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Beresina – Luzerner Soldaten im Russlandfeldzug Napoleons 1812 (edition 2012)

by Ruth Estermann (Author)

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Member:jcbrunner
Title:Beresina – Luzerner Soldaten im Russlandfeldzug Napoleons 1812
Authors:Ruth Estermann (Author)
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Collections:Your library, Military History, Napoleonic Wars (1789-1815), Read
Rating:****
Tags:de, Switzerland, Russia, France, Napoleonic Wars, Lucerne, 19th century, 1812, 1812 Russia campaign, Swiss foreign service regiments, military history, social history

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Beresina – Luzerner Soldaten im Russlandfeldzug Napoleons 1812 by Ruth Estermann

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Two hundred years ago, amidst Napoleon's Grande Armée, marched four Swiss regiments in their traditional redcoats. 5,000 to 7,000 soldiers participated in the 1812 campaign of Russia and only a few hundred returned to Switzerland, often incapacitated for life. In commemoration of the Swiss participation, the Lucerne Historical Museum staged a small exhibition which was assisted by this publication (excerpted and based upon the author's master thesis). Given her focus on the social background and the motivations of the soldiers for their recruitment (after the failed experiment of the Helvetian Legion, Napoleon required volunteers only), there is very little about the Swiss involvement in the Russia campaign proper (especially its most famous engagement at the Beresina which gave the publication its title).

Instead, the focus lies in documenting that many of the so called "volunteers" were shanghaied. Having witnessed the poor sort of the soldiers dispatched to Spain and Italy, few respectable men saw their fortune in joining Napoleon's troops. My favorite reason of volunteering is "impregnation". Apparently impregnating a maid required the culpable man to pay a fine/compensation for the act, money poor people didn't have - joining the army (and thus receiving the signing bonus) provided the necessary compensation to the maid and removed such undesirable elements from society. Further "volunteers" were collected from groups of travelers who drank too much liquor and thus tricked into signing up. Like the British army in the Peninsular War, the Swiss in Russia were the scum of the earth (often led by the professional soldiers of the local nobility). ( )
  jcbrunner | Nov 4, 2012 |
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