Napoleon sends detailed instructions to his stepson and one of his ablest generals, Prince Eugene de Beauharnais, at the beginning of the invasion of Russia. He tells Beauharnais to make it appear as though his troops are marching toward Warsaw but that he should establish his headquarters at Soldau on the 6th. Napoleon also indicates that Poniatowski will be on his right and Ney on his left flank. In the meantime, he also instructs Beauharnais to forage for twenty days' rations such as rice, wheat, oats, dried legumes, and to ship them to the city of Plock in central Poland. Napoleon expected to be headquartered at Thorn and then immediately thereafter at Osterode. Once the offensive began Beauharnais' route of communication for his fourth and sixth infanteries would be through Plock.
In May 1812 Napoleon took command of the multinational Grande Armée assembled in Poland and on 24-25 June crossed the Niemen into Russian territory. Although presented to the French people in grand terms as motivated by the desire to destroy the permanent threat to Europe posed by Russian power, Napoleon's vast enterprise was above all meant to punish the tsar for leaving the continental blockade. The only major battle of the campaign, at Borodino on 7 September 1812, ended with a territorial gain for Napoleon but at a very high cost. Napoleon's army eventually reached a Moscow obliterated by the Russian army's scorched-earth policy.
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