Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Minard's Graphic Map

Charles Minard made a statistical graphic representation of Napoleon's attempt to take Russia. It's considered a classic example of how to display data in a format that lets the viewer immediately grasp the information. The absolute horror of the campaign is written large on this map.


Napoleon entered Russia with 442,000 men. On the original full sized graphic, each millimeter of width represented 10,000 men. Including the men diverted on the march east at the top of the graphic and rejoining the march west at the bottom, the surviving column as it leaves Russia is one millimeter wide. Ten thousand men, starving and ruined, returned to France. Troops that been conscripted from other countries are not listed here, but might have been as many as 150,000 and they suffered casualties at similar rates.  One might imagine that the Russians took some losses as well.


One campaign. In one year, starting in June of 1812 and ending by the spring of 1813.

Napoleon promptly started building a new army. It would also pay a high price a couple of years later at a place called Waterloo.

9 comments:

Borepatch said...

I've never liked that diagram. It tries to do too any things and ends up doing most of them poorly

deadmandance said...

"never get involved in a land war in asia."

ASM826 said...

I like it, but maybe I'm ignoring most of what it is doing and just focusing on the main thing, the ever narrowing width of the line.

Michael said...

I was in Moscow last year and in the Red Square was a museum with a special exhibit on this war. It was amazing to see portraits of French troops occupying Moscow, I had no idea they actually got that far!

The cost was a bit too high and ultimately the bitter Russian Winter takes its toll on troops and supply lines alike. Russia is simply too big for anyone to conquer in a single season and then they run into the snow and cold that only the home team knows how to deal with!

Sherm said...

US troops did their own fighting in the Russian winter in 1919.

I didn't read this article when published (I was four) but have the magazine on a shelf and have referred to it more than once since.
http://www.americanheritage.com/content/where-ignorant-armies-clashed-night

Chris said...

Even more than the loss of so many men, the total loss of all his trained cavalry horses severely degraded Napoleon's ability to mount (sorry!) another successful campaign.

ASM826 said...

Chris,

Add to that loss of wheeled artillery pieces and a almost half a million rifles.

Michael Brahier said...

Unless you are the Mongols.

OldAFSarge said...

Leipzig, don't forget that campaign. Bigger than Waterloo and in the year immediately after the Russian campaign.

Truth be told, the greatest damage to the Grande Armee occurred in Spain, from 1808 onwards.