms and equipment of the 18th and 19th centuries. His main area of research covers the Napoleonic Wars. He has written some 40 books, including more than 20 Osprey titles, and numerous articles and papers on military history - but still finds time to indulge in his other great passion, cricket.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what I wanted 19 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Osprey series of books are extremely good quality and contain much detail. The excellent price offered at Amazon is difficult to ignore
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Borodino 1812 7 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What you would expect from Osprey, it covers much more than the battle, the whole campaign in fact.
Unfortunatly like another title I have recently purchased ( Gettysberg ) it lacks a detailed map of the battle.
A good sampler for further research.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book aimed at the general reader. 28 Mar 2014
By Trajan
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
Although the title would suggest that the main focus of this book is the battle of Borodino, the battle itself only takes up about a third of the book (33 out of 96 pages). I think this is about right in a book aimed at the general reader - on a grand level the battle wasn't that complex, something that is often hidden behind an overwhelming bulk of detail in longer books.

The rest of the book looks at the wider campaign, from the breakdown in relationships between the Tsar and Napoleon to the disastrous retreat from Moscow. There is a useful selection of potted biographies of the main commanders on both sides, a description of the two armies and their plans, a good account of the campaign from the start of the invasion to the battle of Borodino, the advance to Moscow and then the disastrous retreat that destroyed most of the Grande Armée.

The book is illustrated to Osprey's normal high standard, with some excellent campaign and battle maps and a good selection of contemporary illustrations. This is a clearly written account of a battle that failed to produce the crushing victory required by Napoleon, and that thus became a stepping stone on the road to the destruction of the Grande Armée. Recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Writing, Old-style Research, Inadequate Maps 27 Sep 2012
By R. A Forczyk - Published on
When I heard that Osprey was including The Battle of Borodino in its line-up for their 2012 Campaign series, I was both interested and worried. For true Napoleonic fans know that Napoleon's hash was settled in Russia, not on the fields of Waterloo, so any new books on Borodino in English are welcome. However, I was concerned that Osprey would make the same mistake it did years ago with Stalingrad and try to cram too much into a slim 96-page volume. After finishing Borodino 1812, I felt that some of my concern was justified - trying to jam Napoleon's entire Russian campaign into one volume weakens the value of the final product - although the author, Philip Haythornthwaite, had the skill to carry it off with great aplomb. In short, Napoleonic aficionados will appreciate the artwork but probably bristle that barely twenty pages of text were given to the actual battle. On the other hand, general readers who don't want to tackle the 1,000+ pages of Austin P. Britten's 1812: The March on Moscow (1993)will appreciate this as a good introduction to the Russian Campaign. Overall, the author provides a good narrative with excellent supporting artwork, although the maps are not always adequate for following his narrative.

The initial sections of the volume, on opposing commanders, plans and forces, are a bit brief. The author provides capsule bios on eight French/Polish and nine Russian commanders, which should be more than sufficient for general readers. The other two topics are lumped into one 8-page section, which does not flow particularly well. There is no real discussion in this section about the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing forces, merely a general laydown. The author does provide a 3 page order of battle, which extends down to regimental-level. Napoleon's initial invasion, the Battle of Smolensk and Kutusov's assumption of command are covered in 12 pages, which is quick but adequate.

The Battle of Borodino is the main part of the volume and the coverage is fairly decent. There is more detail in this section about what specifics units and commanders are doing, although still mostly at the division-level. The final section covers the fall of Moscow and Napoleon's retreat to the Berezina; here and there, the author inserts something I haven't read in the last 4-5 books I've read about this campaign, but nothing terribly unique. The author's account of the retreat is solid, if brief. As for analysis, the author suggests that Napoleon underestimated the task in invading Russia, which would seem blatantly obvious. The last section, on the battlefield today, was disappointing, with no photos of any current monuments at Borodino and precious little information about the museum. Looking at the bibliography, I was struck by the fact that all the sources listed were either English or French - apparently he made no effort to find any Russian sources. Taken together, it would appear that the author neglected to make use of the Internet in researching this volume, which marks it as an Old-style approach to history, seen primarily through English eyes.

Borodino 1812 has three colorful battle scenes by Peter Dennis (Murat at Borodino, fall of the Great Redoubt, the retreat from Moscow). The maps in Borodino 1812 are not very effective. The five 2-D maps (strategic situation at the beginning of the campaign; the line of Napoleon's advance to Borodino; the Battle of Smolensk; Borodino, the opening dispositions; the retreat; the Berezina) are OK as far as general movements and dispositions, but primarily depict corps and division-size formations. The three 3-D BEV maps all depict the Battle of Borodino at various stages during the day, but again, depict mostly corps and a few divisions. The problem is that the BEV maps are too "zoomed out," with gridlines 1-km apart, so that even key features like the Raevsky Redoubt (which is smack-dab in the machine fold of the volume, as usual) and the fleches are lost in the map. The BEVs should have been used to show tactical actions down to at least regimental level (since the text covers this) by zooming in on the key terrain, not trying to show the entire battlefield (and thereby showing little). In an otherwise fine volume, the maps were a disappointment.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The quest for decisive victory... 20 Oct 2012
By D. S. Thurlow - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Borodino 1812" is an Osprey Campaign series entry, authored by veteran historian Philip Haythornwaite. It offers a concise account of Napoleon's Russian campaign of 1812, including the Battle of Borodino, with important effects on the destiny of Imperial France.

Haythornwaite quickly sets the stage for the campaign. Napoleon entered Russia with his Grande Armee in June 1812, hoping for a quick and decisive victory over the forces of Tsar Alexander, to bring him back into compliance with the French Continental system. However, Tsar Alexander's Army proved elusive in the vast spaces of Russia, and were finally brought to battle at Borodino, 70 miles west of Moscow. The French Emperor, at the limits of his own supply lines, gambled that he might finally conjure his decisive victory.

This book uses the standard Osprey Campaign format, with introduction, a chronology, brief descriptions of the opposing commanders and armies, a narrative of the battle of Borodino, and the aftermath. There is a nice selection of maps, diagrams and illustrations. The maps are a bit of a disappointment, but the book is a good enough introduction to campaign and the battle, and recommended to the general reader interested in the Napoleonic Wars.
4.0 out of 5 stars An above-average military history by an above-average writer 21 Mar 2014
By Michael K. Smith - Published on
This author is a well-known expert in the minutiae of military history -- uniforms, equipment, and so on -- but he also does a very good job with tactics and wider strategy. Half his forty-odd books have been written for Osprey and this one, on the first modern European invasion of the vastness of Russia, is well up to his usual high standard.

Russia at the beginning of the 19th century was still medieval in many of its social institutions (serfdom and all) and the young Czar, Alexander I, was a puzzle to many -- an absolute autocrat with liberal ideas. He admired the French Revolution and Napoleon at first and Russia and France came to an accommodation that allowed the Emperor to concentrate his attentions elsewhere. But the "Continental System" of embargo against all non-French-controlled nations (the few that remained) put a severe strain on the Russian economy and Alexander began speaking privately to Turkey and Sweden (Bernadotte was having similar problems) and, finally, Britain. Napoleon had to bring Russia back into line, and so he determined on a program of military invasion to defeat the Russian army. In other words, he was telling the truth when he said he had no interest in the conquest and occupation of that vast country. He simply wanted to bring Russia under his heel.

All this background and context is smoothly described in the opening section of the book, followed by biographical sketches of the principal military personalities on both sides and a very detailed table of organization. Then the reader is led through the chronology of the invasion (and a long, exhausting slog it was for the French and their German allies and clients, even to reach Russia), up to the climactic battle in September 1812, involving 250,000 to 350,000 men on both sides (the largest battle of the entire Napoleonic wars), which Haythornthwaite explains action by action -- almost minute by minute. It was a bloody and close-fought confrontation (with 70,000 to 100,000 casualties, including some seventy generals) but the French were theoretically victorious. However, this was mostly because the Russians finally withdrew, preserving their strength for later. Napoleon went on to capture Moscow, but much good it did him. And when he was forced to retreat at the end of the year, the Russians were there to harry the French armies all the way back. The Russian campaign, and especially Borodino, is really where it all changed for Napoleon.

Osprey books are always short -- usually, like this one, around 96 pages -- but they don't waste space. They're also heavy on illustration, in this case with many of the drawings, battle paintings, and portraits produced after the campaign. There are several large tactical maps showing clearing each stage of the battle and three double-page modern drawings by Peter Dennis of key incidents. All in all, even if you aren't reading _War and Peace,_ a knowledge of Borodino (and the Russian campaign generally) should be in the background of anyone with an interest in modern military history.
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief but useful analysis of the sanguinary battle at Borodino 20 July 2013
By Steven A. Peterson - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the Osprey series, "Campaigns." The feature case study here is Napoleon's invasion of Russia, with the bloody battle of Borodino as the focal point of this slender volume. The volume is 93 pages long--and covers a great deal of territory. That, of course, means that there is only so much that can be covered. Within that limitation, though, the work does a solid job.

The volume follows a standard template for the "Campaign" series. A bit of context opens the work, then a chronology. Following that, an analysis of key commanders. Here, that would include, on the French side, Murat, Davout, Ney, and others. Given the scale of Napoleon's forces, he had to delegate considerable authority to his subordinates. Some performed better than others. Just so, the Russian side. With time, the crust General Katuzov became the field commander. While he had his flaws, he was pretty steady during the campaign while he was involved. Among the subordinate officers, the redoubtable Bagration (who was mortally wounded), Barclay de Tolly (up and down), and Platov.

Next the plans of both sides are outlined. Napoleon understood the challenges facing him--the immensity of Russia, the need to move quickly, and so on. The book then traces the movements that preceded the battle. Maps are modestly helpful--but they are not always so very clear. Then, the rendering of Borodino. There is enough detail to get a sense of the struggle here. There is also a sense that Napoleon was not at his peak as a commander of an army at battle.

The book also discusses what happened after the battle--the French barren occupation of Moscow, the disastrous retreat from Moscow, with the vast bulk of Napoleon's army disappearing.

All in all, a useful volume. . . .
4.0 out of 5 stars Borodino 1812: Napoleon's great gamble (Campaign) 15 Feb 2013
By mahdi1ray - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Well written and researched book. Detailed and comprehensive study of the decisive battle of the 1812 Campaign in Russia. A must for specialists in the Napoleonic Wars be they reenactors, uniformologists or wargamers. Of interest to other historians, and antiquarians
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