The Death of the Horses

Soon after crossing he Niemen, a storm hit which caused the death of many of the horses which the Grande Armée counted on so heavily.  One officer counted 1,200 dead horses on the road leading to Vilna before he stopped counting.  Albrecht Adam, who was attached to Prince Eugène‘s IV Corps as a civilian, painted the scene and wrote the following account:

Near Pilony, by the Niemen
29 June 1812
by Albrecht Adam

Near Pilony, by the Niemen
“The Viceroy’s [Eugène] quarters were located in this appalling village.  We were all lodged in horrible huts, barely sheltered from the insults of the weather.  Food was now scarce and the rain fell in torrents, drenching the men and the horses.  Deprived of adequate shelter, the former made the best of the situation but the latter, weakened by their exertions on the impassable roads, succumbed in droves.  They collapsed in their hundreds by our camp.  Alongside the roads, in the fields, there were piles of dead horses and hundreds of abandoned carts and the scattered contents of the baggage trains.”

“In July we felt the cold, the rain and the pangs of want.  Because of the lack of forage the horses were being fed on green corn, trampled down by the rain.  The poor creatures ate their fill but, shortly afterwards, collapsed dead.”

“I have tried to capture this morbid scene in the plate [above]”

With Napoleon in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Albrecht Adam, 1812; Edited by Jonathan North


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