This is a unique and detailed account of Napoleon's disastrous attempt to conquer Russia, an intimate portrait of the struggling Emperor written by one of the highest officials of the French Empire, who rode constantly at Napoleon's side. Nowhere is the tragedy of Napoleon's Russian campaign described as clearly as in the memoirs of Armand de Caulaincourt. He was an aristocrat of the ancient regime who had come to terms with the French Revolution and was ready to serve the new Emperor. Riding day by day at Napoleon's side, de Caulaincourt witnessed the growing horror of defeat which culminated in the Grande Armee's disastrous retreat from the vast expanses of Russia. The Grande Armee had entered Russia triumphantly on 18 June, 1812 with as many as 600,000 men, while the remnants that staggered out of Russia in December of that year were a mere few thousand. In military terms it was a catastrophe; the recent discovery of mass graves in Vilnius, Lithuania, bear testimony to the terrible human cost of the campaign.
Armand de Caulaincourt was twice the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to Russia, as well as a close political adviser to Napoleon, and his memoirs give the greatest possible insight into this cataclysmic campaign.