Writings

Grand Armée Mass Grave Found

Tuesday, 28 Jul 2015

Both Pelier and Holder tested the bones of women as well as men. But why would there have been women in a mass grave of Napoleonic soldiers? Owre told me that “there were plenty of camp followers as well as official woman cantinières and vivandières who sold goods to the troops. This woman from southern France would likely have been one of these or a follower. Some wives did tag along.” Finding the remains of women in this mass grave means archaeologists can add to the historical record, which largely glosses over women’s experiences in this war.

This is creepy reading, the march to Moscow sounds all to like a spooky tale at times. Look at these statistics for the battle of Borodino:

"...while the infantry and cavalry discharged 1,400,000 musket-shots, but even that averages out at a hundred cannon shots and 2300 rounds of musketry per minute" - Zamoyski

"a fully-loaded 747 crashing, with no survivors, every 5 minutes for eight hours." - Dyer

It's thought as little as 20,000 returned with their colours. From at least half a million people. The majority dying on the road, from cold, hunger and some things which read scarily like winter in Game of Thrones.

My grandpops recently tipped me off onto this book documenting the march - what you really want to read about is Ney the Marshal of France 'the last Frenchman on Russian soil' (my new man crush from history), the man fights famous rearguard actions, gets all but left behind with his division in Russia...and, I can't do him justice.

..the door opened and in came a man dressed in a brown greatcoat, his bearded face blackened by smoke and his eyes red and sparkling. 'Here I am at last!' the newcomer announced. 'What, General Dumas, do you not recognise me?' Dumas shook his head and asked him who he was. 'I am the rearguard of the Grande Armée,' answered the man. 'I am Marshal Ney.' - Zamoyski