Daily Archives: June 26, 2012

Jakob Walter writes about the first few days of the Invasion

In the book Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier, Jakob Walter describes the first few days of the advance into Russian.  What strikes me is the misery of the beginning of what turns out to be a six month campaign.  From the beginning, the soldiers are encountering hunger and severe conditions. Walter writes, “On June 25 the army went over the bridges.  We now believed that, once in Russia, we need to nothing but forage — which, however, proved to be an illusion.  The town of Poniemon was already stripped before we could enter, and so were all the villages.  Here and there a hog ran around and then was beaten with clubs, chopped with sabers, and stabbed with bayonets; and, often still living, it would be cut and torn to pieces.  Several times I succeeded in cutting off something; but I had to chew it and eat it uncooked, since my hunger could not wait for a chance to boil the meat.  The worst torture was the march, because the closed ranks forced all to go in columns; the heat and the dust flared up into our eyes as if from smoking coal heaps.  The hardship was doubled by the continual halting of the troops whenever we came to a swamp or a narrow road.  Often one had to stand for half an hour; then another such period was spent catching up and drudging away without water or food.”