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There is a saying that everyone is a general after the battle, but I still could not figure out what could have Napoleon done differently in order to save his army and consequently empire after Borodino. Historically, he stayed in Moscow some time, then tried to go to Smolensk (his supply base) via Kaluga, through countryside that was not devastated by previous marches and campaigns in order to obtain necessary forage and other supplies. But after Maloyaroslavets, he abandoned that goal and went towards Smolensk roughly on the same road he took during advance on Moscow in previous summer. What would have been a better solution for him and his forces ?

a) to retreat immediately after Borodino towards Smolensk, before the onset of winter

b) to stay in Moscow and try to prepare winter quarters there, then to resume campaign in spring

c) to push towards Kaluga no matter the cost even after Maloyaroslavets

d) something totally different

e) nothing would have saved him at that point

closed as primarily opinion-based by Santiago, Pieter Geerkens, justCal, KillingTime, SJuan76 Sep 5 '18 at 21:20

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  • Perhaps the saying refers to the battle itself, and Napoleon's refusal to commit the Guard (or Kutuzov's poor placement of troops)? By the end of the Battle of Borodino, Napoleon's Grande Armee had already lost 3/4 of its strength. Napoleon could no longer counter Kutuzov's decision to not commit to another decisive battle. – SPavel Sep 5 '18 at 19:30
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    This question will rapidly get closed as Opinion Based - but I believe he is toast once he advances past Smolensk. If he had started to partition Western Russia into new sovereign states, as he had done so successfully in Italy and with Duchy of Warsaw, he gains new allies and forces Alexander to attack French forces entrenched and well supplied. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 5 '18 at 19:31
  • @SPavel Trough, but Russians had also suffered terribly . Napoleon still had advantage in strength vs main body of Russians (Kutuzov) – rs.29 Sep 5 '18 at 19:44
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    @rs.29: Belorussians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians Latvians and Estonians are not Russians. Once the Russian clergy and nobles had departed, those regions were, I believe, ripe for independence. That puts Napoleon on the (winning) Nationalist side in 1813 instead of the (losing) Imperialist side. It further signals to his German Allies a commitment to their eventual independence. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 5 '18 at 20:10
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    @MAGolding: And if manna had fallen from heaven in November 1812 the Grande Armee would have survived Russia. This is why we don't entertain hypothetical questions. – Pieter Geerkens Sep 5 '18 at 22:19