Thursday, December 12, 2013

Through Russian Snows A Story of Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow - by G.A. Henty

Free US/UK Kindle Classic
Everywhere the winter is hard.  Great Britain and the States are having a miserable winter.  But however "frightful" it is outside your window, you can always console yourself.  You are not with Napoleon's Army retreating from Moscow!  So stop feeling sorry for yourself and curl up with "Through Russian Snows A Story of Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow" by English novelist, G.A. Henty.  (US Edition)  (UK Edition) This is a historical novel, not nonfiction.

BORODINO: Barbarously as the French army behaved on its advance to Smolensk, things were even worse as they left the ruined town behind them and resumed their journey towards Moscow. It seemed that the hatred with which they were regarded by the Russian peasantry was now even more than reciprocated. The destruction they committed was wanton and wholesale; the villages, and even the towns, were burnt down, and the whole country made desolate. It was nothing to them that by so doing they added enormously to the difficulties of their own commissariat; nothing that they were destroying the places where they might otherwise have found shelter on their return. They seemed to destroy simply for the sake of destruction, and to be animated by a burning feeling of hatred for the country they had invaded.

Since the days of the thirty years' war in Germany, never had war been carried on in Europe so mercilessly and so destructively.

Tolstoy, he is not.  Henty is, what we would call now, a Young Adult writer.  That is a very popular now as it was then. 

The book is a story about two brothers:

Julian had, since their retreat began, again recovered his spirits. He was now not fighting to conquer a country against which he had no animosity, but for his own life and that of the thousands of sick and wounded.

 "I am glad that we are in the rear-guard," he said to a number of non-commissioned officers who were one evening, when they were fortunate enough to be camped in a wood, gathered round a huge fire.

"Why so, Jules? It seems to me that we have the hardest work, and, besides, there is not a day that we have not to fight."

 "That is the thing that does us good," Julian replied. "The columns ahead have nothing to do but to think of the cold, and hunger, and misery. They straggle along; they no longer march. With us it is otherwise. We are still soldiers; we keep our order. We are proud to know that the safety of the army depends on us; and, if we do get knocked over with a bullet, surely that is a better fate than dropping from exhaustion, and falling into the hands of the peasants."

The retreat from Moscow is endlessly fascinating.

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