The famous map depicts the advance (tan) and disastrous retreat (black) of Napoleon’s Grande Armee through Russia.
Chart by M. Minard

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  • On June 24, 1812, the Grande Armée, led by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, crossed the Neman River, invading Russia from present-day Poland. The result was a disaster for the French.


    The Russian army refused to engage with Napoleon’s Grande Armée of more than 500,000 European troops. They simply retreated into the Russian interior. The Grande Armée did not have the supplies or the distribution networks required for such a long march. French strategists assumed the Grande Armée would be supplied by wagons, or would be able to gather supplies as they went. Russian roads, however, were in very poor condition, making it very difficult to transport supplies. The Grande Armée also failed to prepare for Russia’s harsh winter. Its troops were not dressed or trained for the kind of weather they faced.


    The invasion lasted six months, and the Grande Armée lost more than 300,000 men. Russia lost more than 200,000. A single battle (the Battle of Borodino) resulted in more than 70,000 casualties in one day. The invasion of Russia effectively halted Napoleon’s march across Europe, and resulted in his first exile, to the Mediterranean island of Elba.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    disaster Noun

    terrible and damaging event.

    distribution Noun

    the way something is spread out over an area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: distribution
    emperor Noun

    ruler of an empire.

    engage Verb

    to become actively involved with something.

    exile Noun

    forced ejection from a country, or a person who feels forced to leave.

    invasion Noun

    an attack or move to take possession.

    Napoleon Bonaparte Noun

    (1769-1821) military general and emperor of France.

    transport Verb

    to move material from one place to another.

    weather Noun

    state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.

    Encyclopedic Entry: weather