Jakob Walter writes the soliders believed that, once in Russia, the troops would only have to forage, but this proved to be an illusion. He talks about one town, Poniemon, which was stripped bare by the time he entered as were all of the other villages. He wrote “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.”
Food for the horses was a problem from the start. Brett-James’ book has an account from Lt. J.L.Henckens, a Dutchman with the 6th Regt. of Chasseurs a cheval. “As a result of eating green rye, the horses foundered, and we lost hundreds in this way… Fortunately the depot sent us some remounts, otherwise we should very soon have presented a sorry picture.”
In Alan Palmer’s book Napoleon in Russia: The 1812 Campaign, he recounts how one of the junior officers of Napoleon’s staff counted the bodies of 1,240 horses as he rode twelve miles along the road to Vilna.
The weather was extemely hot, but the nights cold. Heavy rains came within the week. The expected battle with the Russians had not materialized and the army moved faster than planned, causing hardships and shortages.
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Russian Snows: Coming of Age in Napoleon’s Army