by Adam Zamoyski, 2004
This book is an extremely well-written account of Napolean’s invasion of Russia in 1812. In addition to a very readable style, I also liked the author’s overview of the political situation in Europe prior to the war, both from the French perspective and the Russian.
The author takes the position that Napolean didn’t have a clear plan for what he intended to accomplish by the invasion. He let events control him and his actions rather than the other way around. On the other side, the Russians didn’t have a clear strategy to deal with the invasion. What appears to be a concious strategy of retreat to suck the French into the interior of Russia in the dead of winter was rather a series of decisions to back off because the Russian army was not prepared to fight at a particular time of location. The sum total of these decisions or non-decisions appears to us today as a brilliant strategy.
Perhaps the only downside of this book is having to wade through a lot of gruesome detail of the misery that the French officers and soldiers endured during their retreat.
A lot can be learned from the study of this campaign about the consequences of invading another country without a clear plan of what you want to accomplish after you are there.