A Helping Hand

There aren’t many paintings of the army on the march during the advance into Russia, most are on the better known retreat.  By marching, I mean moving in mass along the road.  One exception is Albrecht Adam‘s painting of a scene he witnessed.

General Pino’s Division on the March
16 July 1812
by Albrecht Adam

General Pino’s Division on the March
“Despite the Viceroy’s [Prince Eugène de Beauharnais] every effort to preserve order in his corps [IV], and to seek to maintain the troops well fed and in condition, there were many soldiers who, as they marched through the deserts of Lithuania, were subject to the most cruel privations.  The burden of want fell, in particular, on Pino’s division as this unit was acting as rearguard.  There was no lack of meat but the scarcity of bread was greatly felt.  Soldiers were soon reduced to such a state that you could see them literally collapse by the roadside unable to continue despite their every effort.”

“One evening as we trotted alongside a column of Italians dragging itself along, we saw one such unfortunate collapse into the dusty sands of the road.  A grenadier, who had been marching next to him, vainly sought to persuade his comrade to move.  Finally, an officer, mounted on a poor pony, arrived and convinced the man to march on to the next shelter.  Taking the soldier’s haversack, and that of the grenadier, he trotted on whilst the grenadier, carrying his musket as well as his own, supported his exhausted comrade.  The two of them staggered on as the column continued its lugubrious march.”

“I could not resist sketching such a moving scene.”

Source:
Napoleon’s Army in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Albrecht Adam, 1812; Edited by Jonathan North

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