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Memoirs of General de Caulaincourt - The Russian Campaign
Recognized as the most important Napoleonic source discovered in the last hundred years, the three volume memoirs of Napoleon's Master of Horse are also exceptionally well written, and vividly portray Napoleon during his disastrous last years of power. The memoirs of one Napoleon's most senior ministers and closest advisors, with whom he was often very candid, remained unpublished for over a century since they were left by Armand de Caulaincourt, unearthed with by Jean Hanoteau who was eminently familiar with the period, and on part of the French ministry of War's historical section. The notes and annotations of Capitaine Hanoteau illuminate the text for both the enthusiast of the period and the general reader.
The title of "Master of Horse' perhaps in modern light does not quite reflect the position that Caulaincourt held within Napoleon's inner circle. He was responsible for all of the transportation for Napoleon's headquarters, the messengers that provided the eyes and ears of the campaign and furthermore he was ambassador to Russia for a number of years before hostilities commenced. A highly decorated cavalry officer before his tenure as ambassador, his advice should have been invaluable to the Emperor in assessing the huge undertaking of attacking the Russian empire, and Caulaincourt along with many others were ignored as Napoleon embarked his last invasion. Caulaincourt had much reason to be bitter as the Emperor was quite cruel to him personally, but his narrative maintains balance and although critical of Napoleon's decisions he does not descend into recriminations.
The first volume of the memoirs includes an excellent introduction to Caulaincourt and his history outside of the time-frame of the memoirs; it covers the period 1811-1812 to the point of the Grand Arm?e's retreat from Moscow. Sketches of many of Napoleon's entourage including Berthier, Duroc, Murat et. al. feature, as do the battle for Smolensk, Borodino and the great fire of Moscow.
Not to be confused with the Charlotte de Sor penned "Recollections of Caulaincourt", which are apocryphal and according to Tulard of little or no value. This edition is superior to the translated and heavily editted Libraire edition.
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Pickle Partners Publishing
April 15, 2011
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