Napoleon's secret coded Kremlin letter on sale
In June 1812, Napoleon's "Grand Army" — at 600,000 men one of the largest in human history — confidently entered Russia. But they were woefully unprepared for the harsh weather, the strong Russian defense and the Russian scorched-earth tactics, which left nothing behind to sustain the hungry and freezing French troops.
"This letter is an incredible insight, we never see Napoleon emotively speaking in this way before," says Chataignier. "Only in letters to (his wife) Josephine did he ever express anything near to emotion. Moscow knocked him."
In the text — which announces that his commanders are evacuating Moscow — Napoleon laments his army's plight, asking for assistance to replenish his forces and the ravaged cavalry, which saw thousands of horses die.
In September, 200 years after Russia's victory over Napoleon, the Kremlin held huge celebrations aimed at rousing patriotism among modern Russians. The highlight was a re-enactment of the battle of Borodino — one of the most damaging clashes for Napoleon's troops — which saw thousands in Russian and French military uniforms perform before several hundred thousand spectators.
The 1812 victory played an important role in Russia's emergence as a major world power. Until World War I, Napoleon's Russian campaign and the ensuing wars were the largest European military face-off in history.
The letter, which is accompanied by a second decoded sheet, is estimated to fetch up to €15,000 ($19,500).
Follow Thomas Adamson at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP
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