Diary of a Napoleonic Footsoldier

Jakob Walter, Author, Marc Raeff, Author, Marc Raeff, Introduction by Doubleday Books $20 (170p) ISBN 978-0-385-41696-2
Of the half - million men who invaded Russia in Napoleon's army in June 1812, barely 25,000 survived. One who did was the author of this diary, Jakob Walter (1788-1864), a German private soldier from Westphalia. First conscripted in 1806, he was recalled to duty in 1809 and again in 1812. Walter's writing is unemotional and non-interpretive; he describes straightforwardly what he experienced. The account of the 1812 campaign--Napoleon's march on Moscow and inglorious retreat--takes up three-quarters of this short volume and constitutes its most interesting portion. In a chronicle of progressive demoralization, Walter observes how the instinct for self-preservation, under the pressure of Cossack attacks and treachery by erstwhile allies, leads to savagery among Napoleon's troops. The common-soldier perspective is rare among the mass of material left by veterans of the 1812 campaign and the book will be of interest to the general reader as well as the scholar. This edition includes six short letters home by other German soldiers in the Grand Army, all less interesting than Walter's diary. Raeff is professor of Russian studies at Columbia University. Illustrated. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1991
Release date: 08/01/1991
Open Ebook - 122 pages - 978-0-307-81756-3
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