French Invasion (1812)French Invasion (1812) - The French invasion of Russia was the turning point of Napoleon's reign and initiated his downfall.  The root cause of the invasion actually had less to do with Russia and more to do with Great Britain.  Napoleon had imposed a blockade on British ships at all mainland European ports in an attempt to cripple England's economy.  The problem is that it ended up hurting the countries Britain had wanted to trade with as well.  Russia was one of them.  After Czar Alexander pulled out of the blockade, Napoleon was furious and determined to punish Russia.  His advisers tried to talk him out of invading that vast country, but Napoleon was unfazed.  He launched his campaign in June of 1812 with roughly a half-million soldiers; the largest army ever mobilized at that point in history.  The invasion was a disaster.  After winning several engagements including a major battle at Smolensk in August, Napoleon reached Moscow in September.  The Russian army, with no hope of defeating the Grande Armée in combat, retreated and resorted to a scorched earth policy by burning the city on its way out.  The Russians put up a last defense at the Battle of Borodino, but they lost that one too.  However, Czar Alexander refused to surrender, and the French dare not advance any further as the season was getting late.  Although Napoleon won virtually every single tactical battle, he could not win the war strategically.  With no one left to fight and no way to supply his massive army, he ordered retreat in October.  But the harsh Russian winter was now setting in and the march back home became a virtual death sentence.  By early December, realizing his precarious situation, Napoleon abandoned his army altogether.  The last remaining troops left Russian territory by mid-December and the campaign officially came to an end.  Of the original force of a half-million, 380,000 died.  Napoleon returned to Paris, but his position was severely weakened.  His enemies smelled blood and he had to prepare for the inevitable counter-offensive that was sure to come.