Daily Archives: July 21, 2012

A Russian Prisoner of War

Security in the camps of the Grande Armée was apparently lax during the advance into Russia as illustrated in this account by Albrecht Adam.

A Russian Prisoner of War
at Headquarters, Kamen
21 July 1812
by Albrecht Adam

A Russian Prisoner of War at Headquarters, Kamen
“On 22 July one of our chasseurs, serving on the picquets, brought a Russian prisoner back with him to headquarters.  This man, by his singular conduct, attracted universal attention.  He seemed so familiar with the men of our advanced posts that he had been eating and drinking with them.  Even before the Prince [Eugène de Beuaharnais], who wished to speak with him, his conduct showed such pluck as almost bordered on temerity.”

“The following day we heard that he had been granted a little freedom in his movements and, taking advantage of that, he had absconded during the night without anyone being aware of how or when.  This gave rise to much conjecture and I won’t repeat that here as the truth was never arrived at.”

“The man next to the prisoner in this plate is the Prince’s Mameluke who had accompanied the Viceroy since the Egyptian expedition but who, alas, came to an untimely end.”

“During the retreat the Mameluke was taken seriously ill and stayed behind at Kovno.  His master left him a sum of money and entrusted him to the care of some charitable individuals, but he was never heard of again.  There were accusations that the man had simply given up and that he should have made every effort to keep up with the army.  But, for my part, I believe that the suffering he endured personally, and witnessing that of the persons closest to him, broke his body and his soul.  Frank, sincere, loyal and courageous, he showed that he was more than a servant and that such a master was worthy to have such an assistant.”

“I was a personal friend of the man and it is with great pleasure that I conserve for posterity the memory of him by this faithful portrait.”

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