The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier

By Jakob Walter

Eighteen-year-old German stonemason Jakob Walter served within the Grand military of Napoleon among 1806 and 1813. His diary in detail files his trials: the lengthy, grueling marches in Prussia and Poland, the disastrous Russian crusade, and the demoralizing defeat in a warfare few supported or understood. it's instantly a compelling chronicle of a tender soldier's lack of innocence and an eloquent and relocating portrait of the profound results of all wars at the males who struggle them.

Also integrated are letters domestic from the Russian entrance, formerly unpublished in English, in addition to interval engravings and maps from the Russian/Soviet and East eu collections of the hot York Public Library.

"Vivid and grotesque … but in addition a narrative of human fortitude. … It reminds us that the troops Napoleon drove so mercilessly have been truly extra sufferers than victors—a facet of Napoleon that are supposed to now not be forgotten."
Chicago Tribune

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I used to be no longer on my own, for over a strip ten hours’ large infantrymen sought provisions due to their starvation; and, while there has been not anything to be discovered, they can hunt up cabbage stalks the following and there from less than the snow, bring to an end a number of the pulp from those, and allow the middle slowly thaw out of their mouths. however, this time I had a moment significant piece of success. I got here to a village no longer but burned the place there have been nonetheless sheaves of grain. I laid those prior to the pony and plucked off numerous heads of grain. I hulled them, laid the kernels combined with chaff right into a hand grinder which were left in a home, and, taking turns with a number of different squaddies, floor a few flour. Then we laid the dough, which we rolled into purely fist-sized little loaves, on a mattress of coals. even if the surface of the loaves burned to charcoal, the bread within may be eaten. I acquired as many as fifteen such balls. For extra offer, every time I stumbled on sheaves of grain, I picked the heads, rubbed off the kernels, and ate them from my bread sack through the process the day. a number of occasions I additionally came upon hempseed, which I likewise ate uncooked out of my pocket; and cooked hempseed was once a delicacy for me as the grains burst open and produced an oily sauce; but when you consider that i couldn't get salt for cooking, it didn't have its complete energy. whilst this solid evening was once part over, I laid 4 sheaves over my saddle and rode to the pinnacle of the military as traditional. towards the subsequent evening, in spite of the fact that, in an effort to make a fireplace back, I rode off the road. Wading within the deep snow was once too not easy for my horse; so I took a peasant’s sled, which had purely slabs of bark for forums, placed a collar made of a sack round the horse’s neck, and tied ropes from there to the sled. As I drove on back an analogous evening, I needed to go a river approximately sixty ft huge, over which in basic terms 4 or 5 poles lay. I, for this reason, knew of no different capability than to hold the sled over at the poles and to strength the pony to swim throughout. hence I carried the emptied sled throughout effectively, even though my toes went knee-deep into the water as the poles sank. I introduced the pony, that could swim good, being of a Russian breed, to the sled back, and drove on. At this river I met a guy by means of the identify of Wittenhöfer, from my local village, who used to be already deathly susceptible. I enable him trip. He died after a number of days. I endured, then, this sled-riding throughout the burned towns of Viasma, Semlevo, and Dorogobush with out discovering my grasp. as soon as, whereas i used to be consuming a few of my aforementioned bread, numerous Frenchmen observed me. those inhuman males surrounded me with the pretext of shopping for bread; and, while the be aware “bread” was once pointed out, each person bolted at me, in order that i assumed my demise was once close to; yet via a unprecedented probability there got here alongside a few Germans, whom I now referred to as to my relief. They struck at my horse in order that lots of the Frenchmen fell again from me after which have been completely crushed off. between those Germans have been sergeants from my regiment known as N. and N. After i used to be unfastened, they took my bread and walked away.

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