Jakob Walter was a soldier in the army of Westphalia who fought in the campaigns of 1806-7, 1809 and the disasters of 1812-13. In 1806-7 and 1809 Walter was part of the supporting forces, operating away from the main battles. We follow him as he takes part in sieges, forages for the army and travels vast distances around central and eastern Europe.
In 1812 he was part of the Grande Armée, and took part in the invasion of Russia. He was present at Borodino, arrived in Moscow just after the city burnt down, and took part in the disastrous retreat from Moscow. The account of the retreat is the most details and the most involving. Some of the material is familiar - starvation, the cold, the break-down of morale and the fight for food, but while many memoirs end in Poland, Walter takes us all the way home so we get a rare view of the way the survivors were treated when they were back in Germany.
Walter wrote in a simple style, focusing very heavily on his own experiences and with little or no background info (his account of Borodino doesn't even include the name of the battle). As a result we are seeing events from the private soldier's viewpoint - always valuable, but particularly so for the earlier campaigns where we follow Walter into areas that few other memoirs cover.
This is a memoir rather than a diary - Walter was clearly reading with the expectation that his words would be read. It was published in the United States in 1938, but we don't get any information on its earlier history. We thus have no real idea when Walter wrote this memoir, or if it was published in German. Other that this lack of background info, this is an excellent source for the later part of the Napoleonic Wars, providing a rare insight into the experiences of the private soldier.
1 - 1806-1807
2 - The campaign of 1809 in Austria
3 - The campaign of 1812-1813
Author: Jakob Walter
Editor: Bob Carruthers
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military