The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army

The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army

Stephan Talty / Apr 04, 2020

The Illustrious Dead The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon s Greatest Army Gripping a compelling story of personal hubris and humbling defeat Jack Weatherford author of the New York Times bestseller Genghis Khan and the Making of theModern World In a masterful dual narrative

  • Title: The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army
  • Author: Stephan Talty
  • ISBN: 9780307394057
  • Page: 379
  • Format: Paperback
  • Gripping a compelling story of personal hubris and humbling defeat Jack Weatherford,author of the New York Times bestseller Genghis Khan and the Making of theModern World In a masterful dual narrative that pits the heights of human ambition and achievement against the supremacy of nature, New York Times bestselling author Stephan Talty tells the story of a mighty Gripping a compelling story of personal hubris and humbling defeat Jack Weatherford,author of the New York Times bestseller Genghis Khan and the Making of theModern World In a masterful dual narrative that pits the heights of human ambition and achievement against the supremacy of nature, New York Times bestselling author Stephan Talty tells the story of a mighty ruler and a tiny microbe, antagonists whose struggle would shape the modern world.In the spring of 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte was at the height of his powers Forty five million called him emperor, and he commanded a nation that was the richest, most cultured, and advanced on earth No army could stand against his impeccably trained, brilliantly led forces, and his continued sweep across Europe seemed inevitable Early that year, bolstered by his successes, Napoleon turned his attentions toward Moscow, helming the largest invasion in human history Surely, Tsar Alexander s outnumbered troops would crumble against this mighty force But another powerful and ancient enemy awaited Napoleon s men in the Russian steppes Virulent and swift, this microscopic foe would bring the emperor to his knees Even as the Russians retreated before him in disarray, Napoleon found his army disappearing, his frantic doctors powerless to explain what had struck down a hundred thousand soldiers The emperor s vaunted military brilliance suddenly seemed useless, and when the Russians put their own occupied capital to the torch, the campaign became a desperate race through the frozen landscape as troops continued to die by the thousands Through it all, with tragic heroism, Napoleon s disease ravaged, freezing, starving men somehow rallied, again and again, to cries of Vive l Empereur Yet Talty s sweeping tale takes us far beyond the doomed heroics and bloody clashes of the battlefield The Illustrious Dead delves deep into the origins of the pathogen that finally ended the mighty emperor s dreams of world conquest and exposes this war plague s hidden role throughout history A tale of two unstoppable forces meeting on the road to Moscow in an epic clash of killer microbe and peerless army, The Illustrious Dead is a historical whodunit in which a million lives hang in the balance.From the Hardcover edition.

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      Published :2020-01-11T18:09:13+00:00

    About "Stephan Talty"

      • Stephan Talty

        Stephan Talty is the New York Times bestselling author of six acclaimed books of narrative nonfiction, as well as the Abbie Kearney crime novels Originally from Buffalo, he now lives outside New York City.Talty began as a widely published journalist who has contributed to the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Men s Journal, Time Out New York, Details, and many other publications He is the author of the forthcoming thriller Hangman the sequel to Black Irish , as well as Agent Garbo The Brilliant, Eccentric Double Agent who Tricked Hitler and Saved D Day 2012 and Empire of Blue Water Captain Morgan s Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe that Ended the Outlaws Bloody Reign 2008.His short e book, The Secret Agent In Search of America s Greatest World War II Spy was the best selling Single of 2013.


    1. I found this a very interesting look at what disease did to Napoleon’s Army during his invasion of Russia in 1812. Starting with how the discovery of the mass graves in Vilnius in 2010 piqued his interest, Mr. Talty looks at how disease in general and typhus in particular affected Napoleon’s army. In doing so, he takes on the common understanding that it was the cold of the Russian Winter that destroyed that army. His hypothesis is that disease had so weakened Napoleon’s Army that the cold [...]

    2. This is a military/health book all wrapped into one. The author tells the story of Napoleon's ill-fated decision to attack Russia in 1812t necessarily militarily ill-fated since he could well have won this war. But it was something else of which no one gave much thought, that doomed this foray from the beginning. It was not unknown since it had stalked armies for centuries but it was misidentified as death by starvation, overexposure, thirst, etc. But the source of this death was Rickettsia, com [...]

    3. I did not enjoy this. Napoleon's invasion of Russia is very interesting and typhus is very interesting, but this book is under-reasoned and over-written.To start with "over-written": holy crap. Anthropomorphize typhus once, yeah sure fine whatever. But Talty writes endlessly and repeatedly about the bacteria "planning" and how clever it was to choose lice as a vector, so much so that I became convinced that he forgot that the bacteria didn't choose anything, they don't collude; they're bacteria. [...]

    4. THE ILLUSTRIOUS DEAD: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Naoleon’s Greatest Army. (2009). Stephan Talty. ****1/2.The extended title of this book gives away what the author wanted it to be about, and he was pretty much on target. Unfortunately, that story would have made for a very short book. What we get instead is an extended study of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812 and a history of typhus. Like me, you may have believed what you read in “War and Peace,” and seen in many film [...]

    5. This is an enjoyable and interesting book covering Napoleon's ill-fated 1812 campaign against Russia. The author offers the opinion that the invasion was doomed from the start due to the spread of Typhus throughout the troops of Napoleon's invading host. Its a good story covering the military aspects of the campaign along with some medical history thrown in. Overall it was an easy to read account full of interesting facts and stories from the participants and survivors from this massive human tr [...]

    6. While the title led me to believe this would be more of a medical exploration of Napoleon's Grande Armee, it focuses far more on the battle tactics (or lack thereof) that led to the failure of his Russian Expedition. But this didn't prevent me from enjoying the book, although enjoy is a strange way to put it, especially since this book contains graphic accounts of many types of tragedies, from torture and battlefield slaughter to the misery and psychological torment of the diseased and survivors [...]

    7. Interesting, informative along with the horrifying images the writing generated, and appalling statistics of medical madness, I particularly appreciated Talty's depiction of Napoleon. Quote: "The emperor rose from his desk and watched the city burn. To him, the blaze was a symbol of the utter foreignness of the Russian mind. 'It was the most grand, the most sublime, and the most terrific sight the world ever beheld!' he would later write. Torching one's own capital was something no Frenchman, n [...]

    8. I am torn over this book. First, I enjoyed the interesting tidbits of the Grand Armee Napoleon assembled to invade Russia. The army was larger than the city of Paris, when it left France. Mr. Talty did a fine job explaining the complex politics of Napoleonic Europe, as well as the Byzantine politics of the Russian army. The battle scenes were epic and exciting reading, and the disease was eating the army by the thousands.The ostensible subject of the book was typhus. He did discuss typhus some, [...]

    9. In 1812 Napoleon invaded Russia backed by his 650,000 man Grande Armée, which was considered at the time to be one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled. The crux of the conflict centered around which nation would control Poland. Seemingly, nothing could stand in the way of Napoleon’s advance. The Russians retreated again and again losing major battles at Smolensk and Borodino, eventually abandoning Moscow to Napoleon on September 14 setting fire to the city as they did so. With his [...]

    10. I feel that with books about history we must be over critical if there is little contributed to the field in which it is attempting to cover. 251 pages, the last 25 are continued ramblings of the author and conspiracy that is not meant for history books. As I thought on this book throughout the entire read, all I could think was "glad someone lended this book to me and I did not buy it" and with the fact that it was highly recommended to me as a history book is discouraging as to how people unde [...]

    11. Talty makes a strong case for the role of typhus in Napolean’s failed 1812 invasion of Russia, but through his account, it’s actually quite apparent that the dominant factor in Napolean’s defeat was not disease but that he had vastly overextended his army and supply lines.The French succumbed to typhus and other diseases, in part, because they were starving, without adequate clothing or shelter. For further evidence, see Talty’s description of the Imperial Army’s ruinous retreat to Fra [...]

    12. I wasn't as interested in The Illustrious Dead as I'd hoped I'd be. Having read and loved Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map, an account of how a relative layperson discovered the cause of cholera in Victorian London, I was hoping for a similarly exciting and scientific tale of disease. The Illustrious Dead can't quite decide whether it's an account of Napoleon's failed campaign in Russia or an exploration of the history of typhus. Clearly it was supposed to be both, but neither quite works. It was [...]

    13. This book is an account of Napoleon’s Grand Army’s 1812 campaign into Russia. What this book throws into the story is the effect bacteria from the genus Rickettsia had on the outcome of the campaign and the future of world politics.I enjoyed learning what the campaign was about, the day to day conditions of the soldiers during the march and during the battles, the political conditions of the world at the time, current military and medical practices used in those days, and many other nuggets [...]

    14. The author assumes that his readers have a large store of knowledge about Napoleon and his generals, and the ill-fated march on Russia. But surprisingly, the story of the events proves more interesting than remembering the generals' names. Human misery, caused mainly by ignorance, abounds. Nonetheless, the book is not that depressing if this intersection of disease and grand events interest you. But skip the page about how amputations were performed at the time--even more graphic than some Civil [...]

    15. The author makes a compelling case that rampant Typhus was the cause of Napoleon's defeat in Russia, not the weather. If his army had not been racked by Typhus they would have had enough troops to destroy the Russians at Borodino and force the Tsar to sue for peace. The Russians were the last continental foe. Had Napoleon defeated them, the history of the 19th century would have been much different.

    16. Amazing! Such a readable account of Napoleon's monomania and the the price paid by he and his armies in that pursuit. I have a geekish fascination with epidemiology and disease vectors, so I was fascinated by the author's recounting of the effect Typhus had on the campaigns. I don't however believe there is so much of that in this book that it would overshadow the story for anyone else.

    17. Meh, this wasn't technical enough to please me from a medical/historical standpoint. It also tried for too much shock value. This book felt like an intro to invading Russia for men who still like to read comic books.

    18. Excellent study of the origins and spread of typhus and the role the disease has played in history, particularly its devastation of on the French army that invaded Russia in 1812. Highly recommended for serious students of history and the general reader as well.

    19. I'm probably the only person I know who would enjoy a book about Napoleon's army dying of Typhus during his last campaign. Having said that, I did enjoy it until the last 70 pgs or so when things just dragged out. Found myself skimming at that point.

    20. Perhaps I'm jaded because I read everything about Napoleon I can get my hands on Having read many accounts of the 1812 campaign in Russia, until now I've seen very little about the attrition within Napoleon's army beyond the battlefield. Why did he "only" have on 100,000 troops with him when he got to Moscow, when only a fraction of the 500,000 he had earlier in the summer were battlefield casualties? This book answers that question in cold, frightening detail. Treatment of specific battles is b [...]

    21. This was a very educational read. This is the second good book I've read about Napoleon and I'd like to read more. Like other great linchpins in history, I loved the part at the end that talks about how the world likely would have been drastically different had Typhus not decimated his army. The hard part about this book is the excessive discussion of the military action. It's interesting information, but the book loses focus at times and turns into a military book. He does a better job towards [...]

    22. The rise of Napoleon is chronicled swiftly. Taltry details the relationship of Napoleon and Czar Alexander III. He also chronicles the history of typhus and how it has affected history and, especially, warfare. For some unknown reason, he does not give us a full understanding of the disease itself until almost midway through the book. This is a fine history with lots of interesting details (Taltry claims that it was Napoleon's belief that the vast region which we know as the Louisiana Purchae wa [...]

    23. A detailed account of the effect of typhus on Napoleon’s invasion of RussiaWell-written history of the disease, typhus, and its devastating decimation of the Grande Armée. Without typhus it is very possible Napoleon would have successfully defeated Russia, with spectacular ramifications both for Russia and for Western Europe.

    24. Fascinating story that was overwrittenIn an attempt at foreshadowing author tried to create tension, but stepped on the story. Research was good, but missed some of the other stories.

    25. Very interesting Had never even considered that Thyphus was the main cause of Napolean's defeat in Russia. Mr Talty lays out a very convincing case. So would recommend this book to anyone interested in military history.

    26. Interesting study on Napoleon's debacle in Russia however, this is not particularly memorable and there's no real originality in it.

    27. This is not only an interesting history of the adventures of a microbe, but also the harrowing story of Napoleon's Russian campaign. Well worth reading.

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