Prince Andrei Bolkonsky is captured after sustaining a wound in battle and is taken as a POW. He, along with other officers of the Russian Army, were treated with care and respect by the French, and Napoleon himself visited the prisoners. Were their experiences historically accurate? What were the conditions of a POW during the Napoleonic wars?

Some text to give you context:

“You are the commander of the Emperor Alexander’s regiment of Horse Guards?” asked Napoleon.

“I commanded a squadron,” replied Repnín.

“Your regiment fulfilled its duty honorably,” said Napoleon.

“The praise of a great commander is a soldier’s highest reward,” said Repnín.

“I bestow it with pleasure,” said Napoleon. “And who is that young man beside you?”

Prince Repnín named Lieutenant Sukhtélen.

After looking at him Napoleon smiled.

“He’s very young to come to meddle with us.”

“Youth is no hindrance to courage,” muttered Sukhtélen in a failing voice.

“A splendid reply!” said Napoleon. “Young man, you will go far!”

Prince Andrei, who had also been brought forward before the Emperor’s eyes to complete the show of prisoners, could not fail to attract his attention. Napoleon apparently remembered seeing him on the battlefield and, addressing him, again used the epithet “young man” that was connected in his memory with Prince Andrei.

“Well, and you, young man,” said he. “How do you feel, mon brave?”


The Emperor [...] said to one of the officers as he went: “Have these gentlemen attended to and taken to my bivouac; let my doctor, Larrey, examine their wounds. Au revoir, Prince Repnín!”

1 Answer 1


There is an ample evidence that prisoners of war in Napoleonic wars were treated in a humane fashion by all sides. (This can be seen from memoirs and other literature). And of course, an officer and a prince had a better treatment than a simple soldier. Most of Tolstoy's characters are fictional but the novel generally reflects the reality very well.

  • 2
    Also, many of Napoleon's veterans in the 1815 Waterloo Campaign were former prisoners of war released after his 1814 abdication. This meant that his troop quality in 1815 was better than it had been for at least the previous two years. Aug 22, 2019 at 21:07
  • 1
    Officers and nobles yes, simple peasant soldiers not so. Again you have example in War and Peace, fate of Platon Karataev classicreader.com/book/92/312
    – rs.29
    Aug 22, 2019 at 22:26
  • 1
    This would be improved if you cited specific examples of those "memoirs and other literature" to support your assertion. I don't doubt that it is correct (at least for officers and nobles), but it is always better when assertions are supported by evidence. Aug 22, 2019 at 23:00
  • @rs.29 Platon died when the French army was in deep distress, suffering during the retreat. Many French soldiers also died of deprivation during this retreat.
    – Alex
    Aug 23, 2019 at 1:48
  • Can you provide some anecdotes that describe how, for example, officers were treated during the wars? Aug 23, 2019 at 6:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.