On This Day in Napoleonic History – 18 September 1812

fireofmoscowNapoleon returns to the Kremlin

After the fire had abated in Moscow, Napoleon had installed himself at the Kremlin once again to wait and see whether Alexander would treat for peace. As soon as he returned, Napoleon distributed plundered roubles to the Muscovites who had lost their homes in the fire. He also visited an orphanage to the greatest surprise of the Muscovites, who were convinced he was going to eat its inhabitants.

Napoleon seemed to regret the destruction of the city greatly and couldn’t understand the Russians’ motivation in burning it. ‘Moscow was a very beautiful city,’ he wrote. ‘It will take Russia two hundred years to recover from the loss she had sustained.’

‘I ought not to have stayed in Moscow more than two weeks at the utmost,’ Napoleon would say years later, ‘but I was deceived from day to day.’ This wasn’t true. Alexander never pretended he wanted peace with the French. By this point Napoleon was so deep into Russia with his lines of communication stretched so thinly, he would probably had accepted as little as Russia’s return to the Continental System as the price of the peace.

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