Guerrilla warfare in the (Napoleonic) War of 1812

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
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Toronto
This is not about the Canada vs. US War, just wanted to make that clear. I am sure there were such episodes there too, but I don't really have such a wide knowledge of that conflict.

This is about Napoleon's invasion of Russia.

This is an interesting dimension of that war, which is often overlooked.

General Mikhail Kutuzov, who battled Napoleon's forces in Russia, had plenty of regular, professional troops at his disposal (marching at right), yet, as the conflict ground on, lots of civilians, peasants, also stepped up to join the Popular Resistance volunteer units to fight the French

That was in the urban areas, where things remained more or less well organized and civilized.

Out in the country, it was different, it was chaos.

In some places, all social order broke down, the peasants were simply rioting and looting the homes of rich aristocrats, with, actually, the French troops now attempting to break up violence and restore some semblance of normalcy

It did not end well for such guys though... Those who did not get shot by the French, many of them would be then hung or flogged to death by the Russian troops and their own landlords, when they returned, after victory...

Elsewhere, grassroots anti-French resistance groups sprung up, militias of peasants led either by local landlords or priests.

These were truly courageous people, who ambushed French troops (armed with muskets and such) with, often, themselves carrying little more than pitchforks, axes, scythes, and such

Though, some had fire arms too, as you see.

Peasant fighters bring captured French troops to a military outpost

Women fought right alongside men back then. Just like, later, in WWII... Funnily enough, the war against Napoleon is called the Patriotic War of 1812 in Russia; while the one against Hitler is the Great Patriotic War.

Another fun fact: there were multiple "friendly" attack incidents back then, attacks by Russian peasants against also Russian officers

This had to do with the fact that the officers were all aristocrats, who were educated in Europe, and often conversed in French between themselves, which they had all studied, as the favored great language of the day. It was, at the time, the language of high culture in Russia, French, certainly before Napoleon decided to be a dick and attack. Unfortunately, it also led to many aristocratic Russian officers getting mistaken for actual French invaders and attacked by peasant resistance fighters haha

Very interesting history, back then...
 

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
47,784
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Toronto
Hollywood in its glory days, this 1956 production was HUGE in its day:) No computer effects, they actually used thousands of extras in the battle scenes.
Never seen it, looks like a good movie :)

I am glad I left Russia in Grade 8, you know... By about Grade 10, in Russian schools, in Literature class, they make you read through the whole "War and Pace" (among other classic works) and then SUMMARIZE it all in own words, no joke.

I would have died there... lol
 
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Dec 2018
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I will say that since the 1812 Overture is about that part of the war, I don’t forget it myself. I know most don’t know that it wasn’t about America here lol.

But conflict in that era was a nightmare. I wonder how many civil war generals studied these conflicts on Russia?
 

Blues63

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Dec 2014
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Mustafa
The British formed a skirmish regiment known as the 95th Riflemen and deployed these troops throughout the Peninsula campaign against Napoleon. They also fought with accolades at Waterloo, and they were known for acting together as a small 'guerrilla' outfits, as opposed to conforming to the usual practices of war. Interestingly, they dressed in 'Lincoln Green' and although it wasn't true camouflage, it came close.

37779930ddb48418a8575c28306c86ab.jpg
 
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Blues63

Moderator
Dec 2014
14,438
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Mustafa
Hollywood in its glory days, this 1956 production was HUGE in its day:) No computer effects, they actually used thousands of extras in the battle scenes.

Do you remember the DeLaurentis production of Waterloo, from the 1970's with Rod Steiger and Christopher Plummer as the protagonists? They used many units from the Soviet army to re-enact scenes of the battle, and it was a massive undertaking.

 

Blues63

Moderator
Dec 2014
14,438
12,200
Mustafa
I will say that since the 1812 Overture is about that part of the war, I don’t forget it myself. I know most don’t know that it wasn’t about America here lol.

But conflict in that era was a nightmare. I wonder how many civil war generals studied these conflicts on Russia?
How many WWI generals failed to study the sieges of the US Civil War?
 
Dec 2018
5,252
2,050
Florida
The British formed a skirmish regiment known as the 95th Riflemen and deployed these troops throughout the Peninsula campaign against Napoleon. They also fought with accolades at Waterloo, and they were known for acting together as a small 'guerrilla' outfits, as opposed to conforming to the usual practices of war. Interestingly, they dressed in 'Lincoln Green' and although it wasn't true camouflage, it came close.

View attachment 21671
The French had:

Voltigeur - Wikipedia

I was just looking up the 95th rifles lol. It is hard for many people to understand why they didn’t use more of these accurate rifles back then. I’m lucky to have hands on experience loading both a muzzle loading rifle and smoothebore. Between having to start the ball and the fact that the rifles were worthless for point blank/bayonet combat? It is a wonder these guys didn’t get wiped out.
 
Jul 2013
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West Point was extolling the expertise of Robert E Lee and teaching future officers the tactics and strategies of US Grant. Mass firepower and ignore casualties. the result: Bellaeu Wood

Again, the Marines had to advance through a waist-high wheat field into deadly machine gun fire. One of the most famous quotations in Marine Corps history came during the initial step-off for the battle when First Sergeant Dan Daly, a recipient of two Medals of Honor who had served in the Philippines, Santo Domingo, Haiti, Peking and Vera Cruz, prompted his men of the 73rd Machine Gun Company forward with the words: "Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?"[3](pp99–100)

The first waves of Marines—advancing in well-disciplined lines—were slaughtered; Major Berry was wounded in the forearm during the advance. On his right, the Marines of Major Sibley's 3/6 Battalion swept into the southern end of Belleau Wood and encountered heavy machine gun fire, sharpshooters and barbed wire. Marines and German infantrymen were soon engaged in heavy hand-to-hand fighting. The casualties sustained on this day were the highest in Marine Corps history up to that time.[6] Some 31 officers and 1,056 men of the Marine brigade were casualties. However, the Marines now had a foothold in Belleau Wood.[
Battle of Belleau Wood - Wikipedia
 
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