Napoleon’s Grand Armée entered the Russian city of Moscow on this day in 1812. The final stage of the French Emperor’s march to the East, the conquest of the Russian Empire was Napoleon’s biggest dream and ultimately his downfall. The Russians, having foreseen Napoleon’s plans, had evacuated the city prior to his arrival, setting the city on fire as soon as the fled. Napoleon’s troops, now finding themselves battling the flames, endured some losses before finally putting out the flames, which had spread dangerously close to the Kremlin. They managed to keep control over the city for about a month, until Napoleon saw no other option but to leave the city, and to confront the Russian army in battle.
The Russians, however, refused to go battle the French, withdrawing even when having a clear advantage. By the end, the Russians’ tactics of scorching the fields left the French army, totaling more than 500,000 people, weak and vulnerable. As Napoleon began to retreat and head back to Central Europe, Winter arrived, killing most of Napoleon’s remaining troops, and marking the turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. Following his return to Europe, Napoleon suffered a loss of reputation, and his two allies, Prussia and Austria, broke their alliances with him. This resulted in the War of the Sixth Coalition, in which Napoleon went to war with nearly all of Europe, including Sweden, England, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Prussia, Russia, and what remained of Italy. In 1814, the European army marched into Paris, forcing Napoleon to abdicate and ending the Napoleonic Wars.
Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.