A Brief History
On September 18, 1812, the conquering French Grande Armée was appalled to see that the giant fire set by retreating Russians had destroyed almost all of the city of Moscow. Napoleon and his troops were left without food and shelter to face the upcoming winter. Either as scorched Earth policy or vindictiveness, burning cities in war is common.
In the case of Moscow, the city was burned by its own people to deprive the enemy of its resources. When Washington, D.C. was burned by the British in 1814, the act of mass arson was to punish the upstart Americans.
The US Civil War saw many Southern cities burned, notably Jackson, Mississippi, Richmond, Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia, Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, among others.
Question for students (and subscribers): Is burning a city a legitimate act of war? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Charles Rivers Editors. The Firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo: The History and Legacy of the Allies’ Controversial Bombing Campaigns Near the End of World War II. CreateSpace, 2017.
Mikaberidze, Alexander. The Burning of Moscow: Napoleon’s Trial By Fire, 1812. Pen and Sword Military, 2014.
The featured image in this article, a painting of Napoleon within the burning Moscow, is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason: This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer.
You can also watch video versions of this article on YouTube.