Some soldiers went to Russia expecting to come back rich from the spoils of war. The vast and barren Russian plains soon began to consume, rather than enhance, the men’s finances.
On August 9, 1812, Lt. Charles Faré of the Foot Grenadiers of the Old Guard wrote to his parents from Vitebsk. He begins by saying the army isn’t even half way through the campaign (counting the return trip home). While “…we have not exactly suffered from hunger…we are far from being well off. I was quite wrong in relying on this campaign to restore my financial situation. We spend more here than in Paris, and even so do not live very splendidly. The people who make up Imperial General Headquarters, with whom we are still stationed, are rich and pay for everything at its weight in gold; and in order to get anything we are obliged to buy at the same rate.”
Faré goes on to list the prices of some foods, then talks about vinegar. “A bottle of vinegar costs four francs, and that for us is a prime necessity, because for two months now we consider ourselves extremely fortunate if we can obtain any for counteracting the bad water drunk in this country.”
He talks about the lack of an allowance and hopes the Emperor will make it up to the men after the campaign. “He has already inspected us twice and has given the Legion of Honour to those Grenadier captains who had not got it; but nothing else…”